The majestic face of Aslan looms large in the movie trailer. His regal voice booms, “You have returned for a reason. Your adventure begins now,” as posters that accompany the film invite us to “Return to Hope, Return to Magic, Return to Narnia.”
Narnia fans have eagerly awaited the release of the third film based on C.S. (Jack to his friends) Lewis’ internationally popular novel series that includes The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. Due out in theaters on December 10, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the first of the series to be produced under 20th Century Fox and Walden Media. Fans feared this day would never come after Walt Disney Pictures pulled out of the film in 2008 citing “budgetary considerations and other logistics.”
Faith Connection Made
Critics fired back that Disney had failed to market Prince Caspian correctly to the faith community where C.S. Lewis is still held in high regard. Vowing the same mistakes won’t be made with this film, international evangelist, Luis Palau and Ken Foreman, senior pastor of Cathedral of Faith, have been invited to provide resources including sermons titled The Voyage: Sailing the High Seas at Christmas and Aslan Is On the Move- And We Should Be Too.
“This is a wonderful movie for the entire family to enjoy during this holiday season but it also challenges us with some of the elements that are familiar to us in our own lives. When Lucy faces the temptation to be the most beautiful woman in the world or when the Dawn Treader is sailing into a darkness full of nightmares, these are temptations and challenges that we all face in our daily lives.” Foreman explains, “I think that Reepicheep the mouse is such an accurate picture of courage as, despite his fears, he pursues his dream. This is something we deal with everyday as we can learn to overcome fear with courage. As churches, Voyage of the Dawn Treader can help us build a bridge of dialogue as audiences learn of Aslan, the great lion, and ultimately of Jesus.”
Full of Adventure
Fears that the movie will be one long theological treatise are quickly laid to rest. This is an action film of the very best kind as Lucy and Edmund are transported back to Narnia with their cousin Eustace through a remarkably realistic painting of a ship at sea. They are quickly joined by old friends Reepicheep, King Caspian, and all the minotaurs, satyrs and fauns we have grown to love in the earlier movies. The adventurers set off to the very edge of the world itself to find the seven lords King Caspian’s uncle had banished when he had taken the throne. Actor Ben Barnes is back as King Caspian, Skandar Keynes plays Edmund Pevensie, and Georgie Henley appears as Lucy Pevensie.
Undragon Your Life
Jim Burgen bears on his flesh a stunning visual reminder of his extraordinary connection to this children’s book. As a high school student, Jim found himself trying the party scene and liking it- a lot. By the time he had reached college, he admits that he had committed almost everything that could be classified as a “sin” and even invented some more. He had made a mess of his life.
But somewhere deep inside, often very deep inside, Jim knew that he wasn’t living the life he was meant to live but he just didn’t know how to get out – until he met a girl at swim practice. The last place he wanted to be was in church, but that’s where Robin was on a Sunday morning so that’s where Jim was too.
As the campus pastor started reading from the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Jim remembers thinking he had a lot in common with Eustace, including battles with authority and being a bit of a trouble maker.
Thinking Dragon Thoughts
Jim recounts how C.S. Lewis later described the progression that was all too familiar to Jim. “Once you start thinking dragon thoughts and acting like a dragon, eventually you become one.” Eustace and Jim stumbled across the same realization- being a dragon is really lonely and isolating but even when you don’t want to be a dragon, how do you stop?
Jim speaks of throwing his hands up in despair when he couldn’t undragon himself- he couldn’t fix himself.
It Was a Good Hurt
The campus pastor described how the only one who could undragon Eustace was Aslan. Before he could even stop himself, Jim found himself pouring out his struggle to God. “This is my story. I don’t want to live like this any more. Please help me.” That’s when it started clicking for Jim, about grace and forgiveness. He says simply, “Jesus undragoned my life.” He didn’t undo what Jim had done, but He started healing his life and turning Jim into the man he was meant to be.
In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace is asked by his companions if it hurt when Aslan bared his claws, slashed deeply into the scaly dragon flesh that held Eustace captive and peeled it away like a scab to reveal the tender, new skin beneath. His reply still echoes with Jim, “Yeah it hurt, but it was a good hurt.”
Did It Hurt?
When he says that his body tells his story, Jim, the lead pastor of Flatirons Community Church, isn’t waxing poetic. Ask him and he’ll pull up his left shirt sleeve to show a vivid tattoo that extends from his shoulder to his elbow. It’s obviously a battle scene but the dragon doesn’t seem to be resisting the lion’s claws. If you look closely it almost seems like there’s a glint of relief in the dragon’s eyes. “This is my story. A dragon being undragoned. So if you’re wondering, ‘Did it hurt?’ Yeah it hurt. But it was a good hurt and it was worth it.”
Beyond Sermon Illustrations
Jim Burgen isn’t the only pastor who sees a strong connection between the topics expounded in their pulpits on Sunday services and the themes of the movie. An entire website has been devoted to equip church leaders to effectively use the popularity of the movie among their congregants. No less than Dr. Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, appears in a video endorsement on the site, www.NarniaFaith.com, explaining that preaching on the movie is an opportunity “to deepen the church’s understanding of temptation, grace, forgiveness and transformation all through the prism of C.S. Lewis’ vivid and deeply theological imagery.”
Man Behind the Stories
Clive Staple Lewis was born in Ireland in 1898. Known as C.S. to most, he was a contemporary of J.R.R. Tolkein and they would later become members of The Inklings, a literary group at Oxford. Lewis is as well-known as a Christian apologist for his books Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain and Miracles as he is for his brilliant fiction including The Screwtape Letters, The Space Trilogy and The Chronicles of Narnia. In 2000 Christianity Today voted Mere Christianity the best book of the twentieth century.
A Scholar and a Gentleman
Despite Lewis’ long and illustrious academic career, including achieving the highest honors in three areas of study while at Oxford before becoming a fellow of Magdalen College at Oxford and then Cambridge, readers of C.S. Lewis’ fiction can catch a glimpse of the young boy who loved Beatrix Potter stories and created Boxen, an entire world inhabited by animals, with his brother Warnie.
Lewis himself is said to have written the series at the imaginary prodding of Aslan who he described as “bounding in” inspiring the events not only of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe but “dragging” Lewis through the creation of the six other Narnia stories as well. It seems only right that Aslan shall have been the inspiration for a series that delights, entertains and challenges both young and old alike.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opens nationwide in theaters on December 10.