Capturing our characters

Christ Church Cathedral, Grafton
Pentecost 8(B)
15 July 2018

 

Sometimes it feels like we are drowning in words.

Words are everywhere, and especially so in church.

Big words. Rare words. Fancy words. Lots of words.

As it happens I like words. I am someone who finds it fairly easy to write essays, reports and sermons. I enjoy playing with words and even learning new languages.

But even for me there are sometimes too many words.

This past week I was required to craft a really tight statement to describe the kind of church community we seeking to fashion here at the Cathedral. We need this for the mobile app we are developing for the Cathedral, and it must be brief.

At first it did not seem too hard: 140 words. Too easy.

But then I realised the specification said: 140 characters. Maximum!

Ouch! 140 characters? That is not even a paragraph and barely a sentence.

It took a while to choose the right words to describe this place without going over that limit. I think we got there in the end and it was good to have a few friends on Facebook help me with suggestions.

While all that was happening, in the back of my mind I was aware of the service here this morning.

Apart from the obvious challenge of choosing my words carefully and having as few of them as possible, it strikes me there are some other parallels between me crafting that extremely brief community descriptor and the role of parents and godparents.

Having a strong sense of what we are about is a good starting point. But we need more.

The arrival of a baby makes us a deeply aware of the mystery of life. We do not get all the answers to the meaning of life in the baby care package, and there is no injection to add the missing wisdom, but as we hold a newborn in our arms we do sense that there is more to life than routine tasks.

A new life opens our eyes to the mystery we sometimes fail to notice when we are so busy.

This Cathedral is a bit like that at times as well.

Just by being here in the heart of Grafton it invites us to remember that there is more to life than work, mortgages, shopping, stuff, and things.

It reminds us about love, about life, about the depth dimension to life, and about the meaning of it all.

Again, no glib easy answers. But a reminder to pause and be mindful of … Life.

In among all the busy-ness of being family and raising kids, we need to pause and be mindful.

That is one good reason to be here in this Cathedral this morning. We are pausing our normal routine and reminding ourselves of the deep meaning of life.

We need to teach Ruby and Alexander how to pause, how to catch their breath and how to sense the deeper dimensions of life.

We do that best when we are families that make time for each other, time for God, and time for other people.

And it does not need lots of words.

In fact, learning just to sit quietly and think about what is happening in our lives is often all we need.

And the Cathedral—your Cathedral—is designed to be a good place for pausing, thinking, remembering and being mindful.

Aware of what is happening within us,
aware of other people in our lives,
and aware of God’s love that is always there;
like the air we breathe.

So back to that challenge I faced this week.

How can I describe this Cathedral community in 140 characters?

When you download the Cathedral app in a few weeks time you can judge whether I got it right (or see below), but as parents, godparents and grandparents we have a similar challenge every day.

How are we going to communicate with Ruby and with Alexander just how wonderful it is to be alive?

How are we going to help them become people who pause, appreciate, reflect and connect?

And how can we do it without lots of words?

We do it by our own example!

And for that we need each other as well as the wisdom that comes from God.


For those wishing to read the final version of the 140 character statement:

a generous faith community
centred on Jesus
seeking wisdom for life
acting with compassion
in the heart of Grafton
since 1842

 

About gregoryjenks

Anglican priest and religion scholar. Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University. Dean, Cathedral Church of Christ the King, Grafton and Rector of the Anglican Parish of Grafton. Formerly Dean at St George's College, Jerusalem.
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