Karl Barth, the great theologian, was once asked to summarize all of his writings on Christianity. He responded with lyrics from the famous children's hymn, "Jesus Loves Me This I Know, For the Bible Tells Me So". Indeed sometimes a child's song or story can be a better medium to touch the heart, inspire imagination and teach deep revelation. That is exactly what happens with the new movie, Nanny McPhee Returns. Like its predecessor there is a profound message presented in childlike simplicity.
The story begins with war and separation from the father. Isabelle Green, the mother, narrates how she and her three children are just "coping" on the ancestral farm, Deep Valley. Mr. Green is away fighting a war and in his absence war has come to his family farm and, yes, there is fighting - mother with children, family with uncle, and cousin with cousin. It is a deep valley indeed, everything and everyone is out of sorts.
Genesis 3); one might even call it the "Land of Poo".
War and separation from the father are often metaphors for "The Fall". The naughty children are separated from God the Father and at war with one another. It is a deep valley of their own making (
Someone is desperately needed to come and put things right..."the person you need is Nanny McPhee". Who is Nanny McPhee? She is the mysterious nanny that comes along side the family to give the five lessons they specifically need. Her outward appearance is always tied to their inward condition. In other words, she is unveiled outwardly (notice how things come off) as they are transformed inwardly. There is a hidden glory in Nanny McPhee that corresponds to a hidden glory in the family.
There are five lessons the Green family needs to learn: to stop fighting, to share nicely, to help each other, to be brave and to have faith. All five lessons have to do with ending war and believing in reconciliation and restoration.
To stop fighting is the first step, but more is required. Sharing and helping one another move toward reconciliation is not easy; sacrifices are made, a bridal veil is torn, favorite things are given away and wounds of divorce are opened. It takes courage to undo the instruments of war (dismantle a bomb) and it requires faith to believe in "your bones" the possibility of life "after death".
There is one theme that runs throughout the movie bringing it to the great climax - the harvest. It begins quite small, just a comment - "No money for the tractor, no harvest". A few scenes later Norman, the oldest son, is in a field not quite ripe for harvest. By lesson two it becomes more dire - "Lose the harvest, lose the farm; lose the farm, lose everything". And then the hard question, "How will we get the harvest in?". The news of the supposed death of Mr. Green really imperils the harvest, but love finds the way and the truth.
Then a bomb hits. It for sure will destroy the harvest, setting the stage for the glorious climax. Unity and love dismantle the weapon of war releasing such a powerful force....LIFE. Look what appears in the sky - animal forms of all kinds. Then the glory falls on all. What has happened? Aggie knows, "The harvest is in!" and the weapon of war has been turned into an instrument of child's play.
Any they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation and never again will they learn war. Isaiah 2:4
Nanny McPhee's medals are distributed, each one signifying a unique gift. She is leaving because "They want her, but no longer need her". And why don't they need her any more? The father has returned. On a beautiful hill overlooking Deep Valley, the father is reunited with his now enlarged family.