We remember today a soldier named George who lived in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century. He was killed, not in service to the emperor Diocletian but rather martyred as a soldier of Christ. He became known throughout the Eastern Church as “The Great Martyr.” Years later, following the Crusades, the soldiers returning home to the British Isles carried with them a great spiritual devotion to their fellow soldier and martyr, George, and he became the Patron Saint of England. In iconography or other artistic renderings, Saint George is most often depicted slaying a dragon which is at his feet.
Talking about dragons these days is not a topic of everyday conversation. We are too sophisticated, I suppose, to literally believe in dragons that inhabit Loch Ness or an enchanted forest, and yet I think the archetype of a dragon is still very much with us in the realm of metaphor and imagination. These days we still do talk about “facing the dragon” in our own souls, something that could seem ominous or dangerous and thought to have the potential to overpower us. “Dragons” probably cannot be avoided. In ancient lore, dragons appear in our lives or come across our paths for two reasons. Either they are guarding something valuable, something that is very good or very bad or they are coming at us, accosting us. We are the prize, and the dragon is coming after us.
If I were to ask you the question – “Where is the dragon in your own life…?” – would you know what I was talking about? If so, the dragon probably has something to do either with your past, or it has to do with your future. If the past, the dragon is most likely guarding a secret. It may be a secret shame or a secret hope, and you need to claim it. You will not be whole, you will not know the full dignity of your birth and life, until you’re able to name and claim this secret. Even if it looks shameful, if the secret is guarded by a dragon it actually is a secret treasure or it’s the key to a treasure in your life. I’m sure that’s so, or otherwise the dragon would not be there on guard. This is of inestimable value, or the dragon would not be there, guarding your past. Your past is full of treasure, and it belongs to you.
Or if the dragon is ahead, in your future, the dragon is probably coming at you threatening your impending death. The dragon may be threatening to take your life away from you in the form of disease or diminishment, or simply to cripple you by the fear evoked by its roar. If you are acquainted with this dragon, I can tell you for certain, this dragon is nothing to be afraid of. First of all, you are “a goner.” Dying and death are a part of life. Period. We are all terminal by the end of the day or week or year or some years ahead. Our own death is assured. This dragon is something like the Wizard of Oz. There’s nothing there behind the roar… as if the dragon could take away something that is already imminent. The dragon does not hold claim on your life or on your death. As we’ve heard today from the Gospel according to Mark, whoever thinks they can save their life will lose it – our dying and death, and at a time and in a way over which we probably will have little control. Don’t waste your fear on what is inevitable. The dragon has no power, either to save or to destroy us. Quite to the contrary, we’re given a triple promise. First, the imminence of our death in this life. Second, the promise where there is no death but a life to come, what we call “the resurrection.” And third, the companionship of Christ to ferry us across the unknown.
We who are followers of Jesus Christ have not been given life to be wimps. We’re promised the companionship of Christ, the strength and courage and armor of Christ, to live boldly into the future bearing the witness of Christ to a world on our own doorsteps that is terribly afraid. And if there’s a dragon out there in your own life, maybe more than one, the dragon is either guarding a treasure of your past, which is yours to claim – and you can do this! – or it’s a dragon coming to you out of the future, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Nothing to be afraid of. Nothing. Nothing. You’re not alone in this. As Saint Paul writes, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation [including dragons], will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39
What’s to be afraid of?
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