From the Well - 9/7/2017

The Happy Prince.jpeg

Romans 13:8-14 (NRSV) 
8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. 11 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 13 let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. 

In Oscar Wild's, The Happy Prince, the prince is nothing more than an exquisite statue gilded with thin leaves of gold. The statue looks down upon the city with sapphire eyes and guards its domain with a sword bejeweled with a large red ruby.

One night a small swallow, lost on its yearly migration to the warm regions of Egypt, lands at the Prince's feet. Suddenly, the bird is drenched with water. When the bird looks up it realizes that the Prince is crying. The prince is crying because it sees a sick child begging his mother for an orange while the poor woman works with bleeding fingers to embroider a piece of clothing for a noble woman's ball gown.

"Swallow, please stay with me tonight and be my messenger," begs the prince. "That boy is so thirsty, and the mother is so sad." The swallow agrees to stay the night. The prince then instructs the swallow to take the ruby from his sword and drop it on the table next to the woman's sewing thimble.

The next day, the Happy Prince begs the swallow to be his messenger again. The prince sees a young writer who is cold and hungry. His frozen fingers can no longer hold the pen so he can write. The Prince tells the swallow to take one of his sapphire eyes to the young man so he can buy food and firewood. Hopefully it will be enough so he can finish his play.

On the third day, the Happy Prince, with his one remaining eye, sees a poor match girl. She is sobbing because she has dropped all of her matches into the gutter and now has nothing to sell. She knows her father will beat her for her carelessness. The prince tells the swallow to pluck out his second sapphire eye and deliver it to the match girl.

The swallow realizes that he cannot leave the now-blind prince. So he stays on, acting as the Prince's eyes. Slowing, over the ensuing years, the swallow pulls off the prince's gold leaves giving them away to the suffering and hurting, cold and hungry.

Eventually the prince is stripped of all his riches. Everything is gone. The ruby, sapphires, and all the gold leaves are given to the needy. The swallow has also given his all. The cold he should have flown away from has finally penetrated his body and taken its toll. So, with a parting kiss to the Happy Prince's lips, the swallow falls dead at his feet. At that moment, the leaden heart of the Happy Prince statue snaps in two.

Disgusted at the ugly eyesore the statue has become, the people of the city tear it down and melt it. It is then thrown into the garbage dump next to the body of the dead swallow.

Looking down on the earth, God says to one of his angels, "Bring me the two most precious things in the city." The angle returns to God with the leaden heart and the body of the dead swallow. "You have rightly chosen," says God, "for in my garden of Paradise the little bird shall sing forevermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me."[1]

The Apostle Paul reminds us (borrowing from Jesus, of course) that all of the law and commandments can be summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself." So to be a follower of Jesus is to be a living work of art-kind of like the Happy Price-an incarnational presence of the Creator of all of life. As Leonard Sweet says in his book I am a Follower,

To be an incarnational disciple of Christ is to make Christ's way your way, Christ's truth your truth, Christ's life your life. You take on Jesus' mission, but his Spirit also dwells in you. As a first follower, you become a little jesus. And you become for others a semiotic signifier, a pointer of the Way, a vision of the Vision, an embodiment of discipleship in Jesus' name. In other words, you become a Jesus human being.[2]     

Think about it.

Matthew

[1]Summarized from Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1951)

[2]Leonard Sweet, I am a Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus(Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 193-194.