The Gospel According to Mary Poppins: Week 1

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Step in Time: Keeping in Step with God

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Galatians 5.16-18; 25

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[a] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

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The next three weeks I’m preaching a short series called “The Gospel According to Mary Poppins.” For today, we’re using a play off the popular song from the movie and show, “Step in Time.” We hope you’ll come to enjoy and support the production and we can’t wait to have everyone see all the hard work that has gone into the production.

If you know much about the story of Mary Poppins, she comes to the rescue of a family in need. The busy Mr. and Mrs. Banks haven’t time to properly discipline their unruly children and need a nanny. After advertising, a wind blows the potential candidates who have lined up outside away from the doorstep–most of them serious and severe people–and Mary Poppins drops from the sky, descending from on high, to meet the needs of not just the children, but of the whole family.

Mary steps in time, into the lives of those in need and brings a sort of transformation–a reorientation or realignment of character and behavior. She is very much a Jesus figure, coming into the world at the right time to bring order to both the loose and the straight, the hard and the soft.

And like Mary, Bert and the Chimney Sweeps serve the same mission in life. They sing a song called, “Step in Time,” which relates their role to that of guardian angels who break into our world and cross the spiritual plane in order to do God’s work here and now. They say in the song,

We try to step in
Try to step in
Try to step in
Just in time

And as they step in, they create a rhythm for each person according to the phase they are in in their lives. So much of this relates back to our experience as Christians, as we see the Holy Spirit step into our lives at the right time, in the right moments, to help us keep in step with God; to create a rhythm of life, a godly rhythm, that follows after Jesus in both thought and action.

In our text for today, St. Paul is urging the Galatians to keep in step with God, to obey the Spirit instead of the fallen desires of our flesh. We live our lives today thinking that we know best, that we know what is good for us. And yet we fail ourselves every single day. Look at exercise and you’ll know what I mean. When we keep in step with our routine, with our workout schedule, we maintain our bodies and our health increases. But when we skip an exercise, or a day of exercise, or even stop altogether, we notice the effects. We get out of the groove, we mis-step, and we find ourselves slowly turning back into that “thing” we were trying so hard not to become.

So stepping in time means two things: 1) it means being open to let God step into our lives at the right time, into our time and place and situation and journey with us; and 2) it means keeping in step, following our exercises and our goals so that we can experience that which we set out to achieve. My dad told me growing up, “Set yourself up for success. Give yourself every excuse to succeed.”

You’ll learn very quickly that my favorite verse is John 14.23. Jesus says in it,

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

This means that as followers of Jesus, we have all that we need in order to keep in step with God. But we must live with God, we must keep the rhythm. There is a cadence to the Christian life. Like a drill sergeant calling the troops to keep the pace, “Left, Left, Left, Right, Left.”

I read a quote this week by a Russian Christian named Nicholas Belyaev who said,

“A spiritual director, like a signpost, merely indicates the way; but you yourself must follow the path.”

When we use the grace available to us, we see first hand that we have ability through the grace of God to follow after Jesus, to follow the faith-path and to follow Jesus to the promised land. He has left His footprints, His trail, and especially His word to guide us and instruct us. And when you need it, the Holy Spirit, the very presence of God, steps in as the coach to help us step in time, to keep in step with God.

2 thoughts on “The Gospel According to Mary Poppins: Week 1

  1. Some things I noticed when watching the stage adaptation:
    -the frame of a kite is a cross
    -when Mary returns, she’s wearing red, the color of Christ’s blood
    -Mary is able to hold the children to a high standard because of her own moral purity, just as Jesus was
    -the kids have certain expectations of how their nanny will be, just as the prophets predicted details about the coming Messiah
    -Ms. Andrews, who appears after Mary leaves, is clothed in black, just as the world went dark after Christ’s death
    -Mary Poppins teaches the kids the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” a word they are unfamiliar with, just like how Jesus taught his followers “the word”, and its unfamiliar concepts.

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