One of my favorite animated films is called "The Selfish Giant," based on the short story by Oscar Wilde. It is about a giant who returns home to his castle after a long time away and discovers the children of the nearby village playing in his garden. It is a beautiful garden, and he wants it for himself so he chases the children away and builds a wall around his castle. Winter, North Wind and Hail (all characters in the story) realize the giant's walled in castle is a perfect place for them to stay. And so winter comes to the giant's home. And never leaves.
The giant doesn't realize what he has done. Soon his garden is dead, covered in snow, frozen, grey. He sadly enters into a life of solitude, a life without color, a life without joy.
Then, one day, the giant notices an opening in his wall, a crack that is large enough that only a child could pass through. A child is there, and the child is surrounded by a patch of grass. And flowers. There is color. And life.
And the giant finally realizes how selfish he had been.
He tears down the wall and invites the children back in to play in his garden. And the garden comes back to life. And the giant is happy once again.
The years go by, and one day the giant, now grown very old, is out in his garden, a beautiful, joyful place now, and the child that first entered his cold lifeless garden was there again. The giant was so glad to see him once again.
And the child said, "You let me play in your garden a long time ago. Today I'm here to take you to my garden, which is called Paradise.
There are those who, like that giant, want to build walls around themselves. They pray that God will bless them, but rarely offer to pray for others who are not like them. There are those who think they will be safer, more secure, even more successful if they could shut everyone out except those who are like them. Their message can be very alluring.
But it’s wrong.
Let me clarify that. It’s wrong if you are Christian. Jesus never said God loved only you. Or me. Or even the church. Jesus said God so loved the world. The word world in this context means the cosmos, the entire universe. That is to say God’s whole creation. God loves the whole creation.
I know some want to finish this text by adding that only those who believe in Jesus will be saved, but I believe that is a misinterpretation of the text. I believe that anyone can “receive” the giving of love God offers through Jesus without knowing about Jesus, but it is especially important for those who claim to know Jesus to show others God’s self sacrificial love through the example of their lives.
Building walls doesn’t do that. Christians don’t build walls. They build bigger tables so all can feast together.
In 1989 the Orthodox Church named September 1st as World Day of Prayer for Creation. Pope Francis, the World Council of Churches and many other Christians are celebrating a month long Season of Creation, which will end on October 4th, World Communion Sunday.
Wouldn’t it be great if people of faith—check that—people of all faiths came together to pray for the good creation God has given us to take care of? That we could pray for one another, and for the needs of the world?
Wouldn’t it be great if we tore down the walls of selfishness and rediscovered the garden that was there all along?
It would be paradise.