Sunday, August 21, 2011


Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Congregational Retreat, Big Bear, California
August 21, 2011
Romans 11:33—12:8

The person sitting next to you might wonder why you're doing it, but you could reach over and touch him or her. But you don’t have to do that to know that he or she is real. You can see them. You can hear them. And yes, you could touch them.

This weekend we have been exploring the real world magic of God. C.S. Lewis was blessed with a mind that exists on a higher plane probably than all of us combined. So if God enlists that in the effort of apologetics and getting the Gospel out to the world, we’ll gladly take it. You and I may not be as brilliant as he was but we are no less capable or ready to do what he has done.

Do you believe me? To see it all you have to do is look at little Lucy. In some ways she is the hero of the story. A little child, after all, shall lead them. She is the one who leads us into the world of Narnia through a wardrobe. It is through unlikely avenues that God shows us what we really need to know. We don’t need to discuss the reality of the world she had entered. When we read the book or see the movie we know we’re being told a story.

But stories are no less real. Stories are as real as anything. A story may be told of something that hasn’t actually occurred. But the truth communicated through that story is as real as your neighbor telling you that she went to the grocery store to buy milk. Why she would tell you that I don’t know, but we’ve all found ourselves being bored while others recount details of their lives while we patiently listen to them.

Part of the brilliance of C.S. Lewis is that he knew that the truth he was getting across was more real than the account of your neighbor going to the grocery store. There’s nothing compelling there. But in Narnia? In Narnia the ultimate truth of life is being told to us. Granted, it’s in the form of a children’s story. But does this make it any less real? Any less compelling? His depictions of the core events of salvation as well as the experiences we sinners have are powerful means by which we can look at our own lives and say, Wow, that’s what I see in my own life. We get wrapped up in the experiences of the characters and before we know it we’re identifying with them and gaining a deeper understanding of what’s going on in our own lives.

Who doesn’t start squirming when they see Edmund struggling with his conscience but rapidly dissolving under the enticing taste of Turkish Delight. Who has not at one point begun to doubt as Lucy did that maybe she’s wrong and everyone else is right. That’s the power of story.

God has a story to tell. It’s real. As with any good story, He brings you into it. He doesn’t lay it all out for you. He doesn’t explain every detail to you so that you can have a clearly delineated understanding of how it all is entirely rational. He simply tells you the story and invites you into it. Just as Lucy entered the wardrobe and found herself in a magical world, we are invited into the wardrobe through the Gospel and are shown the majesty and the mystery of God and His love for us in Jesus Christ. Nobody in Narnia explained to Lucy how it all could be true what she was seeing and experiencing. They simply showed her. She believed it even though it went against her normal experience.

The Word of God says that the spiritual and eternal things must be taken on faith. The things you see and touch can be taken on reason. But the thing of it is, these are the things that aren’t lasting. They were meant to be. But in our departing from God’s Word and consequent fall into sin, God’s good creation began to decay. He will restore His creation. But that will be in the future. That must be believed on faith. The things in store for us are actually more real than what we see and touch because they are eternal and will not decay.

But we can’t see them. It doesn’t appear that we experience them. But we ought to see them as real. We ought to believe that they are the most real things there are. In Narnia Aslan brought about his salvific work through means. He used the things of the world he created to bring about his salvific work. It wasn’t above him to use ordinary things. That’s what God does for us. He works through ordinary things, the things we normally think of as the things that are most real, to bring about for us things that are in actuality more real.

With simple water He brings about new life. With ordinary bread and wine He brings about forgiveness. With the proclamation of words He brings about the sustaining grace we so desperately need. None of this is magic. It’s perfectly real. It’s astonishingly simple. Even so, it’s never simplistic. God is too awesome to be reduced to simplistic understanding. But His ways are assuredly simple. Himself becoming a man. Himself giving us bread and wine so that we may partake of His body and blood. Himself drowning our sinful nature in the waters of Baptism. Not magical by any means but assuredly fantastic!

What all of this has to do with you is two things. One is what it has to do with you personally. Secondly is what it has to do with you in your interacting with others. For you, it’s what Lucy and her siblings experienced. They were given a gift by Aslan. God has given you a gift in His Son. What it means for you when you are in relationship with others and interact with them is that you are not just your own person. You are a child of God. You have the opportunity to tell others about Jesus.

All of this really comes down to what you think of Jesus. The people in the Gospel reading were clearly in a fantasy world. Was Jesus John the Baptist? Jeremiah? Some other prophet? But is there any difference today? Aren’t there still many people who believe that Jesus is someone other than who He says He is? What about us? With Peter we profess the He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And with Peter we give thanks that this is not some fantasy world we live in. We don’t believe in fairy tales, we don’t hold to myths. Who we believe Jesus is has not been revealed to us by flesh and blood but by God the Father.

Here’s the way Paul says it in the Epistle reading: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.

Do you understand everything God has given you in His Word? No. But does that make it any less real? No, on the contrary it shows how real it truly is.

The one we cannot comprehend has come down to us. The one who is above us has become one of us. The one who is a Lion was led as a sheep to the slaughter. And by that very taking our place, by that conquering our sin in His suffering and death, by His victory over the grave, behold, the Lion has conquered.



No comments: