Accepting Equality

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We have just celebrated Easter Sunday, for many that would have mainly been about lots of chocolate and family gatherings. But for those in the Church it was about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, and what that means. What does it mean? New Life in Jesus for ALL, not just the chosen people but for ALL.

We live in a society which can feel both completely integrated but also completely separated, there seem to be so many groups of people but we are also one. Over the next term our overriding theme is “Accepting difference; Celebrating diversity”, we are going to be looking at the equality act of 2010 and each week looking in more detail at some of the protected characteristics.

What does it mean to be equal? For so many it means to be treated exactly the same, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Equality is about ensuring that all people have the same opportunity to achieve and participate. A bit of a silly example is that most of our wedding photos are taken sitting down, why is this the case? It is purely because my husband is 6ft7 and I’m only about 5ft2 so by sitting down we are at a similar level. In work places some people need to be given additional support to be able to complete the same job as someone else.

This does not mean that everybody is going to be able to be successful in everything, after all we all have different skills. My husband is very good at reaching top shelves, whereas I find it easier to bend down and reach things on the floor. However everybody should be given opportunities, and should not be treated differently because of a characteristic about them, whether that is race, gender, disability, sexuality, age, religion, or something else.

Our thought for the week comes from Frances Wright who says:

“Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without equality”

For freedom we need equality, because without equality some people will be penalised and held back. At Easter we celebrated Jesus dying and rising so that we ALL can have freedom after all, as it says in Romans 2:11 “For God does not show Favourtism”

 Challenge: Can you think of examples where equality isn’t shown in your every day life? Is there any way that you can challenge that?

Prayer: Father God, we thank you for Jesus dying on the cross and rising to new life, so that we too may have a new life. Thank you that you do not show favouritism and help us to show that in our lives as a reflection of you. Amen

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Making a new thing

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I’ve always been someone who has been a bit scared of trying new things, I like a routine and I like to know what I’m doing. It probably surprised a number of people when I chose to come to Canterbury for university as it was so far away from the homeland. I think it is also probably linked to my growing up and the routine that there was in the house – I would know what I was having for dinner dependent on the day of the week! BUT… I have got better as I have got older and have been more willing to try things out – normally only if I knew someone else who was already doing it though!

YET new is what Christianity and Easter is all about. The new life that we have been given through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

As I was searching for Videos for the week I found myself inundated by people saying ‘leave the past behind’ and I was getting VERY confused. Especially as my Sixth form pupils have been looking so much at how our past moulds who we are, so surely it is important, we learn from our past. SO surely we shouldn’t leave it behind but then I looked at the Bible verse for the week which is from Isaiah 43:16-18 and says

“This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

Isaiah is saying don’t DWELL on the past, and that is a very big difference to leaving the past behind. He talks about Moses leading people out of Egypt, there was no time to plan, but God was there and he provided what was needed. When we remember times like that we can be reminded that God has got our back in the highs and the lows.

Remembering those events will encourage us, but we do not need to dwell on them because if we dwell we will struggle to move forward and to enjoy the new that God has and will continue to provide for us. Trying new things and making new things doesn’t have to be madcap and risky all the time, it just has to be willing to move forward rather than standing still or looking back.

Challenge: Are there things in your past that you dwell on that you need to leave in the past to help you move forward?

Prayer: Thank you father that you have given us new life and make all things new. Help us to embrace that, so that we may move forward in you. Amen

 

Coming Together

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When you go on a journey do you prefer to go on your own or do you prefer to go with others? For me it depends, on my walk to work in the morning I prefer to be on my own with the thoughts of my head, but there are other times when it is much better to be travelling with someone else, or even a group of people.

During this month of Lent we have been considering our journey to get closer to God, so far looking at things we do on our own, and decisions we have to make for our own journeys to get closer to God. However we are reminded today that although we have to make our own decisions for the journey, it is so much easier if we make that journey as part of a collection of people – after all that is what the Church is – a collection of people who are followers of Christ.

During Jesus’ ministry as much as he spent time with disciples, and other larger groups of people, he too, would also go off on his own to spend time with the Father. The majority of his time, though, was spent with groups of people. Our thought for the week comes from Helen Keller this week who says “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – as a Church we can not only learn from each other as a community, but also make a difference to the world around us by working as the community of Christ.

Groups such as Street Pastors, Food Bank, Christian Aid etc are all Christian and making a huge difference in society. Like Jesus, we will need to spend time on our own, but we can make more of a difference if we work together.

Prayer: Father God thank you for sending your son as an example and providing the Church as a guidance and support for us all. Amen

Challenge: Who can be your support team that can help you to make a difference?

 

Repent

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Why do we get presents for our birthday?

There isn’t really a reason for it, it’s a celebration of us living, but we don’t actually do anything for it – there is no cost. If anything, it should be our parents receiving presents for us coming in to the world in the world and bringing us up in the first place, but it is us.

As Christians we believe the greatest gift we have received is the gift of Jesus, and especially the gift of Jesus dying on the cross. Because of this gift we are able to receive complete forgiveness for anything that we do, at no cost to us, and therefore our lives can be complete. A lot of people think that it is unfair that forgiveness is offered to ANYTHING, and think that there are some things that should, perhaps be unforgivable. BUT this is a bit of a misunderstanding, Billy Graham said

“The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance”

Yes anything can be forgiven but we have to repent, this isn’t a specific set of words that has to be said, but a recognition of something we have done wrong, an apology for our act and trying to change behaviour in the future. The prophet Isaiah said

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost

As this shows, God will provide all we need, with no cost at all… however… as with forgiveness… we have to go to God to be able to receive it. As with all gifts, they are of no use if you don’t show some willingness to receive them in the first place.

Challenge: Are there any things that you need to repent for, and make changes in your life?

Prayer: Thank you God for giving the greatest gift at no cost to us, help us to come to you to be able to receive it. Amen      

Imitating God

When you do an activity for the first time, how do you go about completing that activity? There is a chance that you will pay attention and watch someone else who is already completing it. That may be following someone, copying someone, acting like someone. Often, in order to do the activity you need to see someone else do it first.

We are called to imitate God in this life, but how do we do that? Our thought for the week comes from C. S. Lewis who says:

“Our imitation of God in this life…must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions”

Essentially we should read the Gospel stories, see how Jesus lived his life, and live in the same way: talking to people that others rejected; speaking to crowds; challenging the religious and political leaders.

We may struggle to follow Jesus himself but there may be other people who we can imitate, Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi saying:

“Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ”

The best way to imitate is to follow the example of others, and you never know, you may end up being the example that other people imitate.

God’s Generous Heart

Have you ever gone to a supermarket and decided that you don’t need a basket – afterall you’re only going in to get one item. You’re walking around, and see different things that ‘might’ be useful, but by the time you get to the one item you have gone in to get, the one item you NEED your arms are full and there’s no room for that one item – I know I’ve been there a number of times, rushing back for a basket to drop all the other items in so I can pick up the one thing I actually need.

This is how I see the thought for the week this week, that we get from Augustine – although I doubt he was thinking about supermarkets and shopping baskets! Augustine says

“God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them”

Rules; Rules; Rules; that’s the misconception that people have about God, when actually it’s all about giving. God has given us the gift of creation, the gift of His son, and the gift of a relationship with Him. This is as well as the gifts that He gives us every day. I guess the question is… do we notice them?

Every week at our Church we have a section of the service we call Moment of the Week, an opportunity to share the good things that have happened during our week and to thank God for them. These range from a favourite meal, a good day at school, to hearing from God, and answers to prayer. By having this time in the Service it reminds us to look out for the good that God is doing in the every day.

To get remotely close to God, or even to be able to enter the Sacred space you used to have make sacrifices, and follow certain rules BUT THEN the most generous gift of all… God came to earth in the person of Jesus, who was Crucified for us, and then raised from the dead so that all of humanity could be saved. There is no longer any need for us to go through any processes, but what is the use of a gift if you aren’t able to enjoy it?

God is generous beyond comparison, and gives us never ending love. By receiving the love of God, and recognising the sacrifice that Jesus made it can transform our lives, however, like in the supermarket, we have to empty our hearts of all the other stuff, and focus on the thing we need to be able to receive the love.

Challenge: What is filling up your heart, and stopping you from receiving God’s generous love?

Prayer: Thank you God that you are a generous God, help us to be open to your generosity, and to share that with others. Amen

Return to Me

I always remember our family holidays and being amazed that my mum would always know where we were driving, even though we didn’t live there. I also remember many guide DofE walks we did and got lost on. I have just got back from a few days in Birmingham and just before we left I saw my mum planning a journey that she was about to take to Leicester (from Birmingham) – I know now that this is how she used to spend the evenings in the tent when we were younger after my brother and I had gone to bed!

How many journeys have you been on? How many times have you got lost? When you’ve got lost have you ended up in the correct place eventually?

We are about to start the season of Lent, a season of the Church calendar that leads up to Easter and that the Church of England this year are referring to as a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage being a religious journey, with the aim of developing faith and growing closer to God. We too will be using this term to journey to God, learning about God and our relationship with Him.

At Easter we celebrate Jesus dying on the cross so that we can be in relationship with him, however that journey is going to be different for different people, and as our thought for the week from Max Lucado says

“God never said the journey would be easy, but He did say the arrival would be worthwhile.”

We can’t get where we want to go unless we go on a journey, we can’t go on a journey unless we make a start. Lent gives us the opportunity to think about where we want to go, what we might need to do to start the journey to reach our destination and to actually make that start. As long as we are ready for the journey to not be exactly what we want or expect then it’s an exciting adventure we are called to be part of, which will help us return to God who is calling us!

I pray that you enjoy your journey this Lent… no matter where it takes you! AMEN

Feel free to share your Lent experiences by emailing hnetherton@archbishops.kent.sch.uk