Last month, my wife and I spent a lot of time traveling around Spain and Italy...and it reminded me of something important. It's easy for us American Christians to think that the sacred stories of our tradition begin and end with the Bible. In Europe, however, you are constantly surrounded by statues, cathedrals, and legends of amazing miracles and healings that occurred throughout history. Europe is positively covered in reminders of ancient mystical healings, spiritual leaders, patron saints of various causes. There are paintings and statues and buildings and sacred sites...it is a powerful reminder that God did not stop speaking at the end of the Book of Revelation. God has continued to dwell and call and act in the world since the dawn of time...we just don't have as many monuments in our country to call our attention to the miraculous stories, the sacred individuals, the ordinary believers who have continued to tell the story over the last couple thousand years.
This Sunday, we will celebrate one of the greatest monuments to God's continued Word and Deeds in the world that we are blessed with in our culture: The story of Harry Potter, and the Wizard World.
Now...I know what you're going to say (actually, maybe I don't, but...), "Harry Potter is fictional, and isn't it a little problematic to conflate a billion-dollar mega franchise with the sacred acts we engage in on Sunday mornings? Doesn't this just smell a little bit too desperate and commercial?"
If you did have these questions...I'm very grateful to you. They are great questions.
We live in a world that seeks to entertain us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is a multi-billion dollar industry doing everything it can to invade our senses, highjack our minds, earn our attention. Many of us have been convinced that the best thing we can hope for in this fast-paced and heartbreaking world of ours is for little moments of escape. More than 30 years ago, social philosopher Neil Postman wrote a book wondering if it might be possible we are "Amusing Ourselves to Death." It's hard to see the problem as being anything but worse in this current moment. So in our current moment, it is part of our job as God's People to ask: What do we find entertaining? Why do we find it entertaining? How can we seek entertainment that helps us to fulfill God's Great Commandment: To receive God's Agape Love, to give it back to God and to our neighbors?
Few stories ever told--and maybe no other stories currently told in our popular culture--can help us to do this with more beauty, clarity and imagination than the Harry Potter series. The story of The Boy Who Lived and defeated the most evil wizard in history by living out the values of compassion, generosity, courage and, most importantly, Love...it provides the rest of us a kind of road map for becoming heroes in our own Agape Love Stories. Plus...the author of the series, JK Rowling, has explicitly revealed that she set out to tell a story that promotes the Christian path as a way of overcoming suffering and evil in modern life. I'm not kidding, you can click here and read for yourself.
Our faith tradition has rarely ever relied entirely on The Bible to tell God's story. Our understanding of this Way of Life can only come to us in a dialogue between sacred writings, sacred stories, and a deep examination of our own lives, the world in which we live. It's in the interaction between those that our stories come to life, that we learn magic is not just pretend stuff found in kids' books...but it is the work of God's miraculous Agape Love to which we devote ourselves every day.
So God's Beloved Children of ALL AGES are invited to gather with us this Sunday, at 8:00a.m. and 10:00a.m. We'll have a Sorting Hat. Bring your own wands. We will practice some spells together, and learn how the source of all magic--Love--is transforming our ordinary muggle world into an extraordinary, mystical experience every day.