Difference between revisions of "Sermon for January 19th, 2020"
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==Faith & Film VIII: Frozen II==
==Faith & Film VIII: Frozen II==
====Three Minute Film Synopsis====
====Three Minute Film Synopsis====
Revision as of 21:53, 18 January 2020
John 3:1-8 (NT p. 93-94)
1 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Faith & Film VIII: Frozen II
Three Minute Film Synopsis
There's a lot going on in this film, so it's a bit difficult to summarize (synopsize?) in three minutes. But here goes...
Frozen 2 is the sequel to the Disney animated film Frozen, which itself is *loosely* based on the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, "The Snow Queen." This film begins by reintroducing us to Elsa, the magical Snow Queen of Arendale (which is located somewhere in a fictionalized Scandinavia), Elsa's younger sister, Anna; Anna's boyfriend, Kristoff (a reindeer farmer); and Olaf, a magical talking snowman. The action begins when Elsa begins to hear a voice calling out to her. The voice leads Elsa and her friends on a journey to the far North, where they enter an enchanted forest shrouded in mist. In the forest, they encounter a group of indigenous people, called the Northuldra (loosely based on the Sami people in Norway and Sweden), and a group of their own people from long-ago Arendale, who have been locked in a struggle over a dam that was built by Elsa and Anna's grandfather, the King of Arendale.
They also encounter several elemental spirits, representing Fire, Earth, Wind, and Water. The heroes learn to harness the elemental spirits, learn painful truths about their past, and ultimately learn the truth about themselves and what they are capable of, individually and together.
Like I said earlier, there's a lot going on in this film, but I think the best way to understand some of the key themes (and the spiritual connections) is through the songs--after all, this is a Disney musical.
Some Things Never Change
The first song (Some Things Never Change) is a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek song that paints a picture of the characters' picture-perfect life in the Kingdom of Arendale. I say tongue-in-cheek, because it's obvious even in the course of the song that things are constantly changing--and the overarching theme of the film is change, transformation, or being "reborn" to borrow language from our own faith and scripture passage.
The song should also remind students of the Bible of a famous passage from the book of Ecclesiastes, which also became a famous song in the 1960s:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
While I don't think it was intentional on the part of the filmmakers, almost all of these contrasting themes from Ecclesiastes manifest themselves at some point in the film, which is mostly just to say they do a good job at capturing the ebb and flow, the give and take of life and relationships that we all experience.
Into the Unknown
This is the breakout song of the film, the one your children will be singing non-stop until Frozen 3 comes out. Mine already have it memorized. In many ways, it's also the most theological songs in the film.
Elsa, who longs to know more about her mysterious powers, and who has never felt quite at ease among her people, sings this song in response to the voice she hears calling to her. At first, she pushes it away, but then she embraces the voice--or, put a different way, she embraces her calling, even though she doesn't know where it comes from and where it will ultimately lead her.
Listen again to the words of Jesus in today's scripture reading as he describes the work of God's spirit:
"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Elsewhere in the Bible, God's spirit is described as a "still small voice" which over and over again calls people out into the wilderness and, in the book of Acts, bestows power upon those who answer its call.
Lost in the Woods
The song "Lost in the Woods" is sung by Kristoff, about his relationship with Anna, when he becomes separated from her in the enchanted forest. In the beginning of the song, he expresses frustration that they seem to be on different paths, leaving him "lost in the woods." By the end of the song, however, he has come to realize that Anna is in fact his "true north" and, overcoming his natural indecisiveness, he finally gathers up the resolve to propose to her.
The woods, or the enchanted forest, is a catalyst for transformation. In fact, when the characters first arrive in the enchanted forest, Olaf (the magical talking snowman who often is the voice of child-like wisdom) says, "Did you know that an Enchanted Forest is a place of transformation? I have no idea what that means, but I can’t wait to see what it’s going to do to each one of us."
This is a recurring theme in the Bible, too. In the Old Testament, before God's people beome the nation of Israel, they must wander, lost in the desert, for 40 years. Elijah and David each spend time alone in a cave before going on to become Israel's greatest prophet and king, respectively. Jesus goes off into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights before beginning his public ministry.
The message of Frozen and the message of the Bible is similar: In order to understand ourselves, in order to grow as spiritual beings, in order to be truly re-born, we need to get away from our ordinary surroundings. We need to spend time in solitude and reflection; sometimes, in order to be found, we need to get lost in the woods.
This song, and this theme, come with some spoilers about the movie. Of all the transformations, Elsa's is the most dramatic. Having tamed the fire spirit, the wind spirit, and the water spirit, Elsa crosses the ocean alone (at first on foot, and then on the water spirit in the form of a horse), then descends into a frozen, cavelike river, going deeper and deeper as her powers grow stronger and stronger, singing the song and asking the mysterious voice to "show yourself."
Eventually she comes to a magical place where the memories of her past and all of her loved ones take on lifelike (but also frozen and death-like forms, allowing her to see and know the truth about herself, her grandfather, her parents, and the nature of her powers. She learns that she is in fact the fifth element, that unites earth, wind, fire and water. At the end of the song, Elsa sings "Show yourself, step into the power, grow yourself, into something new. You are the one you've been waiting for all of your life."
This knowledge comes at a cost, however, and as she goes deeper, she becomes frozen, and appears to die. We know this, because back up above ground, Olaf the snowman, created by Elsa's magic, also dies, leaving Anna alone and primed for her own transformation (more on that in a bit).
Who is Elsa? Well, let's see. She can walk on water. The wind and the waves (and the fire) obey her. She descends into the land of the dead. She dies, and if you have seen the film, you know that she rises again to save her people. Elsa is, without any doubt, a Christ-type, one of the most powerful and enduring archetypes in all literature, and at the heart of our own story, the story of Jesus Christ and the Christian gospels.
The Next Right Thing
If Elsa represents Christ, fully human and yet fully divine, then her sister Anna represents the rest of us--we are also God's children (and thus Jesus is described in the Bible as our brother, just as Anna is Elsa's sister) but we struggle through life without supernatural powers and without divine knowledge of the truth. We have to figure things out for ourselves, and sometimes that's hard.
In Anna's darkest moment, she too is at the bottom of a cave, having lost her friend Olaf. She has a sense of what she must do to make things right between her people and the Northuldra people who were mistreated by her ancestors, but she is overwhelmed by her loss, by her failures, and her seeming powerlessness.
In the song "Next Right Thing," Anna acknowledges the darkness, the hopelessness we often feel in the face of the world's big challenges, but then sings to herself, "break it down to this next breath, this next step; this next choice is one that I can make. So I'll walk through this night, stumbling blindly toward the light, and do the next right thing."
I think that's a pretty concise summary of our own spiritual wandering in this life, and pretty good advice. When people come to Jesus in the gospels with their problems, rarely does he tell them how to save the world. That's his job. Instead, he says, "when someone asks to go one mile with you, go two." Or "love your neighbor as yourself." Or, "give to Caesar what is Caesar's, give to God what is God's." Do the next right thing.
When Anna keeps putting one foot in front of the other, doing the next right thing, her actions and her decisions begin to grow in scope and magnitude, transforming her into someone whose power comes not from any supernatural abilities, but from conviction, purpose, and habit. Proverbs 2 teaches us to "walk in the way of the good, and keep to the paths of the just."
All Is Found
This song actually appears in the very beginning of the film, in a flashback to Anna and Elsa's childhood. The song is a lullaby their mother sang to them about a magical river where "all is found" and in whose waters "deep and true lay the answers and a path for you."
But the song, like the river it describes, weaves its way through the entire story, connecting all the songs and transformations. You can hear the melody or the words in the background of many of the other songs, and the characters quote from it often.
It is a river that takes Elsa to the underworld, and brings her back, transformed into a divine being.
It is a river that separates the people of Arendale from the Northuldra people. In destroying the dam and freeing the river's waters, Anna's transformation is complete, and she becomes worthy of wearing Arendale's crown.
It is on the banks of a river that Olaf melts and is later reborn. It is on the banks of the same river that Kristoff finally proposes to Anna.
In the Bible, rivers symbolize baptism and rebirth. It was in the river Jordan that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. And in our scripture passage today, Jesus tells Nicodemus that "no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit."
Baptism marks the beginning of our spiritual journeys, and our entry into the community of faith. It connects us with the memory of countless Christians who have walked that same path. The final book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, speaks of the "river of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God" and beckoning us all to the completion of our journeys, our heavenly home.
Here's the last verse of the song that flows through Frozen 2:
Where the north wind meets the sea, there's a mother full of memory Come, my darling, homeward bound; When all is lost, then all is found.