Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"Peter Pan and the treasure hunt"

Message preached August 8, 2004
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon Luke 12:32-40

Order of Worship

            Summer is a season for adventure, for breaking away from the ordinary - even for just a few days - and stepping into some sort of escapade. A "treasure hunt," if you will - seeking what is most important to us. That’s true even if we call it "rest and relaxation." Getting away for some "R & R," with time to sit back and reflect - this can itself become a real adventure. You know - two weeks of work crammed into one beforehand to prepare, and two weeks in one afterward to get back in the "groove." You almost need a vacation from your vacation. Right?

            With "treasure" and "adventure" and "getting away from the ordinary" in mind, allow me to slip back to a Robin Williams movie from the early ‘90's, entitled "Hook." Perhaps you remember it. This flick was a sequel to the old story of Peter Pan. I remember watching it with my then much-younger children, and being "hooked." This children’s tale really spoke to the father in me at that time.

            For those unfamiliar with this motion picture, let me share the basic plot. In this sequel, the boy who never wanted to grow up, did just that. In so doing, Peter Pan left Never-Never land behind. An adult, now, with a wife and two kids, and a demanding career, he has forgotten his past, his life with the lost boys battling pirates and indians, adventure upon adventure, seeking treasure. He is now responsible to a fault, no longer afflicted by that malady of pop-psychology: the "Peter Pan Syndrome" - i.e. a boy-man who cannot make long-term commitments.

            No, Peter has become the consummate ‘mature’ adult. He is a successful corporate lawyer, whose weapon is a cellular phone. In effect, he has become a pirate with much treasure, but a pirate who cannot fly. In fact, he is afraid of flying. A vacation trip to the London home of his wife’s grandmother, Wendy Darling, sets the stage for an adventure for which Peter is unprepared. You see, Captain James Hook, seeking revenge, kidnaps Peter’s children and takes them back to Never, Never land. To save his children, Peter must discover his true identity and re-learn how to fly.

            Jesus spoke about treasure. "Where your treasure is," he said, "there your heart will be also." He also spoke about flying ... flying by faith. It didn’t involve fairy dust and happy thoughts - though, in a way, it did ... and does. The "happy thoughts" of faith involve the kingdom of God. The adventure of heaven awaits for those who believe. Keep your eyes on the prize, Jesus said. That’s where your real treasure is buried. Not in some earthly purse which thieves (read "pirates") can steal, or moths can eat.

            Notice, I brought the words "adventure" and "heaven" together. That’s as it should be. Our end is only our beginning, and the rest of the story will be quite an escapade! One of the Jesus people songs of the ‘60's went "heaven’s gonna be a blast." Are you so ‘mature,’ however, that this doesn’t hit you as good news? Have you forgotten how to fly? Jesus said, "whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it" (Luke 18:17). May I then prescribe for you some "happy thoughts"?

            Let’s re-read the scripture we heard earlier with this in mind. I have a feeling we usually read them through the eyes of those who have forgotten how to fly. "Be dressed for action," Jesus said. Now, when you hear those words, are you thinking of Sunday go-to-church clothes, or does a rough-and-ready outfit come to mind? "Action" is the theme. Children are geared for action. On Monday morning of my week at camp, I had to go into two cabins of boys to encourage them to quiet down at 6:20 in the morning, so that their counselors could come out for a meeting before rise-and-shine at 7am. They may have still been in their pajamas, but they were "dressed for action." Of course, by Friday it was a bit different...

            Do you see where I’m going with this? We usually hear what Jesus had to say through the ears of ‘responsibility,’ and rightly we should. God does not desire ‘Peter Pan syndrome’ Christians. Persons who cannot commit themselves, or who cannot follow through on commitments - this may be where we start out, but not where we end up. Discipleship breeds responsibility. However, even when Peter Pan grows up, he mustn’t forget how to fly.

            Jesus spoke of a banquet and those who get ready for it. A version of this story was a key scripture this summer at church camp, where the theme was "Come, join the party." When you hear the popular Christian speaker, Tony Campolo, say that "the kingdom of God is a party," do you cringe or rejoice? Certainly, there is a difference between fake parties, and the real thing, as we tried to get across to the children. Much that passes for fun in this world ... really isn’t. Still, when you hear Jesus speak about a banquet, do you envision a sedate ‘adult’ affair, or a party with all trappings? Are you so ‘responsible’ that you have taken ‘joy’ out of the picture?

            Mind you, I am not tossing ‘responsibility.’ It’s just that those who follow Jesus need to respond to his invitation with a bit of that heart of a child which still lies within. "Be ready," he tells us, but remember that it is an adventure for which you are readying yourself. And in order to be ready for an adventure, you need to keep in shape. "Waiting" doesn’t involve sedentary living. Our life in Christ now, in fact, remains an adventure. Don’t forget how to fly. There are those "happy thoughts" of the kingdom. There is also the "fairy dust." God doesn’t just sprinkle, he pours his Spirit upon his people now. On the wings of the Holy Spirit, God’s people fly by faith.

            Faith is an adventure. Never, ever forget that. As the author of Hebrews says, Faith is the assurance, the substance of what we hope for. It is the conviction, the evidence even, of what we can’t really see but we know to be true (11:1). By faith, we set out on an adventure, just like Abraham did long ago; just like Moses, just like the children of Israel, as well as all the men and women in this book of adventure we call the Bible; just like those who have followed Jesus down through the centuries since he walked as a man here on earth. Faith is an adventure, full of treasure, an extraordinary life to which we are called to live now. Never, ever forget that!

            Back to that movie I was describing earlier - in it the domesticated Peter Pan, who is more connected to his phone than to his children, returns to Never-Never land to save those whom he does not understand. The boy who once never wanted to grow up, has forgotten what it is to be a kid. He has lost his imagination. He cannot fly. He cannot even think a happy thought, which makes flight possible in this strange new, yet old, world.

            How many ex-Peter Pans are there in this room? We have entered the world of responsibility and in the process we have lost our imagination, our ability to fly. O, for a Never-Never land, where all things are possible. Well, I hate to spoil a surprise for those who have not seen this movie. If you’re in that category, stick your fingers in your ears. After much struggle, Peter finally remembers who he really is, and why he left Never-Never land. He entered the real world so that he might become a father, rather than just a lost boy. In this remembrance he discovered the happy thought that made it possible for him to fly once more: his children. They open again for him the door to the world of adventure, to be able to play once more. "Fatherhood" is itself quite an adventure, wouldn’t you say?

            "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit," Jesus said. O, to be able to read those words in light of Never-Never land, through the eyes of a Peter Pan who is mature, but not domesticated. Perhaps, just perhaps this scripture was written from that perspective. No, not ‘Never-Never land’ - but ‘Ever-Ever land,’ where tears are wiped away, and God’s dreams come true - the Kingdom of Heaven.

            "Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit." Be like those who are waiting for their master to return, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds alert when he comes, raring to go. Truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt, he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. A "party." The great adventure of heaven, our Ever-Ever land, begins with a feast. For all our attempts to domesticate heaven, it still is the greatest adventure of all. And everything that we do now should be colored by this coming adventure.

            Remembering, again, the movie - in it a domesticated Peter Pan becomes like a pirate and buries his treasure. How many of us do the same thing? Only we call it ‘being responsible,’ or ‘mature.’ And yes, responsibility and maturity are important qualities in a disciple of Jesus, but not at the cost of forgetting how to fly by faith, of losing track of our real treasure. In the movie, a mature, committed Peter Pan, allows his real treasure to become the springboard of imagination. He re-learned how to fly, and in so doing he defeated Captain Hook and regained his children.

            The final scene in the movie "Hook" has Peter back in the real world, his children now safe, and his imagination re-kindled. Grandmother Wendy comments that "after Never-Never land, life here is going to be pretty boring." To which Peter replies, "No, life itself is an adventure!" ... Indeed, our life in Christ is itself an adventure. Never, ever forget that, my friends.

online resources for this scripture text

For commentaries consulted, see Luke.

©2004 Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

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