Will you plant the seed for greatness?

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In the Gospel account this week we hear the parable of the Mustard Seed. In this story I can picture Jesus reaching down to pick up the tiny seed to bring His story to life and make it memorable for the people who were listening – surely He was simply doing what any great teacher would do to hold His audience and help them remember the moral of the story in a creative way.

What stands out to me is a really simple lesson about having trust, faith and belief in the power of potential. Jesus said that the mustard seed would grow into a great and strong tree and we are asked to spot this potential in those around us.

We are asked to help people to grow and flourish in their gifts, talents and faith. As teachers and educators we have the opportunity to build people up and help “find their greatness”.

As usual we are caught up in the euphoria of an England win at the World Cup. This is only the third time for the team to win the first match in history. This in turn leads us to jumping around in our sitting rooms and shouting at the TV! I listened earlier today on the radio to proud teachers speaking about the boys they had taught and what they’d given back as the “superstars” to the schools that they belonged to.

I really loved the Nike clip from the London 2012 Olympics challenging us to overcome our prejudices and see greatness as something all of us can achieve.

In the simplest way I believe that God makes us all great – the journey in life is discovering the depths of these gifts and talents and how we can use them in some way.

A few reflections for the week ahead;

  • How do we build people up to reach their potential rather thank knocking them down?
  • What can we do to inspire, support and nourish people to find their greatness?
  • How can we plant the seed of faith in our lives, and in those we meet, to allow it to grow into something great?

There is a great joy in spotting potential and seeing it flourish…  so let us all this week rejoice in planting the seed and having faith in God’s plan for us to fulfil all we have been given. We too can build people up to doing great things and making a real difference to the world we live in, this in itself gives great fulfilment. Enjoy the journey!

God bless.

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One Body

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Over the last two weeks we have been reflecting on the feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ) and a focus on the theme of division. In the Gospel account we hear of how Jesus was accused of having an “unclean spirit in him”. At the time of Jesus’ life there was a belief that physical suffering was due to sin or wrong-doing and often in the healing miracles of Jesus we hear about him saying “your sins have been forgiven”. But what does this mean today?

Jesus challenges us to show healing in our relationships and with God. We are called to help people become “whole again”. It may recognise that we have spiritual, physical and psychological needs and aspects to our personality, happiness and welfare. This is most highlighted to me when we think of the importance of us understanding and supporting those who face issues of mental illness, mental health and well-being.

On another level we sometimes face division in the world and feel overwhelmed by it but in reality we may need to look closer to home. We can find opportunities to heal our relationships personally and professionally even when it is challenging to do so. Taking the first step to mend a broken relationship is challenging but worth the risk and that first step.

If we are to be “one body” as a school, or Christian community, we need to invest time in ensuring we find ways to be people of faith. Living out faith in a meaningful way makes sense of Jesus’ challenge for us to live out faith in action.

So let us this week make a renewed promise to do this and accept the challenge to be the “body of Christ” in the world today and also create faith, justice and peace. A few questions worth considering…

  1. How can we offer love and forgiveness to those around us?
  2. What can we do to build unity and understanding in our relationships?
  3. How can we put Jesus at the centre of our lives and community?

I hope in the week ahead you get the opportunity to bring Christ back to the centre of our lives and also feel whole again.

God Bless.

Will you feel the force?

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I am very tempted to be lured into a full focus and reflection on religion, film and the media. Whether we talk about Yoda challenging Luke to “feel the force” or Neo breaking out of the Matrix…

There is however something amazing about the last few weeks of our journey in the Christian year. We celebrate two events in quick succession that challenge us to think about what it means to be a disciple in the modern world.

Firstly we mark Jesus’ Ascension – essentially following the resurrection we hear of His return to God with a few simple messages left for us. I believe two of these are prominent in my mind;

  • “Go and spread the Good News (Gospel) throughout the world.”
  • “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Maybe these are simple messages but living them out is where the challenge lies.

  • What does it truly mean to bear witness as a disciple in 2018?
  • How can we learn to love one another as Jesus or God loves us?

We need to take time to think about what the “good news” means for us. How can we express and live out our faith in a way that shines the light of Christ on each part of our lives and is witnessed those we meet, not in our words bit our actions. Even in our most cherished personal relationships it is difficult to keep on simply loving one another when things get tough so we need to work really hard to love all those we meet, even those who are strangers to us, in some way.

So where can we start?

This weekend we marked the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is often represented in powerful ways including the symbols of wind and fire, in some way uncontrollable forces to us. The story of Jesus’ disciples being inspired by the Holy Spirit and given the talents to preach His message is a great one for us. With God with us, the Holy Spirit beside us, we can achieve anything. People will hear and understand the message in a new and meaningful way.

So put simply my prayer is that we can set off on this journey of faith knowing that God inspires and guides us with the Holy Spirit. With this confidence and faith there is nothing we cannot achieve.

Let’s “feel the force” and be guided in all we do to commit to being disciples in any way we can, large or small.

God bless.

 

And finally for those in need for their Star Wars or Matrix fix I have included a few clips below!!

A challenge to love

 

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Last week the theme of the week was “fruitfulness” in which we were challenged to remember to bind ourselves to our faith and do good work – ironically I didn’t manage to write a reflection so wasn’t very fruitful in that department so will try and incorporate the reflections this week instead.

Sometimes we may feel it is really challenging to love as a friend, parent, husband or wife. It is not the media image of “Valentines love” or a goodnight scene from the Waltons in family life but actually rolling our sleeves up and getting our hands dirty. Loving is most challenging when we have to do difficult things, when we have to forgive or do really difficult things.

The message in the Gospel this week is really simple – “Love one another as I have loved you”. Jesus teaches and shows us what this really means in His words and his actions. You can see this in His teaching, healing and ultimately His sacrifice for us on the cross.

What can we do to live this out?

  • Show patience, love and forgiveness to those we meet.
  • Never give up on someone who needs your love and support.
  • Look for good in those around us rather than pointing out faults.
  • Try and be an example of love in the world in our personal lives or professionally

So in the week ahead when we are challenged by something or given an opportunity simply look to love someone as God loves us – if we can do this imagine how much better and “fruitful” life can be.

God bless.

Can we be good shepherds??

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In the current readings in the Gospel Jesus is teaching a lot about sheep and shepherds. In the Gospel reading this on Sunday it described the care a shepherd gives to their sheep and said that if it was a hired shepherd when danger, or the wolf, arrives they literally “run for the hills”!

In the Bible it talks about the Good Shepherd calling each of the sheep by name, looking out for them and keeping them safe. It is not simply someone “doing their job” but a deep rooted care for the safety, care and well-being of the flock around them.

In education we are called to go beyond being the “hired hand” to know, love and cherish every person we are responsible for. At the heart of this is the belief that it is important that every person in our community feels and knows that they are “known and loved” as an individual.

Jesus is also known as the “Good Shepherd” and seeks us out to bring us back to God in some way. In other teaching He talks about the rejoicing of when we are “lost and found” and how God seeks us out when we head in the wrong direction.

So although our lives may seem very different to the shepherds on the hills at the time of Jesus maybe there is plenty we can learn from them.

  • Help us listen out for God’s call for us – whatever this may be. We hope that we will be blessed by being happy and fulfilled in whatever we do.
  • Challenge us to remember the deeper meaning of all we do – we aren’t just here to fill the day or pay the bills but our work in education and serving young people has a profound and deep meaning.
  • May we seek out those who are lost or need to be kept safe by us in all we do – we remember especially relationships we find challenging or young people who need the security, love and protection of being part of the St Paul’s family.

We hope, that with God’s help, we can be great shepherds in all we do.

God bless.

He is Risen…

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I hope you’ve had a really good Easter and had the opportunity to be challenged to engage with faith in a new way. Every year I find that I experience Easter in a new and different way. This year on Good Friday and Easter Saturday I watched the Passion of Christ once again and was once more inspired and challenged by the way it depicts the Easter message to us.

It is really important to immerse ourselves within the Easter accounts – at times we can take different roles. A times we can be;

  • disciples – following Jesus and at times perhaps misunderstanding what kind of Messiah He would be.
  • the joyful crowd welcoming Jesus to Jerusalem.
  • the crowd calling for Jesus’ blood and crucifixion in front of Pilate

Holy week seems to be a rollercoaster of emotions as we experience these things in our faith. We can recognise the true suffering and sacrifice that Jesus makes but we know that this is not the end of His mission.

The Resurrection 

The Easter season lasts 50 days, until Pentecost – the coming of the Holy Spirit. The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are very varied in what they reveal to us;

  • The empty tomb – with the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus gone do we truly believe? This is the original ending of Mark’s Gospel and poses the question to the early Christians and us today – do you truly believe that this could be the Son of God?
  • Appearance to the women in the Garden
  • Appearance to the disciples in a locked room when Thomas missed out!
  • Walking alongside disciples on the road to Emmaus
  • Appearing at breakfast on the shores of Lake Galilee

All of this gives us a simple message Jesus is risen, darkness has been overcome by light, death has been defeated by life, good overcomes evil. This is where we are challenged to respond.

  1. How can we be people of light, life and hope?
  2. Where will we meet the risen Christ?
  3. What can we do to bring to faith to the world in a meaningful way?
  4. How will we respond to the Easter message over the next 50 days and what can we do to be Easter people?

Holy Week – what can we expect?

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We’ve made it until the end of the journey of Lent – have we lived up to expectations?

The aim of the journey of Lent is to focus on three things that can bring us closer to God.

  1. Prayer – a time to reconnect to God
  2. Fasting – giving something up or being able to show sacrifice
  3. Almsgiving – being willing to give to others in some way

If we do any of these things in a very basic way I believe we will have become better people over the last 40 days. Ultimately I hope this has happened and you have grown closer to God by deepening your faith.

As we approach Holy Week we can capture the highs and lows of the final days of Jesus’ life.

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Many of you would have watched the moving film The Passion. I remember seeing it when it was first released sitting alongside my Mum as a devout Catholic and other movie-goers (accompanied by the obligatory popcorn) on Easter Saturday when it was first released. In a beautiful, challenging and graphic way we recounted the sacrifice that Jesus made in His final days and ultimately the miracle of the Resurrection. This in essence is the centre of the Christian faith and year.

It is an amazing, and very human, journey from the triumphant entry of the longed-for Messiah into Jerusalem to Jesus’ crucifixion in a horrific and public execution, sometimes sanitised by the crucifixes we have on our walls. A tale of darkness and human cruelty, a death of faith in some way perhaps.

But ultimately this is not the end of the story. In fact the sacrifice and suffering Jesus endured is a lasting symbol of God’s love for us. We long for the resurrection, for the stone to be rolled away. As Christians we need to be people of light and hope, this Easter especially, but ultimately in the world we live in each and every day.

So three challenges this Holy Week…

  1. Take time to stop and reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us and simply give thanks in some simple way.
  2. Reflect on how we can commit to sacrificing something in our lives to benefit or show our love for others.
  3. Let us always know that light overcomes darkness and be a witness to this Good News in our daily lives.

I hope you have a good journey in the week ahead and a very happy and blessed Easter.

God bless.

Rob