Micah 5: 1 – 5 Dee Dee Seek – On this pre-Memorial Day Sunday, which is also the kick-off Sunday for Pastor Jill’s continuation of her sermon series of “At The Movies” from last summer, I am recalling past movies with the theme of social justice, equality, bigotry or kindness of spirit which have lead to social change, such as The Pianist, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Ten Commandments, The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, Westside Story, Empire Of the Sun, Come See The Paradise, Hidden Figures, Mandela, The Long Walk To Freedom, Remember The Titans, Coco, and The Best of Enemies. But leave it to DreamWorks to produce an animated movie trilogy, with such a same powerful theme. How many of you have seen any of the How To Train Your Dragon movies? How many of you have seen all three? I have chosen all three movies because they each, show stages that our strong willed and dedicated, but reluctant young hero, called Hiccup goes thru to right a social justice wrong, that he sees, in his daily life, and can finally, no longer tolerate!
Let me give you some background information, of his life on the Nordic island of Berk during the time of the Vikings. Hiccup, our central figure, is an under sized, wimpy built, 16 year old, apprentice blacksmith, with funny hair, lacking career direction and serious self-esteem. His best friend, and girl of his dreams, Astrid, also 16, is a focused, competitive warrior, who knows exactly her life’s purpose, and how to achieve it! She works out, practices her weapons training, attends Dragon Training classes every morning and study group in the afternoons and evenings, where they learn the characteristics of each species of dragon and how to protect themselves by killing them on sight, as has been taught for seven generations. But what is unique about the friendship that these two teenagers share, is that Astrid sees Hiccup for what he is, believing in him, even when he doesn’t believe in himself. Valka, Hiccups mother, which he was told, died when he was a baby, will be introduced in the second chapter, as a champion for the same equality and understanding between dragons and humans, as he seeks, which helps him understand and validate his own feelings. Then there’s Stoick, The Vast, the chieftain, of the island village. He is a portrayed as a man of about 6 feet tall weighing in at around 350 lbs., and used to getting his way if he shouts loud enough or shows enough force! In Hiccup, his only child and heir to his throne, all he sees is that he isn’t a dragon fighter, totally missing that he has become an innovative mechanical engineer with a very empathic heart!
The citizens of Berk have a serious dragon problem, because regularly, under the cover of darkness, they use their swift flying agility and speed and their fire breathing skills to steal all of the villager’s food that is stored for the upcoming nine winter months on the island. This is the accepted opinion towards these creatures who are considered to be thieves, destroyers and killers. This island for seven generations has been fighting this fight, replacing their food and rebuilding their homes as part of their unquestioned way of life and survival.
On the last such battle, Hiccup who isn’t allowed to fight in the battles or attend dragon training, but has invented a sort of dragon slaying catapult, sneaks into the battle, firing his weapon and injuring a most feared and nearly extinct dragon called a night fury. The night fury is feared because of its small, sleek build, impossible to see in the dark of night, retractable teeth, and its ability to spit electrically charged flames of intense heat on a precise target! When Hiccup shares with Stoick, that he nicked the night fury, he, of course, is not believed!
Still he moves forward, finding the injured dragon in the woods, where he, as well as the dragon realize, that he, the dragon, can no longer fly, thus marking him for an easy kill. Hiccup understands the fear in his eyes, then instead of killing this beautiful but helpless creature, befriends him, begins to learn his ways, and names him Toothless. He then uses his blacksmithing talents to design and make a prosthetic tail fin, which can enable him to, once again, fly as long as Hiccup rides on his back to operate it! They develop a forbidden friendship, overcoming the criteria of prejudgment, as was taught as a cultural standard. They fly together and learn about each other every afternoon after dragon trainings, which arouses Astrid’s suspicions, to the point that she follows him to where he is spending all of his afternoons. Though Hiccup realizes that all that they had ever been taught about dragons, was judgmental by species, he knew that he had to convince her to see beyond their learned traditions. In this scene, Hiccup and Toothless work together, to help Astrid see dragons differently. Pay particular attention to Toothless’ facial expressions and body language, as he does his best to win her friendship and trust. Show clip……#1
Together they discover that dragons live in nests, controlled by an alpha dragon, who is fed all of the food that was stolen from their village earlier! Once back on their island, the location of the nest is revealed. Ships are launched. A battle in which the alpha dragon is challenged, but Toothless fights well and wins, thus freeing the dragons from the bonds to service.
Sidebar: Toothless is an alpha dragon as well, but he doesn’t find that out about himself until after maturity, in episode three. In dragon years, Toothless and Hiccup are the age.
During episode two, Hiccup uses his engineering skills to make the dragons feel welcome which includes 24 hour feeding and water stations, stables, jobs for dragons according to their special fire breathing traits and fire extinguishing stations for when uncontrolled flames get out of hand. Hiccup also instructs his fellow Berkians in dragon relations, enabling dragons and humans to live together in harmony as equals, which eliminates the need for dragon combat training.
Hiccup, our reluctant hero, has created what he refers to as Dragonotopia, which reminds me of some of the same calls to asylum creating, of our time. In 1863, The Emancipation Proclamation freed 3.5 million men, women and children from 244 years of generational bondage, where any forms of education were considered unlawful. Karen Rose posted a horridly realistic statement on Face Book the other day, stating that they, the slavers, did not take slaves from Africa. They took engineers, doctors, architects, parents and children, then made them slaves! The revolution lead by Fidel Castro in Cuba, caused 1.4 million people to flee their homeland, to the safety of the United States, as the now communist government was allowed to take all of their homes, possessions and dignity! In 1975, 1.6 million Vietnamese persons fled their lands for fear of persecution when all of Viet Nam fell to the communist style of government. Today many of these refugees of 40 years ago, live in fear of deportation back to Viet Nam, which may most likely result in extreme treatment! A few weeks ago, Pastor Jill spoke of the “Not In Our Town” movement of Billings, Montana. After a resent shooting in the Mosque in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand, the townspeople, at the next scheduled prayer service, created a human barrier around that location, allowing entrance to only, the members who had come to pray.
But it seemed that no matter what Hiccup and his people did to protect their dragons, there seemed to always be someone out there hunting them for their own purposes. First, there was Drago Bloodfist, who’s sole purpose was to capture dragons to build his army to simply overpower the world! But then in episode 3, Grimmel, The Grizzley is introduced, as the scariest, worst hunter of all! He, with all of his sophisticated gadgets, hunts dragons for only sport and the sake of the kill! He is a true trophy hunter! Hiccup, who is now 22 and has become the island’s chieftain, upon his father’s death, is confronted by Grimmel, who has broken into his home. It is then, that Grimmel makes his purely evil intentions known, and Hiccup is once again challenged into action. Show clip……#2
How familiar does this kind of thinking sound in our current political atmosphere? What statement was DreamWorks really making thru Grimmel?
Afraid for their safety, Hiccup, Astrid and Toothless lead the citizens and dragons of Berk, to two separate locations where they each, could live in safety. The people of Berk, scatter to other lands, while Toothless, who has now assumed the role of the alpha dragon, leads his dragons to a mythical, hidden world underground, where only dragons are allowed. All of the dragons are now safe, protected and never to be seen again!
In Hiccup, I see a lot of our God, who leads us to welcome, accept and comfort our neighbors, to look into the hearts of those who may look or speak differently than us and to be accommodating to those diverse in origin. Hiccup realized and accepted the challenge of overcoming the prejudices shown towards the dragon population, even when it meant defying his closed minded, overpowering father and the culture of generations of traditional dragon warfare. We, as a church family, have a tradition of welcoming all persons in through our doors, as did Jesus Christ, in his lifetime. We are known as “That Church” because of the presence of our God’s spirit of nonjudgmental kindness and open acceptance. We, like Hiccup, chose to be immersed in a life where abundant love, empathy, forgiveness, patience, and the pursuit of justice and understanding, are the real deal! So say it again! That Church! “That church” Where God is still speaking. “That Church” Where God is still listening! Amen…… “