Bliss and Freedom

By Sarah Cornwell

A Reading from 1 John 2:12-17 

12 I am writing to you, little children,
   because your sins are forgiven on account of his name. 
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people,
   because you have conquered the evil one. 
14 I write to you, children,
   because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young people,
   because you are strong
   and the word of God abides in you,
     and you have overcome the evil one. 

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; 16for all that is in the world — the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches — comes not from the Father but from the world. 17And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live for ever. 


In the movie, Chocolat, an uptight, joyless Church, embodied in the sour Alfred Molina, is at war with the carefree world of delight embodied in the beautiful Juliet Binoche. In her world, there is plenty to entice and delight every bodily sense, and the townfolk who are brave enough to cast off the unreasonable yoke of Lenten discipline are all the happier. In the end, Molina and his few frustrated and embittered followers inevitably crack under their self-imposed, unreasonable discipline and learn to relax and not take it all so seriously.

In today’s reading from 1 John, we are told to not love the world or the things of the world. But isn’t that to be like that sad ruin of a man who demands others be as miserable as he is under the guise of Christian morality? Shouldn’t we be more like Binoche, who doesn’t care about riches and instead shows courage (low-cut blouses in a conservative town) and passion (a fling with Johnny Depp)? Perhaps we should, so long as one accepts the caricature of the Christian life portrayed in Chocolat.

What would an honest portrayal of a Christian denial of the world look like? Rather than sour repression, we could see an effervescent Alfred Molina, not weighed down by responding to his every bodily impulse and free to love and serve his fellow man with an open, generous heart. So transformed would he be by this blissful freedom from man’s many appetites, that I would wager his shining, smiling face would rival, nay, surpass the beauty of Johnny Depp’s. His would be a world of color and passion that he would bring to his village, a people weighed down by following their every impulse, suffering in confusion with appetites that are never sated, hungry and unfulfilled.

Let us reject the caricature of the repressed and sour Christian life and show what a joyful bliss is ours to freely follow in the way of the cross.

Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.

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Today we pray for:

Trinity Church Wall Street, New York, N.Y.
The Diocese of Biharamulo (Anglican Church of Tanzania)


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