In my spare time I enjoy reading YA novels. A good example of this type of literature is the Harry Potter series that was all the rage not that long ago. That’s not to say I shun other types of writing, it’s just that the YA genre appeals to the child inside me. I read somewhere that C.S. Lewis, the writer of The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe children’s novel and series once said, “What separates stories for children from those for adults, is an inherit sense of hope that permeates throughout.” Perhaps that is why I am so drawn to this style of writing. I need to have reinforced that virtue that is listed with the triad of virtues, of faith, hope, and love. And as defined by the New Testament letter to the Hebrews, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith and hope go together like hand and glove.
I recently finished a YA series written by Robert Ryan that I found especially entertaining. In his “dedication” at the end of the series he describes his type of writing as “Noblebright.” He writes, “Noblebright celebrates the virtues of heroism. It is an old-fashioned thing, as old as the first story ever told around a smoky campfire beneath the ancient stars. It’s storytelling that highlights courage and loyalty and hope for the spirit of humanity. It recognizes the dark, the dark in us all, and the dark in the villains of its stories. It recognizes death, and treachery and betrayal. But it dwells on none of these things. (The Sacred Knight [The Kingshield series] pg. 196 © 2021 Trotting Fox press)” Perhaps I had always known, albeit on a subconscious level, this genre of writing but it wasn’t until I read Ryan’s words that I realized that is exactly what the story of Jesus Christ is.
Many Christians see Jesus as so many things but rarely do we think of him as a hero. Christianity affirms him as Son of God, Messiah, Lamb of God, The Word made flesh, but rarely, if ever, as hero. Yet his story has all the components of any hero story of antiquity. He was born in a barn; he came from a backwater region; was a man of integrity and action; led many in establishing a new regime (aka the Kingdom of God); and went up against a vastly more powerful adversary and prevailed. All the ingredients are there for one of the best hero stories you’ll ever find.
After all, that’s exactly how the story of Jesus spread at the very beginning. Those closest to him told others of the mighty acts and glorious victory of some Galilean itinerate preacher. What they soon realized that what their hero had won was nothing short of a victory for all human kind. In fact, for the first thousand years of Christianity the prevailing doctrine of the atonement (thoughts/words about salvation), Jesus was understood as Christus Victor—Christ the winner! What was won was reunion and reconciliation with God that knows no bounds. Now that’s a hero worth worshiping.
REV. SCOTT BAKER is the rector at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin. Contact him at 757-562-4542.