Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings

  As with the movie Noah, which came out last year, I was greatly excited to see another movie based upon a story from the Bible.  Exodus is one of the most epic books of the Bible, and the story of the release of hundreds of thousands of Hebrews from bondage in Egypt has been one of the archetypal stories of human history!
  Of course, with most epic 21st century movies of this caliber there are the usual accoutrements of sweet special effects, dramatic music and compelling acting.  I loved this movie for all those elements.  But, this story is one where one of the most compelling character duels is the battle between the supposed gods of Egypt and the God of the Hebrews (Yahweh).
  I could wax on quite a bit about the details, but what interests me more is the theology presented, even though there are parts which deviate from the biblical storyline, it is worth seeing for two reasons.  First, yet again, Hollywood has handed Christians a theological conversation on a silver platter.  You don't have to work very hard to share your faith with a non-believer when they are seeing elements of your core story (the Bible) portrayed on the big screen!  It baffles me how some Christians can sit back and even boycott a movie like this or Noah when clearly you have a wide open door to talk about the God you believe in!  This is a great opportunity!
  The second observation is that this movie portrays faith more closely to the biblical witness than I have ever seen.  From the beginning Moses (played by Christian Bale) describes and lives out the faith of a believer as a wrestling.   In one of the earliest scenes he is talking with an Egyptian higher up official about the Hebrews, and he corrects the official on the name Israelite - it means they wrestle with God. 
  That is what faith is.  Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, faith that continues with the life of Jesus Christ and continues through the Church today is a wrestling.  We wrestle with who God says He is, and how He operates.  We wrestle with His commands to Love Him, Love Others, and Love ourselves (and Love our enemies). 
  We wrestle with hope and fear, love and wounds, sin and grace.  We wrestle.  This movie talks about that a bit, but more than that, Moses lives it. 
  Watch the movie, engage the theology (how it talks about God) and then discuss it with friends.  There are people who need to know that our faith is deep and multidimensional.  Above all, there are people asking questions about the God we say we believe.  In order to share with them what our faith means, we too, need to be wrestling with God.  That is how we are shaped more and more into his likeness.

Finding Jesus in Frozen

I had heard about the frenzied passion with which small children were being frothed by a new Disney movie titled Frozen, but I didn't know why so many were in such an uproar over this film.  I saw it once, and because I have a son (age 4) and a daughter (age 2) I came to realize the power of the film.  Great animation, great music, great characters.  It is a good movie! 
It wasn't until I saw it for what was probably the 17th time that I came to realize something about this movie that made me "love it even more" (Olaf - the talking snowman, in the movie). 
The movie talks about the relationship between fear and love.  Elsa is a future queen, who for nearly her entire life has been told to hide her magic freezing power, because of what other people might think about it.  Near the very beginning someone tells her and her family that fear will be her enemy, but it is from that point on that she and her parents give into fear by sequestering her from the rest of the world, including her younger sister.
The end of the movie is where the theological teeth of this movie come to the foreground.  Anna, the younger sister has to decide whether or not she is going to save herself and watch her sister die, or put her life on the line for her sister.  Spoiler alert! (not that I am spoiling this for very many people, it is Disney's largest money making film of all time).  She sacrifices herself for her sister, thus saving her sister, her home country and it turns out herself as well. 
It is through a profoundly self-sacrificial act of love, that one person saves everyone else.  Sound a lot like Jesus to me!  And as if that wasn't cool enough, Elsa, has a revelation in that moment.  She realizes that love is the counter to fear and her love thaws the ice which has covered the kingdom for much of the movie!  The creators of this movie probably didn't have the Bible in mind while making the film, but they were harnessing a theme that comes right out of a New Testament letter.  In 1 John, the Apostle John, says: "Perfect love casts out fear."  Elsa, Anna and the rest of the main characters standing there for this scene see the power of love to thaw what had been a fear filled frozen wasteland.
It is the perfect love of God for humanity that brought the Son of God, Jesus Christ to earth to live, minister, die and rise again on our behalf!  It is the love of God which transforms us from fear filled people into faith filled people.  And it is the love of God which will thaw the world of its frozen broken nature and bring about the transformation of humanity more into the likeness of Jesus!
This wonderful musical movie may be entertainment for most other people, and it may be the most common theme for girl's birthday parties for an entire generation, but near the heart of it all it has some really insightful theology!