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Finding God at Hogwarts, Part 1

SERMON – Stretching the Imagination – “The Wild and Wonderful World of God” Harry Potter sermon series, #1

I want to welcome you this morning to a special realm where almost anything is possible. This is a place where giants roam and unicorns play. In its pages we come face to face with dragons, the mighty leviathan and the behemoth monster. This is a land where donkeys talk, where water breaks forth from rock and a man is able to stretch his hands out over the waters and watch as throughout the night the Red Sea parts. In this Kingdom, people walk on water, a wise man is given a ride to heaven in a chariot pulled by horses of fire, and locusts that look like horses with human faces set upon and torture those who aren’t marked with the seal of God on their foreheads (Rev. 9). And sometimes, in this wild and astonishing world, people are even raised from the dead.

Never has a book been written or a movie with glorious special effects made that can begin to compare with the mystical, dangerous and awe-inspiring world we encounter in these pages. And I haven’t even gotten started on all that should shock and amaze us as we read our Bibles. For example, have you heard about the Nephilim mentioned in Genesis and Numbers – the offspring of angels and humanity (Genesis 6:1-6; Numbers 13:30-33)?

It is super easy for us to forget how fantasmic the Bible is. Many of us have grown up on these stories and we’ve heard it all so often, it almost sounds ordinary. Or maybe certain aspects of scripture make us uncomfortable or a little embarrassed and so it’s easier for us to pretend they aren’t even there. Or maybe there are little bits of scripture we didn’t even know about. For example, I didn’t know there were unicorns in scripture. That would be because they’re never mentioned in the NIV or the NRSV, the two translations I typically rely on. But the King James translation mentions the word “unicorn” nine different times. Numbers 23:22 in the King James reads, “God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of a unicorn.” The original Hebrew word for unicorn is “re’em” and scholars disagree on what this word meant. The likely theory is that it referred to a one-horned wild ox already mostly extinct by 250bc when Greek translations of scripture first appeared using the word, “monokeros” meaning one-horned. So likely, by the time the first Latin translation of scripture was written in around 400ad, this one-horned ox was as mythic as the fabled unicorn and the Latin translation simply used the word, “unicornis” (beliefnet, “Are There Really Unicorns in the KJV”).

This morning we’re going to begin taking a four-week journey through time-worn but still critically important and foundational understandings of God. Today we’re talking about imagination and its intersection with faith. Next week we’ll try and catch a glimpse into the nature of God. Week 3 we’ll spend some time thinking about the existence of evil, darkness. And our final week we will look at resurrection. These certainly aren’t new topics. I’m sure you’ve heard sermons on all of them before. But sometimes a fictionalized adventure comes along that helps shake some of the dust from our imaginations, lets us flex our minds and spirits in ways that leave us a little sore but nonetheless, help us grow stronger. All of you who survived the first week of summer weights should be able to really appreciate that particular analogy!

And this imagination flexing is exactly what happened when between 1917 and 1949 J.R.R. Tolkien was writing the H