Christ alone… cornerstone

Yesterday I was at a conference at my church. There was a point where there were a few of us who started bringing our hands down, then raising our hands up. Sounds a bit odd… but we were essentially doing the actions to the song “the wise man built his house upon the rock”. This song is all based around the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The wise man built his house upon the rock, the foolish man built his house upon the sand. When the rains came down and the floods came up, the house on the sand came tumbling down and the house on the rock stood firm.

The illustration of buildings is used a lot in Christian teaching. This isn’t because all Christians are called to be architects or builders – in the practical and physical sense. Instead it is because we are constantly building our lives, and together we are building the Church.

The song we are looking at this week was new to the school last year but has become a firm favourite. Cornerstone. The chorus goes “Christ alone, cornerstone, weak made strong, in the saviours love. Through the storm, he is lord, Lord of all.

Another building metaphor. A metaphor, which has it’s origins in the Old Testament. The cornerstone is, perhaps not shockingly, the stone/brick which holds two walls together – in a corner! But more importantly it is the first stone that is laid. It is the one laid with most care, that all other bricks are based upon. If it is laid slightly on an angle, the entire building will always be on an angle.

Within Christianity we are taught the Jesus is that cornerstone. Not just Jesus the man, and the example that he set. But the basis of Christianity is what Jesus did at the end of his ministry. The first line of the song says “my hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus blood and righteousness”. Jesus blood, which was shed at his crucifixion.

Our Bible reading is from 1 Peter 2:4-10 where it talks about the believers being living stones. All of them being part of the Church, with Christ as the cornerstone.

In the majority of buildings we wouldn’t know which stone was the first stone, even though the rest of the building is built in relation to it. Similarly in the world people no longer see the physical person of Jesus anymore but they might see what has been built from it. The Church. Those who are weak are made strong, those who stand firm in a storm. When I started to think about this passage I was going to talk about my faith and how it has stayed there throughout numerous storms, because Christ is the cornerstone of my life. But actually, I don’t think that’s the point of this song. The reason why my faith hasn’t completely disappeared at times of difficulty is because my faith isn’t about me, it’s about what my faith makes me a part of, which is much bigger. I am part of a church family, but more importantly I am part of The Church which is all believers past and present.

A church which is built on a foundation of love and sacrifice. A Church which has hope when things seem hopeless because they believe that Jesus died on the cross in their place, and because he rose again, they can be free to be in relationship with God. A Church which, because they have that hope are able to bring hope to others. When people feel they are in a storm the Church offers love and hope through things such as Foodbank, hospices, support centres, and sometimes just being an ear to listen.

The Church is a powerful thing, with an awesome basis, but what do people see? The pretty little bits that people have added, or the solid building of people with Jesus’ blood and righteousness as the starting point?

What is at the cornerstone of your life?

Challenge: if people looked at you and your life what would they say is the centre/the basis of your life? Is that what you want people to see? How could you change it?

Prayer: father God we thank you that you came to earth inJesus giving us an example of love, and dying on the cross so that we may have new life in you. Thank you that this is our cornerstone. May we as your Church be a reflection of you. Amen


Bless the Lord, oh my soul

A couple of years ago I was babysitting for my friends 3 year old… we got on really well and always had a laugh… but on this occasion she had just started nursery and she was exhausted. For the entire time I was there she cried, and cried and cried. Originally she was hiding behind a curtain but I was able to get her to come and sit on the sofa with me, where she clung on to me tightly and continued to cry. As soon as her mum came home, a simple hug from her and everything was fine again.

Still, as an adult, when things are really tough I call my mum, or I jump on a train up to Birmingham to spend some time with her. I know that she isn’t going to make everything magically better, but just knowing that she is there and is listening, and still loves me is enough. Why? Because she has always been there for me, she has celebrated when I’ve done well, she has hugged when I have been upset, she has told me off when I needed it, and helped me to make things better, she has supported crazy ideas I’ve had, she has comforted when I’ve been sick. Always, no matter what, she has been there.

This week we continue to go through the hymns we sing as part of our worship at the school. I have always loved the songs written by Matt Redman, he seems to approach the song writing process realistically. He recognises that the Christian life is most definitely not all plain sailing, and yet, even in those dark times we still praise.

The song this week is called Bless the Lord, oh my soul… but it is also known as 10000 reasons. The line I chose as the thought for the week is from the chorus ‘sing like never before oh my soul, I’ll worship your Holy name’. The song is based on Psalm 103 which lists some of the reasons why we should praise God including… forgiving, healing, redeeming. There is the suggestion that it is indeed our soul, or as the psalmist says, our inmost being, that praises God, as that is the part that recognises who God is, and what God has done, and cannot help but praise Him for it.

The first verse says ‘the sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning. It’s time to sing your song again. Whatever may pass and whatever comes before me let me be singing when the evening comes.” As I said, there is no suggestion that life is going to be easy, but even when things are tough we should still recognise and praise God.

There will always be times when we don’t ‘like’ our parents or our teachers, we may just grunt at them, but even in those times we still recognise all that they have done for us. Similarly there are going to be days when we don’t understand things that are going on in our lives, or in the world, yet we still praise God because we have reason to. We believe that He created us and knows us, we believe he protects us, we believe he answers our prayers, we believe there will be some thing positive even if we can’t see it now. It may not be exuberant worship with hands waving, and dancing. There may be a lot of tears. But we still go to our Father in heaven because of our experience, and because we have reason. Well, 10000 reasons according to the song!

Challenge: what experience have you or others had of God to praise Him? Will these enable you to praise when things aren’t going well?

Prayer: father God we thank you for all that you have done for us and we pray that each day when we face the day, no matter what it holds we will be able to praise you. Amen

Be thou my vision

The thing I love about school life is the amount of fresh starts. We are at the ultimate of fresh starts now as we start the new school year, but each term we can start afresh and even each lesson. Quite often we say we’d like a fresh start we are possibly asking other people to forget things we may have done which we shouldn’t have, to clean the slate… however… there is no point in that fresh start if we don’t change the way we are doing things and change our attitude as well.

The first hymn that we are going to be looking at as part of our season of worship is Be thou my vision I told the pupils in full school worship on Friday that this was the hymn that me and my husband had at the end of our wedding ceremony, and it continues to be a favourite of mine. We often have it at the end of services that we have at school. Why? Because essentially it talks about our life being guided by God. It is a prayer asking that God be at the centre of our entire lives.

Be my vision; be all to me; be my best thought at day night, be my wisdom, always with me, my shield, my sword, my strong tower… the list goes on and on… but if I’m honest I’m just sitting here singing it feather writing the blog!

It is sometimes easy to think that God is limited to a building or a service and that we don’t have to think about him at any other time, and yet God is everywhere all the time and is a part of every aspect of our life, should we choose to let Him.

When I was looking at the scripture that this song is based on I was inundated with verses because this song is full of scriptural references but I actually chose Jeremiah 9:23-24 which may seem a bit odd on first reading, but I chose it because the passage is talking about the fact that we shouldn’t boast in what we’ve done but recognise God’s part in it and give him the glory for it. It’s been a great start back to term for me, and it would be easy to say that that’s because of my new awesome stationary and my amazing skills, but actually I should be thanking God for giving me the strength, the vision for the year ahead, and providing support around me.

Rend collective have produced a new version of this song entitled You are my vision which I like because it is a declaration – saying that God is at the centre of their lives. However, I think the original is good as a reminder that it is a prayer to be prayed to askGod to be the centre in all aspects.

Challenge: what is your vision for the year? Is God at the centre of that vision? How might it change if He were?

Prayer: Be thou my vision oh Lord of my heart, be all else but naught to me save that thou art. Be thou my best thought in the day or the night, both waking and sleeping presence my light. Amen

Why we worship

Welcome to a new academic year, I hope you had a great rest over the summer holidays with loads and loads of fun. This term we are going to be looking at a particular type of worship that we participate regularly in at Archbishop’s and that is sung worship. Each week we are going to look at a different hymn that is on our worship sheet, and look at the meaning behind the words that we are singing. But we are going to start off with a bit of an introduction as to why we worship in the first place.

A few years ago my husband and I were spending Christmas in Birmingham, with my parents. On Christmas Day we didn’t go to the church that I had always gone to and which my mum still goes to, instead we went to a church I’ve never been to. Why? Because at my mums church there weren’t going to be any hymns, and we couldn’t quite cope with a service on Christmas Day when we weren’t singing Hark the Herald or O come all ye faithful. For me and my mum singing was a necessary part of our Christmas celebrations.

Singing is by no means the only form of worship but it is one that most of us recognise as worship and will be our focus for this term. But why do we worship? Why do we sing?

Our thought for the week comes from Louie Guiglio who says “worship is giving God his breath back”. I love this quote. Essentially worship is acknowledging what God has given us and thanking Him for it. The book of Genesis tells us that God chose to create a good and beautiful world, he chose to create humans, he chose to breathe life in to us and for me that is something to be thankful for. The word worship means to give someone their worth, and that is what we are doing by joining together. God is worth us taking our time to stop and to focus on Him and to thank Him for all that he has done.

Songs have always been a route for people to express things others that they couldn’t necessarily say in person. How many of you remember the exact words that were spoken in an assembly or a speech from an MP? How many of you are able to sing at least a chorus from a song, any song? Musical worship is able to express what we couldn’t necessarily say for ourselves, the people who write it are writing truths about the God they worship, and are enabling those of us to sing those praises and declare those truths for ourselves.

For many people singing is a fundamental part of their worship. They may not agree on the type of worship they enjoy, but they agree that sung worship is necessary. It helps us to learn about God, it gives words when we can’t find any sufficient, and it brings together a collection of people. Singing is good for health and well being anyway, sung worship helps with our spiritual well being as well. So let’s sing

Challenge What is your favourite worship song? What spiritual truths are declared through that song? Is it based on the Bible?

Prayer Thank you God that you created the world we live, you created us and you breathed life in to us. Help us to give you your worth in our worship. Amen

What does the Bible say about thankfulness?

We have come to the end of the school year and the end of our theme of “what does the Bible say about…”. It therefore seems appropriate that our final theme of the year is “what does the Bible say about thankfulness?”. Our thought for the week comes from one of the greatest literary characters of all time and says

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold rather a lot of gratitude

A lot of the topics we have looked at this term haven’t necessarily had a huge amount answers, or advice, but have raised further questions, or have challenged the way we approach things. But this one is quite simple. What does the Bible say about thankfulness? It says you should be thankful!

I feel I have spoken a lot this year about recognising the good that is happening in our lives, trying to avoid the culture we live in of focussing on the negative, or focussing on what we want and need. The best way in which we can do that is to be thankful for what we have, and for what people have done. More so, is to thank those people who have helped to make those things happen.

Do you say thank you? One thing a few of our supply teachers have mentioned is that Archbishop’s is one of the few schools where pupils will say thank you when they leave the lesson. How amazing is that? It is so easy to fall in to the trap of not thanking people for what they do because ‘it’s their job’! It may their job, but they are still doing it. I always wondered why my mum waved at so many people in the car, or when she was crossing at Zebra crossings, until she told me that she was saying thank you. I will always say thank you when I’m getting off the bus, and feel slightly bad that I can’t say thank you to train driver! Yes… they are doing their job… but if they weren’t doing their job then I wouldn’t have got to place I needed to get to.

Thankfulness shows a recognition that someone has done something good for you or for others, it doesn’t have to be something that they didn’t have to do, it just has to be something good. Think about your day so far… how much of it have you done on your own? How much has been helped along by other people? Have you thanked them?

The bible verse linked with this theme is from 1 Chronicles 16 and it says “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever”. We are so good at complaining to God when things are going wrong, and asking God when they are things we need/want, yet how often do we thank God?

We have so much to be thankful for. Christians believe that God gave us life, that God created the world in which we live. Do we thank God for that? On Tuesday we will be celebrating the Eucharist together, the Eucharist is meal of thanksgiving. Reminding us that we are forgiven people because Jesus died on the cross and rose again. Being forgiven. Being free. Being able to be in relationship with God. Now that is something to be thankful for.

I’ve recently given out some gifts to say thank you to some people, and the response I often got was “you didn’t have to.” I may not have had to, but I wanted to. Thankfulness is one of the most amazing, affirming gifts we can each give. As Piglet noticed – he was only small but he had a great capacity for gratitude.

So… have a great summer… and thank you for reading this blog. See you on the 3rd September (the Sunday before we start back)!

Prayer: we thank you father that you chose to create this amazing world, and that you chose to create us to be in relationship with you. Thank you that you sent Jesus to become human on earth, to live among us, and to die in our place, that we may be forgiven and reunited with you. Thank you for being good and for loving us even when we don’t deserve it. Amen

Challenge: spend a day thanking people!

What does the Bible say about worldliness? 

When I was at school I can’t remember why but I was doing a project on TV advertisements. The project was based around what type of adverts were shown at different times of the day, and how those adverts differed in style. Not surprisingly those shown in breaks during children’s TV on a Saturday morning were for toys, and games. The adverts were brighter, faster moving, and clearly aimed at children.

We live in a consumer society, where the focus seems to be on whether we have the latest things, how could we possibly cope without them? They’ve changed TV adverts so that you still know what is being advertised even though you fast forward through them. Our computers and smart phones are inundated with adverts all the time, adverts which are tailored for us based on our age and gender, but especially on what we have looked at on the internet, and shopped for in the past. Things are suggested to us which we didn’t know that we needed, but suddenly we are not sure how we could live without them.

I have been informed that my phone is due for an upgrade in December, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my phone, but I’m already planning what phone I am going to get. We live in a consumer world.

We also live in a world where there are certain expectations of us, that we are supposed to follow a certain path. If we choose to go against the grain, and stand out from the crowd then we can be judged for that as well. As much as society goes on about accepting everyone and embracing those differences, how much does that actually happen? A lot of the time we get all of the consumer things so that we fit in with our friends.

Does it make us feel better when we have those things? Possibly. Momentarily. But then… there’s a new new thing which we need to get. As Phyllis Bottome says in our thought for the week

“The unfortunate thing about worldliness is that its rewards are rather less than its appetites”

What does the Bible say about worldliness? This is our theme for this week, and one which I think is especially important in today’s society. In the book of James it says that friendship with the world makes us an enemy of God, but also that God is a jealous God.

That seems quite harsh, so I’m going to quickly try and explain. A couple of weeks ago I gave a friend a birthday present, he said thank you and then just left it. Eventually I asked him if he was going to open it. Why did I care? I was quite chuffed and wanted to see his reaction. Another example I’ve been teaching for a long time now, I never get over how quickly a form group or a teaching group get over not having me as their teacher. There may be upset in July, but then suddenly in September that’s forgotten and they are getting on with their new teachers.

These are silly examples I know but I think it helps us to explain where God is coming from when it says we become an enemy and that he is jealous. As Christians we believe that God created us, that he knows everything about us, and yet we choose to be in relationship with what the world tells us we need, and tells us we should as opposed to being in relationship with God. It’s about the choices we make. Right back in the beginning Adam and Eve had everything they could have wanted, but they still went for the one thing they were told not to touch.

If we are choosing the world rather than God, and if this makes God jealous and us an enemy of God then why does he still want to be in relationship with us? James tells us that too… there’s always more grace. In the same way that I don’t ignore pupils who seem to have moved on from me, God doesn’t ignore those of us who seem to be in relationship with the world more than him. However, he does long for our relationship to be with him, after all, he made us and the world we live in.

None of this is to say we should avoid the world, after all we live in the world, we rely on a lot of these things. It does also say in the Bible that we are to be in the world but not of the world. However, we could think about what our priorities are. Three weekends ago I went on a retreat to a place with no mobile phone signal and the wifi wasn’t working. It was amazing, refreshing, and surprisingly freeing! Is our focus on the world, or is our focus on God? What is your priority?

Once again, I don’t really have any answers, mainly because this is a journey I am onat the moment, trying to make my focus God, in my every day. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Challenge: spend some time in quiet without any gadgets. Turn everything off. You may want to go for a walk. Turn your focus to God.

Prayer: father God, we thank you that you created us, that you know us, that you want to be in relationship with us. We are sorry that we sometimes turn away from you and get distracted by things in the world. Help us to turn back to you, for our desire to be to spend time with you rather than the things we own. Amen

What does the Bible say about preparing?

Last Wednesday I went to a course in London. I wasn’t sure what the weather was going to be, but it had been raining the night before. I packed my waterproof coat, but I also packed my flip flops. I packed the flip flops because I knew that if my shoes got wet they would be uncomfortable so I had something to change in to.

When I do the washing up at home I pile up everything in order. Glasses, mugs, bowls, plates, cutlery, pans. Then it’s much easier to just get on with it once I’ve started.

When I cook, I chop everything first, before I even put a pan on the hob. Then I know that I can just focus on the cooking.

My parents met through scouting, I grew up surrounding by cub and scout things, I was a brownie, then a guide. It is no surprise that I am very familiar with the scout and guide motto ‘be prepared’. When Baden-Powell wrote about what was meant by the motto he said that it had two parts. Firstly to be prepared in the mind which means to have disciplined yourself to be obedient to orders, and to have thought out any situations. Secondly to be prepared physically, meaning to make yourself physically strong and active. Both of these are to then enable you to be able to do the right thing at the right time.

The reason that I pile everything up in that order when I am washing up is because I still remember doing an interest badge at brownies, I think it was housekeeper or something, and I was stood that you always wash glasses first, as they are to most delicate, and pans last are they are usually the dirtiest and the most robust. It’s probably common sense, but I still remember being taught it.

To do the right thing at the right time. That’s quite a daunting prospect, but actually it’s about developing the necessary skills to be able to deal with situations.

To be prepared doesn’t mean that you necessarily know what your goal is and exactly how you are going to reach it, it is about building up a set of skills to help in any situation. You probably don’t think about this on a daily basis but one of the principle aims of school, in my opinion, is to prepare people for the big wide world. Not only does it teach core subjects such as maths, English, science, but it enables people to develop social skills, whether that’s through friendships, but also working with people who we don’t necessarily get on with. Skills such as accepting all people, team building, following rules – after all every work place has them. Opportunities to volunteer, and taking responsibility. Then at Archbishop’s we also have our motto of enter to learn, go forth to serve, and our values of love, service, faith, perseverance, and forgiveness.

The bible verse for this theme comes from Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 and it aka about enjoying everyday, enjoying your youth, knowing there will be darkness and knowing that there will be judgement.

 Being prepared is not just about packing your bag for school with the right equipment, or having a goal and doing everything you need to reach that goal. It is also about recognising that even if you are prepared things aren’t necessarily going to go smoothly. Scar recognised this in the lion king and his son be prepared. There were lines such as ‘a shining new era is tiptoing nearer’ but this is only going to come with hard work of ‘meticulous planning, tenacity spanning’. Scar also recognised that to get that final goal there has to be a certain sense of responsibility “of course quid pro quo, you’re expected, to take certain duties on board”.

You may have a certain goal in mind, of what you want to achieve, but it’s not just going to fall in to your lap. You have to take responsibility for it. In Christianity there is the belief of a reward of eternal life, but also of a day of judgement. Yes there are rewards but with rewards comes responsibility.

Benjamin Franklin said “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” this is both for specific events but also for life generally. Preparation may be boring but it is the groundwork we need to build on.

When I was in Brownies I enjoyed playing the games, singing the songs, spending time with friends, going on day trips, going camping, but the one thing I remember is to wash glasses first! It takes time to be prepared, but it leads to more enjoyment and less time in the future.

Challenge: what skills do you have that will help you to do the right thing in the right situation? Are there any skills that you think you need to develop?

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you provide people who help us develop the skills to be able to do the right thing in the right situation. Help us to listen to the advice given, and to take it on board, that we may be prepared for whatever comes up. Amen