The Church & Calling in Moana

I love stories in the form of TV shows, movies, and books. I love seeking out gospel truths or themes that are in play even in stories that have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel.

When watching Moana this past Saturday I could’t help but wrestle with some of those truths. Moana is about a girl who feels drawn to the ocean at a young age, yet she is slowly led away from her dream to explore such a vast sea and instead is encouraged to pursue a quiet life in the coconut-sustained village (albeit with the responsibilities of being the next chief). Would it have been a rewarding life? Surely. Would it have been a comfortable life? Definitely. Yet it wasn’t what she felt called to, rather it was what she was culturally assimilated into.

During one of the incredibly catchy songs towards the beginning of the movie, Moana’s grandma says the following to her:

You may hear a voice inside
And if the voice starts to whisper
To follow the farthest star
Moana, that voice inside is
Who you are

Now I would obviously argue that our identity is not found in the voice inside us per-say, yet we know the Holy Spirit guides us and leads us sometimes via the quiet whispers to our souls. Consider the words of Jesus about the Spirit:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” – John 16:33

The Holy Spirit truly does speak to us and disclose to us that which we are to do. The call of the Holy Spirit is strong, for it led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4). Romans 8:14 says that those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit are sons of God. Galatians 5 tells us to walk by the Spirit.

Yet in light of all this I can’t help but wonder how many of us (including me) silent that voice inside because it is culturally crazy. Sometimes as was the case in the movie it’s family pressure that prevents us from setting sail so to speak via the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s the feeling that we have all we could ask for where we are (I do affirm that God will not call all of us to take geographically large leaps of faith, but He will call all of us to step out in faith in some manner). moana

One of the most powerful moments in the movie was when Moana was ‘called’ or ‘chosen’ by the weird sentient ocean deity thing. This happened when she was a toddler but was not acknowledged by her father as having happened and so she faced opposition each time she tried to ‘step out in faith’. After the death of her grandma, she went all in. Led by the weird and faceless sentient ocean deity she embarked on a grand journey where she restored light and life to the kingdom that had been tainted and destroyed by the darkness of death.

There is a darkness and death that plagues our world today as well. Yet unlike the movie this is due to humanity’s rebelling against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The True God of the cosmos is calling some of us to abandon the comfort of what we know to fight against the darkness in the middle of the unknown.

As I was watching the movie I couldn’t help but see the church at work in the village of Motunui. How often do we find ourselves supporting those who are feeling called by God or encouraging them to stay with the status quo? How often do we feel a call to step out in step with the Spirit but we’re afraid to run too far ahead of the church as a whole?

Another powerful scene in the movie is when Moana as a teenager realizes that her people have been voyagers all along, and that only recently they had adopted this routine of life that kept them “safe and well provided”. Man how impactful and timely that could be for the present church. How many of our churches leave their members safe and well provided for, while abandoning the mission of God to reach the nations that are yet to be reached with the gospel of grace? How many of our churches have forgotten the original call of God and have settled for the safe and comfortable? In the movie, the darkness and death infiltrated the village in the end. Irregardless of the safe and comfortable lifestyle they curated for themselves, the curse of death still raged around them and ultimately in them. The curse of sin in the real world is at work all around the earth, may our churches not become bubbles where this is dis-acknowledged. Rather may our churches be places where we encourage the Moanas of our congregations to abandon comfort and safety to follow their call.

May there be more Moana-like men and women in our churches. Men and women who hear the still small voice of the Spirit and are willing to leave all they know for the sake of the gospel. May there be more churches that embrace the call of God on themselves as a whole.

The beauty of the gospel is that our God is not some weird ambiguous faceless sentient wave. Our God came in human flesh and left His Spirit in our hearts as the result of our faith in Him. His Spirit calls us into the ocean of abandonment for the sake of the gospel. Let’s step out in faith.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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