Easter: Second Star to the Right and Straight On Till Morning
Good morning, alleluia, etc. Today I am going to tell you the story of the Resurrection and what it means for us, so listen carefully.
“‘Tinker Bell,’ [Peter] called softly, after making sure that the children were asleep, ‘Tink, where are you?’ She was in a jug for the moment, and liking it extremely; she had never been in a jug before.
‘Oh, do come out of that jug, and tell me, do you know where they put my shadow?’
The loveliest tinkle as of golden bells answered him. It is the fairy language. You ordinary children can never hear it, but if you were to hear it you would know that you had heard it once before.
Tink said that the shadow was in the big box. She meant the chest of drawers, and Peter jumped at the drawers, scattering their contents to the floor with both hands, as kings toss ha’pence to the crowd. In a moment he had recovered his shadow, and in his delight he forgot that he had shut Tinker Bell up in the drawer.
If he thought at all, but I don’t believe he ever thought, it was that he and his shadow, when brought near each other, would join like drops of water, and when they did not he was appalled. He tried to stick it on with soap from the bathroom, but that also failed. A shudder passed through Peter, and he sat on the floor and cried.
His sobs woke Wendy, and she sat up in bed. She was not alarmed to see a stranger crying on the nursery floor; she was only pleasantly interested.
‘Boy,’ she said courteously, ‘why are you crying?’
‘I was crying because I can’t get my shadow to stick on. Besides, I wasn’t crying.’
‘It has come off?’
Then Wendy saw the shadow on the floor, looking so draggled, and she was frightfully sorry for Peter. ‘How awful!’ she said, but she could not help smiling when she saw that he had been trying to stick it on with soap. How exactly like a boy!
Fortunately she knew at once what to do. ‘It must be sewn on,’ she said, just a little patronizingly.
‘What’s sewn?’ he asked.
‘You’re dreadfully ignorant.’
‘No, I’m not.’
But she was exulting in his ignorance. ‘I shall sew it on for you, my little man,’ she said, though he was tall as herself, and she got out her housewife [sewing bag], and sewed the shadow on to Peter’s foot.
‘I daresay it will hurt a little,’ she warned him.
‘Oh, I shan’t cry,’ said Peter, who was already of the opinion that he had never cried in his life. And he clenched his teeth and did not cry, and soon his shadow was behaving properly, though still a little creased.
‘Perhaps I should have ironed it,’ Wendy said thoughtfully, but Peter, boylike, was indifferent to appearances, and he was now jumping about in the wildest glee. Alas, he had already forgotten that he owed his bliss to Wendy. He thought he had attached the shadow himself. ‘How clever I am!’ he crowed rapturously, ‘oh, the cleverness of me!'”
You might be asking yourself why I’ve decided to read to you from J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, better known to us as Peter Pan.
Well, a dear friend of mine did a sermon on Peter Pan several months ago, and when he told me about it, I remembered the line from the book, “Boy, why are you crying?”
This is how Peter and Wendy meet, and how their story together begins, a story of magic and adventure.
And immediately what came into my mind was the line from our gospel today: “Woman, why are you weeping?”
This question–why are you crying? why are you weeping?–marks the boundary line between two lives, two worlds.
Before this question, everything is drab, ordinary, according to expectations.
Mary saw her friend die, and of course her assumption is that he will stay dead.
But then this question comes, and suddenly the world will never be the same.
Suddenly she is living in an enchanted world, where Jesus is alive, where none of the boundaries that held her in and held her back imprison her anymore.
This day we celebrate today is as full of breathless delight as the moment Wendy, John and Michael discovered that with a dash of pixie dust, they could fly!
Sometimes we take Resurrection so seriously.
It is important, but, you guys, this is the best thing that ever happened to us! Why are we so solemn? This should be fun!
Jesus told us to enter the kingdom as children, and when we learn today that he is alive, we, like Wendy, John, and Michael, should find ourselves fairly levitating with joy and laughter.
Why are you crying? He is risen!
Peter Pan is fun, and no doubt we remember it as such from our childhoods, whether we read the book, saw the play, or watched one of the movie productions.
But as we grew older, we no doubt began to see some of the darker undertones.
Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up.
People responsible for killing fairies by not believing in them.
The Lost Boys, children who were essentially abandoned by careless and uninterested parents.
We can see that there must have been some complex feelings underlying the author’s creations.
And there were. J.M. Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, was deeply affected by the death of his older brother, David, when Barrie was a child.
David died in an ice skating accident the day before his fourteenth birthday, and Barrie’s mother forever after referred to him as “the boy who would never grow up.”
David was the inspiration for Peter Pan.
So you can see there was grief and pain and loss underneath the fanciful writing.
And there was grief and pain and loss in our parallel story today, our gospel.
Resurrection is remarkable because it comes exactly from the darkness, from death, from grief and pain and loss.
It is new life born from the worst moments of our entire lives, from the end of the road, from death itself.
That is why the joy of the Resurrection is deeper than simple superficial happiness.
It does not erase our scars, as it did not for Jesus, but makes them into symbols of our journey through the darkness.
What really struck me about this portion of the Peter Pan story and why I read it to you was the bit about the shadow.
When Peter loses his shadow he cries.
If we lost our shadow, we’d be elated.
And here, of course, I don’t mean our literal shadows, I mean the dark parts of ourselves, the parts we are ashamed of and try to hide.
I think we often feel that Resurrection should enable us to leave our shadow far behind us, to cure us of our sin and mistakes and failures.
On the contrary. This is where this brief portion of Peter Pan gives us real truth.
Resurrection is the process of being reunited with our shadow and knowing it to be essential to us because God loves us, and that means God loves all parts of us.
Resurrection is learning that our shadow is not evil but simply insufficient, that Jesus surrounds our darkness and our light and loves us in all of it.
We do not have to change to experience Resurrection, but when we do experience Resurrection, we are changed by it.
We don’t emerge on Easter Day suddenly holy and perfect, shadow-free and pure creatures of the light.
We find that tears and laughter are mingled on Easter Day, and we are humbled, awed, and deeply grounded in the knowledge that Jesus died and rose to save all of us, our darkness and our light.
We often don’t like that.
We want everything perfect on Easter Day, perfect weather, perfect liturgy, perfect sermon, perfectly dressed and behaved children.
But sometimes on Easter Day it rains, and someone knocks over an entire row of Easter lilies at the altar (I did that one year), and the children in their once-perfectly pressed special clothes are so high on chocolate that they look like they just escaped from a shipwreck by 11 a.m.
That’s the shadow and the light brought together, coexisting, living in the humble truth of life loved by God.
Peter Pan knows this truth.
When he loses his shadow, he wants it back.
He tears into the chest of drawers and immediately tries to stick it back on.
He knows he is incomplete without it.
And listen to Wendy’s wisdom, her knowledge of the truth of resurrection: “‘I daresay it will hurt a little,’ she warned him.”
After all, in the all of the resurrection stories, it was the women who witnessed and understood it first.
They were the seamstresses of the shadows for the disciples.
They proclaimed the truth and did not shy from the pain and confusion that accompanied the joy of this day.
“‘I daresay it will hurt a little,’ [Wendy] warned him.
‘Oh, I shan’t cry,’ said Peter, who was already of the opinion that he had never cried in his life. And he clenched his teeth and did not cry, and soon his shadow was behaving properly, though still a little creased.”
What does resurrection feel like?
It hurts a little, but it makes us whole.
Whole, but not perfect.
Reunited with ourselves and our God, but still a little creased.
Our ragged edges of darkness and light, of faith and fear, of potential and hesitation, sewn together by stitches of love.
This is Jesus’ patient and loving work on the Cross with our souls: puncture with the needle, draw the thread through, bind the edges together.
It never looks the same as it did when it was brand new, but it is stronger now, more humble, more real, perhaps even more beautiful.
“‘Perhaps I should have ironed it,’ Wendy said thoughtfully, but Peter, boylike, was indifferent to appearances, and he was now jumping about in the wildest glee. Alas, he had already forgotten that he owed his bliss to Wendy. He thought he had attached the shadow himself. ‘How clever I am!’ he crowed rapturously, ‘oh, the cleverness of me!'”
How often do we make the same mistake?
How often do we take the credit for the good work Jesus has done in our lives?
Well, we are not the boy-who-never-grew-up.
We can pause and give thanks for Jesus who entered the deepest shadow of all to show us the way through to the light, and that’s what we’re here to do today.
And then, like Peter, we are indifferent to appearances, jumping about in the wildest glee.
Because this is not the end of the story, not for Peter and Wendy, and not for us.
It is only the beginning.
We are going to an enchanted land.
We are going to place where we know we are loved and we are set free to love one another.
We are going to a place where every day is an adventure and there is good work to do and friends to laugh with and love.
We are going to a place where the forces of evil always lose and miracles and grace rain down on us like pixie dust.
It’s called the Kingdom of God.
How do we get there?
Simple. Stick together and follow the directions: second star to the right and straight on till morning.
If you liked, please share!