The Revd Robin Sims-Williams
Stepping back and letting go isn’t easy. I used to work with suppliers who were experts at making the bits which made up the aircraft system I was responsible for. When we needed them to make something new or to deal with an environment they hadn’t come across before, it was very difficult to step back and give them the space to use their expertise, their skills and their creativity to solve the problem. They needed encouragement, or should I say incentive, but as much as it was tempting to step in and try and give them solutions, the responsibility and, actually, the skills were theirs… when we left them to it, they were able to create fantastic solutions.
A colleague actually wrote a book about management entitled ‘I learned everything about management from my kids.’
His MBA lecturer wasn’t particularly impressed by the title. But I’ve heard it said that parenthood is a long process of letting go. I know Alice is now crawling and standing up, demanding a sudden shifting of breakables and sharp objects up another shelf. All of that is to create the space to let her go, not simply to limit her to the space on the floor she used before she could move around. As the years go on more space and freedom, to create and discover, as well as more solid boundaries.
In today’s Gospel, we would be forgiven if we thought that, after the young child Jesus that the Magi saw, we now had a petulant teenage Jesus - though he's actually much older. Asked to help somebody out, Jesus talks back to his mother, unwilling to be told what to do… ‘woman, what is it to me or to you?’ Wise Mary steps back but as well as encouraging Jesus to think about helping, she makes the space for him to do something spectacular, Mary knew she needed to step back, to let Jesus decide what to do - only then could he be truly creative, and turn the water into wine.
Creating that safe space can be difficult, as I say, it needs us to let go, to trust others, it also demands we accept them for who they are. I was struck by one of the tributes to David Bowie which I read this week, how it described his early music and performances as giving both LGBT but also straight white teenagers who felt they were a bit strange and didn’t fit in encouragement It made them feel more confident to be themselves, to explore more courageously who they were, without having to fit in.
Today’s Gospel reminds us of Jesus’ humanity, not in his petulance towards his mother, but in the joy he takes in creating, and doing so in such a ridiculously generous way. It’s a foil to early ascetics and various forms of puritanism through the centuries teaching abstinence and sobriety. Today’s Gospel reminds us that life isn’t some dull task to be endured but to be enjoyed in feasting and celebration, with fun and creativity. Creativity needs a degree of freedom, a sense of fun and a desire transform. Whether it’s water into wine or raw materials into airplanes or canvas into art.
Through our own creativity we express something about ourselves, allowing it to extend beyond our own person. Somehow in that outpouring beyond ourselves we thrive. Our own identity, our own personality is defined by how we connect with those around us, and perhaps because creativity is how we communicate who we are, it is so influential in shaping us, in enabling us flourish, given the safe space to do so. Being given the freedom to create is so important. This is perhaps where the results of this week’s primates meeting are so disappointing, the hand slap delivered to the American Episcopal Church over it’s decision to conduct marriages between two men or two women so saddening. Like the family who responds to a son or daughter coming out with those lines.. ‘well we love you, but we don’t like what you’re doing.’
The Episcopal Church is being told off for finding new ways in which they can flourish.
Any later message of apology or statement against bigotry towards the LGBTI community by the communion seems to become conditional and half hearted.
The hope can surely be, that while the trail the American Church is blazing may not be wholly accepted, it’s willingness to be creative, and the joy and flourishing that will come from it will undoubtedly lead to other parts of the Church following suit, whatever ‘consequences’ are levied on them.
Being creative is part of our being, part of what makes us, literally. Aquinas said that the human ability to create life is what makes us more like God than the Angels. And our desire to create in so many ways is clearly what makes us in God’s image. My own experience at St John’s has reminded me of my love for creating, whether it be developing the website, getting to understand the workings of the organ or the sewing of fur onto puppet outfits, making them fit for kings. I have been reminded of how important those particularly practical forms of creativity are for me to flourish.
And how I need to find opportunities and places in which to create.
We are reminded that to flourish is to celebrate in the abundance the gifts God has given us, so, in whatever way Alice finds to use the gifts God gives her, not just in crawling and walking, but in all the ways she will be enabled to through the care and support of Robin and Nippa and the whole of her church family. So we must all remember our role in supporting and encouraging one another as well as giving one another the space to use our gifts, to create, to flourish and to celebrate the love God has for us.