When Church is at its best, it shows that people are accepted for who they are.
Jesus always saw more than meets the eye, and always brought out the best in people, and even if the best didn’t seem particularly good, Jesus found a way to use imperfection to bring something beautiful into the world.
That’s the gospel according to Winnie the Pooh, as well; the realm of stuffed animals coming to life through the spirit of A.A. Milne’s, Christopher Robin.
Take Eeyore, he’s always dour and ready to look for the dark cloud on any sunny day, and yet he still gets invited to participate in adventures with all of his friends. And they never expect him to pretend to feel happy, they just love him anyway, and they never leave him behind or ask him to change. In the church at its best, we welcome people just as they are, the one in the pew next to you, or the homeless person who wanders into the building. We are kind even when we disagree.
Or take Piglet, always a little anxious, after all he’s a Small Animal and the world is so big, and yet it’s Piglet who saves the day, summoning all his courage to rescue his friends from danger. Here, we take little ones, and give them a dream and tools to become larger than they imagined – that’s what Jesus did with the boy with five loaves and two fish, whose generosity fed a multitude.
Or look at Rabbit, suspicious of strangers or anything that’s unfamiliar. He’s the apostle of “we’ve always done it this way.” He likes the way church was in the good old days and worries that strangers will destroy our way of life. His bluntness can hurt. And, yet, he overcomes his suspicion of strangers and makes new friends with those strange animals who come to the Wood, Kanga and Roo.
Or Kanga and Roo, who come without documentation, strangers in a strange land, and give heart to the community.
Or Owl who uses big words – reminding everyone he’s the smartest creature in the Wood. The problem is: no one understands him and once he gets talking, he doesn’t even understand himself. Yet, he is loved; the brightest and the simplest belong in God’s realm.
Then there’s Tigger, bouncing through the wood, talking loudly, and sprinting up the aisles of the church just to show how happy he is, a regular nuisance, disrupting the order of worship – sometimes during the prayers. And yet his messy spirituality is as real as the most ardent believer.
And, of course, honey driven Pooh, who meanders throughout the Wood, always in search of a snack or a beehive, a bear of little brain, but all heart and all love. He saves the day, by reminding us that love is the only thing that really matters, and that when we love God and one another, then we truly are a Church.
In the 100 Acre Wood, they all belong, they’re all needed, and together they bring out the best in each other just like the “body of Christ,” described by the apostle Paul; everyone needed, everyone important, everyone having a gift to share.