Dedications, and reflections on our journey

Peter Seal, 11 July 2021

Amos 7: 7–15; Ephesians 1: 3–14; Mark 6: 14–29

There’s just so much that could be said but, very briefly, what we’ve just done together [click here to see the dedication prayers] is a journey, and each of those dedications has its own story – some of them quite long. Each of those gifts represents great generosity. And in a sense they exemplify in symbol our strapline ‘Pilgrims on a journey’.

So, in our mind’s eye, we’re a stranger to this place and we find ourselves coming up the drive, and we feel a little weary and notice a bench. And we think, ‘I’d like to sit there’, and we see the words, ‘Rest and be thankful’ – a profound beginning to the Christian journey, rest and be thankful.

And then maybe another day we come again and we notice the doors, glazed and full of light and open and welcoming, and we just wonder, ‘Might I go in? Could I go in? Should I go in?’

And we don’t walk very well, but we realise it’s all level and flat, and that’s not our memory of this place. So in we go and it’s all beautifully level and safe, and we feel just a little at home, and notice a lift that can take us to another level.

And as we wander, we cast our eyes right and we see glowing, high up above a doorway, a cross. We see from some notes about it that it’s made from the doors that were previously at the front, rather blocking entrance. And the shape there is familiar – it’s that of the Crucified – but there’s something distinctly unusual, because instead of, as it were, a crucifix form on the front of a wooden cross, the cruciform figure is cut out of the cross. The Lord is there, but he’s not there. This is deep, profound theology and we thank belovèd Bishop John. There but not there. Crucified yet risen. And then the gold from behind speaks to us of glory, of ascension, of the reign of the Lord in heaven with his Father. Wonderful Christian teaching in symbol. Probably the best that we’ve ever come across, and we say, in our own way, ‘yes’ to that.

And then maybe on another occasion we just find ourselves creeping in through a doorway, where we find we can be still and sit and look at a piece of art – rather unusual, made of tissue paper, delicate, vulnerable – a bit like us. Layer upon layer, which makes it, and us, stronger. It’s what could be described as abstract – the verb meaning ‘to draw out’. And we’re encouraged to be there and draw out from the image, letting it speak to us. The cross is clear to see; the rest is largely as we interpret it for ourselves. It’s rich; the more you look, the more you see. It’s all-embracing. It’s got soft edges; it speaks of this church community. And it’s textured. Many are involved, all different, but together they make something beautiful.

Dear friends, this is evangelism. This is making new disciples, through architecture, through works of art.

For very, very many people, what speaks to them most clearly and strongly is the gift of beauty. It’s when they’re caused to pause and to find themselves wondering, ‘I wonder …’, that suddenly the crucified, risen, ascended, glorified Lord is very, very close. Amen.