Notes from Tim Keller’s Sermon Hero of Heroes

From the sermon Hero of Heroes. 

Quote from Walter Truett Anderson “Today our leaders are stars not heroes. Stars are surrounded by crowds, heroes walk alone. Stars consult focus groups. Heroes consult their conscience. ”

The very idea of heroism poses a problem for us culturally and personally.

Time stamp 8:55. The idea of heroism is controversial for us in our culture. Stanley Fish wrote a blog in the NY Times  Les Mis and Irony.  Here’s a quote from the article. 

They just can’t go with it. And why should they? After all, the critic, and especially the critic who perches in high journalistic places, needs to have a space in which he can insert himself and do the explicatory work he offers to a world presumed to be in need of it. “Les Misérables,” taken on its own terms, leaves critics with nothing to do except join the rhythms of rapt silence, crying and applause, and it is understandable that they want nothing to do with it.

Understandable but not admirable, if what you desire from criticism is some kind of affirmation. Irony — postmodern or any other — is a brief against affirmation, against the unsophisticated embrace of positive (unqualified) values. No one has seen this more clearly than David Foster Wallace, who complains that irony “serves an exclusively negative function,” but is “singularly unuseful when it comes to replace the hypocrisies it debunks” (“E Unibus Pluram,” Review of Contemporary Fiction, 1993). Irony, he adds, is “unmeaty”; that is, it has nothing solid inside it and is committed to having nothing inside it. Few artists, Wallace says, “dare to try to talk about ways of redeeming what’s wrong, because they’ll look sentimental and naïve to all the weary ironists.” But perhaps there is hope. “The next real … ‘rebels’ … might well emerge as some weird bunch of ‘antirebels,’ born oglers who dare to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse single-entendre values. Who treat old untrendy human troubles and emotions with reverence and conviction” (“E Pluribus Unam”). Enter “Les Misérables.”

Keller: time stamp 11:13 Two sides on the issue of heroism and they both have a point. 

One: the irony people: the trouble with talking about good and evil is that you flatten things, you put everyone in the “good people” and “bad people” and that gives you a pretext for excluding them, harming them, oppressing them. It leads to abuse, so then everything is gray.

On the other hand: yes, heroism is subject to abuse. But if you are ironic all the way down, then how can you stand against injustice? Why not just make as much money as you can and not worry about change?

It also causes a personal problem: 

Most people at some time in their lives need heroic courage just to live their lives the way they should. We need heroism, the kind not subject to abuse.

Jesus is our captain

Jesus is like, but also radically unlike the heroes of antiquity and today

1. Of course he is like them. An old english poem, 800AD, the Dream of the Rood.

2. He’s also radically unlike the heroes of the world. Heroes have power of superpowers. Jesus already had all power, but he laid his power down. He became mortal, vulnerable and went to the cross. 1938 movie “Angels with Dirty Faces”

How to Find Courage

“Fix your eyes on Jesus the archegos and finisher of your faith”

Two ways to get courage: defiance and hope.

1. Defiance: thinking of yourself, looking at yourself:

From a website: use visualization to see your self accomplishing that which you fear, imagine yourself doing it without the terribly unpleasant consequences that have been frightening you because you think they may happen. Enjoy the feeling of mastery that comes having dealt (in your imagination) with the challenge and THEN you will become more confident and less fearful. Don’t look at the things you think will happen.

But… You have to delude yourself that the painful consequences aren’t a possibility and you won’t receive them. Is this true? Defiance is a form of courage where you look at yourself and you banish fear. It can work.

Fear just means reality. Do I need to be delusional in order to be courageous? Do I need to filter out reality to be courageous? Did Jesus use this to banish fear? No, Jesus was afraid.

(my illustration), it’s like closing your eyes when you need to drive through the tight spot in the road that you are afraid of driving through. You may have banished fear, but you may also hit the wall or drive off the cliff. Yes you have dealt with your fear but at the cost of denying the reality of the situation.

Jesus didn’t look at himself, he looked at joy.

2.  Fix your eyes on Jesus who for the joy set before him ran the race, endured the cross…

What joy could he not have in heaven that he could only have on the far side of suffering? What was he looking at as he pondered the incarnation, the life and the passion? Was it obedience? He already had that joy. The only possible joy that suffering purchased for him was us.

The Lord of the Rings, where Merry is in the battle by Minas Tirith  and his heart is melting away.

Upon it sat a shape, black-mantled, huge and threatening. A crown of steel he bore, but between rim and robe naught was there to see, save only a deadly gleam of eyes: the Lord of the Nazgûl. To the air he had returned, summoning his steed ere the darkness failed, and now he was come again, bringing ruin, turning hope to despair, and victory to death. A great black mace he wielded.

But Théoden was not utterly forsaken. The knights of his house lay slain about him, or else mastered by the madness of their steeds were borne far away. Yet one stood there still: Dernhelm the young, faithful beyond fear; and he wept, for he had loved his lord as a father. Right through the charge Merry had been borne unharmed behind him, until the Shadow came; and then Windfola had thrown them in his terror, and now ran wild upon the plain.

Merry crawled on all fours like a dazed beast, and such a horror was on him that he was blind and sick. ‘King’s man! King’s man!’ his heart cried within him. ‘You must stay by him. As a father you shall be to me, you said.’ But his will made no answer, and his body shook. He dared not open his eyes or look up.

Then out of the blackness in his mind he thought that he heard Dernhelm speaking; yet now the voice seemed strange, recalling some other voice that he had known. ‘Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!’

A cold voice answered: ‘Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.’

A sword rang as it was drawn. ‘Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.’ ‘Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!’

Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. ‘But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.’

The winged creature screamed at her, but the Ringwraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt. Very amazement for a moment conquered Merry’s fear. He opened his eyes and the blackness was lifted from them.

There some paces from him sat the great beast, and all seemed dark about it, and above it loomed the Nazgûl Lord like a shadow of despair. A little to the left facing them stood she whom he had called Dernhelm. But the helm of her secrecy had fallen from her, and her bright hair, released from its bonds, gleamed with pale gold upon her shoulders. Her eyes grey as the sea were hard and fell, and yet tears were on her cheek. A sword was in her hand, and she raised her shield against the horror of her enemy’s eyes.

Éowyn it was, and Dernhelm also. For into Merry’s mind flashed the memory of the face that he saw at the riding from Dunharrow: the face of one that goes seeking death, having no hope. Pity filled his heart and great wonder, and suddenly the slow-kindled courage of his race awoke. He clenched his hand. She should not die, so fair, so desperate! At least she should not die alone, unaided.

JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, Pages 840, 841

We must look upon our captain. Fix your eyes on the archegos of our faith.


About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in Sermon Illustrations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Notes from Tim Keller’s Sermon Hero of Heroes

  1. Pingback: Irony Meme |

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