Schools & Teachers 1st September 2014
So here we are, the first day of September. The holidays are almost over, and it’s time to go back to school. The dreams of the long summer holidays are now just memories. For some it’s time to start at new schools. For others, they are just starting out, putting on a school uniform for the very first time – looking so grown up suddenly.
Schools are places of learning, places where new worlds are opened up, where fresh insight and new understanding is gained. But this can only happen through the hard work and dedication of a remarkable group of people – teachers. To be a teacher is to bring the world alive, to encourage new ways of seeing and understanding; to inspire children to grow, to strive, to achieve their full potential.
A few weeks ago we learned of the sad death of the Hollywood actor Robin Williams. One of his best known roles was playing the inspirational teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society. The film brilliantly shows what an extraordinary impact such an inspiring teacher had on those whom he taught. He encouraged his pupils to rip pages out of a textbook; he broke the rules in order to give his students new ways of seeing and understanding. His unorthodox approach ultimately got him into trouble, and led to his being fired from the school. During the film, you see the young men that he taught slowly seeing and understanding poetry in new ways, allowing it to flourish and setting their creativity free.
In 1st Century Palestine, a group of 12 men also had the most amazing teacher. This man’s teaching methods were also much disliked by the authorities of the day. What this man taught got him into trouble too, so much so, that he ended up being killed for it. These 12 men were known as disciples, a word that means learner or pupil. Their teacher was Jesus, and he inspired and encouraged his disciples to see the world differently. He turned the traditional teaching of the day on its head; he showed them a new way to live, and taught them how to live a life centred on his Father, the living God.
But unlike the fictional character played by Robin Williams, whose teaching finished when he was fired from the school, Jesus continues to teach us today. In Jesus we have the ultimate teacher, the one who can still help us to see the world differently, who still teaches us how to fulfil all that we were created to be.
So as our children return to school this week, I want to say thank you to those remarkable teachers who open our children’s eyes and minds to the world around them. And for those beginning new schools this week, it is my prayer that they too will have the privilege of learning from great teachers.
Thank you 18th August 2014
In one of Elton John’s best known songs from the 1970’s, we are reminded that ‘Sorry’ seems to be the hardest word. But I’m not sure that Sorry is necessarily the hardest word you know. My two boys always seem to be saying sorry when they realise they’ve done something wrong and get into trouble, as if saying sorry will wipe the slate clean and they can start being naughty all over again.
I actually think that all too often ‘thank you’ seems to be the hardest word.
It is so easy to take so much of what we have for granted, whether it be our relative wealth and prosperity in this country; our amazing variety and availability of food; the fact that when we flick a switch we immediately have a reliable power supply to give us light and heat.
It’s not until we lose something that we really appreciate it. When we turn on the taps and nothing comes out, only then do we truly value the luxury of clean running water straight into our homes. It’s not until we are away from loved ones for a period of time that we realise just how much they mean to us.
In Luke’s gospel we hear the story of ten lepers who came to Jesus, crying out for him to heal them of their leprosy. Jesus sends them on their way and as they leave they realise they have been healed. But of all the ten, only one returns to Jesus to thank him for healing him. By being cured of leprosy, those men were no longer outcasts; they no longer had to endure the humiliation of separation and rejection by others. And yet only one, a Samaritan, a foreigner, thought to return to Jesus and thank him.
How often do we stop and give thanks for all that we have? How often do we actively practice gratitude? A friend of mine made a new year’s resolution this year to take a photograph every day for a year of something that she was grateful for. Imagine how our outlook on life might change if every single day we thought to photograph something for which we were grateful. Just think how powerful that might be.
So have a think how you might be able to say thank you to God more often. A simple grace before a meal is a great way of getting into the habit, especially if you have small children or grandchildren. Why not try actively practicing gratitude, and see for yourself how it can change your own life and the lives of those around you.
Thank you for listening.
Signs 4th August 2014
Since arriving in Uckfield a few weeks ago, I have been very glad of signs. Road signs to tell me where I’m going; house signs to tell me I’m at the right address; shop signs that tell me where I can buy what I need. Signs are an essential part of everyday life for us.
I heard a wonderful story about a chap who shared his name with a famous Tennis player, David Lloyd, as in the David Lloyd Tennis and fitness Centres you may have seen. Like me, this chap had felt called to ordained ministry, had gone off and studied at theological college, and was now looking for his first job as a curate in a church. He had been asked to consider a job at a church in Croydon I think it was, which was very different indeed from the small rural church where he had been going previously for many years.
With considerable trepidation he travelled on the train to Croydon to meet the vicar there, and on the way he prayed for God’s guidance as to whether this was truly where God wanted him to serve his curacy. So anxious was David about this, he said to God in his prayers, “God, if this really is where you want me to come, show me a sign so I know it’s your will.”
A little later the train stopped, and David got off. As he walked up the steps from the station to the road outside, there in front of him was an enormous bill board advertising a new Leisure Centre. In huge letters it said, “David Lloyd is coming to Croydon!”
It would be great if our prayers were always answered that clearly, but it doesn’t usually happen that way. We usually have to work a bit harder to see the signs of God’s presence in our lives. In the New Testament, Jesus is constantly pointing us to God, like a human signpost. In all his teaching, in his miracles, in the compassion he has for those in need, he is the sign of God’s love and power.
When I was ordained deacon a few weeks ago, the Bishop addressed the congregation at one point, and read out what the work of a deacon is. Towards the end, it says, “Deacons are to be expectant and watchful for the signs of God’s presence, as he reveals his kingdom among us.” Part of my job, then is to look for the signs of God’s presence, to see where God is at work in the world around us.
I wonder if you ever stop to look for the signs of God’s presence in your own life. How often do we see an act of kindness, a hand held in grief, a community responding to the plight of others, and fail to see and acknowledge the signs of God’s presence in what we see?
So today, tomorrow, this week – look out for the signs of God’s presence. We may not see it as obviously as on a billboard, but if we look expectantly for the signs of God at work around us, we will be reminded that God is alive and is working in our lives.
Memorial & Eucharist 21st July
As I was standing in HolyCrossChurch one day last week, waiting for someone, I was very struck by just how many memorials there are in the church. On every wall there are plaques of varying sizes and materials, all remembering loved ones who have died, the memorial a perpetual reminder of a son or daughter, a husband or wife who loved and was loved.
Memorials are an important link with our history. They tell us stories of those who have gone before us. They help us to remember that we are but a small part of a long history of ancestors, all of whom have lived their own lives and had their own stories to tell.
In the Upper Room 2,000 years ago, Jesus did something really important to help us remember him. In the last supper, Jesus put in place his own memorial, a way that people would be able to remember him for generations to come. By breaking bread with his disciples, and by sharing the cup of wine, Jesus established a celebration that continues to lie at the heart of our Christian worship today. That celebration is called the Eucharist, or Holy Communion.
But unlike the stone and brass memorials that adorn Holy Cross Church, that help us to remember those who have gone before us, in the Eucharist we have much more than just a memorial, much more than a means of simply remembering who Jesus was. In the Eucharist, through the mysteries of faith, many Christians including myself, believe that Jesus is really present.
Last Wednesday evening we had a glorious service at Holy Cross in which 11 people, adults as well as Children, were confirmed by the new Bishop of Lewes. In doing so, each one took an important step on their journey of faith. Many of you listening this morning may also have been confirmed when you were younger, but it may be that for all sorts of different reasons you haven’t been to church for a long time and no longer feel you should receive communion, or that you don’t deserve to receive communion after such a long time.
I would encourage you not to see communion as something to be deserved or to be earned, but instead to see it as a gift to be received from God.
I’m going to end with some words that Bishop Richard used at the Confirmation service:
Come to this table, not because you must but because you may; not because you are strong but because you are weak. Come not because any goodness of your own gives you the right to come, but because you need mercy and help. Come because you love the Lord a little and would like to love him more. Come, because he loves you and gave himself for you. Come and meet the risen Christ for we are his body".
Forgiveness 7th July 2014
I remember clearly the excitement of watching the television when London was announced as the venue for the 2012 Olympics. I remember it even more, because of the shock of what happened the very next day, 9 years ago today, as four bombs went off in London killing 52 people.
As I recalled those shocking events of 9 years ago, I began to wonder what it must be like to try to forgive those responsible for such an atrocity. Now it’s not for me to talk about what those affected should or shouldn’t do - I wasn’t there and I don’t know any of the families of the victims.
But the anniversary did make me think about the power of forgiveness, and the extraordinary difference that it can make in our lives. Forgiveness breaks down barriers of resentment and hatred, and it builds up new bonds of hope and understanding. Where forgiveness is offered, new life is able to flourish in all its fullness, freed from the burdens of resentment and hatred.
And that is why Jesus died on the cross for us – as an act of undeserved forgiveness, for each and every one of us – an act of extraordinary love, to remove all that separated us from a full and loving relationship with God.
Thankfully, few of us are faced personally with the sort of tragic events that took place in London 9 years ago. But we all know what it is to be hurt, to fall out with someone, to bear a grudge, to stop talking to someone because they have upset us. It can eat away at us. But being able to forgive someone, even when it may seem so undeserved, is an amazing gift – both to give, and to receive.
So as you go about your day today, have a think about anyone you might have fallen out with, maybe someone you haven’t spoken to for a long time because they hurt you or let you down. And just consider whether you could offer them, and yourself, that extraordinary gift of forgiveness.