In the ‘Afterword’, Cottrell speaks of Stanley Spencer,
He started to see the everyday life and activities of the village as sacred, as revealing the presence and purposes of God (p93)
God is everywhere and in everything. He is not kept in a box for special occasions, or only in certain special places.
He also came to the realisation that,
In the eyes of God, all work is of equal importance (p93)
Everything we do is done in God’s service – God is in everything we do, not just what we think of as the “holy” bits, because In God’s service everything should be done to his glory. We do not need to long for a “better” service, we can serve God where we are. What we are called, or asked to do, should be done showing that we love him. Brother Lawrence is cited as reminding us that, ‘common business’, no matter how mundane, could be a medium for God’s love, including this brilliant quote from The Practice of the Presence of God:
It is not needful to have great things to do. I turn my little omelette in the pan for the love of God. When it is finished, if I have nothing to do, I prostrate myself on the ground and worship my God, who gave me the grace to make it, after which I arise happier than a king. When I can do nothing else, it is enough to have picked up a straw for the love of God (p96)
This is the challenge for us – sometimes a huge challenge, to see God in all things, to live for God in all things.
In Spencer’s paintings, we have seen Jesus amongst the flowers, the potentially dangerous scorpion, the foxes, and wrapping his arms of love around the hen and her brood. This is God with us.
And perhaps that is the ongoing message of Lent. We have spent some time set aside, been in the wilderness and been stripped bare, but all that is to enable us to live life, to be a part of, to be amongst, as Jesus was. His time in the wilderness was not the end, but the beginning of his ministry, a time of equipping – from which he then had to go out and be with. To show people God’s love, God’s life, in the special times, but more in the ordinary times. When they were at work, struggling with illness, questioning on what really mattered in life,. Jesus was there amongst them, and that is our calling too – to be amongst people and show God’s love and hope to them. We are not to shut our faith away, save it for Sundays or special places. It is to be lived where we are, where other people are.
Whatever you do, you’re doing it for God. As Cottrell reminds us, every place is a place of encounter (p98).
Cottrell points us to this hymn
I have really enjoyed this book and found it really helpful. Many thanks to Stephen Cottrell for the insights and especially Stanley Spencer for the paintings.
This year for Lent, I am reading Christ in the Wilderness by Bishop Stephen Cottrell, published by SPCK, reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s paintings of that title.
I’m not necessarily going to blog every day on it, just when something leaps out at me – and they will be thoughts rather than full blog posts