Faith gives strength and comfort

This week we remember those who have given their lives for the lives of others, for the freedom that we enjoy today. When they were called to do so, faith would have played a part. They must have had faith that they would succeed, that they would return. There will have been times when faith may have felt like the only thing they had. It may not have been faith in God, but as we have said before faith is having trust or confidence is something. That faith may have been faith in their leaders, or in their comrades, in peace, and for many it would have been faith in God.

How would a faith in God help? Because a faith in God often brings strength and comfort. There is no problem with questioning, and wondering, but within Christianity there is a belief that although there will be bad, there will also be good, and that God is walking along side us all of the way. Joel Osteen said:

“God is not going to stop every difficulty, every bad break, but He will give you the strength, the power, the grace to go through”

My Granny’s favourite poem was footprints, with the idea that God walks with us, but when there is only one set of footprints that is when God is carrying us.

In Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth he writes

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

This is what faith is for Christians and why it brings strength and comfort. To believe that God will only give us what we can bear, but he will even help us through that. We are never on our own, but can trust that He is holding our hand, or holding us in his hands, no matter what.

Sometimes though, we do need to make that decision to hand it over to God in the first place, and to be willing to put our faith in Him – accepting that there are things which are out of our control – believe me I know that is like the pot calling the kettle black – but we can try!

Challenge: Are there any difficulties that you are facing that you could hand over to God so that you receive strength and comfort?

Faith can move mountains

What is the greatest thing you’ve accomplished? How did you manage to accomplish it?

I am going to confess that I have been watching Masterchef Australia, it is a LONG series, but I do enjoy it! This morning I was catching up on the finals week. In the final one the contestants took her dessert up to the judges, they asked if she had done enough to win. She said something along the lines of ‘I love these flavours, I’m confident in this pudding, yes I’ve done enough’ to which the judges commented that the most important thing there is that she said ‘yes I’ve done enough’ not ‘I hope I’ve done enough’. She had faith in herself. She won.

Last week we looked at having faith as small as a mustard seed, but Jesus also spoke about how faith can move mountains. He says that when we ask for things in prayer, we should believe that we have received it… we should have faith.

I think for many people we may go to God in prayer, but won’t necessarily believe that it will happen. How can that change? It comes over time. In masterchef she started off hoping her food was good enough and ended up knowing it was. In prayer as we see God work in our lives, we will have more confidence when we go to Him with our prayers.

We also need to see the part that we play, it is a relationship with God, not a request service. Jesus recognised the part that He had to play in order for salvation to be achieved. Our thought for the week is anonymous but says…

“Faith can move mountains but don’t be surprised if God hands you a shovel”

We need to have faith that God can work in and through our lives, but we also need to listen out for what God wants us to do in order for that to happen.

Challenge … what mountains need to be moved in your life?

Prayer… father God we thank you that you work in our lives. Help us to have faith to come to you when there are mountains in our way. Help us to use the gifts you have given us to be able to move those mountains. Amen

Faith of a mustard seed

As we continue to look through our school values this term we will be exploring our value of faith.

Over the years I’ve had many a conversation with pupils who require absolute, categoric proof that God exists. I’ve tried to argue with them that categoric proof would almost defeat the point of God. God requires us to believe and to have faith. Faith is something that Jesus talks about numerous times in the Gospels, he talks about the disciples needing faith, and he refers to only needing faith as small as a mustard seed.

Why a mustard seed? A mustard is one of the smallest seeds known, and yet when it grows, it grows in to a tree, that is large enough to hold birds. I have been involved in the Church all of my life, I decided to believe in God when I was a teenager. I still have so many questions, I don’t understand how and why things happen, but I believe that there is a God who loves me, and who oversees it all. I don’t need to know it all, a small amount of faith is enough to carry me through the tough.

Our thought for the week comes from Jack Coe who says

““If you’ve got just a little bit of faith as a grain of mustard seed and begin to praise God – that faith will mount up, until fear won’t be able to stay in your heart””

In the same way that to be able to go for a walk you need to take a step, in order to fight the fear and the trouble of life you need faith, and it will grow and develop.

Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at different aspects of faith, including how faith can move mountains, how we need to have faith in ourselves, and also the faith of different people that celebrate during advent as people prepared for the saviour they had faith God was going to send them and who arrived in the person of Jesus that we celebrate at Advent.

I pray that over this next term you will take that mustard seed and see it grow.

Love one another

As we come to the end of our exploration of the value of Love we come to the one command that Jesus gave to his disciples. In the Old Testament there are hundreds of commands that are expected to be followed, and things that people have to do in order to make up for things that have been done wrong to restore their relationship with God. But Jesus gives a new command which john tells us:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The previous commands were given as a way of becoming closer, but then, when God came to earth in the person of Jesus we have the perfect example of humanity, the perfect example of love. Many people still think that Christianity is about following lots of rules, and then saying sorry when we break them. But actually Christianity is about being in relationship with God through Christ, and allowing that to change your life.

One comment I come across a lot in my job is ‘there’s no proof of God, I can’t see Him, therefore He isn’t real’ but then I am challenged by this statement made by Shane Claiborne who says

“No one has seen God, but as we love one another, God lives in us”

God is not a tangible being that we will see, but we can see God in the loving actions of others. If we think of the work of Foodbank, street pastors, the salvation army – these are just a handful of organisations that demonstrate the love of God. When my dad died in June, I was overwhelmed by the support the Church gave to my mum especially, but also to me.

In science we often don’t see the atoms mixing with each other, or the electrons colliding but we see the result. In Christianity we may not see God but we see the result of God being welcomed in to the lives of others.

Jesus commands us to love, not just those who are closest to us, but to love all. He never says it will be easy, but He will give us the strength to be able to do so.

Challenge: how can we show love at Archbishop’s school?

Prayer: father God thank you that you only give us one command, to love. Help us to receive your love that we may love other, and they will see you through us. Amen

Love is patient and kind

When I was a child we had 4 TV channels, that was it. You couldn’t record anything, you couldn’t skip intros or adverts. You watched what was scheduled or you turned the TV off. Now, you can stream things, watching entire box sets in one sitting. I rarely watch TV live, because I want to be able to forward through adverts. And often now as soon as the first episode has been shown you are informed that the entire series is available to download.

This is just one example of the culture of want that we live in. We expect things to be available when we want and need them.

Patience isn’t encouraged. I get asked a lot ‘what are we doing today?’ – shockingly I do intend on telling my groups the plan of action but not necessarily as soon as they’ve walked in the door, and having to say it 25 times.

Kindness is also becoming a lost art, and people seem to be shocked, overwhelmed or even suspicious when people do show kindness. After all why would someone just do a kind act?

Paul had spoken about love a lot to the early Church and in his letter to the Corinthians, a passage read out at many wedding ceremonies, he tells the Church the characteristics of Love saying

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

Patience and kindness are attributes of love. In today’s society they can often be seen as weaknesses, that someone is a push over, however Anupama Attri gives a very different perspective saying:

“Patience and kindness are powers not weaknesses”

How are they powers? Through patience we are taking time to explore the world around us, the people around us, that may strengthen us and strengthen others. In a world where everyone is in a rush, and where everything has to happen straight away, imagine how much someone will appreciate another being patient and spending time with them. There has been a lot of research looking in to the power of kindness, and how kindness breeds more kindness. If someone receives an act of kindness then they are more likely to be kind to someone else. People are encouraged to do a random act of kindness a day, but why does it have to be a big thing? Why does it have to be random? Why can’t it just be what people naturally do?

We have been exploring what love is, and although we have looked at the sacrificial love of God, the greatest gift to humanity, that may seem a bit out of our reach. But patience and kindness are still sacrifices, and are how we can demonstrate love in our lives.

To see what patience and kindness might look like, all we need to do is to look at the life of Jesus. There are times when you can see he could get frustrated with the questions of his disciples, or when they don’t seem to have understood what he’s been teaching them, but he doesn’t have a go at them, he will listen and will respond. He showed kindness to all people, even the Romans and one of the criminals next to him at his Crucifixion. God doesn’t expect us to be experts at patience and kindness, but he gives us the perfect example to follow.

Challenge: what is the effect of you sowing patience and kindness in your life?

Prayer:Father God we thank you that you demonstrated kindness and patience when you came to earth, help us to be a reflection of that in our lives. Amen

Fruit of Love

I’ve never been much good at identifying leaves. I think it’s fair to say I can only really recognise Oak and Maple leaves. When identifying trees my go to, is often to go with the fruit. A tree that has solid roots, will grow and will produce fruit, it is the fruit that identifies it and will often be of benefit to other people and animals (the squirrels eat a lot of the fruit in my mums garden). It is also the fruit that is then able to produce more trees and therefore more fruit.

Paul uses the metaphor of fruit when writing to the Church in Galatia. He talks about the fruit that comes from the Holy Spirit. These are the actions that will identify us as Christians, but also that will plant seeds to enable others to develop fruit as well. According to Paul these fruits are

“But the fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy and peace. It is being patient, kind and good. It is being faithful”

It’s quite a daunting list, but if we think about it in terms of fruit, then it becomes less daunting. After all, a tree doesn’t TRY to produce fruit, but the fruit is a result of having firm, strong roots, and receiving the light and rain it needs.

In the same way Paul wasn’t giving the Church a list of characteristics they should work on, but was telling them that if they planted their foundations in God, the belief of Jesus as the so of God, and the receiving of the Holy Spirit, then these would be the fruit of that faith. People would see that fruit, and would plant similar roots.

The first of the list of fruits of the Spirit is love, because it is often seen as the most important. This isn’t because there is a hierarchy as such, but because it is through love that the other fruits come. Russell D. Moore said

“…We love one another, serve one another, help one another, and in so doing we see how God has equipped us to do so”

This shows again the idea of not having to try to develop the characteristics, but to build the roots, and then we will love, serve, and help. When we reflect on these actions we will then see how God has grown in us, through us, and how God has enabled us to reflect Him and His love in our lives.

Challenge: what are the roots and fruits at school and at home and how can you help them to grow?

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you don’t tell us what we need to do, but that you allow us to grow and develop in you. Help us to plant firm roots, and to know how to nurture them that we may grow the fruit of your spirit. Amen

The Greatest Love

What is the greatest gift you’ve ever received?

I’m honestly not sure how I would answer that question. One of the most valuable and memorable gifts would be my piano. The word great is used a lot, but what does it mean? The dictionary definition was ‘considerably above average’ which I was a little disappointed by at first, as I didn’t feel it was sufficient, but then the more I thought about it, I guess it makes sense.

Over this term we are looking at what love means, and this week we are looking at the greatest love. We have considered all of the different types of love, the different ways we show love, but what is the greatest love? In the Gospel of John we are told

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

To sacrifice your life, to give up something special to you, for the benefit of others, that is the greatest love. God showed this love through the crucifixion of Jesus. Lisa Osteen-Comes tells us

“As we remember the great sacrifice that Christ made for us, let us be reminded of the love that God has for us”

That act of crucifixion wasn’t just Jesus giving up his life for his friends, but for ALL people. Christians believe that at creation God chose to create the world, and chose to create people. People were in relationship with him, but then they went against him and were separated. Through God choosing to become human in the man of Jesus, and choosing to give his life, it means that all humans have the possibility of new life in relationship with God.

Why did God make these choices? Because He is love. God is the greatest love, and that has been reflected in His relationship with humanity – even though humans keep making mistakes. He keeps giving us opportunities to build relationship, which was demonstrated in that ultimate act of Crucifixon.

The cross the Romans was a weapon of torture. For Christians it is a symbol of Love.

In answer to my question at the beginning

The greatest gift I’ve received is the cross.

Challenge: should people tell others about the greatest love of God or let them find out for themselves?

Prayer: thank you God that you chose to create us, that you chose to love us, and that you chose to keep giving us chances. Help us to know your love in our lives, and to share that love with others. amen