Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!


Quinquagesima
March 8, 2011, 10:12 am
Filed under: Sermons, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

A sermon preached at All Hallows Easton, 6th March 2011

(Common Worship Gospel; addressed to the younger members of the congregation)

For my seventh birthday (which was a very long time ago) I was given a book by Enid Blyton. Many of you will know that she was a famous writer for children, and many of her books are still read, such as the “Famous Five”, or even “Noddy”. This book, which I still have (here it is), was different from most of her others, because it is about the Christian life. An even more famous book, written much longer ago, is called “The Pilgrim’s Progress”, and it is about a journey. Enid Blyton said that this famous book had given her the idea to write something similar, but in her own words and with her own ideas.

At the beginning of the story, we meet a group of children living in a great city called the City of Turmoil. It is an unhappy place, where people are unkind to one another and so they are unhappy. A stranger visits the city, and tells the children, and some grown-ups who are listening, about another city, the City of Happiness, where things a very different. The children wonder how they might go there, but the stranger said it would be difficult for them to be happy, even in the City of Happiness, because of the terrible burdens they carry.

The children are puzzled, because they cannot see any burdens they are carrying. The stranger explains that these loads are invisible, within their hearts- the burden of selfishness and unkindness and laziness and greediness. Some of the grown-ups scoff and don’t believe him, so he offers to show them. As he speaks, they feel something like great sacks appearing on their backs. The children’s sacks are not very big, but some of the grown-ups’ loads are very heavy indeed. They demand that the stranger take them away, but he explains that he can’t- the loads are part of themselves. Only in the City of Happiness may they find someone who will take the loads away.

Well, I won’t tell you the whole story. The children and the grown-ups set out to find the City of Happiness, and have all sorts of adventures. Some of them get lost on the way, or give up, and some do get to the city. But before then, after they have been travelling a while, they come to a hill where there is a Guide who will show them the way to go. From the hill they can see, far away in the distance, the City of Happiness they are looking for, all shining and bright. But in between they see a dark and dangerous country, full of difficulties, that they will have to pass through.

Today’s story about Jesus reminded me of all this, because Jesus and his friends had been travelling about for some time, and a little while before Peter had come to realise that Jesus, the wonderful Stranger he and his friends were following, was the True King that God was sending to bring happiness to his people. Only about a week later, Jesus took Peter and James and John up a high hill, and there he was revealed in his true nature, all shining and bright- rather like the bright and shining City the children in the story saw from the top of a hill. But Jesus began to explain that a dark and dangerous way lay before him, before all that brightness could be shared by his friends. He was going to be taken prisoner, he was going to be tortured, and he was going to be killed. Only then would his true glory shine out.

We are soon going to start the time called Lent. It is not dark and dangerous, but it is a time when we try to understand the things inside us that make us and other people unhappy. Are we selfish sometimes? Are we unkind? Are we greedy? Do we try to make other people happy, instead of thinking only of ourselves? These are some of the loads we carry, and it is only Jesus who is able to take them away.

We had this story about Jesus on this particular Sunday, because like the children in the story, and like Peter and his friends in the Gospel, we need to see the City of Happiness in the distance, or the bright glory of Jesus, to encourage us in keeping Lent well and preparing for Easter. The true City of Happiness is not exactly a place, it is wherever Jesus is, and wherever people are like Jesus. Jesus is our greatest Friend, and we should want to be more and more like him. The loads we carry in our hearts can’t be seen, but they are real. Jesus our friend, while we are on earth, cannot be seen, but he is real. We need to think about him every day, and ask him to help us become what he wants us to be: kind and loving and helpful to everyone.

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