Friday, July 3, 2020

3 July 2020 | The whole picture

Before we moved here, I used to have the spare room in our previous manse as what I called ‘the jigsaw room’, to enable me always to have a jigsaw out. In our present manse, both Philip and I needed a study, so there was no natural ‘jigsaw room’. I hadn’t done a puzzle for ages... until lockdown. I got out a Gopak table, and set about doing a jigsaw. I have now completed six, some of them very complex. I particularly like art jigsaws and thought I would complete a 250 piece jigsaw of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in no time at all. I was used to 1,000 pieces, so 250 pieces should have been a doddle. How wrong I was! It was very complex! But at least it helped me (with a magnifying glass) to look at the amazing detail of the frescos Michelangelo painted.

I think doing a jigsaw is very therapeutic – most of all because you have all the pieces in different places, and have to create order out of chaos. You also see how colours go together, as you need different shading of colours to bring out the whole picture. To have enough control to bring order out of at least something has helped me in lockdown!

The loss of the usual order of things certainly caused difficulties in this time. Some children found it difficult to piece together why they have not been able to hug granny, or to go to school, or do their sports or usual activities - and they have been suffering. Other much older folk, have been struggling because there are no longer the range of activities to make their lives more colourful. Life has been more fragmented, with each of us in our own little bubble of existence. And in which order do you put the pieces when you have to work, volunteer, care, clean, cook and keep yourself or family entertained or learning?

We have been more concerned for vulnerable people over this period, and I found one useful description of what having dementia is like. It was said dementia was like having a jigsaw with all the pieces in front of you, and sometimes you can put manage to put a few pieces together, but the thing you can’t do is fit the groups of pieces together in the right order to make the complete picture.

To bring order, we have to fit the different parts together in a useful sequence. I was reminded, watching a TV feature about the difficulties of acting and filming, that when making a film, even in normal times, different scenes are filmed out of sequence – for example all the scenes that take place in a particular location are shot together, regardless of where they come in the storyline of the film. So the actors will have no idea of how the work looks from beginning to end, until it is pieced together at the end.

To remember this is useful when we read the Bible. We have to understand for example, that the gospels are not produced as a biography of Jesus from beginning to end, with significant dates for events in sequence. Mark starts his gospel with the words: The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God … so we know its purpose is first and foremost to impart good news and to show us how Jesus is the uniquely special person who reveals God to us, and the gospel writer pieces together those stories he feels best demonstrate this. Mark does not include any birth narratives for his record of important things to showcase the good news. Matthew and Luke do, but from different perspectives and people. The stories of Jesus were first of all oral stories that were passed by word of mouth from the first witnesses to the following generations. They only began to be set down at least thirty years later when the records of the time needed to be captured in writing to preserve the traditions for even more distant generations.

So the gospel writers pieced together the stories of Jesus to make a relevant picture for their Christian communities. These pictures have communal features, but are also distinctive for the people working with them. You engage with what attracts your interest – in the same way I might find art jigsaws or posters or something with a theme like ‘covers of Ladybird books’ capture my attention – while I don’t engage so well with ‘Wasgijs’ or scenery.

Distinctive pictures then, but what about the importance of each individual piece? When doing any jigsaw you don’t want to lose a jigsaw piece and leave a gaping hole. There is nothing worse than doing a jigsaw and finding a piece missing, searching high and low in boxes or under chairs to see where it has gone! With each gospel, as with any particular jigsaw, each of the pieces can be taken and looked at individually, but seeing how they fit together helps understand more about our faith. At church on Sundays we may take a fragment of one gospel writer’s presentation and think about it, but we always have to bear in mind the wider picture it is a part of. What are we being shown about Jesus?

And what about us today? A jigsaw can be put together and taken apart lots of times by different groups of people, of different ages. It can be used across the generations. We need to discover anew how Jesus brings order out from the chaos of things that happen, and encourages and enables us to put back together our fragmented lives in a way that makes us whole. Allowing Jesus to guide us in piecing together things we have learnt and discovered in this time of Covid-19 will be vital as we emerge from lockdown and from our own separate groupings of pieces – otherwise known as ‘bubbles’!

"Mummy, why are we in this bubble?" 
© Philip Richter


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