dragons, harry potter, and Revelation 12: The afflicted can be comforted


 

 

Introduction:

In 1990, J.K. Rowling begins crafting a world where magic influences the lives of everyday persons, everyday persons like Harry Potter. It is not a separate reality, but a reality that mingles in the life of everyday persons. Her characters encounter evil forces trying to offer idolatrous systems of lust, power, and even oppression.  Rowling was once asked if Harry Potter was a religious book. She quipped back, “It’s not a secular book.” In fact, there are so many symbols that can be connoted to the life of Christ and the Kingdom of God within Potter. For instance, Harry’s Patronus is a stag. Medieval persons considered a stag, hart, or deer a symbol for Christ.  You guys ever drank jagermeister? The stag with a crucifix in its antlers, is referencing Christ. The story of Saint Eustice, or Saint Hurbertus, who encounter a mystical vision of a stag that represents Christ. What about Harry’s scars? He wears a scar similar to a lightning bolt on his forehead.  Does this reference the seal of the lamb or sealed by the Holy Spirit? Or perhaps the anointing of one meant to help, heal, or be a priest. What about the blood imagery within Harry Potter? What about Voldemort’s obsession with snakes? What about his satanic story of being talented and celebrated, but wanting more glory? What about the name of Potter’s broom, a Nimbus? Not only is a Nimbus a type of cloud, like Christ riding on the clouds, but it’s also in classical art the name for the Halo or shading around saints and Christ himself. I could go on and on. Rowling explains that in writing Harry, She wanted him to leave the hum-drum world and find the exact same problems in the wizard world. For instance, racism and other forms of oppression are being played out in the Potter books. So you see how purity notions are very similar to evil world systems, even in the ministry of magic. We see how elves are treated like second class persons, how “muggles”, and half-bloods are treated. The fact is, Harry Potter is an epic story with cosmic symbols that awaken us up to the struggles we face in life today and show us comfort.  And Revelation was an epic story with cosmic symbols for 1st century Christians to wake them up to the evil world systems that clashed with the Kingdom of God. Revelation remains an epic story for us TODAY with cosmic symbols that Wake us up to another reality, showing us God is in our story. Despite the dragons we face, the oppression, the desserts, the darkness, God comforts us.

Scripture:

12 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”[a] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”

 

Wow. We just read part of this epic story. Amazing, isn’t it. Dragons, Woman, Child, Stars. What? Right. Every religion had their own apocalyptic genres of writing, and they weren’t always “eschatological” or concerning final things. Jews had many types of apocalyptic writings that were used to comfort the people experiencing problems. Apocalyptic writing could be symbolic of an event that was happening, or more like our dystopian literature that hopefully wakes us up to things that don’t work in the Kingdom of God. So the crisis in Revelation 12 that we are reading about may allude to a historical event, or be a metanarrative for all of history, or rather it could be a type of mythical poetry in apocalyptic writing sent to comfort people. Revelation 12 in its literary form is an interlude, or more of an intercalation. This chapter is right in the middle of the book of revelation. It breaks things us, and lets us focus on the truths of the story. Now if this book were real aloud in graveyards, synagogues, home churches, and around campfires, an interlude, revisiting the story’s whole would be a great time for catching us up on the details. It gives us an overview of the Messianic story and beckons us to wake up to the realities of good versus evil in our life and the comfort promised to God despite all the junk we have experienced.

Now some of you are thinking well that is just dandy. Apocalyptic Literature. What does that have to do with me, right now, in America, in 2013?

Have you ever felt deep distress, so deep that it would be like having a baby as a monster is chasing you? Maybe you felt closed off from all sides. Not able to escape the dangers of addiction, cancer, or financial ruin.

Let’s go back to the scriptures:

Chapter 12 verses 1 and 2.

A great sign, or a symbol showed up. A woman: Israel who was adorned in glory. Israel: who served the Lord. The LORD: who created the sun, the moon, and all the stars. Now all of these images would have been familiar with late first and second century Jews and new Christians.  They would understand this woman to be the nation of Israel. Remember, Jacobs dream, Rachel, near eastern ancient religions worshipping the sun and the moon? Going back to the prophets we see the female symbols used, and how the mourning of a barren woman, or the pain of child birth was referenced by Isaiah. Or the bride imagery, and that of a whore. This female symbolism used by every major and even some of the Minor Prophets is common to us. We can understand these images. And the early followers of the Way did as well. The woman, or Israel, cried out. Now the word here for cried out- is never used in conjunction with a pregnant woman, but in the distress of a people. A people who knew pain, rejection, exile, abandonment…

Verses 3-5

This wasn’t the only story that had dragons in it. In fact, before John the revelator ever wrote down his apocalyptical masterpiece, Combat myths were used in every other religion to show struggle. A struggle common to people. And these stars, these symbols, perhaps of the angels who left Heaven to follow the dragon. Perhaps, just a symbol of calamity.

Have you ever felt like a dragon was chasing you?  sometimes the dragons in my life try to eat me… depression, rejection, addiction, family issues, finances…stupid dragonsjager! stagg deer hart 6290297895_3700fa35b6_z babylonian dragon MIKE oh look, a deer more nimbus nimbus what the heck? Saint Michael and dragon

You CAN have comfort:

Because there is purpose in your travail, A CHILD IS BORN!

Something new is always about to erupt in our life when we feel like death is close. Now Israel wanted freedom. She had been despised, deported, and discriminated against. But despite all of her failings, and her problems, she carried within her the messianic promise of the suffering savior. A CHILD WAS BORN. Now for Christ followers, this very moment is the breaking point in the whole metanarrative. Christ rips into history, challenging everything. And like a lamb he goes to the cross. He challenges everything. Social systems, religious systems, demonic and worldly powers. He is our atonement. He is our sacrifice- even though God never required a sacrifice. God only required that we did justice, practiced mercy, and walked in humility. But we demanded a sacrifice. We couldn’t deal with someone who would throw the whole political system on its head, abandon hierarchy, and rip up ancient temple-religion, and purity codes. We couldn’t handle Love Your God and Love Your Neighbor. It was too radical. So we demanded sacrifice, we demanded that we do something to earn grace and favor. But Christ, did it all for us. His Kingdom split our concept of time wide open, offering grace to all of us. Every one of us. The addict, the cancer patient, the bankrupt, the prisoner, the harlot, the lesbian, and even the pious religious folk. But that wasn’t the end of the story…

6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

God provided for Israel. Even in her time of dessert wandering, he provided manna. Even in her time of enslavement, he provided bread.

Despite being in a wilderness, WE CAN HAVE COMFORT, because God has prepared a place for us.  I believe that persons who follow Christ will be cared for during their affliction. And you will be cared for spiritually and nourished even if you are facing death. God will feed you when you are depressed. You CAN have comfort when the creditors are calling. You Can have comfort when they are telling you you’re crazy for your beliefs. You can have comfort when your family and friends have deserted you.

Verses 7-9 WAR!

            Michael is seen in other depictions of scripture and Midrash (OR COMMENTARY) as the protector of God’s people. Recall the painting, Saint Michael and the Dragon? You may not believe in angels. You might wonder why so many religions reference them. And you may believe in angels, but regardless we can take away this truth: Despite our fight, we CAN have comfort because we aren’t fighting alone.

Now, back to scripture:

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.

            Recall in Job the story of Satan being in the court of God to accuse people? That is this dude’s whole job. I know some Christians think it’s theirs, but it was Satan’s job. And he was kicked out of Heaven. Kicked Out. No longer able to get to the right hand of the father, but still accusing in his ole sly foot way. So who is in the throne room now?  Our advocate. He intercedes for us day and night. Christ, speaking to God as a defender, loving us, and shutting down any arguments from the prosecutor. Isn’t that Good news? You may not believe in the devil, but I know you have felt accusation. Every time that old gambler tries to say one iota of a verb, talking junk, and hating on us, Jesus slaps him like a fool. Good news. Remember how the blood of able cried out against Cain? But the blood of Christ cries out Forgiven, Accepted, Good Enough, Child of God, beautiful, restored, and redeemed. Its Good news. We CAN have comfort, knowing our defender speaks for us.

Now towards the end of 12,

11 They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”

In the story of Harry Potter, Voldemort was a racist, hating half-breeds. He was full of greed, lust, and a hunger for political power. He chased Harry, and the others because he knew his time was short. Now Harry defeated Voldemort through self-sacrifice and believing that his life meant something. Neville Longbottom had to defeat the snake. Hermoine went on to stand up for injustice, even in the Ministry of Magic. The world of  Harry Potter speaks something to us.

And so does Revelation 12.   

We know that evil world systems still exist. We know that the Kingdom of God breaks into our world in glimpses. We know that racism, selfishness, genocide, disease, addiction, power-lust, hunger, and misogyny try and cripple us. But We CAN overcome this Dragon, because of the Blood of the Lamb, and our own experience being shared. We CAN overcome.

Conclusion:

These epic stories with cosmic imagery show us that we CAN have comfort in our lives. Do you feel as though you NEED comfort? Maybe you NEED Peace in the midst of a struggle? Do you DESIRE meaning within your own story’s chaos? Do you WANT assurance that you aren’t alone in the place of pain?

i know i freaking do.

so let’s pray:

Creator of the Universe,

Give us the COMFORT. Let us see that you are present in our stories, in our symbols, and in our lives, even when chaos or calamity strikes, you are working. Help us to see that in times of deep travail a baby is being born, wilderness, you are providing. In times of struggle, we do not fight alone. Help us to know when we feel accused that Christ is our defender, and when we feel defeated by the world, know that we can overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

I pray all these things in the name of the resurrected Christ. Amen.

 

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