This is the fourth of four meditative and artistic journeys, written and created by the Rev’d Petra Shakeshaft. We invite you to settle in, and see where she takes you on this beautiful journey of Love in Advent. We have returned to Petra’s journey as we move through the weeks of Advent. You can download her original pdf at the end of the post.
God so loved the worldJohn 3. 1-6
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life. John 3. 1-6
High up in the Sistine Chapel God’s hand stretches across the ceiling, giving life to a languid Adam. This creation of the first human being is fleshy, corporeal and perhaps not how we imagine we were created in God’s image. Here, of course, God has been created in the image of humankind. The image of God is not something that can be represented in fresco, even by a genius such as Michelangelo.
God is love and those who abide in love, abide in God1 John 4.16
The image in which we are made then, is Love. We are made to love and to be loved; to be beloved. And yet we fail to grasp this; we failed from the start. The path to the tree was easier and the fruit more sweet than God’s way, or so we believed. So we continue to believe. And so, the garden in which we were placed; the Paradise gifted to us in love, becomes a wasteland of decay and corruption.
The Advent lights God scattered for us through the Prophets flicker in the darkness, their words closed between the covers of the book. But Love is more powerful than darkness, or corruption, or decay, or disobedience, or wilfulness, or lostness, or sorrow or any other pain with which we choose to separate ourselves from that Love in which we are made.
Love longs for us.
Love chooses us.
Love comes to us.
The image is a response to both Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam and RS Thomas’ The Coming. The earth is in the grip of corruption and decay ± rotting leaves form the background, a reminder of our physical mortality and potential for spiritual death.
All flesh is like grass1 Peter 1. 24
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls
The hand of God reaches out over the brokenness. The River, from Thomas’s poem, follow’s the line of a crack in the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Here, it is transformed from the radiant slime into gold – its brokenness repaired, made beautiful, precious like a piece of Kintsugi Pottery. A small, child’s hand reaches up; the Son’s hand. And there is seed of new life – also gold – there is the promise of light in the darkness of Advent. There is Love. Let me go there.
Reflection * When have you felt most loved? * Think of someone you find it hard to love and imagine Jesus with them. How does he respond to that person? How does that make you feel? Can you pray for that person now? * Read 1 Corinthians 13. 4-7 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. * Look up Kintsugi pottery. How does love play a part in the golden repairs of your 'breaks'? * Make some small cards (credit card size). In your prayer space, you might like to place a bowl with a candle beside it. Write the names of particular people you would like to pray for - even some you find it hard to love and pray for. Spend some moments praying for them - you might even like to write a prayer for them. When you have finished, put the card in the bowl. You can add to the bowl during the week and take them out and pray again.
God of Love,
who created all things in Love,
who breathed your love and life into each of us
and whose Son gave up his life in love for us;
help us to see your image in everyone we meet
to show love to the loveless, that they might lovely be
and to bring your love to a broken world. Amen