Good morning winter campers! I wish I could be with you, but shoveling since 5:00 has not brought me much closer to getting loose here. I should have planned last night the way Mr. Fredericksen did the night before he was going to have to leave the home he and Ellie had shared all their lives, and flown this rectory UP from Lynbrook to Camp DeWolfe!
Mr. Fredericksen made a decision that we all might make if we were able. Given the choice between UP and DOWN, most of us would choose UP. I would rather be feeling up than down. I would rather be looking up than down. The snow comes down from the clouds, but as it begins to fall it invites us to look up!
None of us reach upward, or keep from falling, or make progress toward our goals (our “Paradise Falls”) without help. Russell the Scout, called by the talking dogs the ‘tiny mailman’ (I love that!), comes to Mr. Fredericksen’s door, and into his life, offering to give him assistance. Mr. Fredericksen doesn’t want help at first. In fact, he even acts as if he’ll leave poor Russell on the front porch as the house sails above the clouds from North to South America (!).
But did you notice what happened over their time together, as they shared such amazing adventures? Russell does help Mr. Fredericksen in his own way, and Mr. Fredericksen helps Russell too. It’s mutual.
Russell, in ways that sometimes exasperate Mr. Fredericksen, stays by his side, brings other friends into the circle – Doug and Kevin – and gives him advice on how to get his home to the place he has yearned for since he was Russell’s age. By Russell’s help, Mr. Fredericksen discovers possibilities and strengths in himself that he thought were gone. Before he went ‘up,’ he seemed barely able to walk with his four-legged cane. A few days later he is swinging through the air like a super hero.
And Mr. Fredericksen helps Russell too. Through their growing friendship and coming to know each other well, Russell learns that older people are people too, that they have a lot to offer in wisdom and caring and love.
So it’s true. If we are going to rise up above where we are now, we are going to do it with help.
Today’s readings from God’s Word confirm this truth. In the first reading God’s people hear the voice of God as God’s Word is read to them for the first time together after 70 years of living as refugees outside their own land. In these words they hear hope and promise and caring, and they cry as they hear it. In these words there is help for them to look up and to look ahead to the future.
And the words we hear this morning from Saint Paul’s letter to his friends at church in the city of Corinth make the same point powerfully. Paul reminds the people, using the image of the parts of a body, that we all need each other. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Without the feet, the head is not going to get very far!
We need each other to move, to live, to make progress, to reach toward our goals, to grow, to grow UP. Ultimately, this help we can give each other is all based on one foundation. That foundation is the help that Jesus provides us, without cost. Luke’s Gospel shares with us this morning Jesus’ first sermon, preached in his hometown of Nazareth. He shares the news that the Spirit of His Father has given him the possibility and the strength to help the blind to see and the prisoners go free, to help the poor to hear good news and everyone to realize that God is here and on our side. That help comes to us, directly from Jesus, and energizes our lives.
You know, in Seattle, Washington there is a house that belonged to a little old lady named Edith. Developers were building a new mall on her block a few years ago, and she alone refused to move (a lot like Carl Fredericksen). The foreman of the construction crew, Barry Martin, became Edith’s unlikely friend, and helped her in every way possible, right to the day of her death, right there in her own home. She stayed in her house and in fact it is still there, surrounded by the mall (see photo!). Barry helped Edith, like Russell helped Mr. Fredericksen. And Edith taught Barry a lot he didn’t know before then about life.
See, it really happens. We help each other. We help each other ‘up’!
On this beautiful morning, with the sun shining on the new snow and the sky shining with light, as your winter camp weekend comes toward its conclusion, you know that things are looking UP.
-The Rev. Canon John McGinty (Mercer School of Theology)