Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Avengers Mansion

It must have been 1975 when I first visited them. I was in 4th grade when a schoolfriend named Ellis introduced me to The Mighty Avengers. I started collecting about issue 144, missed a few, and began buying them religiously by issue 158 - just in time to have Wonder Man and the Vision begin duking it out, and for George Perez to return with the Grim Reaper attacking his half-brother Simon Williams aka Wonder Man.

I wanted to know everything about my heroes: what their base looked like, what rooms it had, what it could do.

There were several tantalizing glimpses, and George Perez (who also drew the Justice League of America) loved to put his signature "Perez-tech" (lines and conduits and breakers and whatnot) all over the place. But even cooler was the hi-security meeting room, where each member had his or her own chair with their logo on the back of it. [Note to self: if you find a way to manufacture those, you will make a killing on eBay.]


Oh - I was in heaven. Just look at this cover from issue 160 but pay attention to the background behind our heroes.

It is totally unnecessary - our heroes are the focal point - yet it is also totally necessary - we must understand this is not a "normal room" - we are deep inside a secure sanctum, full of technological riches we can barely fathom.

Whatever all that stuff is, it doesn't come cheap, and you cannot get it at K-Mart at any price.

The Avengers built their mansion to give themselves an ultra-secure home and fortress, but also to plan and organize, so they could launch on their next adventure. Once in a while, we got to see them play, or work out, or relax - but it was always a personal, light-hearted interlude before we accepted the NEXT Earth-shaking challenge.


[Cap admiring the early snowfall even as he polishes his shield - with Turtle Wax. Ms. Marvel guest stars.]

I loved it all. I loved the Avengers. I loved the Mansion. I loved the Quinjet. I wanted to join them- or at least see them up close and visit their home. I had a longing, a deep longing, to be somewhere else, where no one worried about getting the bills paid or spent most of their time trapped in a classroom or walking down a school hall being bullied. I didn't mind learning, but why all the dullness and dreariness and powerlessness? Wasn't there a better place? A place where heroes gathered and respected one another even as they fought evil and saved lives?

It hurt, not having this place. I wanted it so badly, but I knew it was only a cool fantasy. Something was SO right about it - and it was unobtainable.

Vicariously, I visited the Avengers every month the next 5 years of my life. John Byrne showed up and aided Perez, having done the X-Mansion. Oh, that was just fine - until he left and went over to the FF's Baxter Building. I still recall when Perez stopped doing work for The Avengers (around issue 200) and the book just went downhill.

I was 18 when I couldn't visit the Avengers Mansion anymore.

It was over. Or was it?

Fifteen years later I found them again. It was in a compound, all sitting in their separate chairs. I had the keys to the grounds and kept everything secure for them. I had become Jarvis, the faithful butler -and the Avengers? Those who fought evil daily and gathered together for wisdom and power to wage their battles, who were they?

They were the staff of The Neighborhood School.

Every morning, I attended a mandatory prayer meeting, entering into the throneroom of God, to lift before the Almighty the tasks we had to accomplish, the children we had to save. I was the first Boarding School Supervisor, and as such, I lived right on campus - a secured compound on the edge of the Binghampton Area of Memphis. A rough area to be sure, but that was where I had to serve.

And now? Well, eight years ago I was sent by God to a home here in Wheaton, IL. Respectfully, it needed a man coming from that kind of arena to fight was happening here. Heroin addiction was destroying a home and two lives within it, and it needed rescuing. Now, every week that same home is worship center, with prayer and a Bible study, helping men and women receive the empowerment that comes from Jesus.

You see, as a child, I longed to belong to a group of Avengers. Mighty men and women who fought evil and saved lives. Who put aside all other differences so they could make a difference in the world.

Jesus thinks that's cool. Listen to what he told His disciples He would give them, if they got "crazy" and "radical" in following Him:

Matthew 19:27-29
Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

We are also told later on that we are already seated (past tense) in heavenlies in this passage:

Ephesians 2:6-7
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
What I want you and I to take away from this is not arrogance -we are too incompetent to obtain these things - but humility. We have been given a great position simply by letting go of our old controlling ways. By letting go, and accepting what Jesus Has Done and Who He Is, we can change the world.

If we follow Jesus - let Him take us to where He wants us to go in life - He promises current authority and future glory. Remember - the disciples could cast out demons and heal people. They were untrained and uneducated men for the most part. But once they quit the Mundane Life, they got to embrace Regal Fellowship with Christ. They became co-laborers, working miracles and changing lives.

They became superheroes. They became the Mighty Avengers.

Jesus even promises them camaraderie:

"I tell you the truth- you who have followed Me will sit on 12 Thrones, judging the 12 Tribes of Israel!"
Wow. That met that need in my heart for significance, for having a chair with my name on it. But how do we do it? How do we become great rulers, empowered by God? What awesome thing must we do? Jesus tells us that too.
"For the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many."
We must serve. In other words, we get into the Mansion by being Jarvis, the butler.

You can clean and vacuum, can't you bunky? Sure you can.

And frankly, if you do, you will know more about the Avenger's Mansion - that true heavenly realm - than anyone else who's "in the world."

Amen.


And by the way -



AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!

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