I was one of the 9 billion people who saw The Black Panther blockbuster Marvel movie. I liked that movie on so many levels. There is one level that you may have missed. In case you are one of the 27 people in the United States who has not seen this movie, here are a few key things you need to know.
Wakanda is the name of the nation (fictional) of a small African country. To all appearances, this nation seems backward and it is assumed it has nothing to offer the world.
T’Challa is the name of the current King of Wakanda. He has the power of the Black Panther and he has the power of the super suit made by his science geek sister, Shuri.
T’Chaka is the now dead father of T’Challa.
Vibranium is the (also fictional) metal from outer space. It made its way in a large asteroid that crashed in Wakanda thousands of years ago. It has special powers and abilities unlike any other metal on earth. It is this metal that makes the super science of Wakanda possible. Because of the Vibranium that is deep underground, Wakanda flourishes.
With this background, I am ready to make my point.
Wakanda flourishes because it has something precious and rare, something no other nation possesses—Vibranium. Vibranium is the secret juice, or the secret power, of Wakanda.
What should Wakanda do with the Vibranium?
On that question, there has been a long-standing policy in the kingdom.
Vibranium belongs to Wakanda. It is for the benefit of Wakanda. Vibranium is not to be shared, nor are the benefits of Vibranium to be shared with the outside world. Wakanda will continue to flourish, but ONLY Wakanda will flourish. That has been kingdom policy from the beginning: Keep Vibranium for Wakanda and keep Vibranium secret.
But is that the right policy? On that, T’Challa is beginning to have his doubts. Maybe Vibranium and its benefits should be shared. Maybe the world needs the benefits of Vibranium. Maybe…but not everyone agrees. And there are some who want to use Vibranium as a weapon! Erik Kilmonger is the core villain of the story, and that is exactly his plan.
Okay, I am stretching this a bit, but I think Vibranium and Wakanda is a metaphor for the Gospel and the Church.
The Church has the Gospel. We have the benefits of the Gospel. But if you look at the Gospel-sharing behaviors of most Christians, well, basically, you don’t see those behaviors. We don’t share the Gospel (good news). We enjoy it, but we keep it to ourselves, and the world misses out on the Vibranium power of the Good News.
Then there are some, often of a rather fundamentalist sort, who use the Gospel to attack, criticize, and condemn what is wrong in the world.
T’Challa wants to use Vibranium to heal and renew what is broken and hurting in the world.
That is the Gospel itself. The good news includes in it the passing on of the good news of Tikkun Olam — healing the world, repairing the world, renewing the world through the redeeming love of Christ and the people of God.
T’Challa will become not only King, but also an apostle (or sent one) and ambassador, taking the Gospel of Vibranium to the world.
Which is what we are as well—the apostle-ambassadors of good news of a great joy for all the people. Today, a Savior has been born (Christmas). Today, a Savior has died for us (Good Friday and the cross). Today, a Savior has risen from the dead (Easter and resurrection). Today, the Gospel becomes embodied in us through the Holy Spirit (Pentecost).
That is the message the world needs. This is the message entrusted to us.