I wrote a post last Halloween on the boy wizard Harry Potter, so I thought I would make it a tradition and do it again this year. Harry has been on my mind a lot this year since I wrote a paper on him, and ideas still swirl around my head.
This year, spurred on by thoughts about my sermon tomorrow and by John Meunier’s post earlier in the week, I have been thinking about Harry’s final march toward Voldemort. [Here I must give the obligatory SPOILER ALERT!] In the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, after seeing the memories of his former potions master, Harry realises he must sacrifice himself to defeat the evil wizard Voldemort. He passes invisibly by those he loves knowing he will never see them again. He feels alone. Then remembering the last gift from his mentor Dumbledore, he opens the case to find a small stone. The stone is the legendary ‘Resurrection Stone’ that has the power to bring back the dead – well, sort of. No magic has that ability in the ‘Harry Potter world’.
Harry uses the stone and the four people he loved the most appear – his mother, his father, Remus Lupin, and his godfather Sirius Black. They walk with him into the forest as he prepares to sacrifice himself for the sake of those still living. After Voldemort strikes Harry with the killing curse, Dumbledore (who had died in the previous book) meets him in an ‘in-between the worlds’ sort of place. Dumbledore explains to Harry that Harry had used the stone to enable himself to make the sacrifice he needed to make – not for his own personal gain. Dumbledore then admits that he had only wanted the stone for selfish purposes. Surrounded by the ‘dead saints’ of Harry’s life who had already sacrificed themselves, Harry can imagine a true end to the violent reign of Voldemort. Until then, he could only imagine violence himself. Rather than imagining an army of resurrected warriors to fight, Harry surrounds himself with those whose sacrifice now encourages him.
Sacrifice does not usually come to our minds when we think strategically about mission. Here’s where John’s point comes in:
All Saints Day is not a time to look back on the dead and think kind thoughts about them. It is a time to see in those who have come before as signs and sources of life. It is a time for the mute stones to echo with the summons to life. It is a day of dangerous hope for the kingdom yet to come.
We take our strength from the same Holy Spirit that strengthened the saints before us. We hear their stories and find in them a freeing of our imagination to even see sacrifice as the means by which God works. When we get out our own way as they did, God’s Spirit breaks through. We also realise that nothing is sacrificed in vain because nothing is ever lost – God raises the dead.
Over the next year, my churches will be looking at mission. Wilpshire are planning a youth club that will reach out to kids in the community. Here we sacrifice the worries we have over the building and what may happen to it. We also may have to sacrifice our dream of having them come on Sunday. At Mellor, we currently are running an Alpha Course. Inviting people to come in with their questions may sacrifice our deeply held beliefs that may have gone unchallenged. God, who saw the saints of previous generations through, will be with us. We may not know how God will accomplish his purpose, but God is working bringing life where there is none.