Bishop’s letter – August

Walking in God’s Sunlight

Bishop_Robert_Atwell-001When I first visited Salisbury it was not the cathedral that arrested my attention, but Elizabeth Frink’s statue ‘Woman Walking’ set on the cathedral green. Confident, graceful, womanly and enormously powerful she strides towards the cathedral, her face upturned to the sun.

A similar thing happened to me in Florence. It wasn’t Michelangelo’s monumental statue of David, beautiful though it is, that moved me but his four unfinished statues in the Academia. They are called ‘The Prisoners’ or ‘The Wrestlers’ because the figures are only half-formed. Their bodies are still imprisoned in the marble. An arm emerges here, a leg there, a face only partially carved peeps out of you from the side.

When asked about his work Michelangelo is reported to have said that the sculpture already exists, trapped within the block of stone. It was his job to release it by ‘taking away that which is superfluous’.

I have always found his words a powerful commentary about the way God deals with us. It is as if God is the sculptor and we his work of art. In fact in his letter to the Ephesians Paul describes us as God’s ‘handiwork’ (Eph.2.10 NIV). It is as if each of us come to God’s bench rough-hewn and is gradually fashioned by his hand to a truer beauty.

Paul goes on to talk about us growing up into a spiritual maturity, people who will be measured by nothing less than the ‘full stature of Christ’ (Eph. 4.13). All of us are on that journey. The process of maturing includes having that which is ‘superfluous’ in our lives chipped away, so that we are no longer imprisoned, but released to be ourselves.

Sometimes our hearts can feel calcified, cold as marble, our minds and bodies good as dead. But God calls us to become who we are – his own work of art. God yearns to set us free, so that like the woman walking on the cathedral green in Salisbury, we stride into the sunlight breathing the fresh air of God’s grace.

+Robert

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