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Avengers: Endgame—Is It Really the End?

Screenshot taken from Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame | Special Look

 

Written By Simon Moetara, New Zealand

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 

I remember walking out of the theatre after watching Avengers: Infinity War last year in a daze.

The good guys had lost.

One by one—Peter Parker, T’Challa, Groot, Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, and so, so many others—evaporated into dust, as the Mad Titan clicked his gauntleted fingers, leaving billions dead across the world, and trillions across the universe.

For days after, my mind wrestled with the “if onlys”. If only Peter Quill had kept his cool. If only Iron Man had just cut Thanos’s infinity-gloved hand off with a laser. If only Thor had gone for the head.

Western culture has not prepared me well for unhappy endings.

But Avengers: Infinity War was really only half the story, and I’d have to wait over a year for the chance at closure and catharsis.

Avengers: Endgame (2019) is the climax of “The Infinity Saga”, bringing to a close an epic 22-film series that began with Iron Man way back in 2008. In Infinity War, we saw characters we love die on-screen—will they return? Can the remaining Avengers undo the insane loss triggered by the Dark Lord Thanos?

Endgame has a sombre beginning, as we revisit the shock of half of all life disappearing from the universe. We meet a band of despondent heroes, filled with despair, struggling to cope with the unimaginable enormity of their failure. One tries to drown his sorrows in permanent drunkenness, while another takes out his rage and grief in vigilante violence. The early part of the film explores their anguish and loss. They are all grieving and overwhelmed, unsure how to continue in a world that they have failed to defend, in which they have lost so much.

 

What are you willing to sacrifice?

Human connection and relationships are central to Endgame, and many characters appear and reconnect from throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline, reminding me of the four types of human loves C. S. Lewis summarized in his classic The Four Loves. Examples abound in Endgame of Lewis’ loves, adding emotional depth and pathos to the story.

First, Lewis speaks of storge, a deep family love and affection, such as the love between parents and children. We revisit the relationship between Tony (Robert Downey Jr.) and his father Howard Stark, we see Scott Lang (Ant-Man) reuniting with his daughter Cassie, and we witness Thor’s deep love for his stepmother Frigga. Often portrayed in comic form as a braggart and womanizer, Clint Barton (Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a loyal and loving family man, devastated by the loss of his family. And there’s also Rocket’s grieving over the loss of his surrogate family, the Guardians, and Nebula’s father-issues with the Mad Titan himself.

Lewis then speaks of philia, the love between friends, “as strong as siblings in strength and duration.” We see the close camaraderie between Black Widow (Scarlet Johannson) and Clint Barton, and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) reaches out to a hurting Thor (Chris Hemsworth), while Korg (Taika Waititi) still hangs out with his Asgardian mate playing Fortnite.

Then there is eros, romantic love. We see Stark in space, expecting to die, declaring “it’s always you” to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). And there’s Rogers, often pondering the picture he keeps of Peggy Carter, and their love that never had a chance to grow.

And finally, there is the fourth love, agape, the unconditional love of God, the love that, “is all giving, not getting.” Empire reviewer Helen O’Hara notes that if the theme of the last film was, “We don’t trade lives,” this one is “all about responsibility, and self-sacrifice, and being willing to do ‘whatever it takes’ to win the day.”

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13, NKJV). In Endgame, the human cost of self-sacrifice and the selflessness of heroism is front and centre.

These loving relationships emphasize the very intimate, human aspects of this epic tale, increasing the stakes for which our heroes are fighting.

 

Can the world be restored?

There is also the bigger picture, of undoing Thanos’s dark deed and making the world right again. At one point, Tony Stark shares his desire to see “families reunited” and the “world restored.” We’ve witnessed the emotional fallout and the deep sense of loss of those left behind, but what if it could be undone? Can the death of so many somehow be reversed? What if loved ones could be reunited, and the world somehow restored?

This theme particularly resonates with me, and with the Christian worldview. Like our heroes, we live in a world filled with the pain and darkness, where suffering is an all too present reality, and we know that things aren’t the way they should be. However, God seeks to renew this present world, working until it is rescued, healed, and restored. John speaks in Revelation 21-22 of the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. New Testament scholar Tom Wright tells us that God “will transform the whole world and fill it with his justice, his joy, and his love.”  And this is good news indeed.

There is also something about us as human beings that resists the reign of death. In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey ponders Christ’s resurrection, and recalls one year in which he lost three friends. He goes on to write, “Above all else, I want Easter to be true because of its promise that someday I will get my friends back. I want to abolish that word irreversible forever.”

Like Yancey, I yearn to see my loved ones again. I long to see the defeat of death. This is part of the joy that arises because of Christ’s resurrection: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55, NLT).

And this is the same theme that kept viewers anticipating Endgame’s release, each of us harboring an eager and expectant hope that good would triumph over evil, and, maybe, just maybe, if our heroes can pull it off, we might see those characters that we love so much somehow restored to life again.

Endgame is an emotional roller-coaster ride, with poignant moments of touching humanity and lashings of breathtaking action. It marks the end of an era, and what a ride it has been.

As I left the film, I found myself thankful that God continues to draw people to himself and seeks to renew and restore this world. And I look forward to the time when He will wipe every tear from every eye, and when “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,” for the old order of things will have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

From God’s Heart To Yours

Title: From God’s Heart To Yours
Artwork by: Estelle Quek (@morethanworks)
Description: 
It’s Valentine’s Day! We all know it’s d-day where we celebrate love, whether you are attached or single. It’s a day we associate with giddy feelings, chocolates and balloons, and of course, love letters!  

At some point in our lives, we’ve probably written a love letter to a loved one before (and you might even be writing one now). There’s something deeply personal and meaningful about receiving a love letter—especially when it comes from our Creator Himself. Here’s a few of them, just for you.

God’s love is eternal. He will always be with us through this life and beyond. It doesn’t matter what challenges life might throw our way, we can be sure that He will be there to walk us through it.

Deuteronomy 31:6 : “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 

We might attempt to fill our lives with love through relationships, things, or experiences–but only God’s love can complete and satisfy us.

1 John 4:16 :  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 

God’s love is sacrificial. We were bought at a price—one that cost His life. Through His death, we’ve been redeemed and made right with God, so we can now put aside the things of the past and live lives of purity and holiness.

Romans 5:8 : but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Sometimes it can feel like we’re far away from God when we’re in the thick of trials and troubles. But His Word assures us that nothing in this world can ever separate us from His love. Cling on to this truth and let it comfort and strengthen us through tough times.

Romans 8:38-39 : For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

When we receive Christ into our lives, He gives us His Holy Spirit so that we are able to fully experience His love for us, understand His ways–and fill the lives of those around us with His love.

Romans 5:5 : And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

 

 

Editor’s Picks: The Best of 2018

2018 has been a fulfilling year for us at YMI. We launched our very first online devotional, published over 560 articles, produced 39 artspace projects and 7 videos to help you ask the whys and walk out your purpose.

5 Gift Ideas For A Meaningful Christmas

Written By Anna Chee, Singapore

It’s that time of the year again when we have to think of the perfect Christmas gift for our friends! If you’re thinking of giving your friends and loved ones more meaningful Christmas presents than those $1 notebooks that they might never use, look no further—here are five timeless gifts that will make Christmas infinitely more meaningful for you and your loved ones:

 

1. The Gift of Prayer

Our lives are filled with challenges—and sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves and our friends, is to pray. James wrote that, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). So surely, prayer is the best gift to give a friend.

Personally, there are some prayer requests that I don’t always have the courage to vocalize, and some which I believe only God can answer. Like bringing my staunchly atheist uncle to Christ.

But God knows our heart’s deepest desires, even the ones that we don’t express to Him. When I come to Him in prayer, I am reminded that I can trust Him with every aspect of my life—and the lives of my friends. Spending time with our friends in prayer can also be a good way to strengthen our relationship and to share in each other’s burdens.

My church mates and I often share our prayer requests with each other. For instance, my friend, who’s going on an overseas school trip, asked us to pray for journey mercies and God’s protection. And they are in turn praying for me that God will equip me with the knowledge and wisdom needed to write this article.

Whether the challenge we’re facing is big or small, we can bring them all to God. This Christmas, let’s pray for our loved ones that they will know God intimately, and that God will grant the desires of their hearts in His divine way and by His divine power.

 

2. The Gift of Love

As Singaporeans, food holds a special place in our hearts. Our favorite past time is to eat, so in our church, we often show our love for each other through food. We would regularly buy snacks like barbecued chicken wings, barbecued pork buns, and cheese fries (*drools*) for new friends to show our love for them.

Recently, we even installed a few stoves and an oven in the kitchen of the church so we can cook more for each other. We are also planning to bake cookies on Christmas Eve to give out to the guests at our Gospel meeting on Christmas Day!

A good way to think about how you can give your loved ones the gift of love this Christmas is to think about what makes them feel loved. Try being generous with kind words and praise, or pick up your pen and write some encouraging messages for friends and family members. Remember, what makes the gift more meaningful is that personal touch!

 

3. The Gift of Time

To say that this year was a busy year would be an understatement. I had to sit for an important national examination at the end of the year, and the period leading up to the exams was extremely hectic. I was swept up in a maelstrom of work, work, and more work! This meant all my dates with my friends were postponed to the end of the year.

Because of this, I’m looking forward to catch up with my beloved friends and spend some #quality time with them! Spending time with our friends is a sincere way to tell them “I cherish you as a friend!”

The Christmas period may be a busy time for everyone, but if your friend’s love language is quality time, you can consider volunteering with them at non-profit organizations or starting a fund-raising project for causes you are passionate about. Not only will this give you time to bond with them through the activities, you can both give back to the larger community and spread the joy of the festivities.

A few years back, my friends and I spent our holidays at a non-profit organization that prepared free meals for low-income families and foreign workers. Afterwards, we reflected that the joy radiating from their smiles when they received the meals made the blood (when I accidentally cut my finger), sweat (due to the hot, stuffy kitchen), and tears (shed when chopping onions) all worth it!

Sometimes our conversations with Christian friends may veer towards superficial topics. However, we are called to build each other up in Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:8, 11). Some fun ideas to do this are to keep each other grounded in our faith by having impromptu worship sessions, doing a Bible study together, or discussing current events from a biblical perspective. These encouragements are the perfect gift for our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

4. The Gift of Service

Other than blessing our friends with gifts of love, let us not forget the needy in our society who are often forgotten in the blur of our bustling lives. Jesus spent time with the poor and needy, healed their infirmities, and associated with the sinners, the despised and the outcasts. We should emulate His compassion and mercy. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

Don’t know where to start? Do a quick Google search to find out whether there are any non-profit organizations with gift ideas for the poor and needy. A good example of that is World Vision’s Let Light Shine gift catalogue. Or you could donate to orphanages or a Salvation Army center near you.

While it’s important to serve the poor, let’s not forget that those closest to us could also benefit from our acts of service. For example, cooking a meal for your family, helping your dad wash his car, or running an errand for your siblings. There are many creative and practical ways we can remind our friends and family that they are important to us. Let’s be a conduit of Jesus’ sacrificial love this Christmas!

 

5. The Gift of the Gospel

Finally, I’ve saved the best present for last. There’s no doubt that the greatest gift we can ever receive is the knowledge that Jesus died for sinners like you and me. Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to spread the Gospel.

Of course, this is not a call to scream “YOU NEED JESUS” in the faces of the people we meet or be a fiery, fanatical Bible-thumping evangelist at every opportunity, and (alas!) scare away those who have yet to know God’s love.

Last year, I attended a Bible conference and was honored to meet an elderly lady preacher. She shared that she would reach out to the different people she met in her daily life, whether it was a cab driver, cashier, or cleaner, by spending time talking to them and observing their heart’s needs. From there, she would slowly guide the conversation towards the Gospel and share about how Jesus can fill our heart’s desires.

I was greatly inspired by her fervor for sharing the Gospel and the gentleness with which she did it—and am challenged to do the same this year!

There are many opportunities for us to spread the Gospel through our everyday conversations. The most important thing is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and testify about the Good News with gentleness and respect for the other person.

 

Jesus gave us the greatest gift that we can ask for—salvation and a relationship with God. Let us respond by sharing His love with others and making this Christmas a meaningful one.