Last weekend, our church - Grace Episcopal Church of Paducah, KY - hosted a Harry Potter themed Vacation Bible School. I had A LOT of people ask me what a church was doing teaching Harry Potter. Most were in awe. Some were confused. A very few were skeptical. We began the weekend with a family night and screening of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Then, Saturday the kids spent all morning crafting wands, eating wizarding treats, and generally having a blast. On Sunday, our seriously awesome interim rector Meghan Holland taught a special Harry Potter children's sermon for the whole congregation, which I think wonderfully illustrates why the witches and wizards of J.K. Rowling's magical world are perfectly suited to church.
You’re all part of families, right? Some of you are the oldest, some of you are the youngest, some of you are the middlest. Does everyone have a job in your family? I’m the youngest in my family. My job was to aggravate my older siblings. It was also my job to make everyone laugh. But you know what? There’s more to you than just being the oldest or the youngest or the most aggravating or the funniest!
Today’s Gospel story that we just read was about Jesus. He came back to his hometown after many weeks of traveling around and healing people and teaching them about God. The people in his hometown thought he was crazy. They said, “Look at this guy! We know his mother and his brothers! He doesn’t come from anything special.” And Jesus said that it doesn’t matter who you are in your family, we are ALL special, because we are all Children of God. We are all loved by God. Even if we’re the aggravating baby of the family.
Do you all remember at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when Harry was facing off with Professor Quirrell? What happened?
When Harry touched him, he started turning to dust. Do you know why? What did Dumbledore say? Lily Potter, Harry’s mother had died saving him. She loved her son Harry SO MUCH that she would die to protect him, to save him. In fact, by sacrificing herself for her child she left an invisible protection around Harry. The power of love protected Harry.
That’s just like what God does for us. God would sacrifice EVERYTHING to save us. God loves us THAT much. And you know what? God’s love leaves an invisible protection around you! Just like Harry has. There are all sorts of bad things in the world, and sometimes bad things happen to us. But God loves us so much that even in our darkest times, God will always be with us, surrounding us.
Hold out your wands. You all have different cores inside your wands. Inside of these wands are things about yourself. Things you do. Things that make you special. Things that bring you closer to God. Each house put something different inside their wand.
Does anyone want to share what’s inside their wand? It’s okay if you don’t, it might be private. But ALL of these things that make your wand’s core, are gifts from God because he loves you. There are different things inside your wands, but for ALL of you, it’s God’s love that brings your magic.
What kind of magic do you want to do with God’s love? We might not be able to float feathers or anything like that, but we CAN do great things with God’s love. We can love everyone as much as we love ourselves. We can always try to do what is right and peaceful. And we can make sure everyone feels loved as we are loved by God. That is the real magic.
You are God’s beloved children. You are. You are. You are. You are. God made you from scratch and he loves you from your toenails to ends of your hair. But you know what, there will be times in our life that we forget that. There may be times in our life that we don’t feel like God’s beloved children. There will be times when life isn’t fair, when there are bad, scary, or sad times. And you know what, we might just forget. We may not be able to see or feel God. We may not be able to do our magic.
There’s a saying in Harry Potter that says that, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” The same goes with the church. You can always come to this church, or really to any church, and other Christians will help you. The grown-ups in this room took vows to help you when you need it, to love you when you need it. You can always come here when you feel like life is dark and the magic has run out.
That’s when we have to rely on our faith to get us through. Now, does anyone here know what a Patronus charm is in Harry Potter? It is a protection spell that you can cast, and it takes the form of an animal, and it drives away bad things, like dementors. Now, we can’t cast that spell, can we? Nope.
But what we can do is remember our faith when times are bad. We can remember that God made us and loves us. In the church, we have a special way of remembering. We say something called the Nicene Creed. We look at the cross and say special words. One day, you might learn them by heart and the words will be with when your life gets bad or scary or sad. In the church, the Nicene Creed is sort of like a Patronus charm. We know that no matter what happens, our faith will always be there for us. It will be as real and as solid as Harry’s stag Patronus is for him.
Now, I know that you don’t know these words by heart yet. And really, not every adult does either. That’s okay. The rest of us in the church are going to say the words and you can just listen hard. And, ya know what, why don’t you raise your wands and point them to the cross. Not because you can cast a spell, but to remember that your faith, the faith of all these grown-ups that love you, will be with you always.