The Christmas lists have been written and a growing anxiety pervades through various households – ‘will I be able to get what they want?’ The pressure of Christmas is felt long before it arrives. It might be a struggle to creatively balance the wish-list with presents that require more than just a battery or a lead into a monitor! Video games and electronic devices will no doubt hold sway but I wonder what other gifts we could afford to give children (and adults) resulting in a more sustaining, reflective experience? Lego is, once again, a favourite in our family but that seems to come in kit form these days. No longer can you buy the large base sheet upon which you might build a house or a farm from your imagination.
Many of you will know that I am taking up pottery and I am having tuition in throwing pots. I am slowly building up my confidence and competence before I take a ‘playing with clay’ sabbatical in September 2018. This is a craft which I can immerse myself in without a single thought to much else. As I attempt to make a vase or a bowl on the wheel, I become a creator. It is not only my hands that are involved, the potter needs to incorporate the whole body into the making process. My mantras become prayers, “keep centred”, “remain anchored” and the praying is continuous until the pot is complete, at least before firing, then the petitions begin again!
The ability to play with clay, to model and shape and mould is the most incredibly liberating experience. This new interest in ceramics has given me a fresh perspective on how we are modelled by others and how we ourselves model. There are are many biblical illustrations, among them the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah who both alluded to God as potter and humanity as clay. More recently, one of the Taizé brothers remarked:
“The potter is not a maker of pots but a living being. The process of pottery is to turn those who work with clay into living beings.”
I rather like to think that the potter is modelling life and the clay is modelling the potter! Jesus, another artisan, spoke in parables. He crafted words to have meaning which were not immediately understood by his audience. Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry said this in a recent reflection for morning prayer:
“Jesus, the parable of God’s purposes, speaks of God’s purposes in parables – stories and sayings that, like him, bear a deeper meaning than their surface shows.”
Jesus modelled the kingdom. In our walk of faith we try to ‘keep centred’ and ‘remain anchored’ in order to live out God’s purposes. Our lives become a parable too. Sometimes the deeper meaning of our lives remains uncovered. But as we look to our model, Jesus, we might discover, that we have been shaped and modelled ourselves to look like something that resembles God. How extraordinary, how miraculous!
I am deeply grateful for a current experience of modelling with Charity Mentors, an Oxfordshire organisation which works with charity leaders. The process of modelling is applied not in terms of advice-giving or a focus on solutions but giving space, structure and support. It is both challenging and creative. This is a model to be modelled by all of us. Deeper meaning is the result of the mentor-mentee relationship. As we continue our Advent journey, think of the times and situations in which you have been used as a model for somebody else. Think also how the parable of Jesus’ life is being reflected and played out in your own life. So, lets continue to play with the clay that we have been given.
Sunday services: 8am Holy Eucharist; 10am Parish Eucharist (with children’s church); 6.30pm Taizé Prayer.
No matter where you are on the journey of faith, you are always welcome at St Michael & All Angels! Click here for news and the Sunday readings sheet.