Between 1997 and 2007 British author J. K. Rowling published the immensely popular Harry Potter series of seven fantasy novels. These books describe the adventures of a young wizard in training, Harry Potter, and his friends Ron and Hermione (along with many more friends and a few enemies). The books are filled with witches and wizards, magic spells and potions, creepy professors and gentle giants, and all sorts of other interesting things. The stories take place in England, or one should say, they start out in England. You see, these magical people live in two worlds.
They live in this world with the rest of us– the rest of us unmagical people who are called ‘Muggles.’ But then each school year, they transport themselves to their own magical world, a world of cities and castles not listed on any ‘Muggle map’ of this world. Each novel begins at the beginning of a new school year. All the children go off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Their families live in this world, and when take the children to the train to go off to Hogwarts boarding school, they take them to the regular train station. There the magic begins. They do not get on a regular train at a regular gate. Instead, they go to gate 9 3/4, and at that gate they disappear from sight in this world, and reappear in another train station in another world.
This theme of entering another world is a common one in children’s literature. In the 1950’s C.S. Lewis wrote The Narnia Chronicles, another series of seven children’s novels, all which are still best-sellers today. In these stories, the children in this world are playing hide and seek in a big old house (also in England). The youngest of the children, Lucy, hides behind the coats in an old closet. As she backs into the closet to hide, she is surprised to find how deep the closet is. It is dark, like most closets are, but there is no back wall like you find in most closets. Soon, Lucy is walking not on a wood floor, but on snow, and is surrounded not by old coats, but by pine trees. She has arrived in a forest in the world of Narnia. She spends some time there with a talking fawn, and then goes back to get her brothers and sister. They all return for many exciting adventures.
There were earlier, similar stories of other worlds. In 1865 Lewis Carroll wrote the ever popular Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice enters a whole new world through her mirror, or as it says in the title of the book’s sequel, Through the Looking Glass.
In each of these stories, children go out from this world of rules set by parents and teachers, limited by the laws of nature, and filled with all sorts of troubles and sadness. And from this world, they enter other worlds where anything is possible, even for children, and where exciting and wonderful things happen. This type of story is bound to have an appeal to children.
This also appeals to adults. Most of the religions of the world speak of a god or many gods who live somewhere else. These gods might visit the earth, or, people might visit that ‘other place.’
In all of these stories, there seems to be this universal hunger in all of us for something more than this world can give, and for somewhere else that is better than this world. C. S. Lewis was an expert on all types of world literature, especially this kind of other-worldly mythology. He became attracted to Christianity because he said that of all the religious stories he read, it began to occur to him that this one had ‘the ring of truth’ to it. This one, he finally concluded, actually did happen. This God, Jesus, actually did visit the earth, and did actually rise from the dead. So C. S. Lewis came to believe in the truth of Christianity and in the existence of that other world offered to us in the Bible. He saw in all religions this hunger for something and somewhere else, and he came to believe in Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of all those hopes. He also came to believe in Jesus as the one who could show us the way to that other world, and provide for our safe passage from here to there, through the door of death. Lewis’s stories open our hearts and minds to the Biblical story of this other world. (continued…)
John 18:36 — Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
John 14:2-6a — (Jesus said), “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way…”
Revelation 21:1…3-4 — Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Lord, as you have prepared another place for me, prepare me for that place.