AngelCanopy Arts Theology Thought of the Day

St John’s Canopies Pt.3

This year, we are folding Angels. Angels are often described as messengers of God. In Nativity plays children will dress up as Angels and sing songs of good news. They will represent a message of peace and hope.

For some, this will be enough. For others there is a need to think more deeply about it.

Do Angels carry messages both ways, are they looking out for us? When Jesus is recorded scolding his followers for turning away parents with their children, he is also recorded as saying “…For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven…” Matthew 18: 10

To me, that sounds like Angels are holding open a hotline to God, and guess who gets priority?

Perhaps people are more used to the idea that we can all communicate with God directly, or that we should be able to. Political terms such as ‘kingdom’ are often used to describe concepts like heaven, and God is often described as something like a king. Our politicians are in our houses on TV screens, we can e-mail them and vote for them or not. They want to create an image of accessibility. How many people seriously think that they could have a direct line to the UK prime minister though? Or that if they did, that the occupant of that office would take time to listen to them?

Pause for a moment and imagine a world where such access is possible and think about what that would be worth. Is this what Jesus is saying Angels provide with the creator of the cosmos?

There is an obvious gap between our experience of life and what we hope the ideal life would be like. Heaven to come, and the life we experience now. This difference has been described as the presence of sin. You have read this far, so take a moment longer while I explore this technical term. I’m not going to try for a definition, but in order to better understand this, both intellectually and emotionally, here is a medieval thought experiment.

Imagine a person in Hell for committing one sin. A criminal in prison for one crime, or a person knotted up in their mind with regret for a mistake. Then contemplate the many things we have done wrong in thought word and deed, and in what we have failed to do. As your awareness increases, remember that this what you have been set free from. The purpose of the experiment is not to beat yourself up, or wrap yourself in guilt – rather it is to remind you of the value of forgiveness and freedom.

As an artist, in the course of folding angels, and teaching others to do so I have discovered that this is helping me examine my life through the frustration involved in creating. This is less about personal guilt and more about the creative process. The canopy of Angels bulges, pregnant with the potential of creation – but in any birth there is a messy time of frustration. (here is a passage you may not have connected with childbirth before)

There is an obvious gap between a sheet of paper and a folded angel. If you want the angel you need to fold some paper. As you fold you become aware of the gap there is between where you are now and where you want to be. If you are teaching someone, especially with reduced physical contact to to Covid, then you become aware of the desire to reach over and just fix it for them.

You knew how to do this last week! how can you have forgotten… How can I make this symmetrical? … I can’t do this! … crafts are not my thing …

When you fold, fold the feelings and prayers you have for people into the paper. If learning the origami and following the instructions fristrates you in this simple task, let that become awareness of the feelings we all experience in the complicated task of living well. When you teach allow your awareness of your frustration, and desire to make things right, to help you imagine God’s desire to make things right. Let yourself imagine and feel the frustration in creating humans who can find their own way, rather than just being playthings.

If it all gets too much, rest. Humans are far more precious to God than paper Angels, and yet all of these are numbered and identifiable in the level of detail at which God is creating. Let yourself become aware of the experience of God carrying you when you can’t walk. Or sitting with you if you don’t even have the energy to be moved. You have a hotline to heaven.

As the motley crew of folded angels spread along the net in the roof of the St Johns building many small moments are becoming a rainbow of colour. The thoughts, frustrations, hopes and prayers of many people with different political views, metaphysical beliefs, and approaches to spirituality are combining to make something memorable.

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