‘Trip a little light fantastic’: light to shine the way


Mary Poppins Returns, 2018, Walt Disney Pictures

Today is the last in our series of sermons for Lent drawn on themes from the film ‘Mary Poppins Returns’. This has taken us on a journey with the Banks family, the nanny who arrives flying under an open umbrella and who leaves the same way, when the wind changes. The first week brought us reflections on grief and loss, springing off the death of the children’s mother and how they miss her deeply. The second week bathtime fun in the bubbles gave us the place of imagination for faith. A chipped bowl, took us further into the fantastical with the Royal Daulton Music Hall and a song about the cover not being the same as the book. With this we thought about who we really are and our identity in Christ. Last week a trip to a woman who can fix anything, but for whom sometimes the world gets upside down and needs righting again, gave us hope in dark times, the presence of Christ and how this gives the world the flip it needs.

Today then, we arrive at the grand finale. As they leave Topo-trepo-lovski’s house, the London fog rises and they have difficulty finding the right way to go. The lamplighters are out attending to the street lights and a song and dance about tripping the light fantastic, finding the light for the way brings us to reflect on where we find the light to shine the way. A very good place to end a Lenten journey.

The true light to lighten all people, in the words of John’s prologue to his deeply reflective gospel, is Jesus Christ. He is the light of the world, the one who brings light as well as shines light. He brings the light of hope, that creation is not the lonely, abandoned and isolated place some try to convince us it is. God our source and our goal, the one for whom we exist and without whom we would not exist, brings light into being. The beginning of creation is the explosion of light and energy, radiating across time and space, bringing time and space into being. It is an awe-inspiring concept.

Jesus is also the light because he shows us how to live, so that we can find purpose and in that our way out of wandering aimlessly and hopelessly in the fog of despair and lost ways. For some this can be more dramatic than for others. That comes through his teaching which shows us how to live with one another and with God. It is the way of loving service, where true living involves giving. The true leader is one who knows that they are really the servant, and will sacrifice themselves for their people. It is the way of love, not just an emotional feeling but a deep and profound love that connects, unites and binds together even those who disagree – and we are certainly living through some foggy days at the moment where that light is needed. It is the way of forgiveness – knowing we are forgiven for that is what God in Jesus Christ shows us, brings to us, and also that we are to forgive. Not being able to do this eats us up from the inside in bitterness and resentment and that is not a happy place to be.

It is the way of generosity, which honours the gift in knowing that it is best shared and put to good use. Money is not for hording but to enable things to happen, to serve God’s kingdom of justice and peace, blessing for all. It is the way of self-giving love, sacrificial living, and that can be costly but ultimately life-giving. And underneath and holding all of these is the way of prayer and sacrament, feeding on God in word and spirit, in bread and wine blessed and shared for us. The path is well laid out in front of us, we are invited to walk it in hope, placing our hand in the hand of Christ and so being able to find our way through any kind of fog.

If those areas sound familiar, they are of course because they are taken from the book I wrote a couple of years ago called ‘Follow me: living the sayings of Jesus’. They are also reflected in 10 Core Principles for Christian Living, which I am going to say more about in my address to the annual meeting a little later on. These are 10 ways to help us live the commitment made at baptism and confirmation. Through these we find the light for the path. That light shines when we:Screen Shot 2019-04-07 at 15.34.32

  • seek to grow in faith, so that every aspect of our lives will be shaped by Christ.
  • Commit to pray each day, waiting on God; praying for the needs of the world and the welfare of all people.
  • Make time to read the bible and deepen our understanding of and confidence in our faith.
  • Make coming to Church each week a priority. If we are away we will do all we can to join in with a local Church.
  • Share in the Sacrament of Holy Communion faithfully and regularly, to feed on Christ in word and sacrament.
  • are gracious, showing and sharing the love of Christ to all.
  • are generous with our time, our gifts and our money – including in thanksgiving to the church.
  • Strive for justice and the transformation of the world, to make a difference, living with integrity in all things.
  • Honour and love all in the name of Christ, welcoming all who come as if they are Christ, sharing God’s hospitality.
  • Share faith in word and action, to help others grow in their faith and come to love and serve the Lord.

In short, we aim to be people of hope, people of faith, people of love.

There is a sheet with these set out on them on the table at the back. It is hard to take in a list all at once, so please do take it and read it and reflect on it.

These core principles are a reworking of something I found on the internet a couple of years ago, guidelines issued by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 1954. I have given them a reworking, updated them for today and their aim is to help us to fulfill the mission of the church as disciples of Jesus Christ: to proclaim the love of God in Jesus Christ and to draw people to follow him, to find the light for the path. This church [has been / is] a living heritage of faith and service [in the heart of the city since 1407] and this is how we enable it to be that living presence today, in and through us as we live to serve God.

So we have come to the end of our Lenten journey with Mary Poppins. We end it with light to show the way, to show there is a way to go and a place to aim for; a place which draws us forward, already prepared for us. The light of Christ is the light of hope he brings and we live in that light in all we are and do. That light blesses us and sends us to be a blessing to others.

Fifth sermon in a series for Lent based on themes drawn from the film Mary Poppins Returns, Peterborough Parish Church, Sunday 7th April 2019


About Revd Canon Ian Black

Ian is Vicar of Peterborough, Canon Residentiary of Peterborough Cathedral and Rural Dean of Peterborough. He previously served for 10 years in Leeds, as Vicar of Whitkirk and as a member of the Chapter of Ripon Cathedral. He has also worked in Kent in Maidstone and as priest-in-charge of a group of parishes 10 miles north west of Canterbury. He was a Minor Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, a prison chaplain and Assistant Director of Post-Ordination Training for the Diocese of Canterbury. Prior to ordination Ian had a career in tax, both with the Inland Revenue as a PAYE Auditor and a firm of Chartered Accountants as a Tax Accountant. Ian is married with two sons. He is the author of three books of prayers: Prayers for all occasions (SPCK 2011), Intercessions for Years A, B & C (SPCK 2009) and Intercessions for the Calendar of Saints and Holy Days (SPCK 2005). His latest book is 'Follow me: living the sayings of Jesus' (Sacristy Press 2017). He has been writing online since the mid 1990s.
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