I took this picture of Norwich Cathedral from Kett’s Hill and I wondered at the time why I thought taking it at an angle would be a significant spiritual sign! I think now I know.
We were watching an old episode of Long Lost Family and it triggered a chain of thought in my mind. How so often there are people searching desperately for their long lost families, but also people who have lost their families without ever having left home. Broken, lost, angry, unloved, bereaved, abused: these are all things that can be attributed to family life and not as we would want it to be. We all want to be accepted, cared for and loved, and expectations from our families run high. And some have found that their families have stepped up to the mark and these are the happy families others dream of.
A couple of weekends ago we went to stay with “friends” in Sheffield. I say friends, but these are families that we have grown up with from our first church. Three families linked by one church and years of close friendship when our families grew up together and, where we have few brothers and sisters to call our own, become the Uncles and Aunts to our children, the cousins and happy extensions by marriage and partnerships. Now even little ones among the generations, loved and precious to all of us. Sounds idyllic, sound impossible. Well it is in lots of cases. We’d say God has had a big part in the closeness and family we have become as he has effect in Church families.
They are part of our church family and it goes beyond that. In a few weeks we are visiting our old home, Wirral, from our new home in Wymondham and again families, both church and other friendships born of care and compassion for one another will be touched again.
So why Norwich Cathedral looking like a spaceship taking off into an extra-dimensional adventure, taking a spin through a wormhole into the unknown? Cathedral attendance is up, but often they seem cold desolate places of echoes and empty chambers, relics of the past. History kept intact but disconnected from the families that revolve around their satellite churches of many denominations. Friends orbiting together in shuttle craft, warm and protected from the cold emptiness of this world’s space, breathing in the precious air of love and spirit, are like the shuttle craft from the Enterprise in Star Trek, going boldly to explore and rescue, debate with society, neutral of political and financial gain, often seeking the neutral zone for creed, faith and gender, beaming up the poor and oppressed, fighting the Klingons of hate, but holding on to the faith of their prime directive to go into that world and make disciples for Jesus.
As part of some research I have be attempting, I have been asking myself what are cathedrals for, especially when it comes to guided tours? Have you been on one? Did it bring alive a living Jesus and a lively faith for you, or was it just something that happened a long time ago and recorded in the star ship logs for posterity with relevance only to that bygone age? In Star Wars it is always the establishment that turn out to be the baddies – a little unfair to use that analogy! The Rebels are inventive, full of faith and hope. Sounds awfully like Jesus against the Pharisees and we know who gets beaten, mocked and killed the more often – Christians!
So what am I saying? Not that the cathedral and their staff are evil; that would be wrong. But perhaps the powers that be might consider that as Jesus said about guides, in particular blind ones, they are not great examples for the church.
There, I will upset some and some will cheer, but hopefully on such a minor gripe no blood need be spilled.
The point I am making, and the cathedrals will surely agree, is that to find your own Long Lost Family it will be among those on the shuttle craft of people who want to be God’s people. The chosen ones. We call him Dad or Mum, because he is a great one.