I love my job as a teacher for all sorts of reasons. Times of hilarity. Times of inspiration. Moments of joy. And sadness. Days where everything goes so smoothly – and even the opposite can be strangely life-affirming. On some days I feel like I know so little and can learn so much. Not just about my subject or teaching or myself. I am privileged to be able to explore the lives of others and spend time reflecting on their impact on human history.
I was in Chichester Cathedral on Friday as part of a school trip. Year 7 students were being shown round by one of the most gifted guides I have ever encountered. She was genius. She also liked children with questions.
She stood us at the font at one point and drew our attention to a piece of art by Hans Feibusch entitled ‘Baptism of Christ’. She gave us the story behind the painting. It is forthright – this was a significant moment for Jesus. Everything became clearer in the waters of the Jordan. Lights were green for Go – not amber for Wait.
Another detail confirms what some of us already know – the Church isn’t that important! Don’t dismiss me yet as a heretic. It’s all in Jesus foot – his right foot almost steps entirely out of the painting.
The stepping out towards deeper waters points to the significance of Jesus adventure – redeeming the whole world. It is God’s world that is the focus not our experience of baptisms or of the intense experiences of our church. It does seem that many Christians make too much of the church. Does it have a future? Is it in terminal decline? Who do we think belongs to it? Who in reality is welcome within it?
When the church ties itself in knots over questions about its identity – when it turns inwards on itself – then it too often forgets the truth that it is merely a means to an end – God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Is the church able to point beyond itself?
It’s simply a paddling pool – a place with ledges for the unsure and the tentative – a place, more crucially, that is open, free and embracing enough to allow anyone to dip a toe in the water, and to risk splashing about a bit.
Anyone ready for a dip?