This morning, we take a moment to remember our ancestors; we remember the grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, perhaps brothers and sisters and cousins who shared our life but are no longer with us. So many of these people helped to shape who we are and how we lived our lives. We may recall some important lessons on life and faith that were passed down to us or perhaps we recall unhealed hurts or other pain that we still carry. My hope is that on balance, the love that has been shown to us in our lives may far exceed any wounds we may carry. Let us pray, O God of hope and wonder, we thank you for the many people who have graced our lives; we thank you for the moments shared, the stories told, and the times of joy and comfort. Help us to continue to nurture such moments even today in the midst of the things that may weigh upon our hearts. Grant us times of solace and of peace. Amen.
Today, I’d like to invite you to consider the stories or special books that may have been favorites in your home as a child. Do you have a memory of being read to as a child? Can you recall some of the stories, the illustrations of precious books from childhood? So many children’s books evoke a special place in our hearts because, for a short while, they bring us back to a special time when life was hopefully simpler, when our imaginations were more vivid, when magic and creativity were welcomed. I know many of you cherish children’s books and perhaps have held on to some special ones from your own childhood? It is good to take time and read them again, to allow yourself a time of escape, of respite and journey back to a moment in time. As a lover of books from my earliest years, these books are still precious to me.
Many of us may hold a special place in our hearts for the stories of Winnie the Pooh. This collection of children’s stories by A.A. Milne, published in October of 1926, almost a century ago. Milne wrote the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and its sequel, The House at Pooh Corner (1928), for his young son, Christopher Robin, whose toy animals were the basis for many of the characters and whose name was used for the young boy who appears in the tales as the loving companion of the animals. Pooh Bear was a teddy bear with very human characteristics, an ordinary bear as he was sometimes called who was able to capture the imagination of children. The author used a bear, a tiger, a donkey and a piglet to teach children about some of the lessons in life—including friendship with all of it ups and downs.
As most of you may recall, the main character, Winnie-the-Pooh (sometimes called simply Pooh or Edward Bear), is a good-natured, yellow-furred, honey-loving bear who lives in the Forest surrounding the Hundred Acre Wood, modeled after Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England. His companions are Eeyore, a gloomy gray donkey; Piglet, a timid pig; Owl, a pontificating bird; the meddlesome Rabbit; and Kanga, an energetic kangaroo whose inquisitive baby, Roo, lives in her pouch. Pooh, a self-described “Bear of Very Little Brain,” gets himself into all kinds of sticky situations and the book recount his various adventures. In the first chapter, Pooh hears bees in the treetop and believes they must be making honey. After unsuccessfully attempting to climb the tree, he uses a balloon to pretend he is a cloud, but the bees are suspicious. Deciding they are the wrong sort of bees, Pooh realizes he is unable to get down, and he enlists the help of Christopher Robin, who pops the balloon with a gun.
In a later adventure, Pooh visits Rabbit and, after eating too much, gets stuck in Rabbit’s doorway. For the next week, Pooh fasts while Christopher Robin keeps him company. Finally he is slim enough for the others to pull him free. Pooh’s kindness is also evident, notably when he searches for Eeyore’s missing tail in chapter four. The little bear also shows his bravery when he and Christopher Robin set off in an upturned umbrella to rescue Piglet from a flood.
The stories are simply written, to appeal to young readers and notable for the rich insights into human behaviour. The characters are endearing but also complex and the sweet illustrations by E.H. Shepard helped make the books a children’s classic. In The House at Pooh Corner, another popular character arrives- the exuberant tiger named Tigger, known for his quote, “the wonderful thing about tiggers is I’m the only one!”
In 2016, the writer Bruce G. Epperly published a book entitled, The Gospel According to Winnie the Pooh, which provided a Christian reflection on the residents of the 100 Acre Wood and how they reflect Christ in their world. As one review said, “The stories of Winnie the Pooh and his friends are a gospel in miniature. Winnie and his friends reflect the many faces of following the way of Jesus with faithfulness despite our obvious foibles. Good news abounds as we discover a gentle providence for every season and challenge of life. He writes, ‘Winnie the Pooh is that simple live-in-the-moment bear, transparent, guileless, and rejoicing in this holy unrepeatable now’ (p 31). Pooh trusts that the adventure will always work out and that honey will always be found, much like the child that Jesus encourages his followers to be. For the author, Christopher Robin is the beloved disciple, the Christ-bearer who ‘brings the storyteller’s message to the 100 Acre Wood. He is the mirror of love and wisdom that animates Winnie and his friends…’ (p 40) and shares what he is learning with them. Piglet is the small creature who is beautiful and brave, more so for the fact that he is often anxious about the adventures he goes on with Winnie and Christopher Robin. Eeyore is the reality tester knowing he is not the center of the universe, but who appreciates even the smallest of blessings. Together, this group of explorers and adventurers see wonder and joy in all they do. The author suggests that perhaps the adult Christopher (as well as all grown-ups) will need to embrace the child-like wisdom of Pooh and his friends in order to truly live. As Pooh himself once said, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” — Winnie the Pooh
We may all wish that life were only as simple as the 100 Acre Woods. When Winnie the Pooh was first published, the book sparked a worldwide love of this silly old bear that became a childhood icon. What might we still learn from Winnie the Pooh and his group of friends, we might ask? What lessons might be re-discovered in the pages of a simple children’s book that may calm our souls and remind us of how we are meant to live and love in this day? Indeed, what is the “good news” of Winnie the Pooh? Here are a few of the lessons:
-Take the Time to Minister and Sit with Other
It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and coats and trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s house. Inside the house was Eeyore. “Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh. “Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a glum sounding voice. “We just thought we’d check on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.” Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather sad, and alone, and not much fun to be around at all. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is sad, and alone, and not much fun to be around at all, would you now.” Pooh looked at Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house. Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?” “We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling sad, or alone, or not much fun to be around at all. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.” “Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better. Because Pooh and Piglet were there. No more; no less.
-Live in the Moment and Enjoy the Simple Things
“What day is it?” “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day,” said Pooh.
-Reach Out to Others and Smile
“You can’t always sit in your corner of the forest and wait for people to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”
-The People in Our Life Are What Matter
“We’ll be friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet. “Even longer,” Pooh answered.
“How lucky I am having something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
“Any day spent with you is my favorite day. So today is my new favorite day.”
-Be Patient and Look on the Bright Side
“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is.” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
-Take Time to Be with People You Love
“If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.”
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh,” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw, “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”
-It’s the Small Things in Life That Count
“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
-Love Brings Happiness to Ourselves and Others
“Love is taking a few steps backwards, maybe even more, to give way to the happiness of the person you love.”
And I will close with this exchange which reminds us of the central message of the Gospel, the core of what it means to be human…
Piglet: “How do you spell love?” Pooh: “You don’t spell it. You feel it.”
Dr. Katherine Grocott, Insight, The Gospel of Winnie the Pooh
Britannica-Winnie the Pooh
10 Lessons from Winnie the Pooh, LDSLiving.com