I’m in the middle of preaching through The Sermon on the Mount and I have been so excited about what I’m learning and how God is connecting me to his overarching story. In my study over the last few weeks I have seen a connection between Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. If you are unfamiliar with the Hero’s Journey, let me give you a quick tour of what I’m talking about.
There are two things I love to do- read and watch movies. I feel that these two pursuits often go hand in hand. In fact, I have heard it said that movies are today’s literature.
Both movies and literature seek to tell us a compelling story and when we interact with those stories we can’t help but try and find ourselves within the narrative. We imagine ourselves in the role of our favorite characters and often times we try and emulate what we see on the screen or what we read on the page.
While watching the King’s Speech, I began asking myself how I would react if I were in Prince Albert’s position. If I had a debilitating speech impediment, how would I react? Would I become a mute- so embarrassed by my stutter that I decide not to speak at all? Would I seek help? Would I pretend nothing was wrong with me?
As the film progressed, I began asking what if I were asked to give a speech to rally the entire empire against an enemy as fierce and evil as the Nazis? What would I say? How could I convince the people around me to join the cause and fight for a better tomorrow?
Stories force us to look at our lives and how we are currently living them and they give us a glimpse into how our lives could be and they whisper to us concerning what should be.
In 1949, a man named Joseph Campbell published a book entitled, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Campbell studied thousands of myths and stories from every era of human existence and out of all those stories and myths, he identified a similar patter regardless of time and culture. He called this pattern The Hero’s Journey. This is absolutely fascinating to me. If you went home and pulled out your favorite book or movie, there is a very good chance that you would see this pattern.
I just turned your quiet Friday night into an academic exercise. You’re welcome.
In every story, the hero or the main character starts out living his life just like everyone else. He is knee deep in living an ordinary life. Rick owns a nightclub in N. Africa. Dorothy lives with her Aunt and Uncle on a farm in Kansas. Tomas Anderson is a computer programer. Ben-Hur is a Jewish noble.
Then our hero is Called into an Adventure. Sometimes this is an actual call- Build It and They Will Come. Sometimes it is an event or something outside their control.
In all the gin joints, in all the world Ilsa walks into Rick’s American Cafe. Dorothy is carried away by a tornado. Neo meets Morpheus. Frodo is given a ring. Ben-Hur is betrayed by Messala.
This call to adventure is really the opportunity for something greater. The hero is invited to change their life and USUALLY the lives of those around them by entering into a great adventure.
The hero has to make a choice– life as they know it or take the journey and change the world. They can Refuse or Respond to the call.
Will Rick help Ilsa and Victor Lazlo get to America so they can continue the Resistance against the Nazis? Will Dorothy stop the Wicked Witch of the West? Will Neo embrace his destiny and free the human race? Will Frodo destroy the ring?
If the decision is made to respond and answer the call then the Hero begins his journey. There is usually some spiritual help or aid- A Fellowship, a French police officer, a yellow bricked road, Yoda- that guides our hero toward his/her goal.
Then our Hero comes face to face with a Road of Trials.
The German Major Strasser and the Gestapo arrive in Casablanca. Dorothy is captured. The Fellowship is broken. Cypher makes a deal with Agent Smith. The Empire decides to Strike back.
Barriers arise and seek to derail our hero and try to keep them from achieving a new life. These Trials are difficult to overcome but if our Hero desires to change their life and the lives of those they care for the Trials must be dealt with and overcome.
So what does this have to do with The Sermon on the Mount? Like any great story, this post is To Be Continued….