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2CH sermons

The Dawn Treader (sermon by Harry Goodhew)

Good morning. Like many thousands of others I’ve been enamoured and edified by C. S. Lewis through his Chronicles of Narnia, those delightful children’s stories that even adults can aspire to appreciate.

Michael Apted’s production of “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” from the Narnian Chronicles has been in our theatres in the last year. The movie demonstrates again the capacity of fantasy, fable and myth, not only to entertain, but subversively, to teach, to challenge and to uplift.

You may have seen the movie, or better still, read the book. But if you’ve done neither I hope you’ll be benefitted if I draw on a scene from the movie in this time that we spend together.

So, listen now to this music, and then we’ll journey a little together with the Dawn Treader on to Aslan’s country at the World’s End and see what we can learn.

SEGMENT 1

One of the most engaging characters in the Narnian adventures is Reepicheep. He’s a mouse, indeed, a very special mouse. He’s gallant and brave, the most valiant of all the beasts of Narnia that talk. He is the Chief Mouse. Now, it’s important to remember that earlier in the Chronicles it was the mice that ate away the cords that bound Aslan, the Great Lion and the figure of the Lord Jesus, to the stone table where he sacrificed himself to deliver one of the four children who came to Narnia, from the terrible White Witch, into whose clutches he had fallen through his own perverse and traitorous behaviour. Reepicheep is about two feet tall. He wears a long rakish crimson feather on his head and he’s possessed of a needle like sword that he readily employs in any good cause associated with Aslan and with the wellbeing of his friends.

At the close of the whole thrilling adventure, the Dawn Treader with its crew reaches the verge of Aslan’s country at the World’s End. The children, Edmund and Lucy, together with Eustace who in the course of the adventure had been changed from a veritable pain in the neck to a really decent youngster, and Reepicheep, row from the Dawn Treader through the lily covered Silver Sea to the verge of the shore that led up to a gigantic wave of green water that seemed to stand unmoving before them. So, let me read you now some of what follows in the book as they stand before this vast wall of water.

“’This,’ said Reepicheep, ‘is where I go on alone. They did not even try to stop him, for everything now felt as if it had been fated or had happened before. They helped Reepicheep to lower his little coracle … Then he bade them farewell, trying to be sad for their sakes: but he was quivering with happiness … he got into his coracle.’ The coracle rushed up the waves’ side and then it vanished.

In this way the little mouse entered Aslan’s country where the writer adds, he “is alive there to this day”.

Well, why regale you with this snippet from a children’s story? Simply because I think there’s a great and important truth captured in this part of the story and after we have listened to a little more music I’ll be back to tell you why I did.

SEGMENT 2

As Reepicheep prepared to enter the wave that would carry him deeper into Aslan’s country Lewis says, “he bade them farewell trying to be sad for their sakes: but he was quivering with happiness.”

This is death. This is what in our world we would call the death of one of God’s children, one of His servants. On the verge of this departure from his friends and his familiar surroundings Reepicheep feels the need, for the sake of his friends, to appear to be sad. They were parting, he sees their sadness and no doubt he felt it too, but he was experiencing another emotion, one more powerful than sorrow, one that swallowed up and completely overwhelmed sadness. He was, in fact, quivering with happiness. Why, because there was opening up before him a vista of beauty and joy that is the nature of the domain of the Great Lion? There in that other reality he would be more deeply aware of his Lord and Master than he had ever been in Narnia. This was heart bursting happiness generated by the prospect of eternal joy and association with the One he loved and served.

What fantasy portrays as the future of a faithful mouse is the reality that lies before the child of God who in death passes beyond the pains and pleasures of this present existence in closer fellowship with his or her Lord.

The death and resurrection of Jesus has destroyed the power of death and opened the Kingdom of heaven to all believers. Heaven, to be in the nearer presence of God, and the prospect of being part of a new heaven and earth where sin and its consequences are banished, are prospects fit to set us “quivering with happiness”.

As you might guess I am at the wrong end of what is taken as a fair life span. Realistically, death cannot be that far off for me. So as I contemplate my departure one day do I quiver with a happiness that swallows up natural sorrow as I think of saying farewell to familiar and loved faces and leaving behind places and pleasures I have and do enjoy?

Well, I’m trying to train myself to think like that. Why? Because I feel that anything less is somehow a denial of all we know to be true. God has promised full forgiveness and eternal life to all and any who have turned to Christ. Like the penitent thief death will bring us to Paradise to be with our Saviour. Paul was convinced that to depart and be with Christ was better than anything else. So I’m in training, but more in a moment.

SEGMENT 3

Critics of the Christian Faith have sometimes accused believers of being so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use, and my efforts to train myself to think about death and the door that it opens onto life might be thought to encourage that attitude. I disagree, and I offer three reasons why I strongly disagree.

First the Letter to the Hebrews says,” Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [1]

The contemplation of future joy acted as a stimulus to our Lord to endure what he needed to endure. Future joy sustained commitment to present responsibilities as he pursued his Father’s purposes in the world. If we too have difficult paths to travel a great and joyous end gives strength for the journey.

Second, the man who wrote that to depart and be with Christ was far better, the Apostle Paul, went on to say that he was sure he would remain because he believed God had more for him to do amongst his friends.[2] Anticipating the joy and wonder of being with Christ didn’t divert him from fulfilling the responsibilities that God had given him. And neither does it cause us to give up on life, or on service we are called to give, or on the enjoyment of this present world that our God has made.

Third, God has not only redeemed us in Christ’s death and resurrection but he has brought about the restoration of all that he created and sustains. This world, now under the curse caused by sin, will finally be released from its subjugation to futility: there will be a new transformed heaven and earth and, by grace, we will have our part in it. In the meantime we are God’s people in God’s good present creation and as his stewards we are bound to fulfil our responsibilities to this order of life. We are not to opt out. This world with its concerns, and its people in their lost and alienated condition, provide the context for our present service and responsibility. This is our patch.

And since music is a gift from God to be enjoyed now, let’s listen to a little more.

CONCLUSION

How magnificent is the love and goodness that not only brought us and everything else into being, but engineered our restoration and renewal when we had so badly gone astray.

Love himself, who though he is just, holy, and righteous has acted in such a way that Paul could write:

17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. [3]

So, not just ‘glory’ but an ‘eternal weight of glory’.  That sounds like something that ought to make us quiver with happiness.


[1] Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

[2] Philippians 1:23-26

[3] 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NRSV)

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