Gen Con 2019

GenCon Program Blurb 2019

Gen Con lists us as a Featured Event.

I was away at another conference during most of Gen Con, and only drove up for the Sunday church service.

Gen Con Worship Service

This year, Tom Vasel (of The Dice Tower) once again preached for us. Bubba Stallcup (of Love Thy Nerd) led our music.

I first started holding Christian Gamers Guild church services at Gen Con back in 2002 (or maybe 2001). Several years ago, we got too big for the Convention Center (the biggest room they could give us there had a capacity of 200), so they moved us to a nearby hotel. Our current space is great, but it’s mildly inconvenient for Exhibit Hall vendors who need to get there by 10:00, since it’s a good 10-minute walk.

Gen Con 2019

Click for a video clip of our worship service.

These days our services generally get around 250 people, which is our largest church service of the year. At smaller conventions, we might get 50 to 100.

You can see four video clips of the service here:

 

Download

Here’s our program for the event.

 

Song: A Grazing Mace

I co-wrote the comedy skit stage show Company OutCast‘s Best Bits, a Monty Pythonesque revue and tribute.

They wanted to have a hymn parody, along the lines of the Python’s “All Things Dull and Ugly.” I put together this tour de farce based on “Amazing Grace,” but we ended up not using it in the show.

So here, for your amusement, is a Special Feature — a deleted scene from the show.

A Grazing Mace

A grazing mace twas but a scratch
that struck a knight like me
No man may pass upon this path
for I will smiteth he

A logging place where I could leap
from tree to mighty tree
I like to dress in women’s clothes
and go to the lavat’ry

A squawking face could speak and sing
if he had life like me
Norwegian blue could fly so free
but he has ceased to be

A fighting space lets me behave
as contradictory
I argue with our customers
if they have paid the fee

A walking pace takes me to work
for public ministry
of silly walks and strolls and struts
that are cockamamie

(c) Dave Mattingly, 2019

 

Urban Fantasy All-Stars

At a convention a few years back, I was the Gaming Guest of Honor and Jim Butcher was the Author Guest of Honor. Since I love his Dresden Files novel series, and the game based on it, I ran a game based on all the famous monster hunters in movies in television (at the time).

The Characters

I did my best to supply a balance of characters who specialize in muscle and fighting, investigating and science, and magic and supernatural. I hoped that every player would know at least one of the characters well enough to jump right in.

  • Ash Williams (Evil Dead) has a missing hand that can wear a strong metal gauntlet or a chainsaw
  • Johnny Blaze (Ghost Rider) is a demon-possessed stunt rider who punishes the wicked
  • Peter Venkman (Ghostbusters) is a dodgy scientist with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back
  • Nick Burkhardt (Grimm) is a cop that unexpectedly inherited the ability to see monsters
  • John Constantine (Constantine) is part exorcist, part spellcaster, and all asshole
  • Selene (Underworld) is a vampiric assassin who lives semi-exiled on the outskirts of her kind
  • Hellboy (Hellboy) is a demon who was raised by a good human man, and fights monsters in secret
  • Melinda Gordon (Ghost Whisperer) can see and talk to ghosts, and helps them find their final peace
  • Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) is a brilliant magic student with a smug know-it-all attitude
  • Mouse (The Dresden Files) is Harry Dresden’s dog, with a holy lineage and celestial powers
  • Flynn Carsen (The Librarian) knows something about everything but almost nothing about living

The Plot

The are many ways to bring everyone together, varying a lot based on which characters are playing.

  • rumors of an evil coming
  • an ancient prophecy
  • a murdered ghost (Jake, a school janitor) contacts Melinda
  • a museum exhibit of ancient spiritual books, including the Necronomicon
  • or whatever else will tease the character’s interests

The rest of the plot is vague and fluid, and should be played by ear. Introduce villains one by one, perhaps disguised by a glamour spell or in an alternate identity, until a battle explodes on the scene.

The all-star villains that I generally use are:

The Character Sheets

I’ve supplied the character sheets in standard Dresden Files RPG format, and in a “dossier” format that I designed.

Ash Sheet 2 Ash Sheet 1 Ash Nameplate

Download

You can download the character sheets here, and character nameplates here.

 

Cereal Killers

Years ago, my friend Joe Linehan ran a roleplaying game based on cereal mascots as the player characters. To ramp up the strangeness, he kept it grim and gritty by running them through the plot of Watchmen.

I loved the idea so much that I spun off a scenario based on Independence Day and Aliens. In my game Plan Q from Outer Space, Quisp invaded Earth with giant cereal bowl spaceships poised to shoot giant beams of milk to destroy major cities. On board the ships were alien Soggies, with lactic acid for blood.

Joe and I have run several games in the cereal-verse since then. My favorite title was Joe’s wartime epic A Box o’ Trix Now (“I love the smell of cereal in the morning.”).

Night of the Living Crunch

In the zombie horror game “Cereal Killers: Night of the Living Crunch,” the dead rise and want to eat your grains.

The Breakfast Club is…

  • Cap’n Crunch is a mighty sailin’ man; an expert in tactics and combat.
  • Tony the Tiger is the fitness nut (or flake) of the group, bringing out the tiger in everyone.
  • Toucan Sam is a cynical detective noir and suspected ecoterrorist – the nose knows.
  • Sugar Bear brings peace, jazz, and cereal to children of the world. Can’t we all just get along?
  • Trix Rabbit is the manic experimental field engineer / gadgeteer who dabbles in spycraft.
  • Lucky the Leprechaun is the mystic master of the occult arts – the Cereal Supreme.
  • Sonny the Cuckoo is the chocoholic street smart hustler who can go nutso with extreme prejudice.
  • Count Chocula feeds upon chocolate by night and sleeps in a large cereal box by day.
  • Quisp (recently cured by Frankenberry) is studying the Earth for his native Quisp Continuum.

The Plot

We start with the groups in pairs on separate adventures. Cap’n Crunch and Toucan Sam start out on the Crunchberry Islands, being chased by Cocoa Krispie pygmies. Tony is coaching Sugar Bear out of his hibernation. Lucky has been asked to deliver the eulogy for Dig’em Frog. Chocula is sponsoring Sonny at his first chocoholics anonymous meeting. Quisp is trying to teach Trix the “basics” of nuclear physics.

Everyone gets back to headquarters, the Honeycomb Hideout, to compare notes, when the phone rings. It’s Fruit Brute, howling for help. “Cap’n, they’re all over me!” The crew heads to Bransylvania to investigate.

After exploring the moors, they find their werewolf friend dismembered, with stinky white goo at the “edges.” They find themselves surrounded by zombie soggies (around two per PC) that can turn others into zoggies by touch. Trix or Lucky can try to reverse the effect, or Tony could suppress the effect with effort in a pinch. Frankenberry probably has medical equipment that could help, as well.

A spell from Lucky or some super-smell from Sam could find a trail of weird residual energy leading up to Frankenberry’s castle.

Spoilers

To find out what’s really happening in the plot, select the text in the following box. (Triple-clicking inside the box will work for that.)

Frankenberry isn’t himself; Quisp’s brain is inside his head. When he had “cured” Quisp by cleaning his brain, he put the wrong brain in. FrankenQuisp has Booberry magically chained up in the basement to siphon off his ghostly energy to build a death ray. Booberry was leaking an “afterlife fog” that drained down to the moors and raised the zoggies. The team can rescue Booberry, freeing him to move on to the next world, and fight FrankenQuisp. Swapping Frank’s, Quisp’s, and the spare brain back into the right bodies is a relatively simple procedure for anyone with first aid training. The spare brain goes into a jar marked “Mattingly” who wasn’t using it, since he’s just a game designer and a preacher.

The Character Sheets

I was inspired by another friend’s game props. Karl Keesler ran a League of Extraordinary 1970’s Gentlemen game, with the character sheets designed as 8-track tapes. That inspired me to step up my character sheet presentation, and I found a way to print cereal box wrap-around designs. So I turned Joe’s original character sheets into boxes, and taped them onto actual mini-cereal boxes. These are written using the HERO System rules.

Cereal Boxes

Downloads

You can download the character boxes here and the printer-friendly black-and-white version here.

 

Spider-Verse

At Origins Game Fair (and at home beforehand), I ran a roleplaying game based on the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie (and comics that inspired the movie).

I used the Marvel Super Heroes (1984) system for the game. The system is sometimes nicknamed the FASERIP system, since that’s what the initials of the abilities spell (Fighting Agility Strength Endurance Reason Intuition Psyche).

The Spideys

Since the movie included Peter A Parker, Peter B Parker, Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Penni Parker, and Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham, I chose to write-up some of the other Spideys that have been in comics over the years.

  • Agent Venom: Flash Thompson lost his legs in the war, then bonded with the alien Venom symbiote
  • Spiders-Man: Millions of radioactive spiders believe that they are Peter Parker, and collectively adopt his shape
  • Spider-Punk: Hobie Brown uses punk rock to fight the man in a dystopian future
  • Superior Spider-Man: Dr. Octopus transferred his mind into Peter Parker’s body, but accidentally also got his conscience
  • Spider-Woman: Jessica Drew can fly, blast bio-energy, and carry a child
  • Spider-Man 2099: Miguel O’Hara’s DNA was blended with a spider’s to save his life
  • Lady Spider: May Reilly invented a mechanical spider harness
  • Six-Armed Spider-Man: Peter Parker tried to cure his spider-ness but grew into it
  • Spider Monkey: Peter Parker comes from the Marvel Apes world where everyone is a primate
  • Spider-Man IndiaPavitr Prabhakar‘s powers are similar to classic Spider-Man’s but all magic-based
  • Supaidaman & Leopardon: Takuya Yamashiro fights crime with spider-powers and a 60-meter mech

The Write-Ups

A standard FASERIP character sheet is a rather nondescript wall of text.

Spider-Man FASERIP

In the movie, characters each introduce themselves with a comic book cover, so I formatted the character sheets to look like a comic.

Each “comic cover” features the character name and a pose. The inside holds the character write-up. The back cover highlights the character background, motivation, or other key scenes from the history.

Six-Arm Spider-Man 1

Six-Arm Spider-Man 2

For characters with Combat Sense, I also highlighted the Intuition stat to remind the player that the power’s rank replaces the Intuition score during combat,

The Scenario

I vaguely followed the Spider-Geddon comics story-line that covered the attack from Morlun and his family of Inheritors. They’re an immortal family of interdimensional totem-eating vampires that like eating spider totems the best.

Depending which characters the players have chosen, they can get pulled into the adventure through Spider-Man 2099 watching Morlun kill a different Spider-Man 2099, a dire warning from Madame Web, a galactic alert to Agent Venom, an Avengers alert to Spider-Woman’s dimensional watch, or some other hook. From there, it’s a matter of Spideys gathering their forces before Morlun attacks.

Download

You can download the Spider-Verse Characters (PDF) here.

 

Origins

I went to Origins Game Fair this year for the first time in a few years. I ran some games for the Rogue Cthulhu group, and hosted the church service on Sunday for the Christian Gamers Guild.

Games

Day System Title Description
Wed Dresden Files Urban Fantasy All-Stars Hellboy, Ash, Buffy, Ghost Rider, John Constantine, Hermione Granger, and others join forces to defeat ultimate evil.
Thu Champions Cereal Killers: Night of the Living Crunch The dead are rising, and want to eat your grains. America’s favorite breakfast cereal icons star in this grim and gritty urban adventure. Role-playing and a sense of humor stressed.
Fri Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP) Spideys on Infinite Earths Tickle your Spidey sense and thwip into the Spider-Verse to team up with Agent Venom, steampunk Lady Spider, Superior Spider-Man, Six-Arms, Spider-Woman, Spider-Monkey, Supaidaman, and other variations.
Sat Champions Meep on the Borderland What if all of your favorite fantasy movies were remade with Muppets? Arm your felt with broadswords, holy symbols, magic wands, and a ten-foot pole. One does not simply wokka wokka into Mordor.

Church Service

Sun Christian Worship Service Non-denominational worship service sponsored by the Christian Gamers Guild

 

The Rise of Jesus Christ, Skywalker

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

Jesus Christ SkywalkerI preached a The Easter Sunday sermon at ConGlomeration 2019. The famous Star Wars novelist, Timothy Zahn, was the author Guest of Honor. I’d already decided to use Star Wars as my theme, and then the trailer for the newest movie dropped that week. Rise of the Skywalker. Oh, come on! Rise of the Sky Walker? That’s perfect for an Easter sermon.

A long time ago, in a Galilee far, far away…

More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine

Jesus did amazing things here on Earth. He healed people, walked on water, dispelled demons, and more. But he knew that the best was yet to come.

“It is best that I go so the Spirit can come.” (John 16:7)
“Whoever believes in me will do even greater things.” (John 14:12)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and what you loose on earth loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

The power that Jesus leveraged is available for each one of us. The same Spirit of God lives inside our hearts. What’s better than God walking alongside you? God living inside you.

God’s power working within us and through us has everlasting effects, not just here on earth.

Just Fly Casual

When Jesus’ time here on earth (the first time, anyway) was at an end, he flew up to heaven.

When Jesus led them to Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he was carried up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-1)

He blessed his friends, started flying away, and kept blessing! That’s so cool.

Jesus is still blessing us. He wants us to join him as brothers in heaven. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Do or do not. There is no try.

Luke, We’re Gonna Have Company!

The disciples were freaked out, holed up in a room. Jesus had flown to heaven over a month before, when something happened.

A sound like roaring wind came from heaven and filled the house. Tongues of fire settled on each of them. (Acts 2:2)

They were all filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. They were given courage, zeal, and focus. This power came with a visible representation, as well — a glowing aura. All who encountered them were amazed at their words and deeds.

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing

We’re in a battle that began in the heavens — Star Wars. Our enemy is powerful, but we are not helpless. Our God has given us protection.

We do not fight flesh and blood, but powers and principalities of this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil. Wear the full armor of God: the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, boots of readiness for peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit: the word of God. (Ephesians 6:12-8)
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion. (1 Peter 5:8)

The truth (belt) holds our whole outfit together. Our obedience and good deeds (breastplate) protect us from attack. Our readiness to forgive (boots) takes us where we need to go. Our faith (shield) extinguishes flaming arrows from the enemy. The salvation that the Lord granted us (helmet) protects our thoughts.

And the scripture (sword) gives us the power to defeat our enemy.

Download

Here’s the flyer and the handout for the sermon.

 

 

Nerdlouvia

Nerdlouvia 2018

The main gaming area offered two dozen tables, with more available along the balcony; photo by Dieter Zimmerman

Nerd Louisville hosts an annual game-playing convention called Nerdlouvia. I’ve attended all of them, and I volunteered to help organize the event this year (12/7 to 12/9/18).

Schedule

This was our first three-day event.

Friday night was a VIP party and awards show, and included several fun nerdy acts:

Saturday and Sunday were filled with games, games, and games.

The program book shows all 100+ scheduled games.

I also preached a game-themed sermon on Sunday morning, for the Christians who were attending the event.

Nerdesque Burlesque

Tabitha Johnson of the Nerdesque Burlesque danced as Leeloo (The Fifth Element) and Leela (Futurama); photo by Larry Green

Awards

The categories (and winners) are:

There was also a nice shout-out to Volunteers of Distinction: Brandon Aten, Andrew Bates, Matthew French, Squire Greene, Rick Hudson, Hailey Kuhn, yours truly, Reuben Perales, Mike Pfaff, Andy Smith, Eric Toncray, and Steven Wu.

Games

Cereal Killers: Night of the Living Crunch

In the Cereal Killers world, Cap’n Crunch, Tony the Tiger. and others face grim and gritty threats

I ran two of my most popular games, Meep on the Borderland and Night of the Living Crunch.

In Meep on the Borderland, the Muppets embark on a fantasy adventure. Kermit stars as Hopalong Kid, leader of the Muppy Men. The rest of the usual (and semi-usual) Muppet crew are there, too.

The Cereal Killers world was created by my friend Joe Linehan. In his original adventure, he sent Cap’n Crunch, Tony the Tiger, and the others through the plot of Watchmen, to give you idea of the level of absurdity and insanity involved. I loved the idea, and between us we’ve put the poor cereal characters through the plot of Aliens, Apocalypse Now (“A Box of Trix Now”), and more.

In Night of the Living Crunch, the crew fights off zombie soggies in the far-off land of Bransylvania, Count Chocula’s homeland. I designed the character sheets to fold around miniature cereal boxes. You can download the character sheets and play your own cereal adventures.

I played a session of The Expanse RPG, based on the book and television series. It was pretty faithful to what I’ve read and watched, and the elegant system mechanics were a good fit.

Nerdlouvia Open Gaming

An extensive library of board games was available for anyone to play

 

More

Nerdlouvia also had an auction, a game swap table, video games, anime films, side quests, vendors like Goodman Games (Dungeon Crawl Classics), Card N All Gaming, and Red Bull (who actually offered free cans of Red Bull throughout the event). But most of all, Nerdlouvia was filled with friends, new and old.

And best of all, as a licensed non-profit, all the proceeds are donated to a local charity.

I hope to be involved next year, too.

 

 

Supercon

SuperconSupercon came to Louisville just after Thanksgiving 2018 (11/30 to 12/2). This was the show’s first year here, although first started in Florida in 2006.

Guests

There were so many great guests. It seems like twice a week leading up to the event, Supercon would announce a new guest that would be enough for a lot of fans to attend even if that were the only guest.

Film and TV guests included William “beam me up” Shatner, Richard “this means something” Dreyfuss, Sean “ooh, that’s a nice hat” Gunn, Michael “Mary Poppins, y’all” Rooker, Lloyd “Toxic Avenger” Kaufman, John Wesley “fastest man alive” Shipp, and Henry “the Fonz” Winkler. There were wrestling stars like Jerry Lawler and Sgt. Slaughter; animators and voice actors like Kevin Conroy, John Glover, and Steve Whitmire.

Some of my favorite comic authors and artists were there, like Neal Adams, Keith Giffen, Mark Bagley, and Fabian Nicieza. I chatted with all of them for a good while. Neal Adams is practically single-handedly responsible for everything good at DC. I’ve been a fan of Giffen’s since I first saw his art in Marvel’s New Universe, and I picked up an autographed Creeper print from him. Nicieza and Bagley created The New Warriors, which I loved for its many-year run. It turned a bunch of Marvel B- and C-listers into a fantastic team with great personalities and plots, much like The Guardians of the Galaxy movie did for its characters.Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper was the highlight guest for me. We chatted for 20 minutes or so. Besides being a huge fan of his Love It to Death album (which has “I’m Eighteen“, “Black Juju“, “Sun Arise“, and the standout “Ballad of Dwight Fry“), I’d heard back in the 90s that Vincent Furnier (his real name) was teaching Sunday school at his church.

When I talked with him on Friday, I was wearing my “Mini-Me” outfit, which gave him quite a giggle. He wondered aloud which of my hands he should shake, so he grabbed my real right hand and my prop right hand, and shook them both at once. I told him that I’d actually worn out his album by playing several times a day for a couple of years. He said that was the first “real” Alice Cooper album, without creative interference from the producers.

And we talked a while about our faith, too. I converted from atheism to Christianity in 1992, and I’ve maintained my relationships in the technology, gaming, publishing, theatrical, and other communities, which have all become my mission fields. He loved the idea, and was happy to hear about the work I’ve been doing.

Exhibitors and Organizations

Christian Gamers GuildA lot of my friends had booths there for various organizations that we’re a part of. The Ohio River Valley Cosplayers (ORCs) are a lot of fun, and have amazing costumes. A Nerd Like Me were my neighbors. I’ve been a part of Nerd Louisville since it started a few years back, and even write for them once in a while. I attend ConGlomeration every year, and even used to volunteer on the “con comm.” The USS Drakonia beamed aboard, too.

Other friends were there selling this and that, like Lydia SherrerTony Acree, Dieter Zimmerman, Atty Eve, Bloat Games, and Purvis Games. I picked up some fun fake albums from Drew Blank (Pee-Wee Herman: Live at the Alamo, The Deadites: Necronomikaze, and Wyld Stallyns: Most Triumphant).

I was officially there representing the Christian Gamers Guild, at my booth. Besides handing out business cards and such for the CGG, I also had swag for Game Church, the Grave Robbers, and maybe another group, too.

I wrote my Stan Lee memorial sermon for this event.

Events, Panels, and Games

Mini and Toxie

Mini-Me and the Toxic Avenger bonded

The celebrity panels drew huge crowds. Other panels, workshops, demonstrations, interviews, and other events were also popular. The game rooms downstairs (which included video games, roleplaying, and other hobbies like model-making and painting) had a steady stream of people every time I went down to visit.

I was only on one panel this year, “Faith & Fandom.” With me were Amber Curtis (the moderator, and Supercon staff), Katrina French (an author I knew from Imaginarium), Zachary Hoskins, Bradley Brown, and Vic Mignona (a famous anime voice actor). The panel was well attended and interactive, despite being on Sunday afternoon.

Costumes

Wow, there were so many fun costumes all over the place. My costume photo album on facebook is filled with great outfits.

Next Year

For a first year (in Louisville) event, Supercon was a striking success. I’m looking forward to doing it all over again.

 

Stan Lee (Sermon)

I’m a Christian, and sometimes a teacher/preacher.

I prepared a sermon for Louisville Supercon, December 2018, that would also serve as a tribute to the recently departed Stan Lee.

The Idea

I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to cover at first. I didn’t want to focus so much on Stan that he’d overshadow the Lord, but I didn’t want to treat him as an afterthought. At first, I thought about turning Stan’s name into an acronym of character he co-created, and what made them important to me. S (Spider-Man), T (Thor), A (Avengers), N (Nick Fury) nicely covered the superhuman, the supernatural, the super-group, and the super-agent. Each character brings different lessons, power sets, foibles, and emotional aspects.

In the end, I realized that the acronym of Stan Lee’s name could map to what the Bible calls the “fruit of the spirit.”

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, tolerance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

It was tricky to use just quotes from the movies (without delving into the comics, that not everyone would be as familiar with), to use only characters that Stan had a hand in, and to tie each into a fruit.

 

FRUIT SCRIPTURE PRINCIPLE WHO MOVIE QUOTE
Gentleness, Humility In humility consider others more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3) Sacrifice Groot Guardians of the Galaxy “We are groot.”
Patience, Tolerance A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) Teamwork Nick Fury The Avengers “Bring together a group of remarkable people, to fight the battles that we never could.”
Self-Control Take off your old self with its practices and put on the new self. (Colossians 3:9) Authenticity Bruce Banner The Incredible Hulk “I don’t want to control it; I want to get rid of it.”
Goodness Pure religion in the sight of God means caring for orphans and widows. (James 1:27) Nobility Black Panther Infinity War “We don’t fight for just one life; We fight for all of them.”
Love Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, irritable, or begrudging. It rejoices in truth, not injustice. It never gives up or loses faith; it always hopes and always endures. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Love Clint Barton, Pietro Maximoff, Wanda Maximoff Age of Ultron “Doesn’t matter what you did, or what you were.”
…and…
“I didn’t see that coming.”
Kindness Encourage one another and build each other up. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Encouragement Peggy Carter, Sharon Carter Civil War “Plant yourself like a tree; look them in the eye, and say No, you move.”
Joy I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10) Enjoyment Thor Odison Age of Ultron “Victory should be honored with revels.”

 

Gentleness

In the Biblical sense, gentleness is not weakness, but is strength under control. Some editions translate this fruit as meekness or humility. It is the opposite of self-interest and assertiveness. Gentleness is the attitude of putting the interests of others ahead of our own — that is, sacrifice (the “S” in Stan Lee).

There have been many sacrifices throughout the Marvel comics and movies, but there are some that still get to me no matter how many times I see them. For me, one of those is Groot in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, when he utters what is only his second line: “We are groot.” We’d already seen that Groot is incredibly powerful several times, in the end he chooses to use that strength to save his friends instead of himself. Through this act, Groot is even reborn.

Patience

Also translated as long-suffering, forbearance, perseverance, and tolerance, patience allows us to put up with situations or people that frustrate us. Being able to work with others is a key element in Teamwork (the “T“).

Nick Fury explains the Avengers Initiative as the idea to “bring together a group of remarkable people… to fight the battles that we never could.” None of us is as strong as all of us. The Apostle Paul compares the church as a body, with each of us playing a specific part. Looking back at the Avengers movie, you could even call Tony the brain, Cap the heart, Hulk the muscle, and Clint the eyes. Maybe Natasha would be the ears (or the tiptoes, for her stealth), and Thor the bones (for his indestructibility)?

Self-Control

When we give our lives to Christ, we become a new creation. In the MCU, no one exemplifies that more than Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Paul saw in himself two natures (“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh; for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do.” — Romans 7:18-19). Being honest with our own flaws exhibits authenticity (the “A” in Stan).

The paradox of self-control is that self cannot control self because it is self. Only by surrendering (or dying to) self to the Lord can we get any control. We can only have what we’ve given away.

Goodness

While Gentleness connotes a loving disposition for others, Goodness puts it into action. As (possibly) Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Doing what is right will put us into conflict with those who want to do wrong. Acting on behalf of others, Noblesse Oblige (or Nobility), is the “N” in Stan.

Religion based on rules does little good, and can do much harm. Pure religion that pleases God is caring for orphans and widows. As T’Challa says in Infinity War, we fight for all lives.

Love

Has anything in human history been written, sung, or sought more than love? The love that society wants to push on us is often focused on ourselves. Love makes people happy. Love what gives you pleasure. But scripture tells us that love is much more than that, as well as being the “L” in Lee. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish, irritable, or begrudging. It rejoices in truth, not injustice. It never gives up or loses faith; it always hopes and always endures.” Much like the humility of Gentleness urges us to sacrifice, biblical love urges us to put others before ourselves.

In Age of Ultron, Wanda had mesmerized all of Hawkeye’s teammates, to disastrous effect. But when she’s panicking, he forgives her and offers her a place on the team. “It doesn’t matter what you did, or what you were… if you step out that door, you are an Avenger.” Later, when a child is about to be murdered by Ultron, Hawkeye interposes his own body to save the child. But Pietro surprises him by taking the bullets first.

Kindness

Gentleness sacrifices, patience forgives, goodness defends, love surrenders, and Kindness assists. It stresses keeping our fellow believer on track, through sharing, teaching, and encouraging (the first “E” in Lee).

We all face struggles. They might be illness, poverty, loneliness, or worse. By encouraging our friends (literally “to put courage inside”), we allow them go farther and reach higher than before. If they can’t make it on their own, we can all help. Sharon Carter’s eulogy of Peggy (originally spoken by Captain America to Spider-Man in the comics) reminded Steve that the right thing is the right thing, despite what others may think.

Joy

Happiness comes from the same root word as happen or hapless. It is the result of outside influence; a temporary circumstance. True Joy lives on the inside. The apostle Paul learned to be content in all circumstances (Philippians 4). For myself, I know who I am, who I belong to, and where I’m going. Life has its ups and downs, but we can all choose whether or not to find enjoyment (the final “E” in Lee).

I’ve met people in the Christian community who look like they were weaned on a pickle (to borrow a friend’s phrase). Christ came to grant us abundant and everlasting life. Even Steve Rogers agreed with Thor that revels can show honor.

Summary

Stan Lee taught us Sacrifice, Teamwork, Authenticity, Nobility, Love, Encouragement, and Enjoyment.

Excelsior! Amen.

Download

You can get a copy of the bulletin PDF here.