It is Friday, the end of our week long Bible study. Each morning some forty of us gathered to hear God's word, to sing songs, to pray the psalms and Lord's prayer, to offer thanksgiving to God and to hear a brief teaching/reflection on some message related to the Good News. We priests alternated leading. I shared yesterday that there is a surge of energy when I do this sort of thing. Some of it is the freedom to express joy and wonder. Some of it is the simple proclamation of Who God is and what God calls us to be. Some of it is singing and dancing and hand clapping in church.
Our Bible Study was related to the Chronicles of Narnia, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." each day we watched part of the movie, the younger ones had the story read to them. The visualization of the characters is helpful. The bad guys are ugly and the good guys are noble. (Not always true in reality where bad guys can be very handsome or appear winsome) Most of us adults have read the books, some of us have read them multiple times. Many of us admit to the disappointment that we have never personally stumbled across that magic closet which transports us to that magical kingdom.
The value of the Chronicles is that they convey the truth without being overt. Why is that good? Because the message is deeper and richer than we imagine. Too often church types (like me!) are not trusting enough that God can find His way into the hearts of His people. We create "a way" (not Jesus, but a program or step-by-step process) to get saved. We define salvation. We define holiness. We define and define and put up walls and barriers. [side bar, I believe strongly in walls and limits. I believe strongly that there is 'insiders' and 'outsiders' and I advocated taking choices seriously because they do have an impact. This is not a simple minded attack on organized religion. As I said before, as bad as organized religion is, it beats the heck out of disorganized religion which is usually a projection of our wants, inclinations and desires] When we go to Narnia the details of the story are jumbled up, so it can reach us in new ways, deeper and more poerful ways.
The new creation in Christ? How about the transformation of Edmund from sullen, selfish little boy to self sacrificing hero boy-king? Or what about the stone creatures, frozen into rock by the wicked queen (and I hear echoes of God's voice in the Ancient Covenant text; "I will take you heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh")? Simon and Garfield sang many years ago, "I am a rock, I am an island...and a rock feels no pain." The upside to being a rock is it is painless, the downside is it is lifeless. Yet the breath of Aslan (like Jesus breath on the cross and with the disciples after His resurrection in John's Gospel) makes the stone into flesh, the dead into life, the feelingless into passion. The breath is spirit and gives life.
Some critique Lewis for his embrace of warfare and violence. There is a battle and it is real in this world. The White Witch is brutally serious about subjugating the Narnians. Does such fighting subvert Jesus' words on non-violence? Lewis thought not. He lived through two major wars (he was a soldier) and he had no illusions about trust and love and kindness. The Germans would have conquered all of Europe without the resistance of the Allies. Lewis knew that there were good Germans and bad Englishmen. He also knew the higher cause was to be judged. In Narnia, the "cost of discipleship" is faithfulness. Aslan gives His life to save the people, but the people must still fight. St. Paul used athletic and warrior imagery, too, in his explanation of the Christian life. Even Jesus made martial allusions in a parable.
The greatest joy of the story is the realization that Aslan/Jesus comes and goes. He does not leave us orphaned, even if we are left to be faithful without His overt presence much of the time. We do not live in a flatland, there is height and depth to our existence. We do not live in a uniform world where everyone is the same. There really are good guys and bad guys (or better guys and worse guys). Our alignment with the Lamb, the Lion of Judah, the Great High Priest, Jesus the King of Kings places us square in the middle of that war. We do not fight mere flesh and blood, but principalities and powers. Lives are at stake. Bodies and souls are at risk. Alsan is on the move. Those who believe must take up arms (shield of FAITH, sword of God's Word & Spirit) and do battle. The innocent victims of the white witch need us. Aslan is on the move and even if planet earth is not Narnia, it is just as wonderful and amazing, if we open our eyes in childlike faith and see reality for what it is.