Note to reader. I included this story in an article I wrote for the Contact Magazine back in 2017, and on here for an Advent reflection in 2016. I like it because it helps me understand the love that inspired the Incarnation, and why we should celebrate Christmas. I know… its June… just bear with me.
A grandfather found his grandson, jumping up and down in his playpen, crying at the top of his voice. When Johnnie saw his grandfather, he reached up his little chubby hands and said, “Out, Gramp, out.” It was only natural for the Grandfather to reach down to lift the little fellow out of his predicament; but as he did, the mother of the child stepped up and said, “No, Johnnie, you are being punished, so you must stay in.” The grandfather was at a loss to know what to do. The child’s tears and chubby hands reached deep into his heart, but the mother’s firmness in correcting her son for misbehaviour must not be lightly taken. Here was a problem of love versus law, but love found a way. The grandfather could not take the youngster out of the playpen, so he crawled in with him.
The only problem with this story is that it is unfinished. At some point the grandfather must leave the playpen, and Johnnie must grow up, learn from his mistakes and move on. So, you’ll be pleased to know I’m not 6 months behind, I’m not calling for a second Christmas to be added to our calendars, no matter how much I love the Australian tradition of a good BBQ on Christmas Day. Instead I’m suggesting we make more of the Ascension of Jesus in our lives.
The Church marks and celebrates the Ascension this year on the 30th May. We do so to remind ourselves that Jesus is indeed still with us, whilst knowing that it is now our task to mature in faith, and to take our role as Christians in the world seriously.
I agree that Ascension Day is an obscure Christian holiday. It celebrates an event that is difficult for the modern scientific mind to take literally, and the truth that Jesus ascended to heaven when he could have stayed, is quite unhelpful to Christians more generally. I mean let’s be honest – if the resurrected Jesus was still with us in person, spreading the Gospel would be a whole lot easier. He’d be very popular on YouTube for a start. Jesus ascending into heaven was like our best player being substituted off the pitch in extra-time, at the very moment we needed him the most.
Despite this, we declare in church that the Ascension is central to our faith.
We publicly state it every week in our creed. Why? Well, its because we know we must grow in our faith, grow in life, remain dependent on the love of God in Jesus but free to exercise our faith in the world. Here are three reasons why should keep the Ascension high up in our lives.
The Ascension is a call to worship.
In Acts 1:9 it says that Jesus was ‘lifted up’, he didn’t get taken up on some divine hoist, or sky elevator. He was lifted up. The first thing to note here is that the original Greek text conveys an earthly perspective not a heavenly one. It literally means the world ‘lifted’ Jesus toward his Father, which conveys the ascension as a moment of glory. The Ascension is therefore a call to worship. When we meet in church and remember the Ascension, we lift Jesus to his rightful place as having authority in our lives.
The Ascension is a reminder that it is good for us that Jesus returned to the Father. One way of seeing the Ascension is like it’s Christmas in reverse. God comes down to be with us, and then God returns, to remain in us. Teresa of Avila writes, ‘Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ is to look out on a hurting world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless now.
The Ascension was the moment the Church became the Church. One of the many privileges of being vicar of All Saints Highertown is my seeing all the amazing people that are involved in community run projects, such as resident’s associations, community choirs, and the many support groups that use the church. I am proud that they are part of our life, and that the body of Christ is rich and varied. And this is the point. The Church is not a community organisation, it is not an institution, it is not a religion. The Church was always meant to be body of Christ, the person of Jesus to the rest of the world. In so many ways we have lost our way, but there are equally ways in which we have lived out this identity with all we can offer. And so here is the task we are reminded of on Ascension Day. Our greatest task of all is to be what we are meant to be. To be like Him who saved us.
Revd Jeremy Putnam
This week's blog is written by Adele Jarrett-Kerr. Adele is a writer, home educator, breastfeeding counsellor, feminist, and Christian. Her frequently updated blog (link below) is a great source of support to families thinking about home-schooling, and also place where ideas are shared for simply encouraging family well-being. You may also like to take a look at soulfarm.co.uk which is Adele and Lawrence's community supported farm that helps growers and the community work in partnership to develop sustainable local agriculture.
Here at the grand crescendo of the Christian calendar, Easter, I thought I’d talk about how we communicate our spiritual beliefs, and perhaps our religious traditions, in ways that respect our children’s autonomy.
In the past, when I’ve mentioned that we read Bible stories or that we go to church, I’ve been asked by various people whether I was worried about indoctrination. If you’re one of those people, this post truly isn’t aimed at you and there have been quite of few of you. If I bristled when you asked, it was because you touched a nerve.
I’ve been on a real journey with this. There are many things we did in times past that we wouldn’t feel comfortable doing now. Both our faith and our parenting have evolved and in a sense, now the time is right for me to share what we’re trying to do because I feel at peace.
Encourage them to ask questions
Curiosity is powerfully wired into us. It can drive us to seek out the beautiful, the divine. It motivates us to listen to people who are different from us. It is energetic, creative and always in motion.
And children are naturally curious. They have questions about everything. We honour their questions by listening to them and actually grappling with them. Consider whether a prepackaged answer is designed for the adult’s convenience and whether it simply makes you feel safer.
Welcome their questions. Allow them to arrive at answers you don’t agree with. Nothing is too sacred to question.
Ask your own questions
When you read or hear something together that doesn’t sit right with you, take time to say so and explain why. Ask them what they think. This is how we model critical thinking. It can be done in an age appropriate way.
If you think your child isn’t yet able to look at a story or a concept this way, perhaps it’s worth saving it until they’re older. I wound up having to pass on a “child-friendly” translation of the Bible I’d bought my eldest because it dangerously oversimplified some very complex theological ideas and, looking through it, I realised that so much of the Bible is not age appropriate. Here I feel the respectful choice is to wait until she asks for it.
Don’t pretend you have it all worked out
It’s OK to say that you don’t know. You don’t have to hold all the answers to provide security. In demonstrating gaps in your own understanding, you admit that you and your child are on an even playing field rather than setting yourself up as the authority. If they’re in a space where they need more certainty, offer to help them find answers that they find satisfying.
Let them see your spiritual practice
The gentlest and most effective way to communicate what we believe is to simply live it. This might mean actively finding ways to help others. It may look like speaking intentionally about our choices. Taking time for silence and contemplation and allowing this to transform us speaks louder than any “shoulds” we choose to share.
Be inclusive in your choices
Read books with diverse protagonists. Veer away from a white Jesus. Having grown up as a person of colour with almost exclusively white Christian imagery, my perception of what was holy always came in lighter shades. Everyone benefits from seeing diversity early on so we can see where we all fit in God’s story. A favourite in our house is Matthew Paul Turner’s When God Made You.
I also think it’s time to consider moving beyond gender in our pronouns for God. My children understand that God is not a man. They’re comfortable with saying “He” or “Him” but they’re not phased by me saying “She” or “Her” or simply using no pronouns at all (“God calls us to God’s self”). I realise that this may be challenging for some but, if it is, perhaps it’s worth asking why? Many of us would say that of course God is beyond gender but if so, why then only use male pronouns? Is there something about the way this imagery has impacted our core beliefs about masculinity and femininity?
Recognise other beliefs
Whether other religions come up in our history lessons or we rub up against different world views in our friendships, we aim to always talk about what others believe, wanting to avoid demonising the other person for seeing it differently. For us, this is a natural outworking of where we are with our own way of seeing. We want to remain open-hearted in our stance, ready to learn from others and seeking to understand where they’re coming from.
We don’t always get any of this stuff right and I hope that if our kids look back and find we were off the mark that they’ll feel able to tell us so. If they do, that’s a perspective we’ll need to learn to be open to as well.
As we continue to celebrate this season of Easter, we are reminded about the promises of renewal and daily resurrection. New life can come out of death, hope out of darkness and joy out of despair. Recreation becomes a theme across all of life and reordering priorities and values feels appropriate.
We have recently been redecorating in our house and in order to do so we have packed everything into boxes in order to clear the room to paint and lay new carpet. This is not an enviable task and I have been amazed at just how much clutter we have hoarded, indeed like many, we still have packed boxes in the garage from when we first moved in over seven years ago! I realised that we have so much storage space to accommodate stuff we never use, stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day for years, stuff that we are unlikely to use again but which may be needed by others, or could be remade into something with new life. I have discovered five clocks, family heirlooms, none of which work! So, it has been time to sort out all the things clogging up the cupboards and repair, donate, recycle or reuse. I have images in my mind of the recent flood victims in Africa huddled on strips of land in makeshift shelters, their only possessions those they could carry on their backs. What a contradiction!!
I am so glad that there are movements afoot here in Cornwall to become more aware of how much of a throw away society we have become. I was excited to learn of the new repair café that is to be trialled here at All Saints Church organised by Lindsey Southcombe the former City Mayor, on 22nd June. The idea is that people can bring items in need of repair to a group of skilled volunteers and get them fixed over a cup of coffee for a small donation. I am pleased to be part of this new initiative and look forward to not only doing sewing repairs but also to teaching people how to do simple sewing tasks, giving them the skills to repair and upcycle for themselves. The Monday craft group at All Saints are also exploring how we can recycle garments and curtains etc. to recreate craft items to sell in aid of the Church 10/10 Life House project. One of our team has been recycling pyjamas covered in winter penguins into Christmas tree decorations. Others are using scraps of fabric to make dolls clothes and a team of knitters are using up all the odd bits of knitting wool they can find to make hats, toys, blankets and even key rings!
Likewise, we are looking forward to sharing in the Green Truro event later in the summer where we will have a stall again teaching people how to sew, repair, renovate and upcycle clothing and household items to give them a new lease of life. I hope that this is the beginning of a major culture shift. I think we are moving away from the stigma of ‘second hand’ clothing and embracing the concept of re-using, recycling and upcycling. Charity shops and clothing banks are brilliant ways of encouraging us to value the surplus things we no longer need, but wouldn’t it be great if we could all be more creative with the stuff that we are so ready to give away. The opportunities for creativity and renewal are endless.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.