Film Friday: Mary Poppins Returns

Years after Ms Poppins first visited the Bank’s family, the inimitable nanny returns, just as they need help once more. Michael and Jane have now grown up, and Michael has children of his own. And so they all embark once more on an extraordinary adventure…

Yet again the supercalafrajatastic Mary Queen of Popps takes the family and their friends on a rollercoaster ride of wonder, joy and discovery. One of the interesting things about Mary P is that she has the power to make anything happen, and yet she chooses carefully when to fix things magically, and when not. In an interview on Simon Mayo’s 5 Live movie programme, Emily Blunt, who plays Mary in the new film, commented on this. She talked of Mary Poppins planting seeds, wanting those she meets to learn and grow and unearth things for themselves. She won’t merely impose on them her ways and her power. She is taking them on a safari of discovery, and one in which they will change and develop as they get to know her.

We can so easily turn a relationship with the living God into one which is all about getting the right answers and asking him to fix things. Yet time and again, when Jesus was asked for signs and wonders, he refused. He was not looking to prove himself as an all-powerful, divine kind of nanny type of figure, he wanted relationship with people. The very thing that humans had been designed for in the first place – back in the mists of time in the first dawn of that magical, sacred Eden garden. We may debate and argue and prove our points about the meaning and nature and existence of God, but he is looking for so much more than that. Just this morning I was reading again some verses from Song of Songs chapter 7 (verses 10-13). An extraordinary poem that is intimate, sensory and visceral, and yet speaks of the nature of a God who loves his people and wants to be close to them. ‘I belong to my beloved and my beloved to me,’ so the poem goes. ‘Walk with me, let me show you new and old things that have deep meaning. Let’s discover things together. Let me show you my love, let us know each other.’ It’s understandable that we should want God to fix everything, goodness knows the world is in a bit of a catastrophic pickle right now, but it was in a mess when Jesus walked on it in first century Palestine, and back then he did not snap his fingers and fix everything or destroy the tyrannical and oppressive Roman forces. Instead we find him interacting with people, wanting to get to know them and to share his life with them.

Often we see Jesus eating with people, and in that culture this was powerful, it was a way of showing mutual care and respect, a way of sharing lives together. ‘Look,’ he says in the book of Revelation, in chapter 3 verse 20, ‘I’m here, knocking at the door of your life, why not open it up and we can eat together, get to know one another. Learn what it means to share our lives, to love each other.’ The invitation is still resonant and vital and relevant to this day – to begin to get to know the one through whom everything was made, the author of life and peace and wholeness. That is the shocking, startling, counter-religious nature of following Jesus. A God who dares to call us his friends. A God with a smile on his face, who beckons us closer.

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