Service: Mother Teresa

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A few weeks ago it was Christmas (do you remember or have you already forgotten?). Whether we agree or not, a focus for many people at Christmas is PRESENTS! This leads me to ask 2 questions What kind of present buyer are you?

This is rather smug but I do have to admit that I’m pretty good at buying presents – especially for people I know. I put a lot of thought and effort into it, thinking about what they enjoy, what’s going to be a bit different to other things they receive. Sometimes I focus on something that they need, other times what is going to make them smile. There have been a few times over the last few years where people have assumed that someone else has told me what to buy – because it is so perfect. For Christmas I was given a lot of toiletries, I thanked one of my friends who said she always gets something that is slightly luxurious and also that she would be happy to use herself. Often the presents which are the best are the ones which show thought and consideration. These are then the ones which are used and enjoyed the most.

My second question What kind of present opener are you? Last year we spent Christmas Day with friends who had a 3 year old daughter, she had loads of presents, and I mean LOADS. Our friends, her parents, decided that she was going to open them in stages, this meant that she could play with each of them, appreciate each of them, and not be too overwhelmed. I think Christmas presents were being opened for a couple of days.

A few years ago I was told off by my husband. I think it was on my birthday, because I literally just opened everything but didn’t really pay much attention to anything I’d been given. As the person who had bought me presents, he wanted to see my reaction and my appreciation.

The value we are looking at this week is service, so why on earth am I talking about presents?

There are two concepts that are key to a Christian understanding of the world. The sanctity of life and stewardship. These are often taught separately but are inherently linked.

The sanctity of life is the idea that all life is sacred, it is special, it is a gift from God. God didn’t have to make the world, but he did. God didn’t have to make humans, but he did. He didn’t have to make the world beautiful, but he did. He didn’t have to make humans unique, or give them free-will but he did. There are many arguments that suggest it is the beauty within the world, and within people that shows that there must be a greater, thoughtful, being behind it all.

If, as a Christian, we believe that life is a gift from God, that the world is a gift from God, then that is going to affect the way in which we respond to it. This is where stewardship comes in. Appreciating the gift we’ve been given and taking care of it, so that other people can benefit from it as well.

That’s  quite a humongous idea isn’t it? Thinking about our own life, and the entire world being a gift for us, and then for us to take care of it – WOW – it’s like being a toddler on Christmas Day.

But it doesn’t have to be daunting, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Like with my friends daughter it is far more beneficial to focus on one thing at time. The world is a big place, but we are just one tiny person. As that one tiny person we can make great amount of difference just where we are, and how we live our lives. This is service. It doesn’t have to be a huge act that everyone knows about, it is just about taking the gift we’ve been given, and using that to bless other people. The example of someone using service is Mother Teresa of Calcutta who has recently been made a saint. She said…

Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.

She lived in an area where people were living on the streets, rejected by society because of illnesses that they had, often which were no fault of their own. Mother Teresa saw all life as a gift from God, not just her own. She didn’t make any grand gestures, she spent time with them, and make them feel that they were worth something again. She recognised what she had been given, and she wanted to give back. She became famous for this, and could easily have let that go to her head, to direct others in what to do, go global, start an organisation, rally the governments. She didn’t, instead she stayed on the streets of Calcutta, and people came to her and followed her example. We can all do that each day. Imagine the difference it would make if all of us did!

God has given us a pretty awesome gift of life. How are we, going to respond to this gift? Are we just going to shrug and say ‘ah that’s nice’? Are we going to think oh my goodness that is so overwhelming I couldn’t possibly do anything with that or to help that? Or are we going to see that gift in the everyday, and respond by recognising that gift in other people, and helping them to recognise that gift too?

Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the gift of life, and the gift of creation. We thank you that it so beautiful and intricate and amazing. We pray that we will appreciate that gift look after it and help others to recognise that gift as well. Amen

Challenge: Each day try to find the gift of life in the everyday, and share that gift with others

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Faith: José Henriquez

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Have you ever been in a situation which has felt completely helpless, where you can’t see how you are going to get out of that situation? How have you responded to that situation?

This term we are going to return to look at the school’s values, but we are going to specifically look at people who have demonstrated those values. This week, we will be considering faith.

On 10th August 2010 there were 33 miners doing their job in Chile when the mine collapsed on top of them. The miners were still alive, but they were trapped, they couldn’t get out, 700 metres underground and they only had enough food to last a few days. If you were in that  situation what would you do? How would you respond?

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José Henriquez gathered that group of 33 together and he started to pray. This is what he says…

“That first day was catastrophic. It was terrible; very difficult for every one of us. First, we heard an explosion, and then rocks started falling. There was a cloud of dust that lasted for about three or four hours.
“We had no light; we had no water; we had nothing in those first few hours. We only had enough food for three days; there was a lot against us. But we organised ourselves and we began to pray.”

Was prayer your response to the question ‘what would you do if you were in that situation?’ Probably not. So why did José respond in that way? I imagine he felt there was nothing else that could be done, but he had faith that he could pray and that God would hear those prayers and respond to those prayers. He didn’t just pray on his own, he became the pastor for the group, and they prayed together.

After 69 days the rescue mission was completed and all 33 miners were rescued, none of whom had any long-lasting medical problems. There is no way that they could have known that they would survive that long but one man’s faith, gave faith and hope to the others.

What can we learn from Jose? We will often find ourselves in places where we think ‘this is impossible’ ‘there is no way out’ – it may be an actual physical trap, but it is more likely to be a task we are completing, a friendship issue, or feeling overwhelmed by everything going on. How do we respond? We can pray. Many would argue that prayer is pointless… so why do it? There have been many studies into the power of prayer for those who are ill. It has been found that those that pray are calmer in hospital, more ‘at peace’, they don’t necessarily get better miraculously but their time in hospital is less challenging.

Why is this? Whether they are praying on their own, or whether they ask others to pray for them, they are sharing the suffering that they are enduring. It is no longer something that they are going through in their own. José didn’t just go off to a corner of the mine and pray on his own, he encouraged the others to pray alongside him.

Prayer is an active way of demonstrating faith. Faith that we are not on our own, but that there is a greater being, watching over us, listening to us. José’s faith would have given a glimmer of hope to the others.

Sometimes a glimmer is all we need, after all the parable associated with this value is the parable of the mustard seed. The mustard seed being the smallest of all seeds, grows into an amazing tree able to hold up anything. In the mine José had that mustard seed of faith, eventually that was all that the 33 miners had, and it was that faith that kept them going.

But where does that faith come from? Romans 10:17 says “faith comes from hearing the message”. José probably knew the Bible reasonably well, had heard stories of God working in miraculous ways. I know when I’m in rubbish situations it is verses and experiences of God that I hold on to, even when I can’t see the way out at that time. The Binle is full of examples of people who lived by faith, and Hebrews 11 gives you a quick run down of a lot of them. By seeing these examples from the Bible, and hearing examples of José, it gives us the courage to respond in faith when we think we’re in trouble.  Luke 1:37 says “nothing is impossible with God” it doesn’t say everything is easy, just that everything is possible. Faith is tested, but that builds perseverance but that’s another value…

Prayer: father God, thank you for the faith of those before us, who we can learn from. May we know that no situation is impossible with you, and that when we think it is, we can have the strength to turn to you. Amen

Challenge: is there something you are struggling with at the moment? Can you hand it over to God? Is there someone you know is struggling? Can you offer to pray with them, for them, or find an example of someone who has gone through a similar situation to give them faith and a glimmer of hope.

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?