Harry Potter and Disruption
So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” ...
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared" (Gen. 32:24-28, 30, NIV).
Harry Potter is big in our household.
When the novels were being released, my children were at the right age that my wife and eldest son stood outside a Barnes and Noble at midnight to purchase the newest edition.
My oldest son would then proceed to spend the next day devouring the book, and soon, it began to be passed around the household. Harry Potter was so big that perhaps the favorite Halloween costume of our daughter, eight years junior to the eldest son, was being Hermione Granger. But it is neither Harry, Hermione, or even Ron that I want to talk about today … it is Fawkes.
Fawkes, for those of you unfamiliar with Potter lore, is the pet Phoenix of Dumbledore (the mythical bird that rises from the ashes and has great magical powers). Harry’s first encounter with Fawkes was on one of the days in which the aging, bedraggled Fawkes bursts into flames, is consumed by fire and then emerges as a young chick to rise and to grow and to live again in the splendor of youth … at least in its physical body. There is the continuity of relationships (Fawkes still knows and is loyal to Dumbledore) and still knows history.
For Fawkes, the disruption of the flames allows the bird to achieve new life, renewed relationship, and “seemingly” new power and wisdom.
“Disruption” is probably the best description of what our world has been through during the last year.
Oh, it’s not just the pandemic, although that is the consistent theme across the nations. But besides the pandemic, this disruption also includes political upheaval at home and abroad, natural disasters (wildfires and more), riots and insurrections, lockdowns, masks, separations, restrictions, loss of jobs, food insecurities and more.
And while all of this undoubtedly makes for a major disruption in our world and in our lives, still it’s nothing new; history is replete with disruptions, especially in our Biblical history.
When Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden, it was a disruption to their way of life. When the world experienced 40 days and 40 nights of rain, that too, was a disruption. Jacob having to flee for his life, that was disruption. Joseph being sold into slavery, again, a disruption. Moses seeing a burning bush, disruption. The Israelites’ exodus through the wilderness, disruption. Their being exiled to Babylon, disruption. Roman occupation, disruption.
And then the greatest disruption of all …
God became flesh and dwelled among us.
And since that disruption, many more have occurred, beginning with Peter’s denial of Jesus and Paul’s encounter on the Damascus Road … all of the way to the Reformation, subsequent World Wars, the 1960’s, and many, many more.
Life is full of disruptions, and yet people, society, and even the church seem to rise from the disruptions to carry on towards a new way of life, to gain a new understanding of our relationship with God, and to see a “greater purpose.”
Often, after the Biblical disruptions, there was a restored … rekindled … redefined relationship between the primary actors and God. Often, God marked this new relationship by renaming the person making the new relationship complete … but even in this new name, there was a continuity of relationship with those who had gone on before, to their history and to their knowledge.
What seemed to be significant in these instances was their location of and struggle with God and God’s purpose. I’m not just thinking of Jacob mind you, but also Moses and Peter and Paul and Martin Luther and of course, Joe Plumber (his life, his faith, and his church) in 2020, 2021, and the future.
You see, the key to our making this disruption a Phoenix-type of event is locating God within it, wrestling with God’s intentions, purposes and plans, and ultimately moving ahead in faith … even if we don’t have a clear answer and will walk with a limp afterwards.
God is doing a new thing in our world. That new thing requires some disruption. My prayer for you, your faith, and your church is that while wrestling with the disruptions, you will ultimately come to the place that you will ask for God’s blessing and let the new day break.
Oh God, in the midst of this disruption, in the knowledge that You are doing a new thing, I don’t know what to pray for except that You would continue to love and to bless Your people, Your church and yes, even me … even when it does not feel like a blessing. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains