Getting it all together

“In him (Christ) all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

If we look in our list of Facebook friends or email address books, we find names curiously juxtaposed by alphabetical order, people sitting side-by-side in our lists who know nothing of each other and who would have perhaps very little in common with one another if they were ever to meet in person. What holds together all these different people? It is the relatedness of each of them to us who have compiled the list in which their names appear that gives coherence to the whole.

Our children and young people move from lesson to lesson through the school day, from mathematics to art to history to language to physical education. It is very important that they learn to see the differentiated aspects of reality, that they learn to analyse. But where do they learn to see the whole as well as the parts, to synthesise the different curriculum subjects together into a larger whole? We have become fairly expert at thinking the world apart but when do we think it together again?

The Colossians passage from which the above quotation comes says that everything was made by Christ and for him and that, in him, everything holds together. It is the relatedness of everything to him as its Creator, Maintainer and Goal that gives coherence to the whole. This is not some mere god-of-the-gaps in our present scientific knowledge but the Lord of the Universe who is above and behind everything that is.

How can we help to show this in the classroom? Parker Palmer writes, “Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.”[1] We can look for opportunities to make links across the curriculum, to look at a topic from a range of subject perspectives, to relate to those we teach as whole people but, perhaps most importantly of all, we can show it by living lives that have a wholeness that comes from Christ.

Living Lord in whom all things hold together, help us to show this connectedness in our relationships, our teaching and our whole lives. Amen.

[1] Parker J Palmer, The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), p. 11.


“This is my Father’s world”

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1

“This is my Father’s world,

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear him pass;

He speaks to me everywhere.”

These lines are from a hymn penned by Maltbie Babcock in upstate New York over a century ago. It is said that when going out for a walk to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Niagara Escarpment area where he worked as a church minister, he would say to his wife, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world”.

We tend to associate such thoughts with the awesome beauty of the natural world but does not our Father’s world also include the world of human beings and their creations? City streets as much as rural pathways, factories and offices as much as hamlets and farms, suburban housing estates as much as mountain moorlands? Our Father ‘shines in all that’s fair’ wherever we find ourselves in his world.

Another hymn-writer, Fred Kaan, captures something of this in his ‘Sing We of the Modern City’:

“In the city full of people, world of speed and hectic days,
In the ever-changing setting of the latest trend and craze,
Christ is present, and among us; In the crowd we see Him stand.
In the bustle of the city, Jesus Christ is every man.”

Yes, the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. This verse from Psalm 24 does not say that the earth was the Lord’s or that, some golden daybreak, the earth will be the Lord’s! It says that the earth is His.

And what of you and me in the classroom? We are not simply teaching curriculum subjects to our children and young people. We are opening windows on God’s wonderful world and looking through them with those whom we teach, drawing attention to this feature and that. Let us think to ourselves and help them to think to themselves, as Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong put it in those gravelly tones of his, “what a wonderful world!”. It is truly my Father’s world and he truly shines in all that’s fair!

Help us, Lord, to see both on mountain-top and in city-street that you are present and among us and help us to help those with whom we teach and learn to do so with us. Amen.