This is the last of our "Narnia devotions." Sunday's readings went beyond The Last Battle, though, and included a prayer from the Mennonite Hymnal and quotes from Pinocchio (we'd been watching "The Adventures of Pinocchio" (the Martin Landau version)) and I took some lines from the book as well. Also, I found the most wonderful sermon online from Capitol Hill United Methodist Church, and I borrowed parts from that as well--snipping where I had to to keep the whole thing to a reasonable length. The long version of the sermon includes a lot that I had to leave out.
We took turns reading this (I had written our names in before each part).
Easter Sunday Devotions 2007: What is Beyond?
From The Last Battle:
“So,” said Peter, “night falls on Narnia. What, Lucy! You’re not crying? With Aslan ahead, and all of us here?”
“Don’t try to stop me, Peter,” said Lucy, “I am sure Aslan would not. I am sure it is not wrong to mourn for Narnia.”
Tirian said, “What world but Narnia have I ever known? It were no virtue, but great discourtesy, if we did not mourn.”
Opening Hymn: “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross”
What happens in the last chapters of The Last Battle?
When Narnia goes dark for the last time, many creatures run up to the door. Some disappear into the shadows outside the door. “But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan’s right….Among the happy creatures who now came crowding round Tirian and his friends were all those whom they had thought dead--Roonwit the Centaur, and Jewel the Unicorn, and Poggin the Dwarf.”
And they go exploring, and discover that this is Aslan’s true country; and it is Narnia, and it is England too, and there is always more to discover. At the end, Aslan explains to them that this was “only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story. The Term was over and the holidays had begun.”
But think back to the Dwarfs, sitting in the darkness and refusing to see the truth.
“We human beings often turn our backs on what is good for us. I'm reminded of sitting around the supper table as a child, turning my nose up at fresh, sliced tomatoes and Daddy's saying, "you don't know what's good for you." One of the most vexing puzzles in all of human existence is how even when we know what it good for us, we can't or won't do it. We won't go there. And we especially won't go to that place within ourselves where something so deep it's unnamable is rumbling and unsettled, groaning inside of us for that which is good for us. And Jesus cries out, "how often have I desired to gather [you] together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" We know what's good for us, yet we won't go there. We aren't willing. Why? What do we expect?” (adapted from the sermon, see notes above)
Scripture: 1 John 4:7-10 (God's love for us)
“We reject what is good for us often because we don't want to change. Even though the change might be a good one--even and especially when we know it would be a good change for us--we put it off, we turn away, we aren't willing.” (sermon)
"Or maybe we think we're close enough to Jesus, but that if we go any closer we will lose our identity. Maybe we fear that if we [go closer] to Jesus, that we won't have any more fun in life."
"Pinocchio!" Lamp-Wick called out. "Listen to me. Come with us and we'll always be happy."
"No, no, no!"
"Come with us and we'll always be happy," cried four other voices from the wagon.
Jesus’s lament is not only about the actual city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem exists for us as a symbol of the dwelling place of God, the place, of all places, where love is whole and hearts are safe and where the Holy One is loved in return. And that, for us might mean this very place, the house of God, the church. Jerusalem is like our hearts, wherein we may hope that God will dwell. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem...how often have I desired to love you and protect you and you were not willing!" Why on earth would we reject such an offer? What do we expect? I suspect that we reject Jesus for many of the same reasons we reject other human beings. Ignorance, forgetfulness, fear. The irony of all this is that our expectations--maybe that we'll lose independence, freedom, identity, laughter--are exactly the opposite of what is true. But how do we know? (sermon)
"How unhappy I have been," Pinocchio said to himself. "And yet I deserve everything, for I am certainly very stubborn and stupid! I will always have my own way. I won't listen to those who love me and who have more brains than I. But from now on, I'll be different and I'll try to become a most obedient boy. I wonder if Father is waiting for me. It is so long, poor man, since I have seen him, and I do so want his love and his kisses. Can there be a worse or more heartless boy than I am anywhere?"
Jesus wants nothing but freedom and life and peace and love for us. As long as we wander through life without placing every part of our heart and soul in the shadow of God's wings--being bound in the shadow of light and salvation, Jesus cries for us. Jesus grieves for us. Jesus's own heart breaks for us. (sermon)
“After a while Geppetto returned. In his hands he had the A-B-C book for his son, but the old coat was gone. The poor fellow was in his shirt sleeves and the day was cold.
"Where's your coat, Father?"
"I have sold it."
"Why did you sell your coat?"
"It was too warm."
Pinocchio understood the answer in a twinkling, and, unable to restrain his tears, he jumped on his father's neck and kissed him over and over.
Because we are not safe, not free, not whole, not at peace until we accept Jesus's love, until we trust our heart and all of our life to God's care.
“Oh Papa—I love you too.”
What did we expect? That is the story, after all. I don't think that we really expect Jesus to cry for us, for his heart to break on our account. I think we don't really expect to have joy and for life to be better or for our hearts and souls to feel safer or any of the rest of it. I think at some level, we don't expect Jesus to give life so that we can have ours. I don't think that we believe or expect that we are worth so much. And so that becomes our excuse, maybe. I'm not going there because I don't believe it or I don't deserve it. And Jesus grieves. And we miss the point that it is precisely because we don't believe it and don't deserve it that we need go there. (sermon) So take heart, have courage and expect more of yourself and of God--remember who you are and run for your life into the wings of Christ. (sermon)
Further up and further in!
Closing Prayer: Hymn book #744
Closing Hymn: #596 O Praise Ye the Lord