Cottrell sees in this painting a moment suspended in time – the last of the old moments before everything is changed irrevocably for ever. He sees it as a gathering together of God’s family – recognising that some wish to be inside it and others chose to remain outside. I’m more ambivalent than that about boundaries and barriers. One person’s security fence is another’s prison wall. And I am highly ambivalent about any claim as to who is inside or outside God’s family – or more accurately, I believe we are all children of God, humans bearing God’s image. I cannot conceive of a God who leaves people outside.
Cottrell suggests we find protection in Christ, that all around us is “the greater reality that is God”, and that the ‘promise of the Christian faith is a promise of restoration’. We will all be gathered one day into a place of safety. I am less able to see the Christian faith as a place of safety now. It isn’t a panacea for all ills, being a Christian doesn’t lead to health,wealth and being happy all the time. In some parts of the world, it still leads to imprisonment and worse. Being a Christian doesn’t protect us from physical pain (although I do recommend prayer as one part of a sensible approach to pain management – one PART of an approach, don’t throw out your painkillers). Being a Christian doesn’t stop us messing up our lives and those of others, it doesn’t make us perfect.
But being Christian does give us a particular structure and framework to use to live our lives with the ability to know and love God. Being Christian changes perspectives – about who is this neighbour I should love, about death, about the things we do wrong, about forgiveness. It changes everything…if we seek to do justly,love mercy, and walk humbly with God, what does that do to our lives? To the jobs we do, the way we shop, the hobbies we take up, the way that we interact with other people? Because if the answer is, “Claire, it doesn’t change a thing”, then why bother?
This is the last of this set of Lent reflections. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you followed the links and enjoyed the art. You will perhaps have read it very differently – but I hope you feel enriched by what you have seen, thought, prayed and read. Have a very blessed, and joyful Easter.