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The Cloths of Heaven

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From Jonathan Arnold, Chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford


Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.  W. B. Yeats

This beautiful poem by William Butler Yeats expresses the longings we have in dreams, whether for the love of someone else, an end to conflict and hatred, or for some kind of future fulfilment. Some people even talk about ‘living the dream’. I wonder, what your dream is? Perhaps for a warm and welcoming summer, a healing of a relationship, or for a better life in some way? There are two obvious problems with dreams. One is that they don’t come true and that we spend the whole of our lives waiting for the fulfilment of something that never happens, leading to disappointment. The other problem can be when they do come true, perhaps a little more easily than we thought, and that the prize wasn’t that worth having after all.


But at the end of the season of Lent and in the joy of the Easter celebrations, we find ourselves in the territory of dreams coming true – in fact we remember an historical event that is so amazing that even Jesus’s disciples would not have dreamed it could possibly happen – God overcomes death. For us in Lent, from a period when we may have spent time in spiritual reflection and in self-denial, perhaps dreaming of those luxuries that we have forsaken for the penitent season, we find that sin and death have been overcome by the love of God in Christ. It is in the light of this Easter message that we can begin to learn again that the story of Easter is not just an historical event, but that it continues to be a present reality as we learn to live within God’s love now. We need not live in the realm of past regrets or future longings but we can live in each moment as it comes, grateful for the blessings we have received and for the new kingdom of kindness and love ushered in by Jesus’s resurrection.


This season of Easter reminds us that each one of us is already complete, whole, unique, loved and cherished just as we are. Our happiness and fulfilment do not lie in the future at all, or indeed in the past. There is only now. Only in the present does God speak to us and call us to follow his will. Only in the immediate moment do we know that we are uniquely precious to the one who made us. Each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made and is, in every moment, making a unique contribution to this world. If you cannot perceive this then think of someone who loves you and try to imagine how they perceive you rather than how you perceive yourself. Think of how they admire you and forgive you your faults. Then imagine magnifying that love a million times and we may begin to glimpse the divine love that God has for us, which is only ever accessible in the present moment – now.
One way of recognising this and of reminding ourselves about the importance of the present moment, is to think of two things that have been a blessing for you in each day – just two things that you have been grateful for. It can be anything simple: sunshine, a flower, nice food, a kind word, a kiss, anything at all. For where is this kingdom of God? ‘The kingdom is within you’, says Christ. The assumption at the heart of the Gospel is that God’s hallowed and heavenly kingdom may dwell within us now, his will be done here and now, his kingdom come now.
So, what is our dream this spring? If you look with the grace of God and the eyes of your loving creator you may find that his love waits for you, within you, this Easter season.