Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Gospel According to Harry Potter

In November of 2005, when our church was a mere 2 months old, I preached a 5 week sermon series entitled The Gospel According to Harry Potter. I had a lot of fun with the series. On the first Sunday, I came out from behind our curtains through a smoke machine, while the Harry Potter theme music was playing, dressed in a Hogwarts robe. I explained to the kids that I was the chaplain at Hogwarts and at TF on special assignment from Albus Dumbledore. I realize this sounds incredibly cheesy, but I was trying to ham it up for the kids, or I was letting out my inner geek... let's go with the former.

Let's just say I caught some flak for this series. We sent out mailers to publicize it and I had several people calling to yell at me. Of course, they blocked their numbers and didn't give their names. We also had several families leave our church because of the series.

But looking back, I think that sermon series was a defining moment for our young church. It was a sermon series that defined they type of church we're going to be. As one of the families was leaving our church, they told me they wanted a place "where our kids will be safe from pop culture." I told that family that we aren't that type of church. We don't put up walls between "church culture and pop culture." I believe that God's grace is at work in every area of our culture and I want our worship to reflect that. We are going to celebrate and point out all the different places God is working. God is not found only in the christian subculture.

We see this all the time in scripture. Biblical authors are constantly pulling from the pagan culture around them. This morning I preached on Revelation 12 and 13 and explained how John's telling of the story "the woman and the dragon" was actually a reshaping of the mythological story of the birth of Apollo. John pulled a story from pagan culture and used it to point toward Christ's victory over evil.

As a side note, the conflict with that family was the healthiest and most Christ-honoring conflict I've ever experienced. Although it's been over a year, I'm still sad that they left. But I am proud of them for coming directly to me with their concerns and initiating a difficult conversation.

And now that the final Harry Potter book has been released I wish I could revisit that sermon series. There were a lot of Christian symbols in the first 6 book, but Deathly Hallows was a Christian (in not even more so) than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Spoiler Alert If you have not yet read the book and don't what to know how it ends, stop now!

Toward the end of the book, Harry realizes that his destiny is to die. He realizes that the only way to free the world of the tyranny of the the dark lord is to die a sacrificial death. That his own blood has the power to overcome the evil one, but he must willingly lay down his life. It seems like I've heard a story like this before...In a scene mirroring Aslan's death at the hands of the White Witch, Harry walks into Voldemort's camp and gives up his life.

But a funny thing happened, Harry didn't remain dead. He came back to life. Again, borrowing from Lion..., Harry knew of a deeper magic that Voldemort couldn't comprehend. Once Harry came back to the world of the living, he had complete power over Voldemort. Harry marched right back into the midst of the battle, proclaimed his victory (even gave Voldemort one last chance to repent) and then destroyed the dark lord. Harry's triumph seemed very Pauline to me, marching triumphantly over the powers of evil. It was beautiful!

To use literary language, Harry was a Christ-figure in this book. This book was not an allegory. Harry certainly doesn't warrant a direct comparison to Christ in every aspect of his character, but Rowling clearly laid out for us her faith in the resurrection. Several years ago, JK Rowling mentioned she didn't want to talk much about her faith because if she did, even a 10 year old would be able to figure out how her story would end.

Finally, Erin and I picked up the book at Border's book party the night it was released. Yep, we even dressed up for the occasion. I'm "Won-Won" and Erin is Lavender Brown. We ran into the Beechners at the party and gave the boys my orange hairspray so they could do their best imitation of the Weasley twins. Derin told me I'm the coolest pastor he knows, but a lot of you reading this might disagree with his criteria!

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