The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

I said last week – and at other times – that our ears, unlike our eyes, have no lids – which, of course, means that we are always hearing. Whether we listen – pay attention – is another matter. But we also have the ability – it is something on the inside of our ears to take what we hear and turn it into what we want to hear or believe; it can be an insistence on what words mean, on describing the speaker’s motivation, on defining reality – even to the point of blatant illogicality and stupidity or cruelty to everyone else but not to the person ‘inside the ears’. It is a human capacity that we have.

One of the best attempts to understand this mysterious human capacity can be found in C S Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles – the last book – ‘The Last Battle’ and the situation of the dwarfs. So spoiler alert – some details are coming. The dwarfs are not nice, worse than that, they have been cruel, treacherous, and murderous and they have been insistent in their cry not to be ‘taken in’ by anything or anyone in Narnia – they desire independence, they determine their own reality, and they refuse to be governed because their mantra is ‘The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs’. Now they are beyond Narnia – and there is another Narnia – and they can hear in this world and interact with it but they have the perspective that they stuck in a small part of a stable or barn, totally in the dark, eating putrid food and drink, and fighting and squabbling with each other because they think that the dwarf next to them has better food and is selfish whereas they are sitting out in the sunshine on wonderful grass with the finest food and drink possible. They don’t believe anyone who is telling them otherwise – especially Aslan – and their senses describe things as they believe – dark, cramped, putrid – but at least they are not being ‘taken in’. Lucy asks Aslan to help them and he demonstrates that the dwarfs will not be helped and they are stubbornly proud that they are not being ‘taken in’.

“You see”, said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”

There is a mystery here to be sure. Lewis’ fiction gives us an aspect of the truth that people can sin in a perfect world and God is not to blame and that people can resist God’s powerful word of life and rescue and turn it into darkness and fear; in fact turn God who gives life and blessings into the divine monster at the heart of all that is wrong with this world.

Lewis’ description of humanity in these dwarfs can suggest that if people know the right words, the right manipulation, use the right technique, they can be moved or move themselves from darkness to light. Yet, salvation through Jesus is by grace alone, through faith alone, as we hear Scripture alone. People are moved by such words to new life – salvation is God’s work not ours – we are recipients. Yet humanity has the ability to take God’s words and not believe them, resist them, and turn them into the opposite of what God is saying. It is the greatest mystery of our world – if people are saved, all thanks to God – if people are lost, it is their own fault.

Humanity’s only solution or hope is found in God’s people talking and living Law and Gospel for God never tires of reaching out to people.