Early morning on New Year’s day and all was very quiet except I saw a guy painting his wall. He had already done three sections so he must have been up and busy at first light. (I mention in passing that I was going for a little jog.) I wondered if he’d made a new year’s resolution or whether he was simply getting on with a job (as I was with my little run – nothing amazingly impressive really). Then I thought a bit about sacraments. As I remember from my early anglican days, a sacrament is ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward, invisble grace’. The implication is that the inner is very much more important than the outer. The outer is just the sign of the important thing that has happened within. I didn’t stop to talk to the guy doing his painting and I have no idea as to the motivation behind his painting. I could only see the ‘outward and visible sign’.
I like the idea that our homes are a kind of sacrament and that they are outward and visible signs of the myriad graces of connection and blessing that have happened inwardly. It therefore matters less how a home looks than whether it is an outward and visible sign to those who live in the home of what is important and valuable to them. The problem comes when we believe that the ‘outward and visible sign’ is all that matters, or indeed all that is, and we are disconnected from the inward and spiritual grace. This is not to say that the outward signs are unimportant; sometimes the outer signs can remind us of the inward and invisible grace.
So, our homes are very good places for working from the inside out and from the outside in, so that we can create wonderful sacraments. All strength to the arm of the man who is probably still busy painting his wall as I write. I hope for him and for all of us that the grace of new, fresh resolutions will find expression in outward and visble signs through this new year.