King of Kings

11061716505_d0cd855dbc_zWhat would you do if the Queen suddenly turned up at your door? Would you invite her in? Would you kick stuff out of the way? Is your home suitable for the queen?

There has been a lot of outrage and discussion on social media over the weekend about Buckingham Palace, and the fact that it is going to be redecorated. I’m not going to get into the politics of that now, as I don’t want to offend anyone or cause upset. BUT… when we think of a King or Queen we probably automatically have an idea of the kind of place they will live in… A palace… A castle… Hundreds of rooms, filled with beautiful and historical artefacts. Afterall, they are in charge, they deserve to have the best.

As we continue to look at the idea of a King, and our King arriving in a few weeks time, we continue to question what kind of a King we are expecting.

Sunday 20th November was Christ the King Sunday, according to the liturgical calendar, so it felt only right this week to consider Jesus as the King of Kings. There is a story in Luke’s Gospel entitled ‘The Faith of the Centurion’. This is the story of a Roman Centurion, whose servant was sick and about to die. He had heard about Jesus, and sent servants to ask him to come.

A centurion was a Roman Leader, in charge of 100 soldiers. He knew what it was to be in charge, but even he, a leader, knew that he needed Jesus in this situation. He even said to Jesus “I am not worthy, but say the word and my servant will be healed”. Jesus wasn’t even within the same leadership, he was a Jew whilst the Centurion was a Roman, and still he went to him.

I think we all have a sense of self-importance at times, but actually the best leaders recognise they can’t do it on their own, but they need to seek help. This may be from others around them, it might be from God.

Our own Queen recognises that she cannot do her job alone, she says “In my first Christmas broadcast in 1952, I asked the people of the Commonwealth and Empire to pray for me as I prepared to dedicate myself to their service at my Coronation. I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness”. Jesus is the King of Kings and yet…

The thought for the week is a line from a song, and it says “King of Kings, Majesty, God of Heaven, living in me”. In a few weeks time we will be celebrating Jesus’ birth. God, becoming human, being born in a stable, living amongst ordinary people. Then… when he dies for us, and is risen, he returns to heaven, but God sends the spirit to live in us.

This God, who is King of Kings, who world leaders bow down to, is living in us. At the beginning I asked you what you would do if the Queen turned up to your house. The thing is God is living in each and everyone of us. Not with us, but in us, our bodies are a temple. When you put it like that it is quite daunting and makes me stop and think.

When people look at me do they think that God is within me?

Prayer: Thank you God that you chose to come and live amongst us, and that you continue to do so. Thank you for those world leaders who do recognise you, and walk hand in hand with you whilst they rule. We pray that we may recognise your reign in us, and reflect that to the world around us?

Challenge: How can you show that Christ is living in you? How can you welcome Christ as King?

King of Compassion

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I love the Lion King, to be fair I love most Disney movies, but the Lion King is a particular favourite. A few years ago I got to see the performance at the theatre – oh my goodness – it was amazing! Anywho, I digress. At the beginning of the film Simba is out with his dad, who is trying to explain the importance of being a king. Simba, being a typical child, wasn’t really paying much attention. Simba then goes out with his friend Nala and sings the song “I just can’t wait to be king”. Some of the lines include

“I’m going to be a mighty king, so enemies beware… I’m going to be the mane event like no king was before, I’m brushing up, on looking down, I’m working on my roar… oh iI just can’t wait to be king… no one saying do this… no one saying be there… no one stop that… no one saying see here… free to run around all day, free to do it all my way”

Sorry I got slightly distracted! Simba had a very interesting idea of what being a king was going to be like. If you were going to be king or queen, would you expect to be in  your palace being served or would you expect to be out with the lowly folk? What Simba’s dad had been trying to explain to him was that his role as king was to understand the importance of all the animals, including the ones he ate. The Ida that every animal had a role to play in the circle of life – I’d better stop talking abut the lion king now, I just keep going into song!

We often have this idea of a king being someone who is high and mighty, but also acts in that way as well. But this week we are looking at Jesus being a King of Compassion. That really isn’t a word that we would normally associate with a king, and yet it is what God throughout time has shown, and, especially what Jesus showed when he was man on earth.

Psalm 145:8 says “the Lord  is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and abounding in love”. First of all, when we talking about the Lord being gracious we mean that God gives us things that we don’t deserve, because he wants to. The world didn’t need to be created so beautifully, and yet it was… the Lord didn’t have to give the people in the Old Testament opportunities time after time when they went against him, and yet he did… the Lord didn’t have to come to earth as a human and die an agonising death in order that everyone’s sins may be forgiven, and yet he did. So there are plenty of examples of God showing grace but what about compassion?

To be compassionate means to show concern for others. This doesn’t just mean to recognise when people are struggling but also to act upon it as well. As we saw with graciousness  above, God didn’t just look over things, he did something about it. Jesus was the perfect example of compassion. He showed concern for others, and he did this by helping them. Speaking to those who were outcast by society, healing the sick, practically helping people out. This wasn’t done out of duty, out of wanting to look good as a king, but it was done purely out of love, which will lead to compassion.

After a long time away from the life he knew, being quite selfish and living life according to the two words “hakuna matata” Simba hears what is happening and returns home. He see what his uncles selfish desires have led to, and he tries to restore the circle of life. It would have been so easy for him to stay away, but he recognised his role as king. He couldn’t run away any more, he had to stop being selfish, he had to act.

We are faced with so many stories, everyday, of people who need our help. On Friday it will be children in need, which means a lot of videos which will inevitably end up in tears. It is impossible to help everyone, Jesus didn’t help everyone, but he did help some. Compassion doesn’t have to be anything grand, it can be a smile, a kind word, offering to carry something, lending someone a pen, telling someone older if you can see that someone is struggling but you can’t help practically yourself.. We all have something offer, we can all recognise when someone is struggling the question is what can you do? How can you show compassion in the way that Jesus did?

Prayer: thank you God that you are gracious and compassionate. Slow to anger and abounding in love. May we take your example, and try to show these qualities in our lives as well. Amen.

Challenge: think of one person or group of people that you are concerned about. How can you help them?

 

King of Sacrifice

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This week we continue to look forward to the coming of Jesus, as the king. This week, we are focusing on the idea of Jesus as the King of sacrifice.

On Friday it is Remembrance Day, a day where we remember all those who have given their lives in war, in order that we may have the freedom that we have today. The thought for the week is from John Maxwell Edmonds and it says

“When you go home tell them of us and say “for your tomorrow we gave our today””

What a powerful message, the greatest idea of sacrifice, giving a life for the lives of others. I have the discussion about war with many of my classes, talking about whether it is a good or a bad thing. I’m not sure anyone would any it is a good thing, but sometimes it is possible to see that it is a necessity. How can it be necessary? To stop atrocities that are happening in other places, where people’s human rights are being taken away from them. Things that we take for granted… education, food, freedom. The universal declaration of human rights came out as a result of the Second World War, in order that hopefully no humans would ever be treated in the same way that the Jews, and many other groups, were during the holocaust.

Christians believe that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, he had done nothing wrong, and yet he gave his life, in a most brutal way, in order that all may have a relationship with God, and that all may have eternal life.

Sacrifice… the idea of sacrifice in war, and the acrid ice of Jesus, are pretty big examples of sacrifice. It is very easy for us to think that there is no way we could ever give that kind of sacrifice. But we can take these examples to encourage us to sacrifice on a daily basis. Sharing your lunch because someone has forgotten theirs; stopping to check if someone is ok because they look upset, even if you are in a rush; offering to help carry something, even though it’s out of your way; some of your pocket money to buy a poppy.

Sacrifice doesn’t have to be an entire life, but it should have an impact on your life. You may only think about what you are giving up, but think about how what you are giving up is giving an element of life to someone else.

Prayer: Thank you God that you gave the perfect example of sacrifice in Jesus. Thank you for the people who have given their lives in order that we may have the life we know today. May we be willing to sacrifice things in our lives, to enhance the lives of others. Amen

Challenge: Think about what you can do this week that may ‘put you out’ but will benefit others.

King of Creation

I must apologise now as I am about to mention a word hitch brings excitement and dread, and probably shouldn’t be mentioned for a few more weeks but… as we approach Christmas, we are going to be considering the theme The king is coming. Jesus is often spoken about as a king, but not the kind of king we automatically think of. Over the next few weeks we are going to explore what we mean when we say Jesus is king, but also, how we can respond to that.

Our first idea is Jesus as King of creation. At university I studied Johns gospel, for those of you who have t read Johns Gospel I would recommend it, it is not like the other Gospels, there is a lot of symbolism and signs within it. It doesn’t start off with the traditional nativity story but talks about the word. We are told that in the beginning was the word, then skip forward a few sentences and the word became flesh and dwelt among us – John wrote it much better. The word is Jesus, Jesus has always existed. Jesus was there before time, with God, Jesus is God, Jesus then became flesh and came to earth, before returning to the father.

We don’t often associate Jesus with creation but he was there, he was a part of it, some have said that The father spoke the words, but Jesus was the words. Christians believe that God created the world, there may be disagreements about exactly how that happened, but there is the belief that God was there, and involved.

I don’t know about you, but I find that if someone has given me something that they have made, I am more likely to take much greater care of it, than if I just bought it from a shop. I don’t have children but I still have lots of pictures around my house drawn by children of friends or family. That is also the same with gifts that I have been given. I take more care of it.

However, I’m not sure my attitude to the world is the same? And yet, it was created… it was freely given… also God put humans in charge of it! I love this quote from Mary Angelou

“While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realise and remember that everyone else and everything else are also Gods creation”

It is very easy for us to think of ourselves as Gods creation, but it is sometimes more difficult to think about other things and especially other people as Gods creation. Mary Angelou says that we are obligated to remember it. That suggests it isn’t our choice whether we want to recognise God’s creation, but that we should.

How does that live out in our lives?

Simple things such as not dropping litter, but also picking up litter that others have dropped. Treating other people the way you expect to be treated – not just your friends, but everyone. Thinking about recycling, encouraging others to do so as well. Thinking about people across the world who do not have as much as you, how can you help them?

Jesus is the king of creation, but he’s handed the baton of responsibility to us. How are we going to use that? Are we just going to look at the baton and think at that’s nice, or are we going to run with it, and pass on a more hopeful race.

Prayer: thank you God for your gift of creation, we pray that we recognise it is a gift, and treat it as such. We pray that E don’t only think of ourselves as your creation but recognise your creation all around us. Amen

Challenge: look for Gods creation around you, look for things which are ruining that creation and ry to make a difference. E.g. Pick up litter, say hello to someone who looks lonely, think anything it how much you are recycling or wasting

Living life in THE WORLD

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This half term we have been looking at what means to be at Archbishop’s School, thinking about the values that we hold as a school. The values of Love, Faith, Forgiveness, Service and Perseverance. It’s great to think about how we show those values at school, but we don’t live there (even if it might feel like it at times).

In Mark’s Gospel, after Jesus has resurrected and spent more time with the disciples, he then says to them…

, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”

This must have been really daunting for the disciples. Afterall, they had spent 3 years with him, recieving teaching from him, watching first hand the example that he was setting for them. What an awesome privilege. He then was crucified, but returned. They must have been ecstatic (probably very confused as well) but overjoyed. Then he says he is going again. I can’t imagine. But before he goes, he tells them to go into ALL THE WORLD and PREACH THE GOSPEL. Not much of a task then!

AND YET… this instruction was given to 12 people, and now 2000 years later, we are reading about it, and talking about it!

This is known as the great comissioning and it is still our comissioning today.  It isn’t saying that we have to stand on street corners reading from the Bible – although some people do enjoy that. The best way to spread the good news, is to live the good news. That’s where our school values come. We’ve seen over the past weeks how each value is important on it’s own. But imagine if everyone lived lives of love, faith, perseverance, forgivenss, and service.

It’s easy to show those values in a school, where everybody is living those values, but what about when we get into the outside world, where people don’t think the same as we do? That’s where it becomes difficult. As we so often say, life isn’t meant to be easy but… we are not alone. Jesus may not physically be by our side, but the Holy Spirit is with us always.

Over the last few weeks we’ve had the privilege of hearing from a variety of charities and organisations that are putting these values into practice. On Friday, in our dedication service, a former pupil is going to be talking about how she, in her work, is following this comission of going out and telling others.

We are not all called to tell the whole world, but if we each tell/show a couple, then imagine what a difference we could make.

Archbishop’s is a small part of your life, but it is one you will remember. What are you going to take from it?

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you have given us good news to share. We pray that you give us the courage to share the good news with those we are incontact with. Amen.

Challenge: Think about the 5 values, which do you think you demonstrate easiest, which do you think you might need to work on – to show the world?

Living life in Perserverance

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I went to King Edward VI Handsworth School for girls in Birmingham, this was one of only a handful of grammar schools in Birmingham (it’s a very different system there).

I didn’t find school easy, I wasn’t one of the brightest, and would often find myself at the bottom of the class…struggling to understand…frustrated that everyone else seemed to ‘get it’ a lot quicker and easier than me. Yes, I played music, but I had to work hard at it, and still, there were others for who, it came a lot easier than me. I was so happy at school, I had awesome friends, who are still friends now, but when it came to work, I found myself frustrated and miffed a lot of the time.

Then, of course, there was the diagnosis of epilepsy aged 11. Not only was I trying to cope with secondary school, but also trying to deal with coping with seizures, trying out different medications, finding concentration difficult because I kept having absences, having prolonged periods of time off school.

After 7 years I left Handsworth with amazing experiences, the most awesome group of friends, GCSEs, A-levels, a place to study Religious Studies and music at university, and grades 8&6 in clarinet and piano. Not bad, considering how difficult I found it.

Every year there are prizes given at Handsworth, the majority of which are for academic excellence, or excellence in music, drama, sport etc… But there is also the Helen Bagnall (maiden name) prize for perseverance. In my first year of university I got a phone call from my dad, who said that he contacted the school, to see if he could donate a prize, in my name. So he did. This was his way of telling me how proud he was of the way I dealt with everything that life threw at me at school, but also to encourage other girls not to give up.

Why am I telling you all this? Our final value as a school is perseverance. All of the values are important, but I think this one is possibly the most difficult to master. The idea that when we face adversity, that we don’t give up. We need to keep trying.

I am a massive fan of friends, and I can remember what happens in most episodes, and the one that fits in here is ‘the one with the ultimate fighting champion’. One of the character’s boyfriends is a millionaire after he created a computer programme called Moss 865. He then decides he wants to be an ultimate fighting champion, so he has his first fight, and is pulverised within seconds. He then has a second fight and is left for dead. His girlfriend says something along the lines of ‘well you gave it a go, but now let’s stop’ to which Pete says ‘I’m not going to stop until I am the ultimate fighting champion, why do you think Moss 865 is called Moss 865? It’s because there were Moss1-864 which didn’t work”

This character knew about perseverance, he had a goal, he wasn’t going to give up, he learned from his mistakes. We never find out if he became the ultimate fighting champion, but we know that he was going to persevere.

When we get things wrong, when we struggle with things, it is so easy to just give up, but perseverance is about getting back up again, and giving it another go. We are not going to become experts at everything, but we can learn and develop from those adversities.

The parable linked with this value is the parable of the widow and the judge. Jesus told this parable to encourage his disciples to persevere in prayer. Essentially, we have a widow who keeps seeking justice from a judge, who keeps turning her away, until he eventually grants her what she was asking for, because she was so persistent. This isn’t to suggest that we will always get whatever we want, but that we should keep trying, because we never know what we might achieve.

I know I say this most weeks, but things aren’t going to be plain sailing for any of us, we are all going to come across problems, and they are all going to be different. We won’t all respond in the same way. What might be a problem for one person, may not be for someone else. That’s fine, that’s one of the joys of being human. The question is, how will you deal with it? Will you get knocked down and stay down? Or will you be like the lyrics of tubthumping, by chumbawumba “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you ain’t never gonna keep me down?’

I wouldn’t have got through school without some amazing teachers who would spend extra time with me; my friends who would help me to understand some of the difficult concepts in Philosophy, Theology, and Music; my epilepsy sister who helped me learn to deal with the illness; and of course my parents who supported me, tirelessly throughout. Perseverance isn’t something we should do on our own. Sometimes the only way we can persevere is by accepting that we are stuck, and asking people to help us.

Sometimes, it may take us longer to get back up than others, sometimes we will need more support to get up again than at other points, but the parable teaches us that we should keep persevering, both physically and in prayer, trusting that it is part of God’s plan for our lives.

Challenge: is there something that you tried once, but gave up quickly because it was difficult? Give it another go. (I’m going to find my guitar out again – and persevere with not being so good, and with the pain on my fingers – you can keep me accountable to it as well)

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you are with us in the good times, and the tough times. Help us not to give up, but to persevere in all aspects of our life as we learn and grow in you Amen.

Living Life in SERVICE

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The school’s motto is…

ENTER TO LEARN. GO FORTH TO SERVE.

Service has played a huge part in the life of the school, whether that is helping out each other on a daily basis, opening doors, carrying books, helping someone who is upset. But also in serving the larger community and the world as well. Just last week some of our sixthformers went to the hospital to act out scenarios for GP training; we also had a group of year 8 students putting on a cake sale to raise money for Macmillian Cancer care. We are a caring community.

However, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder what is it that I can give. If someone is asking for help, I think “well I couldn’t do that, so I’m going to look somewhere else, and hope that they don’t ask me directly”. We can think that we don’t have anything to offer, so we hide away.

The parable this week is the Parable of the Talents, where different servants are given different amounts of money to look after whilst their boss goes away. Two of them double the amount of money, whereas the one who is given the least, buries it and then gives it back.

I have just got back from a harvest service at church. Harvest is a time when we give thanks for the produce of the land, and often a time where we make donations to give to others who are more in need. I always get amazed at these services because you look at what you’ve bought and maybe think ‘that’s not much, what difference is it going to make?’ but then when everybody brings forward their gifts, there is an overwhelming amount.

We have all been given different gifts by God, some of us are good at writing; others telling jokes; running; music; art… I’m not going to list any more in case I offend somebody by not listing their talent! The question is, how can that skill benefit other people? The cake sale that took place on Friday, was organised by some girls in year 8, they would have done a great job by themselves, but they used their skills of organisation and persuasion to get a load of teachers to donate cakes as well. This meant that were able to raise more money. The cake sale would not have been beneficial if it didn’t have cakes, but it would have been even worse, of there weren’t people to buy the cakes as well.

Jesus came to serve and not to be served. This is the example we should follow. We may not be able to do everything, but we should ask the question, what skills do we have, and how can those skills be used to serve other people – that may just be a parent or a friend, it may be a larger group of people. A gift or talent is much better if it is used, rather than hidden. By using your gifts/talents you may even encourage others to use theirs.

Imagine what a difference the school could make, if everyone used their gifts to serve others. WOW!

Challenge: Make a list of all the things you are good at. How can those things be used to serve others?

Prayer: Father God, thank you for giving us all gifts and talents, help us to recognise those gifts and how we can use those to bless others. Amen