This week we look at the influence of 20th Century writers, notions of ‘the other’, and the ‘Puppet Christ’ – called on by many to do what they wish.
How do you feel when your expectations are challenged? Does it make you feel excited, ready for change, or is it disconcerting and unwanted? Does the context make a difference?
29 When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” 32 So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. 33 And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” 35 And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”
Find other translations.
The Lion’s World pages 33-38.
The full chapter can be downloaded from: http://www.seedresources.com/view/written/rowan-williams-the-lion-s-world-narnia-and-its-crtitics
With Anna Blanch (academic researcher: E.Nesbit and the role of literature in spiritual formation)
When we criticise the work or lives of another it often says more about us than it does about the person whose work or life we are commenting upon. This is certainly true for Lewis’s most outspoken critics. But, I would suggest, it is also true of us. Even in reading The Chronicles of Narnia, I wonder if you, like me, were ever perturbed by Aslan’s responses in the face of betrayal, lies, and even death. I would contend that we often call upon God (and in a similar way, Christ) to do as we wish, almost as if he were a puppet and we the marionette.
I wonder if we really see God as a kind of Father Christmas – a jolly gift giver – or a genie able to do our bidding and granting a limited number of wishes for a lifetime. Lewis challenges these vain notions, as does the Bible passage for this week which explores some of the expectations people had of why Jesus Christ would walk the earth.
Lewis, like many authors who influenced him, including E. Nesbit, was interested in seeing his faith and that of those around him lived out. It was important to him that his attention was not always focused on himself and his own peculiar domestic concerns. In particular, we see in the Chronicles a sense both of the humanity of the characters (even those non-human characters) and the importance of seeking to understand the point of view and situation of others, especially when their behaviour and speech may be confusing or even hurtful.
One of Lewis’s favourite books as a boy of eleven or twelve was E.Nesbit’s The Railway Children. In a passage near to the end of that book, another young boy named Peter is having a conversation with his mother about God as author:
“Don’t you think it’s rather nice to think that we’re in a book that God’s writing? If I were writing the book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right—in the way that’s best for us.”
“Do you really believe that, Mother?” Peter asked quietly.
“Yes,” she said, “I do believe it—almost always—except when I’m so sad that I can’t believe anything. But even when I can’t believe it, I know it’s true—and I try to believe. You don’t know how I try, Peter. Now take the letters to the post, and don’t let’s be sad any more. Courage, courage! That’s the finest of all the virtues! [...]” (221)
The Mother acknowledges the difficulty of belief and faith in the face of suffering, but rather than rejecting the possibility of that belief, turns toward an assertion of God as divine story-teller.
Available in audio format.
1) Rowan Williams (p46) notes how the Narnian Chronicles, the stories ‘are set up to disturb easy conclusions or conventional expectations.’
2) How have you created God to be ‘in your image’?
3) Do you ascribe God negative characteristics?
4) Who is your Jesus? Are you more comfortable with Jesus as King, or as a suffering humble servant?
5) Considering Luke 19:29-39, think today, how could/does Jesus surprise us in the people he uses to reach us?
Cold) Come prepared to write or draw or make something (you may bring this back to share the following week if you don’t finish) which demonstrates how you see/feel in relation to God. What kind of boxes have you put him in?
To finish with: Lord, we pray that we will be open to having our comfortable expectations challenged, and that we will no longer seek to place Jesus in a box.
1) Take some time over the next week to notice those around you for whom you are an ambassador from God. Allow yourself to notice also the moments when you judge another’s motivations before asking or allowing them to explain their point of view. Take some time to pray about the ways in which you restrict God’s work in your life because of the way you may have ‘put him in a box.’
2) Look up #God52 online, and see what activity there is for this week (or look back over previous weeks), and commit to doing it for this week. Let us know what you’re doing!
3) Pick up another novel written by a Christian author, and consider how God is made evident in their writing, even if it’s not an explicit theme of the book.