Sermon preached at the memorial service to Michael Bond (14 November 2017) by the Reverend Canon Michael Hampel, Precentor
One of the other great writers of the twentieth century once said that we are most God-like when we are being creative.
Her particular creative talent was story-telling so she used that craft to form her analogy.
And, whatever one thinks of her suggestion about the God-like nature of creativity, it is certainly true to say that some of the Bible’s most striking moments are set around the art of story-telling, not least in the context of the teaching ministry of Jesus himself.
I doubt very much that Michael Bond thought he was God – or even like God – but he was most definitely a story-teller. And, for those of us of faith, that is a most godly of gifts.
Paddington would preach this sermon better than me because he would tell you his story and his story is a kind of parable in its own way.
What happens in Paddington is that the wisdom of the world is turned on its head and a refugee bear who is accident-prone and clearly very different from everyone else around him comes to exemplify a very different kind of wisdom. It’s one that says that being different is OK; that being cast adrift in the world requires the human response of rescue; and that accidents happen – because we’re all human.
The Bible tells us that God’s wisdom is very different from human wisdom and it may be that we don’t sufficiently grasp that truth when we make our lofty pronouncements on life, the universe and everything. And, of course, it might just be possible that God’s wisdom is closer to Paddington’s wisdom than to that of our great leaders.
In fact, let me revise that. I’ve just remembered who some of our great leaders are... God’s wisdom is much closer to Paddington’s wisdom than to that of our great leaders.
Not far from here is another railway station – Liverpool Street. It was the destination for just under a thousand children in the 1930s who were rescued from almost inevitable death by Sir Nicholas Winton on what became known as the kinder transport. Young frightened Jewish children, separated from their parents, arrived at a railway station in England where they were met by strangers who became their new families. The Brown family over and over again.
Winton’s initiative was taken up by others and, in all, over 10,000 children were relocated to the United Kingdom on trains which brought many of them into Liverpool Street between 1938 and 1939. Just
There’s a haunting statue outside the station today of some of these young children. They look tense but hopeful; bewildered and in need. They needed looking after and they were looked after – by a nation that had a very different agenda from that of the nation from which they came. And how I hope that our nation’s agenda isn’t changing as the current political climate unfolds.
Michael Bond knew that people needed looking after and he reached out to millions of children (including those of the adult variety) through the art of story-telling – not least through stories about a bear called Paddington who was different.
The bronze statue of the children of the kinder transport at Liverpool Street Station. The bronze statue of Paddington Bear at Paddington Station. They’re almost interchangeable.
The Bible says, ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’ I think the Brown family knew that, don’t you?
And, as we carry on reading Paddington into the generations ahead, let’s never forget it.