BREATHING SPACE

MY CHURCHWARDENS and I had an astonishingly creative encounter with artist Stephen Raw today – and I’m still buzzing from it. It’s a real delight that the new Arts and Faith Network in the Diocese of Chester exists to foster the (to me so very obvious) links between theology and art, between theology and the arts.

Four people encountered each other today in a literally “sparking” sort of a way. Ideas and colours, and prose and poetry, and heart speaking to heart, and light and dark, and liminal space (what pyschologists call¬†“a place where boundaries dissolve a little and we stand there, on the threshold, getting ourselves ready to move across the limits of what we were into what we are to be”) – made for a scintillating, life-enhancing, praise-full morning. This, for me, is giving God “worth”; proper, Christ-like, celebration of “life in all its fullness”. Worship. Richness. The beauty of holiness … in “the ordinary” that wouldn’t necessarily recognise itself as holy.¬†Such encounters (and you can make any encounter such) afford us Breathing Space, which is to say: they are Life. And I do worship.

SOMEWHERE DEEP …

WE WERE TALKING together about life and love. And where our food and drink comes from – the basics that sustain our physical and spiritual selves. The basics that sustain everyone’s physical and spiritual selves, though it was recognised that some get a fairer share of the basics than others, and we asked “why?”. And we also talked about the need to take stock of our lives. And the need to forgive. And the need to know that we can be forgiven. And the need to know that we are loved – even when we don’t think we deserve to be loved. And about flat feet. And the need to know that we are loved – even when we think (or know) that we’re a bit different. And about what we would do if we “dropped the chalice” (“something I nerrrrver, nerrrrver want to do”). And about why it’s spell-bindingly amazing that even after they’d nailed him to a cross Jesus prayed out loud for those who killed him there. Jesus asked God to forgive them. Because Jesus forgave them. That’s some human being. One of us said that that’s the kind of human being we’d really like to be. And everyone else thought so too. But it would be difficult. Though not impossible. There have since been some other people who have forgiven a great deal. Put other people first. Just like Jesus did. He said there would be. He was right. Many people have forgiven some really, really terrible things. And Fr Maximilian Kolbe, for one example, gave up his own life so that someone’s Dad didn’t have to die.

I’ll just draw breath – which gives me chance to start another paragraph. And we also talked about how we need to keep changing and growing. And about how my sermons, now that I’m 52, (and therefore as old as the hills) will be very different from “the sermons you made when you became a Vicar a long time ago”. Because we grow up. We hope. We change. And about how sharing food any day of our lives with hungry people can be called a holy communion. Because sharing is. Sharing life is. A holy communion. Not holy because we say so. Holy because life is holy. Because life comes from a holy God. And we talked about “how it works”. About whether holy communion is magic. And we thought that it wasn’t. And we thought that it was. It is both. Not magic. And magic. Mystery. And simple. Out of the ordinary. And very ordinary. Mystery because it is very ordinary. And sometimes it feels like Mum is a priest. Or Dad. Or anyone who shares. Or cares. And we talked a bit about football. I was really pleased because David said that Tranmere Rovers isn’t really a bad team. We were talking together about theology. More. We were doing theology.

Who’s we? Ah. I forgot. We, this morning, at 9am, were this year’s soon-to-be-first-communicants, and their catechists, and me. They’re fabulously young. And stunningly intelligent. And I could hear Jesus chuckling and encouraging. And I remembered why he so loved being in young people’s company. And I thought he would have loved talking with these young things about Harry Potter. As I did. They really “get” Harry Potter! And they really “get” Jesus. And they smiled a lot. Like Stanley Noah did when we baptised him together at 12 o’clock, the same Stanley Noah who, like Seth Edward who we baptised yesterday, was fed and cuddled and loved, and cuddled some more throughout the celebration. And before. And after. Like we all should be.

And I’m still bowled over by one of those sentences that just does that. Bowls you over. One of the girls, talking about love, talking about food and drink, talking about forgiving and being forgiven, talking about sharing … said

“Sometimes I just wake up in the morning and somewhere deep down in my subconscious … I just know …”

Quite so. May all of us continue to grow.