I’m continuing with four sermon posts so you can binge-read Netflix-style.
If I said the names Anna and Elsa, would they mean anything to you? If not, you have not been in my kids’ bedrooms. Anna and Elsa are the two main characters in the Disney movie “Frozen,” and their faces are plastered all over Diana’s sheets, clothes, and playthings. JP is not immune either, and has been seen playing with Anna and Elsa dolls. We own the movie, and Anna’s boot is currently sitting on my kitchen counter, for some mysterious reason.
“Frozen” is based loosely on Hans Christian Anderson’s story “The Snow Queen.” The older sister, Princess Elsa, has cryokinetic powers, that is, she can make stuff freeze. But Elsa has a little sister, Anna, who doesn’t have powers—and who’s kind of accident prone. When Elsa and Anna were young princesses, they used to have fun with her powers, building snowmen and skating around, but after Elsa got hurt, Anna had to hide her powers away from everyone. But then Anna, who’s kind of a klutz in life and in love, comes to Elsa with her plans to marry a guy she’s met like 15 minutes ago, and Elsa goes ballistic and starts freezing things. Now that her secret is revealed, she flees from society and builds herself an ice palace, high in the sky where no one can touch her—although unbeknownst to Elsa, she has plunged her sister Anna and the entire kingdom into an eternal winter. And since this is a Disney movie, she does it while singing a catchy song that has become an international phenomenon—”Let It Go.”
Preacher Darren Larsen remarks that, although we don’t have any evidence that Hans Christian Anderson is reading Obadiah, Elsa is very much like Edom.
The Lord says to Edom, “I will cut you down to size among the nations; you will be greatly despised. 3 You have been deceived by your own pride because you live in a rock fortress and make your home high in the mountains. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’ you ask boastfully. 4 But even if you soar as high as eagles and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you crashing down,” says the Lord.
Elsa is the very picture of pride. Like Edom, she makes herself “a rock fortress” “high in the mountains.” She declares, “No right, no wrong, no rules for me.” She has overinflated ideas of herself: “I am one with the wind and sky.” And she proudly proclaims that no one can hurt her: “You’ll never see me cry.” Just like Edom: “Who can reach us way up here?”
What does it say about Americans that “Let It Go” became such a hit, and people everywhere identified with Elsa in her moment of prideful independence?
Of course, Anna, the needy one, finds Elsa in her ice castle, and pleads with her to come to her aid. But Elsa refuses to help, sending a frozen bolt straight into Anna’s heart.
Edom, too, wants to be separated from her sister state, Israel, in her moment of need. Edom comes from Esau, the big brother, whereas Israel descends from Jacob, the little brother. We first met these twins wrestling in Rebekah’s womb back in Genesis 25. They have always been rivals, but during Jacob’s lifetime they were able to achieve peace. Now, however, Edom scoffs at Israel’s destruction.
“Because of the violence you did to your close relatives in Israel,[b] you will be filled with shame and destroyed forever. 11 When they were invaded, you stood aloof, refusing to help them. Foreign invaders carried off their wealth and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem, but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies.
12 “You should not have gloated when they exiled your relatives to distant lands. You should not have rejoiced when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune. You should not have spoken arrogantly in that terrible time of trouble.
Who among us does not have an Anna—a kind of klutzy relative, the little sister, lacking in power and strength—the “black sheep,”the poor relation, the one who seems to always be in therapy? Everyone has a sister, a brother, a cousin, a nephew who is constantly in need—out of a job, needing a place to stay, needing to talk about his or her difficulties—needing love. There’s a “black sheep,” a lost sheep, in every family.
There’s a needy, powerless, Princess Anna in every family, and when you see her on caller ID, sometimes you are tempted not to answer. Actually, sometimes you want to go off into an ice palace and live alone sometimes.
But here’s the thing: you might be thinking of that person in your family who’s always needing help—but was there a time when you were the black sheep? When you were the Princess Anna, always getting into trouble and needing to be bailed out?
Elsa finds herself defenseless against the evil Prince Hans, and it turns out that it’s her sister’s love that saves her. The message of “Frozen” is that Elsa’s pride is destructive, and her powers can only be rightly used when she uses her powers in love, and stops trying to live in prideful isolation.
Families are tough. The ice palace is tempting. But God places us in families for a reason.
Rick Warren says that the only thing you will take to heaven is your character. God uses our families to build our character–a lot, sometimes.
1 Timothy 5:8 Those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.
It’s true that some people really, really build our character. It’s also true that sometimes you have to place boundaries around abusive people for your own protection.
But you also have to ask—are you being loving, or are you reacting out of your own pride?
If you’re calling her harsh and rude—have you ever been harsh and rude? If you say he’s whiny and irresponsible—have you ever been whiny or irresponsible? Remember that when you point your finger, four fingers point back to you.
“You spot it, you got it.”
And I have to say that it’s the same in the church. What is the church but a family of faith? Are some people challenging for us to deal with? Of course they are.
But let us not be like Edom, cutting ourselves off from others who might be hurting, might be dealing with struggles we don’t even know about. Let us not be Elsa, running away to an ice palace crying “Let It Go.”
Instead, let us run toward the lost sheep of the family, embrace him and bring him back in the fold—remembering that the Good Shepherd would leave the ninety-nine to run after that one sheep who has fallen astray—remembering that the Good Shepherd would even give his life for the sheep—remembering that we are called to love as Christ loves—remembering that,
at one time or another, the lost sheep of the family is none other than you and me.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.