GAHP 4, Wherein We Meet The Hound…um, I Mean Owl…of Heaven…

“Yet here it was, a letter, addressed so plainly there could be no mistake: Mr H. Potter, The Cupboard under the Stairs, 4 Privet Drive, Little Winging, Surrey.”
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, 30).

Integral to Christian theology is the concept of calling. We believe that those who come to God do so not because of their own advanced sense of morality or spirituality, but because God has called them. This is key to the idea of salvation by grace. Salvation, that is participation in God’s kingdom, is a gift given by God. Why don’t I just quote St. Paul on the subject.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
(Ephesians 2:8-9).

This is Paul’s way of saying that it is God who initiates our relationship with him and our eventual welcome into his kingdom. We do not step out of the world around us simply because we want to or choose to do so. We are called. God enters into our world and calls us out of it into his. Harry’s introduction to the wizarding world happens in a similar way.

The way in which Harry discovers that he is a wizard sounds something like the way that many people discover that they are Christians. It actually sounds to me very much like the way that Francis Thompson describes his own encounter with Christ in “The Hound of Heaven.” Thompson describes the seemingly inevitable experience of coming to know Christ. Both Harry and Thompson are pursued, they are called, they are chased down by the unstoppable messenger of another world. That chase fills Thompson with fear and apprehension because he knows how it might end. Harry’s chase does contain a note of apprehension, but is punctuated with a tone of deep curiosity, again because I think that Harry has a sense of how the chase might end.

Thompson strikes deeply at the heart of his fear of the “unhurrying chase” when he writes “For, though I knew His love Who followèd,/Yet I was sore adread/Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.” Here is the terror and the power of conversion. It is an experience that cannot be erased or removed. The person who has come to the point of decision between Jesus and what can only be called not-Jesus, can never go back. One way or another must be chosen and he must choose. You see, while salvation comes to us by God’s grace, it is mediated by our faith. The decision to take up or to let fall God’s gift lies with us. When the Hound of Heaven finally catches Thompson, he knows that his decision between Jesus and not-Jesus will finally have to be made.

Again the same is true for Harry. He is coming, at this point in the story, to what will be the defining decision of his life. The Owls and their letters are going to find him, and at that point he will have been called. He will then choose either wizard or what can only be called not-wizard.

The reason that I use the terms not-Jesus and not-wizard is simple. If Harry had chosen not to enter the wizarding world, not to attend Hogwarts, not to take on his role as Voldemort’s arch-enemy, he would not, consequently, have been a muggle. Being a muggle is not among Harry’s available options. He is not a muggle. Because he has been called, because he has received his letter, he is a wizard by nature. That nature cannot be removed and is not dependent upon Harry’s choice. If he chose not to attend Hogwarts he might spend the rest of his life acting like a muggle, but what he would really be is not-a-wizard.

The same is true of a person who has come face to face with Christ. He or she might choose not to accept Christ, but the confrontation cannot be negated. That person must always be not-a-Christian. Why? Because such a person has looked at what Christianity is and like Thompson seen a choice. However, unlike Thompson, that initial fear of relinquishing our so-called freedom is simply too much. And so there is no recourse. One can no longer pretend that he or she hasn’t heard the call, but the call has not been accepted and so what remains is simply not-Jesus.

And so we run, like Francis Thompson or Vernon Dursley. We try to escape from the inescapable. But, whether foot fall or wing beat, the messenger follows hard after us “with unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace….”

Sigh…Yet Another Meme…

If you read the comments on my last post you will see that I was both heckled for never posting on my blog, and tagged by my wife once again. In the interests of pacifying my friend and my wife, I shall take up the meme torch once more. So the idea is things in groups of eight. Off we go:

8 Things I’m Passionate About:

God as revealed in Jesus Christ
Jinny
Liam
Family
Friends
The Bible and Theology
Literature
Cooking

8 Things I Want to Do Before I Die:

Get my doctorate
Be a great husband and father
Go to Italy (Bologna in particular)
Write an academic book
Write a non-academic book
Open a restaurant (as a retirement project, if I get that far)
Live in one place long enough to become part of the community and see my son (and any other future kids) grow up.
Train and challenge a new generation of pastors for the Church

8 Things I Say Often:

Hello Monkey!! (to Liam usually)
I love you (to Jin or Liam or both)
Holly, shut up.
Okie dokie
If you say so
No, I haven’t heard back from any grad schools
Sure thing Leslie (Leslie is by boss)
Damn, I make good food!

8 Books I’ve Read Recently (or am reading now):

With the Grain of the Universe – Stanley Hauerwas
Old Testament Theology – Gerhard von Rad
The Night Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko
The Day Watch – Sergei Lukyanenko
Resident Aliens – Stanley Hauerwas
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana – Umberto Eco
On Food and Cooking – Harold McGee
De-constructing the Dish – David Adjey

8 Movies I Could Watch to Over and Over (this used to be songs I could listen to, but I like movies better):

Memento
The Matrix (the whole series)
Sideways
Unforgiven
High Fidelity
Harry Potter (the whole series)
Star Wars (the original series)
Indiana Jones (the whole series)

8 Things I Like in a Friend:

Humour
Intelligence
Honesty
Sense of fun
Good taste in movies and books 🙂
Kindness
Grace
People who challenge me

And as always, not doing the end bit where I tag other people. This blog is where memes come to die.