In the midst of typing a sentence on my new computer last week, the screen all of a sudden turned upside down. Just like that! I sat there for a few moments in astonished wonder.I tried to turn my computer upside down to continue reading what was on the screen. Of course, it’s virtually impossible to move the cursor or type anything when the keyboard is now in the air. I shut down my computer, hoping a good night’s sleep might unfreeze the screen and restore it to normal. When the screen was still upside down in the morning, it was time to call in the tech-busters!
Like most people, I don’t like it when my world turns upside down and I have to readjust my worldview, priorities and attitude. I prefer to remain in my comfort zone, frozen in time, where things stay just the way I want them. Yet our God is One who continually pushes and prods us to venture into the unknown of a faith that is always adapting to the new thing God is doing in our midst.
I am in Portland right now, preparing for the start of General Conference tomorrow. The task before us is immense. At this critical juncture, it’s time to take steps to unfreeze The United Methodist Church, to catch up to the reality of the rapidly changing world in which we live by giving ourselves away, thus freeing ourselves to become all that God created us to be. The challenge is that the only way to unfreeze ourselves is by embracing the upside down world that Jesus taught us is the kingdom of God.
The 2013 movie Frozen is the fifth highest grossing movie of all time and the highest grossing animation film in history. Frozen appeals to all ages precisely because the themes are complex and the plot is completely upside down. The person with magical powers is good, the dashing prince is evil and women are the heroes.
Sisters Elsa and Anna live in the royal household of the kingdom of Arendelle where Elsa has been given the unusual power to freeze as well as create ice and snow. One day Elsa accidentally causes harm to her sister through her powers. Then her parents die when their ship sinks. Elsa is crowned Queen but deliberately stays away from Anna for fear of losing control over her ability to freeze individuals and things.
The power of Frozen is found in the depth of relationships and stereotypes turned inside out: a flawed Queen who struggles to harness her power, the intensity of Anna’s desire to reconnect with her sister, the decision to forego a villain suitor and the purity of a blossoming friendship between Princess Anna and the peasant Kristoff. Only an act of true and selfless love can ultimately thaw a frozen heart and save Arendelle.
How can The United Methodist Church be unfrozen in the next two weeks, thus freeing us to embrace organic and transformative ministry around the world in the name of Jesus Christ?
- We unfreeze The United Methodist Church by acknowledging the upside down nature of the kingdom of God.
God sent Jesus to earth to show us the nature of God’s love by shaking things up. Jesus’ mission was to unfreeze the Jews from their complacency by proclaiming that the first will be last, we win by losing, the very last seat becomes the place of honor and true life is found by taking up our cross. The way up is always the way down.
It was John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience that unfroze him from bondage to salvation by works and living by rules, thus opening the door to boundless grace. Are we willing at this General Conference to confess our reluctance to unfreeze the United Methodist Church because of our own agendas and reluctance to bear the cross on behalf of the very least in our world?
- We unfreeze The United Methodist Church by locking arms despite our differences.
What kind of witness could The United Methodist Church make by proclaiming to the world that even though we are not of one mind, it will not stop us from having one heart and one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Rather than mimic the political, social and economic divisions of our world, what if we were to model sacred conversation, shed our preconceived notions and make a conscious decision to compromise on deeply held beliefs for the sake of Jesus and the church?
Our willingness to suffer in love for one another and escort those who differ from us to the places of honor will impact our world more than any other decisions we could make at General Conference. What might happen if we passed this simple resolution, “Being one is more important than being right.”
- We unfreeze The United Methodist Church by staring down our fears.
Disney took a bold risk in making an unconventional animated film. By turning story lines upside down and focusing on flawed heroes and relationships that are real, Frozen has connected with millions of viewers around the world.
In 2014, BabyCentre, the world’s number one site for the top 100 boy and girl names, reported that the name Elsa moved from 331 in 2013 to 88 in 2014, a jump of 243 spaces. Parents are recognizing that Elsa represents the qualities they would like their children to emulate: a strong, sensitive, confident young woman who recognizes her growing edges and fights to overcome her fears through love.
The power of evil held sway over Elsa as long as she stayed away from her sister. By finally letting go of fear and embracing Anna, Elsa found the true source of her power and could use it to love as well as unthaw her own frozen heart. In the same way, we can unfreeze The United Methodist Church over the next two weeks by embracing each other without hesitation, knowing that perfect love casts out fear.
- We unfreeze the church by letting go.
In Frozen, Elsa flees to the mountains when her magical abilities are discovered. Eventually, however, Elsa realizes that it is possible to let go of her past. She doesn’t have to hide her powers anymore and can use them for good. Her hit song, Let It Go, has given hope to people the world over who struggle to release into God’s hands whatever holds them back from fullness of life.
It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small,
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all!
It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through…
Let it go, let it go; I am one with the wind and sky.
Let it go, let it go; You’ll never see me cry!
Here I stand and here I’ll stay; Let the storm rage on!
What do we need to let go of this week in order to unfreeze The United Methodist Church?
- Can we let go of our righteous-side up kingdom in order to embrace the upside down kingdom of Jesus?
- Can we let go of the conviction that there is only one way to interpret the living, breathing Word of Scripture?
- Can we let go of our reluctance to admit that God can speak to us through movies, music, people who are not like us and inverted computer screens, if only we are humble enough to listen?
- Can we let go of our desire to make The United Methodist Church into our own image and free the Holy Spirit to roam wherever it wants, blow freely and spark into flame in the most unexpected of places and people?
- Can we, like Elsa, claim our power to unfreeze The United Methodist Church?
A strangely warmed heart can unfreeze us every time.