I wonder what saying yes to God means to you?
It may have been a significant event – said once, and lived out ever since. It may have been a sequence of decisions, many still to be made; It may mean a loud confident cry, or reluctant resignation, there may have been a sense of freedom and liberation, or you have the scars to prove it. There may have been loss, or gain, laughter or tears, pain and sacrifice or gift and abundance.
For me, saying yes to God began with a pencil sharpener as I, aged 13 volunteered to sharpen pencils for the Sunday School and it still goes on as I wake up each day and be who God has called me to be, as best I can.
For Mary it was a very different story, beginning at about the same age, a vulnerable teenager visited by the divine and called to an extra-ordinary life. Her yes not only took courage, it always needed courage, and it embraced her completely in the redemptive work of God for all time.
Here Mary stands, her yes part of her being. Her stance a sign of her strength and determination and her body an expression of a life lived, like no other in the presence of God, the birth, life, death and resurrection of her son transforming her, the Holy Spirit leading her on.
The Walking Madonna seen here was the artist Elisabeth Frink’s only female figure. All her other sculptures are of men and when confronted with a commission for a woman Frink involuntarily sculpted her own face. The work could be construed as a metaphor for the artist’s life. Can we see something of ourselves in her?
Our yes to God, and to life expressed in the eyes, or the stance or the determination or the expression of life lived?
This is no conventional, modest Madonna lurking in the security of a Cathedral alcove. She strides with singleness of purpose oblivious to the distractions of those around her.
Dare we, walk away from what we have known? Is God asking us to do a new thing? Be courageous and go where he calls us?
There is integrity in this Mary’s gaze, a sense of purpose and iron strength in her gaunt figure. Her back is turned on the sanctuary and security of the cathedral. Instead she chooses to stride out into the town to meet the world full on.
Is God calling you to meet the world full on? To change it ? transform it? What message do you take with you?
Mary doesn’t always stand here alone, sometimes she holds the strangest of objects as they are placed into her hands and left there – a beer can, an umbrella, a rose, a tesco carrier bag. Symbols of humanity and divinity still are touched by her. What would she carry for you? Or may be, just maybe you want to put your hand in hers to be led by her, on your journey.
I wonder what saying yes to God means to you after this course?
You have some ideas, some skills, some experience…… and very soon you will walk away. Taking it with you, part of God’s story for this time in church history. Take strength from this statue…ponder it for a while in your own heart.
And remember these words: Be bold, be strong, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you, he will not fail you or forsake you.