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A Story worth Sharing

Our school has an amazing media specialist (the term media specialist is a fancy term for what most of us called a librarian when we were growing up). She does an amazing job with our students and her expertise in running the media center is only outmatched by her self-sacrificing love for the students she serves. She greets each child with warmth and kindness and a smile. I love watching her work and interact with the kids. Our school is fortunate to have her.

The way the media center (library) is set up I can sneak in a side door and watch her teaching lessons and reading stories to groups of students. Neither she nor the kids can see me, but I can hear every word. She is a really good story teller. The students and perhaps even an Assistant Principal become enthralled in listening to her every word. I might even have waited for a story to finish before I moved on to do my actual job. (Though I can always claim I was doing a teacher observation.)

Stories are powerful thing, and when they are shared by a master story teller, they become magical.

One of the most magical storytellers of the 20th century was C. S. Lewis. When I was just a little older than the students that I now work with, I began reading Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.

If you are not familiar with these books, The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven fantasy novels. The series is considered a classic of children’s literature, has sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages, and has been made into films and stage productions. (I once did a masterful portrayal of Father Christmas in the Spartanburg Youth Theatre production of The Lion. the Witch, and the Wardrobe.)

The series is set in the fictional land of Narnia — a world of mystery and magic. Mythical beasts come to life. Animals talk. It is into this land four siblings from the “real world” are magically transported.

The stories are magnificently written, encapsulating themes of good and evil, light and dark, and artfully exploring some themes of Christianity. In the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the children travel from war–torn London to Narnia and encounter the great lion (and Christ–figure) Aslan.

With his help, they defeat the White Witch who is holding Narnia captive in a perpetual winter. Aslan sacrifices his life for the lives of the children and then is raised from the dead.

In the second book, Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia, the children travel back to help Prince Caspian obtain his rightful throne. At the end of the book, the two oldest children, Peter and Susan, find out from Aslan that they will not return to Narnia — a part of the story which will be picked up again in the third book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

In the third installment the story continues, and we find Aslan and the two younger children, Lucy and Edmund, at the edge of the Eastern Sea.

Aslan does not bring very good news: instead, he tells the children that this will be their last trip to Narnia. They are distressed that they will not return and lament that they will never see Aslan again.

But then Aslan does something unexpected and magnificent. The great lion reassures them that indeed, he will see them again—but in their own world.

Lucy, who has always been especially close to Aslan, is especially surprised as well as comforted when Aslan tells them that one of the reasons for bringing her to Narnia was so that she would be able to recognize him in her own world.

Yes, the children are heartbroken that they cannot return to this magical place where they have met friendly creatures and a lion who has changed their lives. But they can’t stay. They must go back to their world and bring with them everything Aslan has taught them.

This reminds me so much of what I believe church—especially a church’s worship—should be like. We should go into our places of worship, hear the proclamation of the Gospel, share in the sacraments, experience God’s grace, and then be sent out to look for God in our world and to share the good news about Christ’s love.

In the final novels of the series, it becomes clear that something greater than Narnia and Earth awaits. And in the last book Aslan takes the children, who are now older, with him to this new realm. It is such a powerful parallel to what our scriptures promise, that one day we will indeed experience the happiness of a new heaven and a new earth.

Lewis leaves those who have visited Narnia with the hope of future whose joy is more than we can ever imagine.

Paul reminds us of this hope that is found through Jesus and our call to proclaim it in what most scholars feel was his earliest letter—Thessalonians.

I love how The Message translates the end of the 4th chapter.

“And then this: We can tell you with complete confidence—we have the Master’s word on it—that when the Master comes again to get us, those of us who are still alive will not get a jump on the dead and leave them behind. In actual fact, they’ll be ahead of us. The Master himself will give the command. Archangel thunder! God’s trumpet blast! He’ll come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise—they’ll go first. Then the rest of us who are still alive at the time will be caught up with them into the clouds to meet the Master. Oh, we’ll be walking on air! And then there will be one huge family reunion with the Master. So, reassure one another with these words.”

I need this reassurance and so does our world. And this is why the church is so important—because it helps keep us focused on the promise that “nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God.” Now that is a story worth both hearing and sharing.

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