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

Love of God

As a child our family would go camping, and I would often join my dads cub pack when they went camping as well. One thing you really come to appreciate when camping is light. Whether that is as a family gathered around trying to play a board game, or to guide you to the toilet block! It’s also the light that tells you when it’s time to stop playing French cricket and head back in to the tent.

Light is the first thing created. Stars have been used since the beginning of time to help people find the way. We even find following a star in the nativity story as it guides the Magi to Jesus.

Light is a powerful thing and Serena Roy says that God’s love is the light in our lives. She says

“It is God’s love that lights our path and kindles our desires to encourage and help one another along the way”

Over the summer I have been reading a book exploring different world religions, and within them all there is this element of there being a divine that brings light and guidance. Within Christianity there is the belief that God was before all things, and that through God all things came in to being. Why? Because of love. Everything, therefore reflects His love.

It’s not like that streaming light from the sky that is depicted in paintings, but in all things we can see God’s love if we choose to. When we see and experience God’s love, that then will have an impact on how we respond to others. If we saw that when we were camping someone didn’t have a torch, would we watch them struggle as they tried to find their way, or would we share our torch with them?

The idea of God’s love being in everything can be quite difficult, especially when things aren’t going too well. When Paul was writing to the Church in Rome he said

“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 can often look back and see how positive things have come out of horrible situations. We may not be able to see it at the time, and often question what is going on, but within Christianity there is a hope, a trust that God works for good in all. That too, can bring hope and light when surrounded by darkness.

What is the love of God? It is light in a world of darkness, will you let it ignite you?

Challenge: go through times of darkness both personal and in the world from the past year. What light can you see that has come out of them now?

Prayer: Father God, thank you that you are light, and because you created us, you bring light in to the world. Help us to seek that light in the darkness and to bring that light to others. Amen

What is love?

Over the entirety of this school year we are going to be looking at our school values: love, faith, perseverance, forgiveness, and service. Each term we will look at a different value in more depth, truly discovering what it means, and how we can apply it in our lives.

This term we are starting off with love.

In most other languages there are loads of different words for love, but in English we have… love. I love my mum; I love my husband; I love my friends; I love chocolate puddings. BUT I think we can safely say that each of those types of love is different. So what type of love are we talking about when we say that one of our school values is love?

In Greek the words is Agape, and it means a sacrificial love. In the first of Johns letters to the early Church he says

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Christians believe that Jesus gave his life on the cross so that we, all of us, may have new life – a life of relationship with God. Our challenge is to show that kind of love, giving up something of ours in order to help out other people. Mother Teresa said

“Love is a fruit in season at all times and in reach of every hand”

How many of you choose fruit if there is a sweet or chocolate or crisp packet nearby? We have to choose to act in a loving way, we’re not expecting everyone to give their lives up but there are other ways we can choose to sacrifice. It might mean walking to the other side of the school to carry something for someone who is struggling; spending time with someone who is upset rather than going and playing football; listening to a friend rather than looking at a screen; helping someone with their work; holding a door open even though it seems every one is walking through.

Loving acts are always available to us, do we choose to pick them?

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to like someone to be able to show love to them, and you shouldn’t expect anything in return.

Challenge: try to show a loving action each day this week

Prayer: Father God, thank you that we can see what love is through Jesus Christ; help us tone a glimmer of that love in our communities. Amen

Enter to Learn. Go forth to Serve

What places bring back particular memories for you? I know quite often when I’m travelling around Birmingham I will suddenly come out with stories from my childhood and my husband politely smiles and nods his head.

However places can bring bad memories, and possibly even bad habits as well. If we’ve had a bad experience somewhere, we might be reluctant to go back to that place again. We might think that every time we go there the same thing is going to happen.

Our thought for the week comes from Craig Sayer who says

“If I’ve learned anything through all of this, it’s that each and every day is a canvas waiting to be painted – an opportunity for love, for fun, for living, for learning”

We have the capacity to create the painting of our life, everything we have experienced is going to leave a mark, but we can turn it into whatever we want to. Last year may have been a great year at school, it may not have been so great, but we start a fresh with a new canvas, a new timetable and new opportunities.

Learning isn’t just about what happens in the classroom, life is full of learning, but we need to be open to that opportunity.

In the early church they didn’t have all the books, videos, blogs, resources that we have now, they had to learn from each other. Once Paul had converted to Christianity he spent his life learning about and following the example of Christ, and then telling other Churches about it. One of the striking things about Jesus is that he is known as a servant king, he was God on earth but he chose to serve other people. Paul followed that example and then told the Church in Philippi

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Our school motto is our theme for the week ‘Enter to Learn. Go forth to Serve’. Enter school each day ready to paint your new canvas, but don’t keep your learning to yourself, share it with others, serve others with your experiences.

Challenge: at the beginning of this school year what challenges are you going to set yourself for learning and for serving. Write these down and put them in a safe place.

Prayer: father God we thank you that you created us, and that you chose to come and serve us. Help us to take the opportunities that we have been given to develop ourselves and to serve others. Amen

Respect everyone

As we come to the end of the term, and the end of the year we consider what it means to respect EVERYONE, not just some people, or specific people but EVERYONE. Our thought for the week comes from Clyde Kluckhan who says

“Every human is like all other humans, some humans, and no other humans”

Over the last term we have looked at respect in terms of groups of people, and areas of our life, but respect is something that should be in all aspects of life and something that we should show to all people.

In an act of collective worship recently one of our guest speakers said that he didn’t tolerate people. At first this shocked me, because that is what our society talks about – being tolerant. But once he explained, and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with him. The idea of tolerance is allowing something to happen when you don’t like it. So if we’re tolerating people, then we are allowing them to exist when we don’t like them. We are putting up with people and things. That isn’t respect and that isn’t love.

This is not to say that we need to agree with everyone, or even like everyone, but liking is different to loving. Every single person is created by God and is loved by God, we should honour that by loving them as well. We are humans, we are going to disagree, but that doesn’t stop us from demonstrating love to all. Through love we will automatically be respecting, and if we can show love and respect then more people will want to follow that example.

Have a great summer

Respect your family

I have mentioned before that I am definitely a person of routine, I do the same thing every morning, and it completely throws me when I can’t do my routine! Routine helps us to feel safe and secure, so when something prevents us from completing that routine we get bit a bit shook up as the safety gets taken away.

When we experience something everyday we tend to take advantage of it, and we don’t necessarily realise the importance it has in our life until it’s gone. This is the case with family. Family comes in all shapes and sizes, and what each of us considers to be ‘normal family life’ is only ‘normal’ for us. I just assumed that what we did as family, when I was growing up, was normal but I’ve since found out it wasn’t at all. The big one being watching BBC as opposed to ITV! Over our 17 years of being together, I have come to understand what was normal for the husbands family, which, on the whole, was very different from what was normal for me.

Yes there is the shock that comes when you discover that what was normal for you is different to other people, but you also don’t necessarily realise that your family are the ones who are a constant in your life, a support system when things are tough and a cheerleading team when things are good. It’s also the family that are there when things are a little bit meh. Richard Bach says

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life”

Family definitely doesn’t necessarily mean blood but means respect and joy in each other. My brother and I always used to fight when we were younger, and he still drives me crazy to do this day, BUT I also know that he is proud of me, supports me, and has my back if I need him.

When we think about respecting our family we may automatically think about the biblical command of honouring your father and mother but Psalm 127 would suggest it’s the other way round as well it says

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.”

Our family is a blessing from God, whether that’s parents, children, siblings, step families etc…. it is all a blessing from God, a constant part of our routine that brings safety and security, and that we should give thanks for every day.

Challenge: how are our family part of our routine, and what do we bring to that family routine?

Prayer: thank you Father God that you demonstrate the importance of relationships and family. Help us to be grateful for our family, and make it a positive part of our every day lives that we don’t take for granted. Amen

Respect your education

Last week I was back home in Birmingham and my mum was watching family brain games, I carried on watching it when I got back to Canterbury. I’ve really enjoyed it as you saw families working together to try and play different games, and solve various types of puzzle. The families that did particularly well were the ones who communicated well, but also those who asked lots of questions of each other. The families all did lots of different activities at home together as family, outside of school and work life.

As we look at respecting your education our thought for the week comes from Helen Keller who said

“A well educated mind will always have more questions than answers”

I love this quote because it is encouraging us to develop our own knowledge, not just accepting what we are told but trying to find out more by asking questions. We wouldn’t have developed as a society if we didn’t ask questions to work out how we could improve things.

As children we probably asked the question Why? A lot, we seem to lose that sense of discovery as we grow up, but it’s important that we try to keep it going.

We don’t know much of Jesus childhood, but we know that he spent time in the temple asking questions and having discussions with the teachers of the law. As a teacher I encourage questions, and there have been numerous times when I’ve had to say that I don’t know the answer to the question. Jesus never had a go at people who asked him questions, but instead welcomed them as a way to develop their understanding of the faith.

We hear the word education and we think of school, but education comes in all aspects of our lives, and we should try to develop ourselves and not rely on others to give us facts. We have been created with the ability to question and we should do so.

Don’t be afraid to question, it’s an important skill that will aid us in our education and our development.