Well, mark this down under news that NOBODY saw coming… devoid of all of the usual hints and teases that accompany a blockbuster announcement of this magnitude, during the 20th anniversary event Kingdom Hearts 4 was announced this week to a worldwide audience of fans who are already in an uproar over a game that we didn’t even know was in active development. I was anticipating some more remasters, maybe another cellphone game that will be super-confusing and weird, and if we are REALLY lucky maybe they will announce some DLC that is actually worth buying (out of all of those, we actually DID get a cellphone game announcement. And I am sure it will find a way to be super weird). In a business in which it is hard to keep ANY surprise under wraps, the announcement of KH4 is a BIG one… and for a lot of reasons.
First, there is the obvious… mainline entries in the Kingdom Hearts series are few and far between. Of the fifteen or so different releases, remasters, spin-offs, and side-stories that have been launched since the beginning of the story in 2002, there have been only THREE games in the actual numbered chronology. And between Kingdom Hearts 2 and Kingdom Hearts 3 it was FOURTEEN looooong years before we saw the next title in the series, so I was kind of figuring my great-grandchildren would be the first to see a new game in the franchise… and it would be announced during the celebration of the first E3 event held live on Mars (Yes, I think there is still hope for the E3 expo to be held successfully again. Just…you know… maybe not on earth). There has been a LOT of Kingdom Hearts… I mean, a LOT. But with the third game only coming out a few years ago in 2019, it just seemed too much to expect to see another one announced or even confirmed in such a short timeframe.
We also have to consider the ending of Kingdom Hearts 3… without spoiling anything, suffice to say that the ending of that game successfully wrapped up the original story arc and would have served as a fitting conclusion to the series. But here we go… Kingdom Hearts 4 is not only on its’ way, but it is launching an entirely new story arc that will take us to a different world altogether. While fans of the entire franchise have a brand-new adventure with many of their favorite characters to look forward to, this also means there will be a fresh point of entry for those who are either new to the world of Kingdom Hearts or perhaps dropped out somewhere along the way and are looking for a place to start. Perhaps the first one just wasn’t your speed, or the second one came out on a platform you didn’t own… and I am not sure who would want to start from scratch in a game that is effectively the third of a trilogy. Maybe all of the extra games in the middle just seemed like too much, and with the overwhelming amount of content you have already missed it was easier to just never start because you were already too far behind on the story. Sure, you may know a little bit about the series… and if you are into gaming at all you are probably aware that this series seems to be kind of a big deal. But what happened in the first three games of this series is merely the FIRST story arc… it was not the ending. Not by a long shot.
While the Kingdom Hearts series is one of the most successful and long-running gaming franchises of all-time, it would be easy for us to enjoy the finale of this story arc and simply accept it as “the ending” without expecting something more. Perhaps we played it and enjoyed it as a fan, or maybe we simply appreciated it from a distance as an outstanding achievement that was clearly a big deal in the gaming realm… but now that the original arc has concluded, what do we do next? A massive number of games, characters, and destinies all intertwined to bring us to the incredible conclusion of the narrative… but if we simply stop here to stare and admire it without moving forward towards what it is capable of, we may miss out on the best parts of what this series has to offer. I mean, now that Disney has all of Star Wars and Marvel to add to their massive library of options for the future of this franchise, the best could truly be yet to come for a series that has already far surpassed most of our wildest expectations.
This has been a problem that has plagued humanity since the most critical story arc in human history reached its’ “conclusion” as well… the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether we believe in it, appreciate it as a major moment, or are simply are aware of it without fully understanding the implications… what comes next after “Unto us a Child is born (Isaiah 9:6)“, “It is Finished (John 19:30)“, and “He is Risen (Matthew 28:6)“? It is a critical trilogy of events… the most important that has ever occurred. But to simply stop here and stare in wonder at the manger, the cross, or an empty tomb without moving forward towards the purpose of all of these events is not only counter-productive… it runs completely opposite to everything Jesus said AFTER His resurrection was complete. Let’s start with the very first thing Christ said to Mary Magdalene when He appeared to her IMMEDIATELY after His resurrection…
John 20:14-18 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.
The FIRST command from a newly resurrected Christ was to go and tell others… the first story arc was over, and a new one was beginning that would require FULL audience participation. But, maybe that feels like an isolated incident? Perhaps just a little DLC side-mission for ol’ Mary Magdalene? Well, let’s keep going…
John 20:19-21 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
Well, looks like the disciples had something to go and DO as well… they were not told to stay and worship at the foot of the cross or the shadow of His tomb. True, these were significant events that changed the course of history… but they were not the END of the narrative. That was just the first story arc. And Christ’s final words on earth continue this message of GOING… I am pretty sure we are ALL familiar with this one…
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Here is the reality… everyone that Jesus ran into after His resurrection was told to GO. GO and tell others. GO and spread the message. The cross, the tomb, the resurrection… all of this is simply the FIRST story arc in our narrative, not the conclusion of the story. The new story arc begins on day FOUR… it begins when we stop clinging to the cross, lingering at the tomb, and staring up at the sky. These all sound great and they work really well as a line in a song… but the truth is that Christ never told us to do ANY of those things. He told us to GO.
Here is a tough truth… as much as I love the idea of remaining safe at the foot of the cross or in the shadow of an empty tomb, He didn’t ask us to stay at ANY of these. He never mentioned setting up a nice, safe little bed and breakfast within a stone’s throw of His “greatest hits”. He commanded us to GO… to share what He has done with those that He brings into our path and to actively seek out opportunities to share Him with others. No qualifications are mentioned, no background check is involved, and no theology degrees are needed… just a willingness to share with others what the Lord has done and is continuing to do.
The challenge that the Kingdom Hearts franchise is facing is the same one we face as well… sure, we could try to stay nice and safe in what has already been done, but there is more to the story than just the very first arc. The original Kingdom Hearts trilogy was an industry changing event, creating a synergy across different brands and franchises that was simply unfathomable when they were originally released. It broke new ground and brought an entire generation of Square Enix fans, Disney aficionados, and gamers from every genre together in a way that could not have been predicted and has never been replicated. But stopping here would be an injustice to the courage that was shown by those who took the risks, faced the challenges, and laid this original foundation. Kingdom Hearts was never meant to be a “Final” fantasy… it was designed to be carried forward and built on. And similarly, while Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension form the foundation of our Christian beliefs, they are just the starting point in our journey. The next part of our story arc is to go and share.
Whatever happened in the first part of our narrative has been addressed by our belief and affirmation of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The sins we have confessed? Washed away. The old life we once lived? Dead and buried. A new life with the Spirit of God transforming our mind, thoughts, and hearts? Alive and active inside of us. But Christ did not deliver us from our old life simply for the purposes of our salvation… this gift came with a commission. It is time to move on to the second arc in our story… the place where our purpose meets His power. He told us to GO and bear fruit (John 15:16), not simply sit underneath a fruit tree and enjoy the shade. The Kingdom of Heaven is looking for willing hearts who are here for more than just the consumption of what has already been done… it is time for us to add our hearts to the story. To seek and to save those who are waiting to be set free, one heart for His kingdom at a time 🙂
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