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.
And finally for those in need for their Star Wars or Matrix fix I have included a few clips below!!
All of us need calm and tranquility somewhere in our lives. A sense that we can find a time to stop, even for a short moment, to find an inner peace that grounds us in some basic way.
This week we have celebrated the feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, that reminds us of God’s presence amongst us in the world and the challenge we have been given to live out faith inspired by the life of Christ. As the Holy Spirit is not visible, physically, it is often represented by wind, fire or a dove. It may help us to have something tangible to think about and represent the power of God.
All of us have been shocked and horrified by the recent terrorist attacks in London and Manchester and mourn the innocent loss of life. Sometimes we can only understand it fully by thinking of our families, our children, us being in the same position. It can make it more real to us rather than just the latest images on 24hr news. The challenge is for us to use this time of darkness to bring greater light and hope.
We live in a democracy and as we prepare for our general election this week we need to make a commitment to not relying on tabloid headlines that divide us or breed distrust or hatred. We need instead to make a renewed commitment to tolerance, understanding and unity in all that we do.
Working in education we are privileged to have the opportunity to transform the lives and futures of every young person in our care. This is a gift but also a great responsibility. Let us grasp this opportunity to make a real difference in all we do.
When we find ourselves challenged by all that happens around us this is an opportunity to ask for God to be with us – “come Holy Spirit”. Rather than disbelief I hope and pray to find God in the love, compassion, care and selflessness of people who reach out and act with such loving kindness.
A few questions for the week ahead;
- What can you do to encourage love, tolerance and understanding when faced by the challenges we see in the world?
- How can we use the gift of education to transform people’s hearts and minds and build a better future?
- How can we feel the presence of God amongst us as we think about the power of the Holy Spirit?
Thank you, in advance, for all you will do this half term to make St Paul’s a place of vitality, happiness, light and hope.
So we’ve finally come to the end of the Easter season… 50 days since we celebrated the empty tomb and Christ being risen following His crucifixion and death. It seems this time has raced by but also we’ve been on a journey…
- A journey of disbelief as the disciples hear about the empty of tomb
- A journey of fear as they hid in the locked room and Jesus appears amongst them.
- A journey of comfort as they went back to their normal lives only for Jesus to appear them on the shores of Galilee.
- A journey into the unknown as Jesus was ascended to Heaven.
- A journey of faith as they were sent throughout the world to spread the Good News.
I feel like we may have walked with them in some way and it probably captures in a very natural way how our faith changes in the different experiences we face in life.
We hear in the Gospel account this week of the celebration of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. On one level perhaps the most difficult aspect of the Trinity to understand. Perhaps we are not called to understand but to simply feel it.
We have a very basic reaction to wind which causes some sense of excitement and energy. You can’t fail to smile when you see people being blow around the force of nature…
The image of wind and fire used to represent the Holy Spirit is a powerful one. At times perhaps both are uncontrollable and have a very direct effect on us.
We can feel the warmth, light and hope of the Easter fire but also know how the wind can drive and lead us in a direction, even at times opposite to the original direction we were heading in.
Perhaps this is the key – the disciples needed to be inspired by the fire of faith to be brave in their hearts to trust God and go and spread the faith they stood for. They also needed to be guided and inspired by God, led by the wind of the Spirit, in the right direction in their lives.
So a few questions for the week ahead…
- What can you do to seek out the fire, warmth and energy of a renewed faith?
- How can you feel the cool breeze or guiding force of the wind to help lead you in your life in some way?
- What will you do to trust in the Holy Spirit to guide you in life?
If we can all take this leap of faith we can truly be disciples in the world today. May the force be with you!
At the weekend I had the joy of being with family and friends on a Sunday afternoon walk. We are blessed at St Paul’s to have been joined this term by a “new recruit” in the form of our school dog, Amber. She took the decision that this walk was a great opportunity to have a cooling swim in the river with “her cousin” Lottie! All sounds fairly healthy… the one challenge was how she might get out of the river which led me clambering down the bank to retrieve her and some unexpected consequences!!
I ended up knee deep in mud and water as evidenced by this picture taken by my loving brother! What has all this got to do with the theme for this week? It prompted me to think of the two areas which we have as our focus… the Ascension and Pentecost.
In essence on the walk I was trying to “do the right thing” and save our floundering (if slightly adorable school dog) but got stuck, bogged down and “deeper than I ever expected”. At times we end up in the same situation in life and we have to look for the ability of being uplifted in some way. In the feast of Ascension Jesus is “lifted up” and takes his place beside God in Heaven. Jesus had been resurrected and inspired the faith we follow today as Christians but from this point it was over to us to live it out in a meaningful way.
The image of being focussed on looking up and forward is significant for us. We need to take ownership for our actions and not wait for God to sort things out. I believe in our lives faith presents opportunities and our challenge is to spot this and respond to it.
Next weekend, when we are on half-term, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost where the disciples were filled with the “fire” of the Holy Spirit. What’s this all about? On one level when Jesus was leading his disciples it must have been exciting, engaging and inspiring. Ultimately probably easier to believe… the challenge, as in all leadership, is what would happen when He had gone? The disciples were sitting together considering this very question and hesitating to take a leap of faith and go into the world. The symbols of wind and fire represent how the Holy Spirit moved and inspired them to spread the Good News and have the conviction and faith to live out their calling.
A few questions we could consider include;
- How can we make sure we don’t get “bogged down” and stuck in life, even when we have the right motivations?
- How can we look to be uplifting to others as well as looking for God when we need this inspiration?
- What are the challenges that make us hesitant to do the right thing or live out our faith?
- How can we be moved by God’s plan for us and inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so much more than we can ever imagine?
If we can be uplifted and inspired in this way perhaps we will become the ultimate “independent learners” and live up to Jesus’s challenge for us… it’s over to you!