Advent: Faith of the shepherds

Do you find it easier to do things by yourself or if other people are doing them with you?

As we come to our final week looking at faith we see the collective faith of a group of people. The shepherds.

The shepherds were of course, the reason that so many of us have worn tea towels on our heads – or maybe that was just me!

The shepherds were just doing their job, out in the fields with their sheep. We see sheep and shepherds a lot in the Bible. Sheep are creatures who follow their master – their shepherd. These shepherds would have known their flock, and would be out in the mountainside with them in all weathers and at all times.

Suddenly, whilst they’re doing their job, an host of angels appear in the sky, praising God and then directing the shepherds to where the king had been born.

It must have been amazing, shocking, bewildering and yet, as a group of people….

They were unquestioning, they had faith that God was speaking to them through the angels, they had faith that a saviour was to be born, they had faith to follow the guidance, leave the field they knew and head to Bethlehem to see what the Lord had told them about.

Would we have responded in the same way?

Would we even have believed that an angel had appeared to us?

Henry B Eyring challenges us

“Angels, Shepherds and Wise Men sought and found peace from their faith in Jesus Christ, so will you. The Saviours birth is the gift that makes it possible for the Father to give us peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come”

What will your focus be this Christmas time? The presents or the peace of God which we can then present to others?

May you have a blessed Christmas and we’ll see you in 2020!

Advent: Faith of Mary

Self-image seems to be at height of society today. There are so many options that people have to show things of their life, and so much opportunity for people to comment.

How much do you think about the image that other people have of you?

Would you be willing to do something you knew was important with the knowledge that you would be judged by your friends, your family, the whole of society?

This is exactly what Mary did. She was a teenage girl, who was from a Jewish family, and who was pledged to be married. An angel appears to her and tells her that she will be made pregnant through the Holy Spirit, and the baby will be very special.

An unmarried woman who was pregnant, would not have been viewed well, she could easily have been denied by her family. In fact Joseph thought about it divorcing her quietly.

Mary had a decision to make, and her response was…

““I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”

Mary had followed the scriptures all of her life, she knew God, that is why she was chosen. However she had to show incredible faith in her response. As we know, faith is to have trust or confidence in something or someone. Mary must have had that faith in God. God had said that if she did this, she would be blessed. She had to have faith that God would fulfill His promise.

There are so many promises in the Bible, do we have faith that they will be fulfilled? Are we willing to go against what society says in the normal, to do something that God has asked us to do?

Mary wasn’t just a woman riding on a donkey, she made one of the biggest steps of faith that we see, she sets us a huge challenge – the question for us – are we willing to accept that challenge?

Advent: Faith of the Prophets

As we enter the season of advent we start to wait expectantly for the arrival of the King. Christmas can easily become something that we feel so familiar with that we forget, or pass over the stories of the individuals involved. Over the next three weeks we will continue to look at the value of faith, but specifically the faith of the people of the nativity.

This week the prophets. So often prophets are linked with bringing doom and gloom, messages of horrific anger. Whereas prophets, as messengers of God, as sharing what God wants for His people. They give hope, they give direction.

As we look back in to the Old Testament we can see so many prophecies speaking of a saviour coming, God sending someone to rescue his people, to bring people back to Him. People hearing that message at the time may well have been confused, especially if they didn’t see it happening straight away. However we can look back now and see that those prophecies were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.

The prophets must have had faith at the time to give those messages, especially as the message may not have been welcome by the public. We, too can now have faith that God will speak through people, and that those messages will be fulfilled. As it says in 2 Chronicles

“Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”

Faith that God will do good things

How many times have you thought… that’s just not fair! I cannot believe that that has happened to me?

This is probably something that many of us have thought, and it is often a reason that people may use to say they don’t believe in God. However, our theme for the week is about having faith to see God do good things. Nick Viyicic has no limbs and is a world travelling speaker he said

“Every time you think you’re being rejected God’s actually redirecting you to something better. Ask him to give you the strength to press forward”

Why has Nick become a world travelling speaker? I think it’s because of his own response to the difficulties that he has had to face. It cannot have been easy to grow up without any limbs, yet Nick has the attitude that no matter what is going on, God will use it and will give us the strength to move on in the situation.

Where does Nick get this attitude? Nick is a Christian and therefore has a faith in God, and will have known this teaching that Paul wrote in his letter to the Church in Rome…

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We aren’t punished by God, but God always works for good. If you think back to those ‘it’s not fair’ moments, are you then able to see some good that has come out of them? It’s very difficult to think that way in the situation, but we can see it when we look back. By having a faith in God, it is easier to have faith that good will come, or that we are part of good, even if we can’t see it at that moment.

Challenge: share examples with others of when seemingly bad things, have turned into good

Prayer: father God we thank you that you love us, that you work in our lives, and that you always work for good. Help us to have faith when we are in times of difficulty. Amen

Faith in yourself

Do you ever doubt yourself? I imagine there are probably times when we have doubted ourselves at some point. Mr Elliott told a story on Friday of how when he was in a music lesson when he was younger, he didn’t put his hand up even though he was certain he knew the answer. I know that I am someone who usually checks things with people rather than necessarily trusting in myself.

As we continue to look at the value of faith, and faith being the confidence in someone, this week we are considering having faith in ourselves. Jason Pockrandt said

“Anything is possible once you believe you are worthy of achieving it”

This is quite challenging, because we probably all limit ourselves. Why don’t we put our hands up in lessons? Because we are worried we’ve got the wrong answer, or because we’re worried what other people will think of us. We need to have confidence in ourselves, believe that we deserve to achieve it, and then we really do have a chance. Obviously other people help along the way by having confidence in us, and encouraging us, but we are the ones, ultimately who make the decisions that enable us to achieve things, or stop us from even trying.

Within Christianity there is a belief that God created us in His image, and that he has plans for us. A faith in God, helps to have faith in yourself. To see yourself through God’s eyes rather than the eyes of society, or your own eyes; trusting that it’s all part of the plan, and that no matter what happens it will result in good eventually. Well, that gives a lot of backing and support, and builds your confidence and trust in yourself. The 3rd Proverb supports this saying

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways submit to him,

and he will make your paths straight”

You are an amazing person created by an amazing God; you can achieve what you want to; the question is what is it that you want to achieve?

Challenge: take a bold step this week and try something you’ve thought isn’t possible for you

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you have created us in your image. Help us to see that and live our lives accordingly. Amen

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