Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Runaway Bunny

The previous blog entry reminded me of The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. It's an illustrated children's story from the 1940's. Margaret Wise Brown also wrote Goodnight Moon, and both are great religious allegories. Goodnight Moon is, in my opinion, a meditation on death and spiritual detachment. Note the progressive loss of self as the attention focuses inward until a state of emptiness is achieved. (Cf. The Cloud of Unknowing, etc.)

As the movie Wit points out, The Runaway Bunny can be read as an allegory about God's unbounded love for the soul. As far as we can run, there God will find us. It's great poetry! I think I might use it a sermon sometime.

You know, it's rare that I hear I death preached well. I mean, I've heard plenty of good funeral sermons, but it's rare that a preacher really digs his or her hands into the dark soil of grief. I think there are a lot of reasons for this. For one thing, few preachers are comfortable getting truly vulnerable in front of their congregations. For another, it means opening up a box of emotions that may be difficult to close. Yet there is some incredibly powerful spiritual work to be done with grief preaching. I tried my hand at this a couple of times at St. Mary Magdalene's with good results.

Part of the reason I wanted to preach through grief at SMM had to do with my discernment that it is a parish that is still grieving the loss of Christendom. It's a place that still mourns the loss of pervasive Christian influence in Canada. There are a lot of parishes that feel that way (I've even experienced some of that at COTM).

I remember particularly the sermon I preached after I got back from the funeral for Douglas Brown, OHC. I went to that grief place with the congregation and they came with me. Several people were crying, not because they knew Douglas, but because they had their own losses to feel. I don't think this kind of preaching is self-indulgent at all; I simply was "real" with the congregation in a way that conveyed God's grace (I hope).

I've done something similar for Good Friday. A couple of times now I've done a brutal sermon on that holy day by simply describing in detail the facts of what crucifixion was like. It's hard to hear--but God is there, too.
"'If you run away,' said his mother, 'I will run after you. For you are my little bunny." (source)


No comments: