One of the things that made the Harry Potter books and movies so popular was their ability to imagine an alternate reality existing alongside the ordinary world. In J.K Rowling’s world, wizards live a charmed and fantastical life in the same space and alongside muggles, ordinary people who have no powers. Wizards are able to move freely from one reality to the other. Wizards may be born to wizarding families, but they also might come from muggle homes if their gifts are discovered. The Harry Potter stories take place at Hogwarts, the boarding school where young wizards learn how to use their powers. Harry Potter is the orphaned child of wizards who is being raised by muggles, his aunt and uncle who have no tolerance for
But Harry is invited to Hogwarts and there he learns about his parents and discovers his true identity. At Hogwarts he is taught how to use his powers and along the way he discovers that the source of the extraordinary protection he receives is his mother’s self-sacrificing love. Eventually he is willing to put his own life on the line for the benefit of others. I have Edward Foley to thank for what I think is a beautiful analogy of Hogwarts as a metaphor for the Church. As Hogwarts does for Harry and the other young wizards, the Church teaches us who we are, the beloved children of our Abba God. The Church teaches us what our powers are and how to use those powers. At Church we get to practice using those powers and we discover that the source of the spiritual protection and security we experience is our God’s self-sacrificing love modeled by Jesus and many saints through the ages. They in turn were willing to put their own lives on the line for the benefit of others—in service of the alternate reality that we call the Kingdom of God. Like the wizards of J.K. Rowling’s alternate world, we live in an alternate reality, the Kingdom of God, with the ability to navigate both worlds.
Listen again to Jesus’ prayer in John.
“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from 6 the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 is from you; 8 and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
The witness of the Johannine community is that on the night before he was going to be executed by crucifixion, Jesus prayed for his disciples and for the renewal that he had started. I believe with all my heart that Jesus’ prayer of agony in the garden was for the mission of the church, the living out of the prophet’s vision to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’ favor—jubilee. It was not for the building of the church, or coffee hour, or adult Sunday school or youth Sunday school, or programs, or Vacation Bible School that Jesus prayed—as fine as all those things are. He prayed for the mission of the church spelled out in the parable of the judgment of the nations:
Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. 1
The mission was more important to Jesus than his life; his compassion for those in need was more important than his own fear. It was not about him, it was about the coming of God’s Kingdom. After the ascension, following Jesus became an alternate reality for his disciples. I want us to keep our eyes on the Kingdom and on the future ministry of this church. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. It’s about the radical love of God that is not served by our playing small or letting our ego or fear get in the way. I trust that God will provide for this church if we are about God’s mission.
Because Jesus is the head of this church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. We exist to be the fullness of him who fills all in all with the radical love of God.Along with Paul, I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give usa spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know him,
Matthew 25:34-36so that, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which he has called us, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. . . .So that we might live fully into the alternate reality that is the now and coming Kingdom of God.