Monday, November 25, 2013

Faith Flicks: How to Train your Dragon

Sermon from Sunday, November 10th

Like all good movies this is primarily a movie about relationships and the tension that is created when there are misunderstandings and break downs in communication.  It’s a movie about judging a book by its cover and the assumptions that we often believe about something we don’t understand whether those assumptions are true or not.  It’s a movie about the fight against ignorance and the challenges that arise when someone tries to bring knowledge and understanding into a long tradition of ignorantly believed assumptions.  It’s a movie about a father and a son.  It’s a movie about brokenness and about the connection created between two living beings that share the same weakness.  And you thought it was about dragons and Vikings.
The main character is Hiccup.  He’s a scrawny, nerdy, clumsy teenage Viking who wants to fight dragons.  He’s not the dragon slaying type, he’s caring and inventive so he doesn’t fit the mold of a dragon slayer.  His macho, alpha male dad, Stoik the Vast, will not let him join the fight.  The reason they have to fight the dragons is that the town is periodically raided by dragons.  In this town the dragon slayers are the professional athletes, the movie stars, the celebrities who everyone aspires to be like.  And Hiccup just doesn’t fit the bill.
Hiccup ends up capturing a dragon that had never been captured called a Night Fury.  He captures it with one of his inventions and he secretly visits the dragon to slay it.  What he discovers is that the dragon is injured and instead of killing the dragon he ends up befriending the dragon and it becomes almost like his pet.  Hiccup names the dragon Toothless.  Toothless is a bit unpredictable, and one second he’s nice and happy and the next he’s scary and could bite your head off.  He is however manipulated through treats.
So this secret and subversive relationship develops between Hiccup and toothless.  And Hiccup ends up creating an invention that helps toothless fly again and even allows him to ride the dragon.  And through all of this Hiccup learns about what dragons like and what they don’t like and it ends up being valuable to him.  His dad signs him up for dragon training where he gets to learn to fight dragons.  Instead he becomes like a dragon whisperer…using the tools he’s learned from toothless to tame the dragons instead of slaying them.  This all comes to a head when he is the top trainee in his class and has the honor of fighting and slaying a big, furious dragon in front of the entire town. 
            Just in case you haven’t seen the movie I will not ruin the ending for you, just know it’s a great ending.  There are several themes in this movie I want us to look at this morning that I believe are close to the heart of God. 
I want to use this movie as a platform to talk about assumptions that we make, in particular regarding two issues.  First, I want to talk about the assumptions that some of us make that lead to racism.  For me, the most obvious issue that this movie addresses, whether intentionally or not, is racism.  Racism is a sin of pride and arrogance.  It’s the idea that I’m better than you simply because of the color of the skin that I was born into.  You did not choose to have the color of skin that you have.  And racism claims that something a we cannot choose determines a person’s value, a person’s worth.  And it is a sin and it is still prevalent in our community, in our state and in our country. 
If you are racist, if you are prejudiced, you shouldn’t like Jesus very much, because he was not the white, blonde hair, blue eyed, Swedish looking pretty boy that some pictures show him to be.  He was from the middle east, he was arab…he had dark skin and dark brown eyes and dark brown hair. 
If you are racist you shouldn’t like the Bible very much. Because it says things like this:  “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:28,34-35).
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).
If you are racist, you will not like heaven very much.  Because the bible says this: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9)
If you are racist, you need to work on that.  And the way to work on that is to choose to get to know someone you are racist against.  A person’s character is what dictates the kind of person they are, not the color of their skin.  In the movie it takes hiccup and toothless understanding each other to break down the false assumptions that had existed.  There’s a great line in the movie where hiccup says about the dragons:  “everything we knew about you…is wrong.”  Assumptions were made about the dragons that end up not being true in the end. 
Racism often stems from assumptions towards a specific race that aren’t true about every person of that color.  There are good people in the world and there are bad people in the world and skin color is not an indicator of which is which.  When you automatically assume that you are superior and someone else is inferior, you are playing God and there is only one God.  You also make God out to be a liar because God created us all in His image.  White, black, brown, red…all the colors of human beings were created in the image of God.  If you think someone is less than you because of their race, you make God out to be a liar…and that’s dangerous.  That could have eternal repercussions.  We need to be careful about the assumptions that we make about other people.
The other place we see assumptions affecting the characters in the movie is in the relationship between the father and the son. Hiccup and his father love each other but they don’t know how to talk to each other.  They aren’t totally honest with each other and are sort of talking past each other using very few words.
The father has expectations for the son that are all about his own pride and arrogance and agenda.  And the expectations are unfair for his son.  You get the sense that this big manly Viking named Stoik wishes he would have had a son that wasn’t so gangly and clumsy and different from the rest of the teenagers in town.
            By the end of the movie the relationship has improved and the gifts that Hiccup does have are appreciated by the father.  It’s a reminder to all of us as parents to be careful about the expectations we have on our children.  Are the things we are pushing our opinions and our agendas or are they about allowing our children to cultivate their gifts that God has given them that may be different than what we as parents had hoped for for our children.
            The bottom line is that we need to spend time with our children and communicate our love and affection for them.  And there’s this idea in our society that to be a man means you don’t show your love and that’s hogwash.  If you want to be a man, a real man, you show your love and kiss and hug and cuddle your children.  They need that affection from you as a man.  Whether you have daughters or sons…those children need you men not just to tell them you love them but to show them you love them.  Take time to be dad…a dad that is not afraid to let your children know they are loved.  Our model for that kind of dad, that kind of father is God.  And when you think about verses like 1 John 3 you can’t help but think that this is the kind of father we should strive to be: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”
            It’s easy to assume my children know I love them.  What if God had done that?  What if God had just said I’m going to just assume that the people I created know I love them and I’m going to do nothing to show it.  He would not have sent Jesus as a demonstration of his love for us.  Dad’s, don’t be afraid to show your sons and daughters that you love them, God is the example of the kind of love that we should have for our children.  When you show them you love them you are participating in the kind of love that God showed us.  You can be manly and affectionate, in fact, most women, most wives, will tell you that showing affection towards them and towards their children actually makes you more manly.  Don’t just assume the people you love know you love them, tell them and show them.
            Assumptions can be insulting and can get us in trouble.  A married couple brought their 1 year old daughter to their parents to stay for a couple of nights.  They had forgotten to bring diapers so after dropping off their daughter they went to the store to buy diapers.  They got to the store and asked one of the employees, “where do you keep the diapers?”  The lady looked at them and said “aisle 24.”  When the couple got to aisle 24 they found shelves full of adult diapers.  The employee assumed that sense they didn’t have a baby with them that they were asking for adult diapers.

Whether it’s in how we view someone of a different skin color or in assuming that because we love our children, or assuming because we love our wife they know we love them.  The people we love don’t know we love them unless we tell them and show them.  Let’s be the kind of people that keep our assumptions in check so that we can honor God with the way we live our lives.

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