Here’s the text from my sermon from this morning on thankfulness – or you can click here to download the audio:
We’ve lost the rugby so clearly the World Cup doesn’t matter anymore, and at least we won the cricket as that has the Ashes. So instead it’s time to watch Strictly Come Dancing again, which inspired me to play you a bit of our local schools harvest song:
Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it. Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!” John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.” “But you must!” implored his companion. “The bull is catching up to us.” “All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ’O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.’”
If there is one sin that most prevalent today, it is the sin of ingratitude. God does so much for us. Our debt to him is enormous and yet we rarely or at least infrequently offer thanks for what he has done. In fact, most of us professing Christians don’t even offer thanks over their meals much less offer thanks over all that God does in their lives. We are much like the little boy who was given an orange by a man. The boy’s mother asked, “What do you say to the nice man?” The little boy thought and handed the orange back and said, “Peel it.”
For a child of God thankfulness is not confined to a day or a season, it is an attitude that we should have everyday and every hour. As we reflect on thanking God at harvest time I want to magnify this point by examining the account of the ten lepers in Luke’s Gospel and see some important truths concerning an attitude of gratitude.
The Position Of All!
Look at verses 11 and 12. “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance”
We see here the position of the lepers. Firstly,
Luke says here they stood afar off. The disease of leprosy was a painful disease but the physical pain was not the most terrible part of the disorder. Lepers were separated. They were shut out and cast off. It seems here that these lepers were shut out to an area away from everyone else. They were shut out from their family. No one knows how long it had been since they had felt the touch of their wife or the kiss of their children. They were shut out from their friends. Friends no longer came round or invited them to go somewhere with them. They were shut out from fellowship of the church.
Notice that Jesus on his way to Jerusalem entered into a certain village and there met the lepers. The religious crowd had no room for these leprous men. But most awfully, they were shut out from the Father. Here is Jesus, the only way to the Father, and they stood afar off from him. Sinners are not near God, they are afar off. And they cannot and will not draw near on their own. Do you know what kept them at a distance? The Law. The Old Testament law shut them out. The law set forth the conduct of lepers. The law said when you pass one, pass on the other side and cry out “Unclean! Unclean!” Sin puts us in an awful position. And they were all in this awful position.
Here are these men living shut out lives. But I am grateful this morning that where the law says man cannot go, Jesus goes. What the law declares off limits, Jesus barges in. When the law passes on the other side, Jesus makes it a point to make contact. Jesus came to save sinners. He went this way on purpose because even in the awful position sin puts us in, Jesus is able to reach us and to save us. My family can’t help me, my friends can’t help me, the church can’t help me, but Jesus can. And while we stand afar off from him, he does not stand afar off from us. When they could not get to Jesus, Jesus got to them. When they could not come to him, he came to them.
But they were all in the same position!
The Prayer Of All!
Now look at verses 13 and 14. “And [they] called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” When he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.”
All ten utter the same prayer. Notice two things here quickly.
They saw and they sensed their need. You don’t pray and call out for help unless you feel your need. The reason sinners don’t come to Christ for salvation is that they don’t sense their need. But the loneliness and the pain of this disease were evident to these ten lepers. They knew they needed help and there was none to be found except maybe in this one called Jesus, whom they heard healed the sick. There is no doubt they need help, so they cry out for mercy.
Prayer without obedience is useless. Jesus tells them to go to the priest. Now the priests had no power to cure but they had the authority to declare the one cured clean, to issue the certificate of cleanliness so that all would be sure of his healing. But do notice that they were not healed immediately instead they were healed as they went. As they obeyed the command of the Lord they were healed.
Verses 15-19, “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Here is the key to the whole issue. All were in the same awful position. All prayed and all were healed. Yet only one of the ten returned to offer thanksgiving. Notice:
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back. He saw a reason to praise. He saw a difference Jesus had made. He saw a change made by Christ. He saw an opportunity to praise God. Many see their need to pray but don’t see their need to praise. I don’t know how it happened, we are not told here. But maybe as they walked toward the priest’s house. He began to notice his skin loosing that scaling white appearance. Or maybe they passed by some people and he expected that they would run to the other side and yell, Unclean! Unclean! But it never came. I don’t know how he came to the conclusion but when he saw that he was healed he stopped going the one direction and made a bee-line to Jesus Christ. He had reason to praise God. They all had reason to praise God, but only one saw it.
Where are the other nine? I have no doubt that after they were declared clean by the priest they made their way to be with their family and their friends. To hug and kiss the wife and the children. To visit Mum and Dad. To talk with friends. Their minds were occupied on all that the blessing brought to their lives. But one. One loved his wife and children just as much as the others. One wanted to hug and kiss his wife and children just as much as the others. One wanted to spend time with his friends just as much as the others. One wanted to enjoy the blessing just as much as the others. But one had his priorities in order. One did not get so wrapped up in the blessing that he forgot the blesser.
The other nine couldn’t see beyond the gift of the miracle of healing to the one who gave it to them. They never saw the giver. Do you remember the Aesop fable, Androcles and the lion? “Androcles was a young boy who wandered off into the forest one day. Suddenly he came upon a lion that was groaning in pain. Androcles turned to run away as fast as he could, and as he glanced over his shoulder to see how close that lion was, he noticed the lion had not run after him. So Androcles, sloped, turned back to the lion to see what was the matter. He saw that the lion had a huge throne in his paw. Androcles pulled it out and helped the lion to his den where the lion was healed.
A few days later, Androcles and the lion were captured. Androcles because he was a Christian and the emperor wanted some fun watching Christians being eaten in the theater, and the lion, because they needed one to do this deed. Androcles was pushed out into the big arena and the lion came charging from the cage on the other side. Androcles fell to his knees waiting for the huge mouth of the lion to devour him, but to his amazement, the lion stopped dead in his tracks, laid down and crawled towards Androcles , and began to lick his face and play with him. It was the same lion who Androcles had helped, the one who had the thorn removed. The lion saw beyond the act of help to the helper, and responded in likeness when the opportunity rose. Aesop always has a moral tacked on at the end of his fables, this one being: “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”
One of the ten lepers put family, friends and fellowship on hold so that he could worship the blesser, the one that made his being with his family and friends possible.
Notice that with a loud voice he glorified God. With the same loudness and intensity he cried for mercy, he glorified God. Many times we cry loud for help and low with praise. But with the same zeal we sought help we should praise him. And he fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks; and he was a Samaritan. Oh he was not a Jew, he was not worthy of this healing. He was not worthy to receive God’s help. But by grace he was healed and he comes to worship the one who unconditionally healed him. And he got more than the others did. They received physical healing from a distance. But this one not only received physical healing but he got close to God and worshipped him as Lord and received spiritual healing. God may chose to physically heal a man from a distance but spiritual healing comes only when we fall prostrate before the feet of Jesus Christ and worship him as Saviour and Lord. His faith did not save him but it connected him to the one who could save him.
There was a father and mother of a young man killed in the military in a little church. One day they came to the pastor and told him the wanted to give a monetary gift as a memory to their son who died in battle. The pastor said, “That’s a wonderful gesture on your part.” He asked if it was ok to tell the congregation and they said that it was. So the next Sunday he told the congregation of the gift given in memory of the dead son.
On the way home from church, another couple were driving down the highway when the father said to his wife, “Why don’t we give a gift because of our son?” And his wife said, “But our son didn’t die in any conflict! Our son is still alive!” Her husband replied, “That’s exactly my point! That’s all the more reason we ought to give in thanks to God.”
Here’s my assembly from this morning for KS1 and KS2 pupils on the theme of Freedom:
Prepare the following statements on separate cards in writing that is large enough for everyone to see. They fall into three categories:
You will also need a card or image for the word ‘Opinions’, a whiteboard or flipchart and six candles with matches or other means of lighting them. Bed sheets to divide the assembly hall
Hold up the ‘Opinions’ card or show the image of it and ask what it means. Record the children’s ideas on the whiteboard or flipchart.
Discuss the idea that all opinions are important. Is that true? What would be the outcome if everyone acted as if they were? Should everyone agree with everyone else to encourage peace and harmony? What would life be like if that were the case?
Show the ‘A’ group of opinions, one by one. Ask the children to consider how important they are and whether or not they affect people’s lives for those who believe them. Could they be enforced, so that they became everybody’s views?
Consider the ‘B’ group of opinions in the same way. Are these different kinds of views? Why? These opinions might have a more significant effect than the ‘A’ group of opinions if they were enforced? They are certainly more sensible and may be more acceptable. What do you think?
The ‘C’ group of opinions is another set of important opinions. They are at the centre of many people’s lives and allow them to have a sense of belonging and value.
Write the following final set of words while everyone is watching:
Explain that these can only be achieved when there is freedom of expression, the freedom to hold beliefs (not harmful to others) that are important to groups or individuals and talk about those beliefs without fear of punishment or discrimination.
Caring and democratic societies like our own ensure this is so by having laws that protect people’s rights. The Human Rights Act is such a law. Not all countries or societies are so lucky and, in many cases, people are imprisoned, hurt or killed because they express their opinions or beliefs.
25 years ago, the people of Berlin, the capital of Germany, regained freedoms denied to them by the building of a wall. To help everyone understand some of the problems of that time, you have decided to divide the school. Direct that a gap is formed down the centre of the assembly, separating classes in half. Enlist the help of teachers and older pupils to ‘build a wall’ using the sheets. Screen the two halves from each other.
How does the division feel? Explore the feelings of uncertainty and discomfort that may arise. What is going on? Who is on the other side of the wall?
Explain that, after the Second World War, Germany was divided into two parts and the city of Berlin was also split into East and West Sections. East and West had very different systems of government, and there was deep mistrust and suspicion between them. In August 1961, the citizens woke to street crossing points blocked by barriers and barbed wire. The authorities in the East had decided to stop people crossing to other parts of the city. Later, a high concrete wall was built. It was protected with barbed wire and watched by armed guards. Invite everyone to imagine how the citizens of Berlin must have felt.
Designate one half of the assembly as ‘East’ and the other as ‘West’. Invite the children to enter into further role-play. State that those in the ‘East’ will not be allowed to use the playground. New classes will have to be formed. Those in the East will not be permitted to join after-school or lunchtime clubs and they will not be allowed representatives on the School Council. Those in the West will also be grouped into new classes. Otherwise, for them, school will carry on as normal. They are free to use the playground and to take part in clubs and to elect members of the School Council. Sometimes they might ask permission to visit a classroom belonging to a group from the East – but under no circumstances will anyone from the East be allowed to visit the West. Neither is a visit from East to West guaranteed – you will have to apply and may be refused permission. Any person who breaks this rule will be punished!
Reassure the children that this is ‘make-believe’, but invite them to reflect on how they would feel should such directions be given. How would each group respond? Explore how a dividing wall would affect friendships, family relationships and day-to-day life.
Reflect that the Berlin Wall separated friends and families. Some were unable to travel to their usual places of work. Those living in East Berlin were not allowed the choices and freedoms enjoyed by those in the West. Protest was not permitted, and anyone who tried to escape across the wall was shot. Above all, those in the East were not allowed to elect (choose) their leaders or to express their views freely and openly.
For years, the wall divided the city. No one was sure whether, or how, anything could change. But eventually it became possible for a few in the East to say: ‘Down with the wall!’ (Invite individuals to repeat the phrase . . .) And soon other voices joined in the protest. Eventually, large crowds gathered in the streets, all shouting: ‘Down with the wall!’ (Invite a growing number in the East to participate.) It was a dangerous thing to do. No one knew how the authorities would react – perhaps with anger and violence. People climbed upon the wall and hammered at it with sledgehammers and chisels – the crowds cheered. Then, on 9 November 1989, the wall ‘fell’. (Instruct helpers to drop the dividing screen.) Checkpoints in the wall were opened for those in the East to go through to the West! Thousands of people celebrated late into the night. They danced, joined hands, and hugged each other with joy! After almost 30 years, East and West were reunited. Bulldozers were soon continuing the demolition work that had been started with hammers and chisels! A new chapter of history had begun!
How does everyone feel now that they are reunited? Reflect that the story of the Berlin Wall helps us to think about some of the freedoms that we take for granted. As Remembrance Day approaches, it reminds us of the importance of working together for peace and unity.
You or one or more of the children now light a candle for each of the six aspects of freedom of expression listed in the ‘Assembly’, Step 6, saying, in turn, ‘This light is the light of respect.’, ‘This light is the light of tolerance.’ and so on.
From the Christian tradition, a letter of St Paul says:
‘He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance.’
(Ephesians 2.14, The Message – Eugene H. Peterson)
Give the children time to reflect on their feelings during this assembly. Remind them that the wall was in place for 27 years – that’s longer than some of the teachers have been alive. Since the wall came down, life in Germany has changed for everyone, both from the East and the West. Reflect for a few moments that the cost of freedom is sometimes not anticipated or fully understood.
God of all humanity, often people are separated by ambition and greed, anger and fear, arrogance and pride. Help us to break down walls of division and misunderstanding and to celebrate that we belong together, citizens of one world. Amen.
As I wrote last week, I am standing to be a member of General Synod. Rather than doing a physical hustings, the Diocese of Winchester gave members of the Deanery Synods a chance to ask written questions to all the candidates. The responses from the candidates for the Houses of Laity and House of Clergy, in the Diocese of Winchester, for the 2015 General Synod Elections are below:
I am standing for the Church of England General Synod, as a member of the laity, in the Diocese of Winchester. You can find out information about the other Laity and Clergy candidates in the Diocese of Winchester here. Find out more about the General Synod here.
The Diocese of Winchester has a tradition of sending to General Synod experienced men and women, with many years of service to the Diocese and considerable understanding of a range of issues. I hope to complement that experience and understanding with my own fresh perspective, and links to young people across the Diocese. Currently I am a lay member of the Lyndhurst Deanery Synod, the Diocesan Synod, and one of the five lay members of the Bishop’s Council.
I believe strongly in a representative group of both lay and ordained sharing in the governance of the church. I am passionate about collaborative ministry and have experienced, and can worship God through, the rich diversity of churchmanship across our diocese.
I am married to Hannah (since 2004), and we have two children, Daniel (aged 5) and Joshua (aged 3). I enjoy sport, blogging (www.chriskidd.co.uk) and reading.
Having been brought up in a Christian family I have always been involved in, and enthusiastic about, church. I became aware of the need to make a response to Christ as a teenager at the Sheffield Alliance Music Festival in 1997 where someone spoke on the need to not be an armchair Christian. This sparked something in me, I realised that Christianity is about being an active disciple of Jesus, not just knowing Bible stories. Support and follow up from my youth leaders led me to make a commitment to Jesus, and to be Confirmed in 1998.
I greatly enjoyed my studies in 2001-2004 at Exeter University in the Theology Department. I felt that this was positive and challenging and that it deepened my understanding of the Bible and the Christian faith. Theology gave me the skills to both ask questions about faith, but also to answer other people’s questions.
Over the last 11 years since leaving university I have worked as a Children’s & Youth Worker for three different churches. Currently I co-ordinate a team of over 60 volunteers who run the programmes and activities for nearly 250 children and young people aged 0-18 for St. Andrew’s Church in Dibden Purlieu. I am passionate about encouraging children and young people to engage with their faith in a holistic way.
I am involved both in the church and the local community. I was a Local Authority Governor and Vice-Chair for a Federation of Schools (2012-2015), I chair the Partnership Board for the local Children’s Centre. I also sit on the New Forest Local Children’s Trust Board developing strong links with statutory bodies.
I was privileged to attend Cape Town 2010 – The Third Lausanne Congress as one of 4,000 delegates, where I led a small group of six people from four continents, and was the Lead Blogger for the Congress. In the summer of 2016 I will be attending the Younger Leaders Gathering in Jakarta.
A Missing Generation: I am eager for children and young people to have life changing encounters with Jesus. I am passionate about people discovering that they are loved by God and the holistic hope that can bring them. I want people to realise that faith has an impact now and not just in eternity. We are missing a generation in our churches and so we must keep mission and evangelism as the highest priority for the Church, facilitating the new and ancient ways of sharing the hope and the life transformation that the gospel brings.
Safeguarding: We can barely comprehend the terrible damage that has been inflicted on those vulnerable children and adults for whom the Church should have been a place of safety and hope. In my role working with some of the most broken youngsters in our local community I understand how crucial it is that nationally, and locally, we continue the great strides in improving our safeguarding practices, training, and policies so that the church truly can be a place of safety and hope for the most vulnerable in our communities.
Poverty & Welfare: Through my work I am sadly all too aware of the need of an increasing proportion of our communities for basic necessities. It is essential that everyone works together to highlight these issues and that the Church focuses its resources towards the communities most at need.
Lay Leadership: I long to see the Church committed to making disciples and releasing its members to serve Jesus in the church and in the world. To enable this I want to see clergy and local lay leaders supported and developed so that every congregation is encouraged in maturity and growth. The Archbishops’ programme for Reform and Renewal will be critical for this, and I will support initiatives that free up the laity to live out their Christian potential.
With all issues that will be discussed at General Synod, I will prayerfully consider each on merit. Listening carefully to all sides of the argument, both locally and nationally, whilst at the same time seeking to be obedient to what I understand the Bible to be saying and the Holy Spirit to be prompting.
Your vote is important in this election. I ask for your first preference vote and should I be elected, your prayer in the months ahead.
Do please contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss any issue.
I’ve just received details of the Growing Young Disciples training day on Sat 7th May 2016 in Winchester run by The Good Book Company:
How to grow a living faith in children & young people (and yourself)
An action-packed, fun-ﬁlled, high-octane, Bible-busting training day for anyone involved with children and young people.
The day includes a mix of sessions for both helpers and leaders, whether you work with young children or older teens.
Choose one of five seminars to answer your questions and shape your thinking.
Plus two practical workshops, one from Group A and one from Group B, to help you grow in your practical skills and understanding.
with Phil Moon
[C] = children; [T] = teens
Engage Worship have produced some worship resources linked to the refugee crisis:
We thought you would want to know that we’ve just uploaded a video which we hope will help churches engage prayerfully with the issues surrounding the European refugee crisis this weekend. It is based on a song called ‘You are a Refuge (Arms)’ from RESOUNDworship.org‘s Ben Atkins, and features scripture and encouragements to pray, act and welcome.
We also have a page with other ideas of resources and links for connecting your church with a worshipful response to this tragedy.
The Rank Foundation is running their Time to Shine Internship Programme which looks well worth checking out:
If so, the Time to Shine Internship Programme could be right for you. The Rank Foundation has an initiative that will enable young people to gain work experience on a full time basis over a period of up to 12 months, helping the organisation achieve a specific project task.
The task is yours to define, but it could be anything from devising and implementing a social media strategy to getting your intern involved in research, marketing, fundraising or community volunteering. The task should be specific and measurable, as well as achievable within the timescale and within your organisation’s resources.
The Rank Foundation will award a grant to the organisation based on the Living Wage to cover the direct salary costs of the intern, an additional award of £1000 restricted to the internship activities (such as travel costs to non-compulsory events) and discretionary assistance towards training costs.
At the end of the internship the organisation will have benefited by addressing a particular organisational development need, thus improving its services to the wider community, and the young person will have had the opportunity to test out their skills, improve employment prospects and of course they will have the space and ‘time to shine’!
Key dates to bear in mind are:
Closing Date for Applications Tuesday 6th October 2015
We will notify you of the outcome of this first stage by Friday 16th October.
If you are successful we will arrange a London-based or on- site interview which both the candidate and the line manager must attend. Please let us know of any dates that are not suitable. If you are unable to identify a suitable candidate please let us know as the placement could be offered to another organisation.
We will be conducting lots of interviews but will inform you of the final outcome no later than Friday 4th December. Please do not offer the position to the prospective intern until and unless you have been offered a Time to Shine placement.
If you are successful the Intern must be able to start the placement no later than 11th January 2016.
Residential Conferences – for both the manager and intern – 18th/19th or 19th/20th January 2016 and a review event on 15th/16th or 16th/17th June 2016.
The Intern must also attend the conference and Showcase event on the 28th-30th September 2016.
Great snippet from an article in the latest Connecting You from Scripture Union
Children are open to spirituality and have a natural inclination for prayer, whether or not their parents have an active faith, says a new piece of research commissioned by Scripture Union as part of the Guardians of Ancora project.
The survey of children aged 8 to 12 years old and their parents backs up what SU have always known – that children have enquiring minds, big imaginations and an innate desire to reach out to God and, given the right stimulus, will do so naturally.
Data gathered from children’s use of the game will also feed into the largest ever longitudinal study of the faith development of 8 to 11 year olds, in turn helping Scripture Union to create more effective tools for Bible engagement with this age group.
Celebrating and learning with the worldwide family of Messy Church
When: Monday, 16 May 2016 – 12:00pm to Wednesday, 18 May 2016 – 2:30pm
Where: High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, EN11 8SG. UK
An unmissable opportunity for all those involved in or interested in developing Messy Church to come together to share good practice and discover the latest developments in the fields of Messy mission and discipleship. Most importantly it is a chance to meet the Messy Church team and other practitioners from across the world. For all of us it will be a joy to seek God’s help with the way forward in our different nations and to make sure that, as it grows, it remains a global interdependent network based on godly friendship and mutual respect.
Messy Church is the most commonly used example of a fresh expression of church, with around 3000 registered examples across about 20 countries. What is being learnt in and through Messy Church is of benefit to anyone involved in other forms of fresh expression or more traditional church ministry.
Who is it for?
Particularly those with a strategic missional role locally, regionally or nationally such as:
•National and Regional Coordinators of Messy Church
•Mission Enablers and other church leaders who want to explore the possibilities of Messy Church in their country or region
•National or local Fresh Expressions Coordinators
•Leaders and teams of local Messy Churches from countries outside the UK
•Leaders and teams of Messy Churches in the UK
The Christian Youth Work Awards are open, so why not take a moment and think about entering a youth worker, a volunteer, an employer, a resource or a young leader to name just a few.
Here’s what the awards are all about:
The Christian Youth Work Awards are all about appreciating and celebrating the incredible work done with young people in churches and through Christian organisations up and down the UK. Thousands of youth workers, paid and volunteers, run clubs, Bible studies and groups every week. They spend hours talking and listening to young people, just hanging out. They don’t just give their time, they give themselves.
As Christians, working with young people is part of our service to God. We are motivated not just by their needs, but by our commitment to following in the footsteps of Jesus. We seek to do it in His strength and through His Spirit. We don’t do it for recognition and we certainly don’t do it to receive an Award. However, we also know how important it is to encourage each other in the Body of Christ, and that’s why these Awards exist. By highlighting just a few of those doing youth work, we hope we’ll inspire and encourage us all.
Nominations close midnight 20th September 2015