Advent 2022: Day 6

Luke 20:41 – 21:4

41 Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? 42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:

“ ‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
43 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.” ’
44 David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

21:1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”


Leo the Great: Although the spite of some people does not grow gentle with any kindness, nevertheless the works of mercy are not fruitless, and kindness never loses what is offered to the ungrateful. May no one, dearly beloved, make themselves strangers to good works. Let no one claim that his poverty scarcely sufficed for himself and could not help another. What is offered from a little is great, and in the scale of divine justice, the quantity of gifts is not measured but the steadfastness of souls. The “widow” in the Gospel put two coins into the “treasury,” and this surpassed the gifts of all the rich. No mercy is worthless before God. No compassion is fruitless. He has given different resources to human beings, but he does not ask different affections.


Devotional Thought based on today’s readings

Today I offer a very brief thought rather than a prayer. I am tempted to let Leo the Great’s words suffice for they are beautifully and poignantly expressed. This morning I was reading A Christmas Carol by Dickens. The two men collecting money for the poor introduced themselves and their errand to Scrooge, at which time they were immediately and ungraciously rebuffed with his contempt and disdain for others. Here was a man who could have financially helped everyone within his sphere yet closed his heart to them. (Of course, we know the rest of the story and what can happen to a person whose heart is reborn and reopened by grace.)

Yet the people Jesus describes in today’s Scripture are those who can give much and do so. It’s not that they were wrong to give. But they were giving out of their abundance and thus their offering was not sacrificial. The poor widow, who probably should have been the recipient of the temple treasury’s provision for the poor, gave out of her impoverished condition. Hers, according to Jesus, was the sacrificial gift that is dear to our Father’s heart.

Whether we are giving money or our time and talent, God calls us to be living sacrifices, which is our acceptable service to the Lord (Romans 12:1). It shows our commitment to God to be sure. But it also reveals a deep dependence upon him as well. For if we give what we will not miss, or do that which costs us nothing, we are not living sacrificial lives.

Let me hasten to add that we don’t live this sort of life in order to be saved. If we are Christians, then we have already been saved by God’s grace alone, received by faith in Christ alone. This is no meritorious system. This is fruit. What else would a life redeemed and reconciled by a gracious God do?

The other word for us here is not to compare how much we give to any other person. As the old saying goes, comparison is death to contentment. The widow gave numerically less than the others yet gave more because it was all she had. That’s how God’s Kingdom economy works. In Jesus’ parable of the talents, the person who increased the two talents he was given to four, received the same praise as the one who doubled his five talents to ten. Each was given a particular number of talents. Each was faithful with what he was given. Each received the same praise from his master.

Whether you are rich or poor, gifted with many talents or few, you are called to give out of what the Lord has provided you. If you have more, give more. If you have little, give what you can from that. Leo was surely correct when he said, “What is offered from a little is great, and in the scale of divine justice, the quantity of gifts is not measured but the steadfastness of souls.” Let the steadfastness of your soul be enlarged, like the widow’s in our Scripture, or like the soul of Ebeneezer Scrooge himself. Not because you have to, as our senior pastor likes to put it, but because you get to. Yet let this paraphrased divine caveat be inserted here: “to the person who has been given much, much is expected (Luke 12:48). Let the recipients of such gifts rejoice at the opportunities that await.

Thanks be to God.

Advent 2022: Day 5

Isaiah 2:12-22

12 The Lord Almighty has a day in store
for all the proud and lofty,
for all that is exalted
(and they will be humbled),
13 for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty,
and all the oaks of Bashan,
14 for all the towering mountains
and all the high hills,
15 for every lofty tower
and every fortified wall,
16 for every trading ship 
and every stately vessel.
17 The arrogance of man will be brought low
and human pride humbled;
the Lord alone will be exalted in that day,
18     and the idols will totally disappear.

19 People will flee to caves in the rocks
and to holes in the ground
from the fearful presence of the Lord
and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth.
20 In that day people will throw away
to the moles and bats
their idols of silver and idols of gold,
which they made to worship.
21 They will flee to caverns in the rocks
and to the overhanging crags
from the fearful presence of the Lord
and the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to shake the earth.

22 Stop trusting in mere humans,
who have but a breath in their nostrils.
Why hold them in esteem?


Origen: Not only do human beings “make gods for themselves” from statues, but you will also find them “making gods for themselves” from their imaginations. For such people can imagine another god and creator of the world in a system different from the divine plan of the world recorded by the Spirit, other than the true world. These all have “made gods for themselves,” and they have “worshiped the works of their hands.” So, too, I believe is the case either among the Greeks who generate opinions, so to speak, of this philosophy or that, or among the heretics, the first who generate opinions. These have “made idols for themselves” and figments of the soul, and by turning to them “they worship the works of their hands,” since they accept as truth their own fabrications.


Devotional Prayer based on today’s readings

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you are the one true God and there is no other. You care deeply that we know this… that we believe this… that we live according to this truth. You built it into the fabric of your people when you taught us that you alone are God and therefore, we must have no other gods in your presence. And yet, O Lord, we are idol factories.

Whether we are cutting down trees and carving idols for our altars with leftover wood, forming and shaping precious metals into images, or bowing before a mirror, our innate need to worship has gone wrong.

In some instances of our idolatry, we turn the good into the enemy of the best. We take your good gifts, such as our health, families, jobs, homes, and other good gifts you have provided, and made them the focus and grand pursuits of our lives. And, at other times, we create fabrications of who you are based on our personal preferences. We turn from your clear commands and go on our own ways because we know better and are more enlightened than the ancient words written by ancient people. For this, Almighty and Only Wise God, we ask for your forgiveness and for the desire and power to repent and seek you only.

The season of Advent reminds us that as you visited us in the flesh the first time, you will once again return. But you will not return as a babe in a manger but as the judging King of kings and Lord of lords. And as our Scripture for today reveals, there will be no place to hide from you. The idols of our hearts will be laid bare before you. Those lesser things in which we placed our adoration and devotion will be exposed. That will not be the time to repent. That opportunity will have passed us by.

O God, today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to meet with you in faith and repentance. Today is the day to humble ourselves before you and recognize you for who you are. Today is the day to bow before you and cry out, “my Lord and my God.” Today is the day to throw our idols into the fire and rejoice in our freedom from them… and to celebrate our true liberation found only in Christ. You alone are God and there is no other. In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen.

How Have You Changed?

The World Around You

A few years ago, the men in our church’s men’s ministry studied the words of the Apostle Paul to his young son in the faith, Titus. In chapter three of the letter that bears his name, Titus was instructed to encourage the people entrusted to his care to not be like the world around them – foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, being hated and hating (Titus 3:3). He then reminded Titus of something very important with these words: At one time the Christians on Crete had also been… just like that.

Paul told Titus that because of God’s love, the redeeming work of Christ, and the renewing and washing work of the Holy Spirit, the Christians in Crete were no longer like the world around them.

Have You Changed?

That fact, very naturally, brought up a painful question in our group discussion: What if we still are like that? What if we’re still like the world around us? One possible answer to the question was even more painful: If there has been no change in your life, it may mean you aren’t in Christ… that is, you haven’t been redeemed, washed, and renewed.

We’re all at different places in our relationship with Christ. And, of course, we all walk at different paces with him. Thus, we won’t all look alike. Yet, if we can’t look back at our lives a year ago, two years ago, or five years ago and see some sort of growth, some level of maturation in faith, love, godliness, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit, then we may well need to ask the question: Am I truly in Christ? Of course, only God knows the heart, and this devotion isn’t about others judging you. But it is about each person doing an honest assessment of himself or herself.

There’s no getting around the fact that true faith in Christ will result in a changed life. We can’t possibly remain the same.

Facing the Music

About eight months after I graduated from college I went back to visit a few friends who were still there. I also returned to share with them the news that God had called me into ordained ministry and I would be heading off to seminary soon. I was very excited. I was also a bit nervous. Why was I nervous? Well, I had not always lived a godly life while in college. I knew it and I knew my friends and fraternity brothers knew it.

What happened? Well, my closest friends thought my news was great and wished me well. Others laughed me out of the room. I absolutely had it coming.

Glory to God

I give glory to God, and God alone, that over three decades later I can point to real change in my life. And, as the old saying goes, while I’m not where I pray I will one day be in my faith, by God’s grace, I’m not where I once was. I don’t know if I was the chief of sinners way back then, but I certainly was competing for the title. That fact makes the following words from Paul all the more precious to me.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15b-16)

If God could work in Paul’s life, as well as my own, then he can work in any person’s life. I praise God for the truth and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives.

Where Are You?

So where are you now compared to where you once were? Do too many of the descriptions in the New Testament of the unbelieving world still describe you? Are you moving on to maturity with Christ, training yourself for godliness day by day? The progressive nature of growing in Christlikeness means it will never end on this side of heaven. But faithfulness to Christ does require we get started. We start with rebirth. We continue by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of God’s grace and Spirit. Are you moving forward? Have you started yet?

Walking Points

  • Can you think of a Christian you know whose life is different than when you first knew him or her? What about that person has changed?
  • How about your own life? Can you identify areas in your life that are markedly different than when you first came to know Christ? What are those areas? Did they change all at once or was it a slow process?
  • How did you know you needed to change? How did the process take place (i.e., what did the change look like)?
  • Name two or three areas that are still “works in progress” for you in your Christian walk. What are you actively doing to become more like Christ in those areas?
  • Discuss these issues with two or three Christian friends and actively pray for one another.

Prayer

Gracious God, you are the Lord of our lives. I confess that all too often I resist obeying and following you and resist the change you desire for me. I am grateful for your patience with me and for the wonderful news of your Gospel. Move me, by the power of your Spirit, to pursue you for all I am worth, for surely in that pursuit I will also find myself becoming more like you. Help me to find Christian friends who also seek to walk with you and help us to build up and pray for one another. Enable me to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, encourage other Christians to do the same, and bring glory to your name. In Christ I pray. Amen.

An Epiphany!

(Part 2 of a series. Click here to read Part 1)

Epiphany

One day, the young man and a friend were sitting in a garden, when suddenly, he cried out to his friend, “What is wrong with us?”

He then said,

“as I was saying this and weeping in the bitter agony of my heart, suddenly I heard a voice from the nearby house. The voice repeated over and over again, ‘pick up and read, pick up and read.’ At once my countenance changed, and I began to think intently whether there might be some sort of children’s game in which such a chant is used, But I could not remember having heard of one. I checked the flood of tears and stood up. I interpreted it solely as a divine command to me – to open the book and read the first chapter I might find. I picked up the book of the apostle, opened it and in silence read the first passage on which my eyes lit: It said, ‘Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.’”

After he read these verses from Romans he testified,

“I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of the sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.”

After this experience, the young man searched for his mother to tell her all that happened. After sharing his joy with her, they moved back to Carthage together. Two days later his mother died. It was as though she didn’t need to live anymore, for her son was now a Christian – he had tasted the Bread of Life.

Taste and See

This man who had lived a sinful and idolatrous life, whose daily life was filled with sexual immorality and drunkenness, who bowed before the altars of false gods and philosophies; this very man who tried everything the world had to offer, finally found the one thing the world couldn’t offer. He found the bread of life – Jesus Christ.

You may know this man of whom I am speaking. And those of you who don’t have probably heard of the city and beach that bears his name. His name is St. Augustine, and he became one of the greatest saints in the 2000-year history of the Christian church. Protestants and Catholics alike claim Augustine as a patron saint. God used this man with such a wretched past, to bring honor and glory to Christ’s name.

Augustine found the very bread Jesus was speaking about in John 6. The crowds were following Jesus because of the miracles he did. They wanted him to provide more bread for them to eat. But Jesus told them not to put all their hope in bread that would spoil, but instead, to seek that bread which would give them eternal life. The crowd, however, didn’t understand Jesus’ words. They said to him, “then give us this bread that you are speaking of.”

Jesus responded to them in verse 35,

“I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Then in verse 40, Jesus described what God’s will for them was on this matter. He said,

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

A Treasure Found

This is the treasure St. Augustine found. This is the bread he tasted. This is the single most important truth he knew he would ever find in his life. Augustine responded to Jesus, the bread of life, the way Jesus told the disciples they should.

In Jesus’ parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, two men found treasures beyond their wildest dreams. Both men sold all they had to secure their discoveries. They recognized the value of what they had found, and they determined to have it. They sold all they had so they could buy it, and that’s exactly what they did.

Jesus told his disciples that this was the reasonable thing for them to do. It would have been foolish of them to find the great treasure and do nothing about it. Augustine saw the great treasure. His mother had been telling him about it for many years, and yet he did not have eyes to see it. And then suddenly, the veil was lifted and he saw it – and he sold all he had to purchase it. He sold the pleasures of all his sin. He sold the prestige he had as a famous teacher. He sold his friendships he had with those who would no longer be his friends. This was no light decision, free of consequence.

Stay tuned for Part 3.

One Thing Needed

Luke 10:41-42 – “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, [42] but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

My Prayer

One way to pray Scripture back to God is by turning a verse or two into a first-person statement. I’ve done that with today’s Scripture.

May I not be worried and troubled about many things; only one thing is needed. Like Mary, may I choose the good part, which will not be taken away from me.

I have no difficulty seeing the relevance of this truth in my life. It’s living out this truth that’s the hard part.

Get Busy Doing

Martha was busy… busy cooking, cleaning, organizing, preparing, just plain busy. Her work was important. She was entertaining guests and someone, after all, had to act responsibly. She was busy “doing.”

Mary didn’t seem quite so busy. What was she doing? Chatting, listening, and seemingly lounging about. What distinguished Martha’s activity from Mary’s apparent laziness was who Mary was with – the Lord Jesus Christ. She wasn’t necessarily busy “doing.” Instead, she was being, being in relationship. She was basking in the presence of the Lord Jesus. He was an invited guest who would not always be with them. What else should she have done? Mary chose the one thing needed and was told it would not be taken from her.

In our world, many people look down on Mary’s kind. “Why, nothing would ever get done if Mary and her ilk had their way,” we might hear. But that’s not exactly true. It’s not like Mary was a habitually lazy person who lay around the house in her pajamas until noon on a regular basis. This was different. Much different. She was enjoying fellowship with her invited Guest.

Our Invited Guest

We need to take a closer look at the text. Jesus does not admonish Mary for spending time with him; he admonished Martha. Like the poor, so too our jobs, chores, errands, and all the rest, will always be with us. But what of Christ? Well, he promised to always be with us, but in a practical sense he must be our invited Guest each day. He must be the One with whom we can just “be” each day. Jesus said that is the one thing needed and it will not be taken from us when we pursue it.

Not only that, but “being” must precede “doing” or else “doing” will turn into drudgery, bitterness, and even pointlessness. This is the point of Jesus’ words in John 15 about the branches needing to be connected to the vine. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. Without time to “just be” with our Lord, we will run out of gas. We’ll burn out. It will hinder us in persevering until the end. Our “doing” may shine brightly for a season, but it won’t last for the long haul because it will not have the fuel of Christ’s Spirit to sustain it. And that fuel comes only through the one thing necessary – pursuing and enjoying our ongoing relationship with the living God through his Son. We must not forget that knowing him in this way is eternal life (John 17:3).

Are you pursuing the one thing in life truly needful? There are many competitors vying for your time, energy, and attention. Some of those things are even good. But don’t let the good become the enemy of the best. Choose the best. Choose consecrated (set apart) time each day to spend with your Lord. He promises you it is the one thing needed and it will not be taken away from you.

Walking Points

Read the following quote by James Houston.

This past century is possibly the first one in which action has been emphasized and valued more than contemplation. Today we think contemplation wastes time, produces nothing, and bumps awkwardly into our schedules. A devotional life is a questionable priority for most successful people today. But are we “successful” Christians if we are so busy organizing and propagating the Christian faith that we really do not know God personally and intimately?”

  • Have you ever felt lazy for spending time just “being” with the Lord instead of being busy “doing” something instead? Why do you think you felt that way?
  • Why do you think our society often errs on the side of activity rather than contemplation?
  • What are some ways we can follow Mary’s model of being with the Lord in our daily lives?
  • If you do not have this “set apart” time each day with the Lord, what are some ways you can build it into your schedule?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, ours is a busy world, filled with noise and distractions. There are many things, even good things, that compete with our loyalty to you each and every day. Help me to be like Mary and choose the one thing that will not be taken from me, time spent with you. Protect me from my own weaknesses. Left to myself, I would choose things that would not draw me closer to you, let alone help me become more like you. By your grace, please keep me on the straight and narrow path that leads to abundant and eternal life. In Christ I pray. Amen.

Looking for Love

(Part 1 of a series)

In All The Wrong Places

In North Africa, around 354 A.D., a baby boy was born to a Christian mother and a pagan father. As the boy grew into a young man he found trouble and mischief at every turn. When he turned 16 years old, he traveled to Carthage, which was a Roman territory. There he studied rhetoric and debate. While studying in Carthage, this young man sought fulfillment in his life. We might say he was looking for love in all the wrong places.

The young man met a young woman and moved in with her and they had a child together. His mother, who never ceased to pray for her son, was not happy about his new living arrangements and continued to intercede for him.

As he got older he became quite accomplished in the area of rhetoric and was a much sought-after teacher. Students from all over the Empire came to study under him. He enjoyed all the privileges and things the world had to offer. However, every time he went home to visit his family, his mother asked him when he was going to become a Christian.

A Restless Heart

And though he would never admit it to his mother, his soul was restless. He still desired meaning and purpose for his life; something deeper and more meaningful than he was experiencing. Everything he had sought after and trusted in, up to this point in his life, was fleeting. The things of the world just didn’t last. So, he began studying the different philosophies and religions of his day, everything except Christianity.

He had nothing but contempt for Christianity. He believed Christianity had nothing to offer, because becoming a Christian, he thought, meant having to stop thinking altogether. Not only that, he believed becoming a Christian meant he would have to change the way he lived. He didn’t want any part of that.

A Mother’s Love

However, his mother continued to pray for him. In fact she would occasionally pester the local priests, asking them to “save her son.” Well, because she loved her son, she decided to find him in Carthage and beg him to become a Christian. However, after several weeks of his mother’s “persistence,” he decided to sneak out of Carthage and head to Rome, without telling her. So he left, and wouldn’t you know it, his mother followed him there as well.

While in Rome, the young man began to have doubts about his beliefs. Nothing seemed to satisfy the restlessness of his soul. In an effort to ease his restless conscience, he visited a church and listened to a preacher there. He never went all the way in the church, but stood at the back, just to listen. And, as time went on, his perspectives about life began to change. He began to learn more about Christianity.

Intellectually, he was fighting becoming a Christian, but his heart (via the Holy Spirit) was convicting him about the way he was living his life. This led to a spiritual crisis for him.

Stay Tuned for Part 2

A Wonderful Grown-Up

Another offering by my daughter Natalie.

A couple of weeks ago I rewatched one of my favorite movies, the 2015 animated adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s novella “The Little Prince.” It’s an unspeakable tender film, dealing with themes of grief, memory, imagination, love, and the achingly bittersweet journey from childhood to adulthood. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll give you a brief synopsis.

Instead of only using the Little Prince novella as its plot, being as brief a story as it is, the film places the story into a larger narrative. On the outset, a little girl (who is given no other name, hence why I’ll only refer to her as “the little girl”) and her mother have just moved into a new neighborhood to be in closer proximity to a prestigious prep school. The two are kind and love each other very much, but are intensely driven and plan to squeeze every ounce of their summer in preparation for the school year ahead. The mother creates a whole “life plan” for her daughter, telling her warmly that she’s “going to make a wonderful grown up.” However, a wrinkle in their plan appears in the person of their neighbor, an eccentric old man. In a neighborhood of identical gray modern homes, the man lives in a peculiar three-storied house bedecked with trailing ivy and complete with a precarious, perch-like wooden balcony for his telescope. The little girl avoids the old man at first, suspicious of his antics. But after receiving small installments of a story about a Little Prince via paper airplanes, the little girl becomes curious, and eventually befriends the man who is both an aviator and the narrator of the Little Prince. And thus the story of the Little Prince and our larger story of the little girl are interwoven through the film.

The Little Prince brims with scenes that both pull on your heartstrings and make you think. But on this viewing, I was struck most by one of our antagonists, the Businessman, who counts and owns the stars, eventually housing them in an enormous domed glass bell jar. He explains to the little girl that he’s finally found a way to make the stars “useful,” and the film shows how he crushes and converts stars into electricity for the whole city. The Businessman is our obvious enemy in the movie, turning bicycles into paperclips and tyrannically running a colorless planet.

We can clearly see that the Businessman is wicked, so we’re predisposed to think that his actions are evil. So I thought to myself, setting aside his selfish motivations, what is the true evil of capturing the stars as he does? After all, he certainly demonstrates how, in a strange way, it helps the planet. Well it strikes me that the Businessman’s problem, intertwined with his greed and endless quest for gain, is that he fails to recognize the Beauty of the stars. He only lives to see what might be gained from them. He has no use for the awe they inspire, only the energy they create.

And oh, what a mirror: how quickly we fail to relish Beauty. This scene made me ask perhaps not a preposterous question: Would humans turn from admiring stars to commodifying them if we could? If we could capture them, would we try and find their utilitarian use?

While I watched these scenes, I kept thinking of Walt Whitman’s poem, “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

It’s a simple poem, one with meaning easily grasped, I think. Whitman writes a brief but poignant vignette of how the study of the natural world can often be devoid of wonder. The “Learn’d Astronomer” has come to mind many times when I think of how we race forward with technology but don’t seem to have a proper sense of what it means to be human. To what end are we racing forward? Mere understanding? Convenience and ease? The Little Prince sees the Businessman counting his stars and asks, “what good does that do you?” I think Whitman’s narrator asks the same: What good is it to know all of the charts and figures of stars but to forget what it is like to be dumbfounded by their glory? To be stilled by their brightness?

~~~

The morning after I rewatched the film I awoke to gray skies and the promise of a storm, and I sat by my window to read St. Augustine’s Confessions, which I have been slowly pacing through this month. And would you believe it, I began book 5 where Augustine laments all the brilliant, leaned philosophers who study the stars and yet do not know or praise their Creator. This felt like such an obvious wink from the Lord, bringing together a children’s movie, a poem, and the writings of a 4th century Church Father. Augustine recognizes what little good our knowledge does for us apart from the One who gave us our capacity to know in the first place. He writes to God, saying, “You draw near to none but to the contrite in heart, nor are you found by the proud, no, not even if by cunning skill they could count the number of the stars and the sand, and measure the starry regions and trace the courses of the planets” (70).

And I thought of the Businessman as Augustine made this following observation: “They did not know this way and fancied themselves exalted among the stars and shining, and lo! they fell to the earth, and their foolish heart was darkened. They say many true things concerning the creation; but Truth, the Architect of creation, they do not seek reverently, and therefore do not find him” (71).

There are so many good quotations from this section of the book that I could drop in here. I’ll refrain, but allow me just one more: “Even so, a just man to whom all the world of wealth belongs, and who, as having nothing, yet possesses all things by holding fast to you who all things serve, though he does not know even the circles of the Great Bear, is doubtless in a better state than the one who can measure the heavens, number the stars and weigh the elements, *but is forgetful of who you made all things in number, weight and measure”* (72). Forgetful. That’s a word worth stopping on. Augustine reminds us that we’re a forgetful people, and we forget our Creator. We forget that He spoke the world into being and sits enthroned above it.

~~~

Perhaps the most memorable quote from the Little Prince comes when the old man gives the little girl advice as she fears the idea of growing up. He tells her, “Growing up is not the problem, forgetting is.” But in that precise moment, he doesn’t name the object of our forgetfulness; what are we prone to forgetting? Wonder? Beauty? Awe? I think any and all of those suffice. I’m glad Augustine reminds us of the One who inspires those things.

Towards the end of the Little Prince, we have a teary-eyed scene in which the old man tells the little girl, repeating the phrase from the beginning of the movie, “You’re going to make a wonderful grownup,” and even with few words, it’s clear what he means. The little girl will be a child who grows up and remembers. She will not lose sight of the beauty of the world and the ones she loves. And I just love the word choice here: wonderful, full of wonder.

The movie ends with a shot of the little girl and her mother star-gazing with the aviator’s telescope. I love the very minor detail of how the mother cannot see anything until her daughter removes the lens cap. Her child helps her behold wonder. And I sit there, reminded to keep my child-like faith, and holdfast to my Creator.