Last week we started the journey towards Easter in the season of Lent. It seems like just yesterday we were taking down the Christmas decorations and yet we now have to get ready for getting ready for Easter. It is an opportunity to do three key things;
- Fasting – an opportunity to put others first and give up some of the luxuries in our lives. This may give us a chance to recognise how truly “blessed” we are by the basic things we have in our lives – food on our plates and a roof over our heads.
- Almsgiving – making a sacrifice to give something to those less fortunate than we are. This could be close to our homes or supporting international charities.
- Prayer – finding time to invest in our relationship with God. At times it is challenging to find time to pray or even finding the space to just stop and listen to God’s call and message for us.
A practical way to do this is to commit to 40 Acts.
This is a brilliant way to find practical ways to live our lives to benefit others, taking the challenge to live with generosity towards others. By doing these simple acts I believe not only do we “live more simply” but also will become happier and more fulfilled ourselves.
If we can live in happiness and harmony with others we are truly becoming God’s presence in the world. This is how we can become more Christ-like and bring life and hope into the world.
Last week we were in the USA and later in New York as we heard about the tragic loss of young lives in Florida. We also heard today of a young student locally who was tragically killed in an car accident on a railway track. In these times of darkness, globally or in our own lives, we need to seek out God in some way. People can feel abandoned and without faith – yet when we walk alongside people we can help to carry their cross with them and truly become disciples.
So this Lent – let us live generously with faith, hope and love. Will you take the journey?
Last week we celebrated the feast to mark the conversion of St Paul, a great message to tell us that we that it is never too late to look for or offer others a fresh start and new beginning. A chance to see life with a new pair of eyes.
We hear in the Gospel account this week how Jesus healed a man who was possessed in the synagogue. What we may have forgotten in this account is this that they had been amazed prior to this miracle being performed. They had been amazed by the teaching of Jesus as he taught with authority. He demanded their attention and respect, not because they were forced to, but because of what He taught and said.
Jesus had authority because He lived in an authentic and real way, He was “the real deal”, God living amongst us on earth. We could finally hear the Word of God… we can only look to earn the authority we have been given by being authentic, true to ourselves and true to God’s plan for us.
This provides plenty of food for thought for us this week:
- How do I respond to authority?
- Where do I find authentic authority in my life?
- For those of us in a position of authority: How authentic am I as a leader?
- For all of us: How good am I at being true to myself?
- How well do I live out an authentic Christian life?
So let us take the opportunity this week to seek out truth and “be real” in the way we live our lives as teachers and leaders. Young people are happiest when they are authentic and true to themselves. Equally we are most respected when we can be authentic in how we live and teach ourselves.
Have a good week ahead.
We have finally made it to the end of term… please find below our advent message from St Paul’s.
Have a happy, peaceful and prayerful Christmas.
We are challenged this week to think where to find Jesus. There may well be three opportunities we can think of…
- In the past – 2,017 years, 11 months and 2 weeks ago (roughly)!! The image of the Son of God born in the humble surroundings of the manger and recreated in thousands of primary school nativity plays in the coming week.
- In the future – when the Kingdom of Heaven is completed here on Earth. This is when the Kingdom of God is lived out in the world.
- In the present – in the form of those in need in society and the most vulnerable who Jesus served in His life. We are challenged to find opportunities to bring light and hope to the world we live in and serve those most vulnerable, suffering or rejected.
Advent is a journey and time to get ready to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus. It is an opportunity to put our lives in order to do this. This is why this week we have the opportunity to think about reconciliation. In the sacrament of reconciliation we always have a path back to God by seeking forgiveness, the first step in recognising where we have gone wrong. We need to make peace with one another and with God if we are to truly open our hearts to Jesus this Christmas.
John the Baptist called people to turn away from sin and be prepared for the Lord. We can do this by choosing to turn away from the things that hold us back and looking to focus on how we can live our lives making a more positive contribution to the world that we live in.
A few questions for the week ahead…
- Where are we proudest of the difference we are making? Hopefully part of this is in life at St Paul’s.
- Which areas hold me back from making a positive contribution? Maybe when we are tired or don’t step back to take the long view.
- What can I do to take the first steps back to God this Advent and Christmas?
- Which of my relationships would benefit form reconciliation and healing? What would be the first move in making this happen?
One of the most heartening things as Christians is that God always offers fresh starts however tough things have got. We can all be reassured by this unconditional love and this truly can become the heart of our loving relationships – when we recognise this we can believe we are truly blessed.
We’re here once again – having avoided Christmas songs on the radio which seem to have been played for the last month (at least!) it is now time to throw ourselves into Advent and get ready. It is perhaps a well timed theme as at time at this time of year we are tired and busy, yet we are challenged to step back and put our lives in order. This in a very basic way is a chance to make peace with one another and with God.
We are challenged to get ready and prepare to meet Jesus in a new way, to be able to build the Kingdom of God in all we do. It is perhaps easy to think about how we get ready and prepare for Christmas and relive the nativity scenes we are so familiar with. It may be more challenging to think about how we get ourselves to be ready for when Jesus comes again or when we meet God face to face. Is our life in order for this ultimate moment?
In essence we need to be ready, to live our lives in the right way and keep a clear focus. This has a real resonance with us working in school. It is true to say that it would be challenging to doze off in the fast paced life of school but we need to really keep sharp. We can’t drop things for a moment without it having a real effect on our students, colleagues or even the basic foundations of what makes our school happy and safe. Whether it’s striving for happiness, teaching to our best or safeguarding all in our community, we know that if we lose focus then things start to go wrong.
So in the week ahead, and final weeks of this term, let us all stay sharp, stay focussed and stay awake to do our best in each of our roles at St Paul’s and ultimately build God’s Kingdom in small steps each day.
Reflections on staying awake:
- When am I at my most drowsy / most easily distracted / most vulnerable to slipping up?
- How do I guard against falling asleep at the wrong time / getting distracted / going the wrong way?
- What might be about to happen in my life and how am I going to prepare for it?
- How can I be prepared to be ready for Jesus to come into my life this Christmas and beyond?
In the Gospel account this week we hear The Parable of the Talents… it tells of the servants who are given various allocations of talents, a unit of currency at the time of Jesus, and challenged to “make the most of them”. Two of them went on to double their return whilst the final one simply buried his in the ground and handed it back. The first two were rewarded for their response whilst the final way who simply hid his away was chastised for wasting it.
What does this tell us?
- At times we can be jealous of people who seem to have so much more than us… more money, a bigger house, a nicer car or maybe greater looks, popularity or prowess as a sportsperson or academic genius. It can feel like it’s easy for them or unfair in some way.
- We are challenged in this parable to remember that God gives us all gifts and talents in special ways. The idea is not for us to store them up for the next series of BGT or X factor but to look to use them every day to do good, to do God’s work in some way.
- We are called to make the most of what we’ve been blessed with and ultimately in education to help unearth the talents of all those around us. This is simply the most inspiring part of what we can do in school.
So in the week ahead let your talent shine and take the joy of helping build up others rather than comparing ourselves to one another. Maybe the challenge in education is to uncover each person’s gifts and talents and give them the confidence to shine out. If we can do this we can start to discover why God gave us the gifts we have and the real impact, with His blessing we can have.
I hope you have a really good week ahead.
Once again I have been compelled to offer a two for the price of one reflection as I failed to complete the one I had planned for last week…
The theme for the week was respect and I believe it has 3 stages and ways of living it out in our school community.
- Respect for yourself – it is a fundamental thing for us to be able to love and respect ourselves and place some self-worth in what we have to offer. Perhaps at times people can go to either extreme where people believe their own “hype” – a dangerous thing – or alternatively don’t have enough self-respect or worth. Perhaps in the modern world it is easy, especially for young people growing up, to feel the pressures to conform, act or look a certain way. In essence I believe the challenge is to be comfortable in our own skin and to be proud in who we are.
- Respect for others – if we can live our lives by showing respect to others I believe we will find that we will be intrinsically happier. We can find joy by building others up and not knocking them down, some of the happiest and most inspiring people I have met have lived selflessly by doing right by others each and every day.
- Respect for God – as Christians our respect for God underpins all of this. The example of Jesus lives out a true respect for Himself and all those He met, especially those on the margins of society. If we accept that God is the source of all love we can find ways each day to respect God and be grateful for all that we have in our lives – friends, family, food, housing or an education – perhaps the basic foundations of our lives that we take for granted.
This week we are reflecting on the theme of invitation and there may be a seamless link to the week before… God loves, cherishes and respects all of us and has created us for a “definite service” and purpose. We are called to become the person that God has created us to be and one of life’s joys is discovering and exploring this every step of the way.
We are invited to;
- Live life to the full
- Love one another as God loves us
- Be full of light, life and hope
- Build people up and inspire them
- Bring people closer to God
- Lead with passion, integrity and faith
If we can do these things I am confident we will be happier, more fulfilled and have deeper relationships with one another and with God.
I feel blessed to lead and live in a community of faith at our school. The work we do has a deeper meaning in that we are not just ticking along, clocking in and out, but in fact doing something that has a far deeper meaning purpose…
As a Christian community we are challenged to simply build up the Kingdom of God in small ways each and every day. If we can do this we must be doing something right.
Have a great week and half term when it comes.