Proper 11, Year A, Jacob, Harry Potter and the Gnashing of Teeth

I have not seen any of the Harry Potter films. Apart from a preview or two, here and there, my eyes have not witnessed the on screen phenomena that seems to have gripped a good chunk of this country.

This, however, is not to say that I have not read the books. I have, multiple times. Even now, more than a decade after the initial release of the first book I still find myself reaching for my well thumbed copy of the first book.

But, I have avoided the films...largely because I want my own visions, my own imaginings of the "Potterverse" to remain untainted by someone else's interpretation. I want to close my eyes and see for myself without being told or shown another person's version of the story. I want it to remain MY encounter with the marvelous.

And, in some ways, as I reflect on this coming Sunday's propers I find myself drawn into scripture in much the way I am drawn into the work of J.K. Rowling. Yes, you read that right--I just compared my emotional reaction to scripture to my reaction to Harry Potter. As I read of Jacob: I can imagine the ascent of the ladder; I can hear within my heart the words of God; I can feel the stone beneath my head. The scripture draws me in for an encounter with God. And, in this encounter the gate of heaven stands open and we can gaze beyond to the promise of God's presence in our midst. We can ask ourselves where we have found God in our lives and we can imagine how it may be that God is calling us back into God's presence.

Now, these understandings, these wonderings and questionings are not scripted by anyone else. My own encounter with this text has not been televised or interpreted by another (apart from the inherent interpretation which occurs in the translation of scripture from the Hebrew); it is my own understanding--an understanding gained through my own contexts. Indeed, through the application of tradition and reason I can enter the world of scripture. And, it is a world of drama; intrigue; miracle and murder. A place, much like the world in which we live--evil and grace dwell together and we witness to folk wrestling with the reality of both in their lives.

Now, back to Harry Potter...
The plight of young Harry draws me in--his coming of age, developing friendships, curiosity, bravery and his repeated confrontations with forces of evil are compelling.

And, what I find most interesting is the simple truth at the center of much of the plot--people are neither wholly good nor wholly evil. The good people make mistakes; seemingly bad people are found to have love in their hearts...and this, is indeed true to our lives in the here and the now. Good and evil occupy the same hearts--and whilst I may seek to discern the good I am sometimes drawn into the evil. This is a truth we encounter in the Gospel for this coming Sunday...as the weeds and the good wheat grow together. Nourished by the same sun, rain and loamy soil...good and bad rise together. Yet, rather than pull up the weeds willy nilly, the farmer speaks a truth--if the weeds are pulled the wheat goes with it. The good is lost along with the bad and the wheat does not stand a chance.

Now, we have recently moved into a new home with a well established garden. However, the garden has been let go a bit and the perennials are in sore need of dividing and large and seemingly misplaced plants are thriving in the midst of what are clearly cultivated perennials. Yet, I have done very little weeding. Largely because I am not sure which are weeds and which are flowers. So, I bide my time and wait. Once the plants are full grown it will be clearer and I can then sort and order and divide.

We are not to pull up the weeds, we are not to destroy--because when we do so we lose the ability to seek and nourish the good. Both within ourselves and within others.

To flip things over on their head...as we wrestle with the problem of evil in the world do we lose sight of the good that is in with the bad? Can we leave the judgment to the power of God's redeeming love and see the goodness in our midst? Nothing and no one is either all good or all bad. The role of confession in our liturgy is a weekly reminder of this truth. We have good and bad within our own hearts. This Gospel is not about others, it is about ourselves...are we willing to allow God's love to draw forth our goodness and leave behind the evil?

Back, again, to Harry Potter...how would the books, and indeed the movies, have been different if the love that Snape felt had been nourished? If rather than childhood bullying and exclusion he had experienced gentleness and love?

Still...he says, still.

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