“Fairies Are Real”
A Sermon by
The Rev. Keely Franke
July 8, 2012
A few weeks ago I went on retreat with a few young, priesty friends. This was a retreat for women priests 35 and under. Yes, there are a few of us out there. It was a time filled with sharing, arts and crafts, and above all glitter. Things that I’m not so accustomed to, being the Tomboy that I can be. However for this one week I gave up all of that and dove right in with abandon. Glitter and all.
It was a great time for reflection on my life as a priest. While none of my big questions, the ultimate questions were answered, I did come to one conclusion by the end of the retreat. For better or for worse. But I’d rather think for the better. I came to the conclusion that – Fairies are Real.
Yes, Fairies – those winged little nature creatures that hang out under leaves tucked away in the forests of England and the like. I wonder do you believe Fairies are real? Have you ever wondered if Fairies could be real? Perhaps at the moment you’re really wondering, like the people in Jesus’ hometown – “Where did she get all this?”
Jesus after all has been out and about, healing and casting out demons for the past few weeks and now has returned and again he is healing on the Sabbath. Haven’t the religious officials told him he can’t do that? His family and friends are looking on with embarrassment. “What is he doing with his hands, where did he get all of this?” they are asking one another and shaking their heads.
I was at a dinner party just a few nights after my retreat to which I announced there as well that I believed in Fairies. My friend, the hostess, being a good friend who did not doubt but believed, said “Of course they are.” She proceeded to tell me there is a book out now written by a St. Paul author titled The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World (a true story). That night she loaned this book to me and I could hardly wait to get home and crack it open.
The premise of the book is based on a true story about two young girls in England during the First World War who manage to convince a whole group of adults that Fairies are Real. Frances the younger of the two is spending some time living with her cousin, Elsie, where she brings her days down by a beck or a small creak with a waterfall. One day she sees little green men walking around. Then a few days
later she sees actual fairies, the ones with wings that is. Frances decides to tell her
cousin Elsie who does not see the fairies and yet believes her little friend. However one day when Frances’ mother is sick and tired of her dragging in water and muck from the beck, she asks what in the world she is doing spending all of her time down there. To which Frances replies, I’m watching the Fairies. And Elsie backs her up.
Well the adults of course laugh at and make fun of the two girls. So they decide, with Elsie’s artistic abilities, to take pictures of these Fairies with Elsie’s father’s camera. The long and short of it is, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author and creator of Sherlock Holmes, and also a lesser known book on fairies, got a hold of these photographs. Soon they became known all over England and the reporters were out trying to find out whether the photographs were real or not.
After years and years of investigation, Elsie tired by it all and now a grandmother herself finally asks one of the reporters, “Why the hell should I care what you think? My families and friends – I care for their opinions, but why should I care what a stranger thinks?” And yet even Elsie and Frances’ families and friends laughed at and questioned them as well.
The truth is we spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think and trying to prove ourselves to the world. At least I know I do. I care very much about what you think of me and especially what my family thinks of me. I want people to accept me and approve of me just as much as anyone else does. And when I feel that I have failed someone or that someone doesn’t approve of my actions my heart sinks and I carry it around as a burden sometimes for a long time. I very much worry about doing things the right way, meaning the way that will get others approval.
And yet Jesus says to his families and friends, those nearest to him today, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” Jesus then prepares his disciples to send them out into the world two by two, giving them the authority to cast out demons. His advice to them, other than not taking anything with them and wearing only a tunic and a pair of sandals is this – “If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake of the dust that is on your feet.” Shake the dust that is on your feet.
At this same retreat a few weeks ago we spoke to several female bishops over skype during our time and at the end of our hour with them we asked each one what their best bit of advice was they had ever received. Amazingly each one said the same thing, they said they had learned it from Catholic monks. Their advice was “To act first and ask forgiveness later.” This led me to thinking about the best advice I had ever received from a Bishop, Bishop Jelinek. His advice to us on the eve of our ordination was this – he said, “I’ve learned that what other people say or think about me is none of my business.”
Shake the dust. A young 30something poet wrote a poem with this title that we heard at a clergy conference last fall. His name is Anis Mojgani. I’ll let you look it up to hear the whole thing, it’s a sermon in itself, but here is a portion of it.
…This is for the benches and the people sitting upon them,
for the bus drivers driving a million broken hymns,
for the men who have to hold down three jobs simply to hold up their children…
This is for the two-year-olds who cannot be understood because they speak half-English and half-god. Shake the dust.
For the ones who are told to speak only when you are spoken to and then are never spoken to. Speak every time you stand so you do not forget yourself.
Do not let a moment go by that doesn’t remind you that your heart beats 900 times a day and that there are enough gallons of blood to make you an ocean…
This is for the tired and for the dreamers and for those families who’ll never be like the Cleavers with perfectly made dinners and sons like Wally and the Beaver…
This? This is for you.
Make sure that by the time the fisherman returns you are gone…
So shake the dust and take me with you when you do for none of this has never been for me.
Shake the dust.
What if you believed Fairies were real or you had the power to cast out demons? What if you held a truth that no one else around you held and every time you tried to live it others around you said, “No thank you? Are you for real?!”
I reflected on this as I gathered with my 30something friends and was reminded that when Jesus began his ministry he was 30. As was David in 2 Samuel today who is at the beginning of his 40 year reign over Israel. What if they had stopped when people said you are too young? What if David had stopped when the Jebusites said you can’t take Jerusalem even the lame and the blind could take you on (the part we left out of our reading today)? Or what if Jesus had stopped when asked, “What are you doing, you can’t heal on the Sabbath?” Thankfully they didn’t stop. Thankfully Jesus’ answer to people like them was “Shake the dust.”
Regardless of the fabricated photos of the fairies, the girls knew what the one had seen, they believed, and in the end nothing else mattered. So the next time someone questions your truth, your deeply held belief, your power in this world. Shake some dust. Perhaps even shake some fairy dust at them. You might just be amazed. You might even find yourself healing yourself and part of this broken world.
The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World (A True Story) by Mary Losure
“Shake the Dust” by Anis Mojgani http://www.againstthewoodgrain.com/2010/04/shake-dust-anis-mojgani.html