Remember Dungeons & Dragons? Our parents knew it as D&D and I actually remember sitting in on several anti-D&D sermons as a middle schooler. In the chronology of societal ills Dungeons & Dragons came just after the backward masking of heavy metal records but before Madonna. I played Dungeons & Dragons—kind of. I cheated really bad to get the characters I wanted thus making the game ridiculously easy. Rarely did I actually “play.” In fact, I’m not really sure how the game was even played, now that I think about it. Looking back, it was probably more of an escape for a fatherless kid in a broken family. But I do remember words like “alchemy” and “alchemist”—I didn’t know what they were, but I remember thinking that they were cool words. (Having been a middle schooler and now parented one through the middle school years, I know how weird that era of our lives can be.)
Recently I came across “alchemist” and “alchemy” again, but this time I took a moment to look them up. In that process I came across another term that I’ve seen but have never taken the time to think about: elixir. Elixir is a mixture–the dictionary cites it as a sweetened mixture–of alcohol and water used by an alchemist to transform ordinary material into something of substance, usually but not always, gold. Closely associated with elixir is the term “elixir of life“. Elixir of life is also believed to be able to prolong life indefinitely, at least according to the lore of alchemy. In either case, elixir is associated with some sort of magical transformation.
I love the idea of the alchemist as it is applies to our small group lives. First, think about the alchemist taking this formula that he (or I guess she?) has labored over. The alchemist takes this potion, applies it to something ordinary—maybe wood, scrap iron, even garbage—and it is transformed into something priceless. But the alchemy is only surfacing what was already there in the first. Or the elixir is used to prolong life—given the mystical nature of this process I would assume that this life is the sort of life most people dream of.
Most of us gave up on magic long ago. Personally, I “got over” magic about the same time I realized D&D wasn’t going to work. I figured out Santa Claus was a hoax. My father wasn’t going to come back. Sadly, and I don’t think I’m alone, deep in my heart I gave up on magic. Magic was for kids and circumstances suggested to me that this part of life was silently, effortlessly, and naturally floating away. Like a old song once told us, “the child is grown, the dream is gone.”
But today I would challenge us to fight back. I would say that, instead of giving in to what the smartest people in the room would have us believe about magic, that maybe we again look for it in the world around us. I’m not suggesting that we begin tinkering with a mixture, a potion. But I am suggesting that we ask our small groups to think about the ways we can put magic back in the world. Could the single parent, working mother, discover magic in her yard getting mowed? Could the coffee-drinker experience magic in the cup of coffee you paid for in advance? How magical would it be for the unemployed father to find that his electric bill was not due, but paid for? And there’s always magic in ice cream.
How about challenging your small groups to be the elixir of life this weekend. Be a small group of alchemists.
Watch and Listen for….
- Single parents who need their oil changed
- Children who need big brothers or big sisters
- Parents who need a night out. Group members can watch their kids for them free of charge
- Random acts of kindness
- Money giveaway… Take a sum of money, go to a Dollar General Store, and pay for one person’s purchase. Tell them what church you’re from and that you did this because Jesus was a giver, not a taker.
- Drive-thru… When driving through a fast-food window pay for the person behind you and leave a note telling them about your church and why you would make this offer: that Jesus was a giver not a taker.