Dear Family of St John’s
I’ve just finished a two-day workshop on Community Building. It’s part of a one-year programme I’m participating in that links community/business leaders with school principals from schools that are in disadvantaged situations.
One of the exercises we did on our workshop was to record the narratives we hear about education in our community. Stories of vandalism, discipline, lack of attendance, etc etc… I’m sure you can add to the long list we came up with.
It showed how none of us thought to go first to the stories of achievement, success, triumph. That’s sad, isn’t it? Because those stories do exist.
Then we started asking ‘Why?” Why do we see poor discipline in our schools? As we dug deeper than the initial answers, we continued interrogating our responses. Until we arrived at what we believed to be the heart of the matter.
The majority of the groups, who all had different aspects to work on, came back with similar answers. Answers that reflected the lack of connection in community and families. Answers that showed people didn’t feel valued or special, or that they had a contribution to make. I think these answers would be relevant across a very wide spectrum of our society. It breaks my heart. I believe it breaks God’s heart.
Interestingly our Acts Bible Study this week focused on the same topic, “A Sense of Community”. At a number of points in our workshop I wanted to start talking about how God loves us so deeply. I wanted to talk about the community we have because we follow Jesus, that we are valued there and find our purpose in Him. So many people don’t know this. Or, if they do know it, it’s not a daily reality for them.
Love is at the heart of life… a sub-heading in our Acts Bible Study this week. Is this true for you? If it was true for each one of us, and each person they know and the people they know… we wouldn’t have the problems we have in the world. We wouldn’t see the poverty and crime, the loneliness and despair. So, love isn’t at the heart of all lives. Yet.
It’s our job to make others feel loved. It’s our job to let them know that God loves them, beyond anything they could imagine. If God gave me a performance review right now on how well I love everyone, how well I show them His love, I know I’d fail dismally. I suspect none of us would do as well as we’d hope. But, we can always do better, we can always try again. There’s always more love to give.
I’d like to share this prayer with you from our Acts Bible Study, written by John Birch.
Lord God, help us to love those
whom we find it difficult to love.
Give us a heart that reaches out
to those we would otherwise ignore.
Give us the strength not to cross
on the other side of the road,
but to play the part of the Samaritan.
This will not be easy, Lord.
It is not in our nature.
We spread our love thinly
among those we can relate to,
those who share our values,
and those who do not threaten
our comfortable lifestyle.
It’s not easy, Lord,
and on our own we shall fail.
But with your help all things are possible.
You led the way,
and it is your example that we look to.
You turned the values of this world upside down.
Do the same with us. Lord.
Help us live the reality of your Love.
As we put this love into practice, may we see changes in the lives of those who are loved by us, by Him. May we see changes in our world. Lord, in your mercy… hear our prayer.
Your friend and rector,