Tag Archives: Lectionary

While we wait

3547193960_5c5fb73795_mThis week we celebrate the first week of Advent—the season in which we wait expectantly for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. On Monday morning this week we marked this occasion by lighting the first of the 5 advent candles during worship.

The tradition of having an Advent wreath lit by an increasing number of candles as Christmas Day approaches is a wonderful way to remind us of the light that Jesus brought into the world with his birth. I encourage all of our families to consider taking up this lovely tradition in order to celebrate the season.

As we have moved into Advent, we have also moved into a new church year. What a wonderful way to start the year by celebrating the birth of Christ.

Last newsletter I wrote a little of our wonderful Sports Day which occurred recently. I took a photo which I believe sums up all that we are about at Sunshine. We see one of the Grade 6 students assisting one of our Prep students to compete in a friendly team game of ‘dress up relay’. It was a wonderful day of activities but what I recall most from this day is the sentiment expressed in this picture. Seeing our students in the act of caring and supporting each other makes me very proud indeed.

The gospel reading for this week declares “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. (Mark 13:33) The text itself declares that Christ himself does not know the time of Jesus’ second coming.
This is not something that should scare us – far from it. It should serve as a reminder that we should live each day expectantly and faithfully. Faithfully following Christ’s encouragement in John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

May we enter the Advent season embracing the Gospel call to love one another.



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What a talented bunch

“For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents…”

Matthew 25:14-15

‘Talent’ is an interesting word. For us today we use it to refer to a particular skill or gift a person possesses. For example, “John has a talent for singing” or “Jane is a very talented skateboarder.” But in Jesus’ time the word was used as a unit of money.

So it goes in the parable set for this week that a master goes on a journey and leaves an amount of money with each of his servants. The servants do different things with the money. Some invest it well and receive a reward while one, through fear of punishment, does nothing than hide it in a hole.

This past fortnight has been yet another reminder of the wonderful talents that God has given to our students. Across various academic tasks, in art classes (a wonderful example is seen below), on Sports Day, during the visit from the Australian Youth Choir, it has given this principal great pleasure to see all of our students demonstrating their individual and wide ranging gifts to the world.

As I reflect on this parable I am taken aback by our duty as school staff and parents to ensure that the young people in our community don’t bury their talent through worrying what others may think of them. Creating an environment where young people feel safe and supported to explore their gifts is core to what we do at SCS.

In a world that increasingly seems to have little value for talents that do not bring fame or fortune, it is more important than ever for us to celebrate the wide variety of gifts God has blessed us all with. We must know that God always grants us gifts so that we may use these to serve others.

May we remember daily the rainbow of gifts and talents our loving God has given us all.




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This week at school we have been remembering Christian communities in the Middle East who are suffering because of their religious beliefs. You may even have seen the staff wearing T-Shirts with the symbol to the left on them and wondered what that was all about. Just as the Star of David was used to target followers of the Jewish Faith during the Second World War, in parts of the Middle East, the symbol is being used to target homes and business of Christians. The symbol is actually the Arabic letter ‘n’ which is an abbreviation for Arabic word ‘nasara’ meaning ‘Christian’.

The photo below was taken in Cairo, Egypt, where I was working not that long ago. You can see the jagged edges of the rock of the large room and carvings in the wall. This space is actually a church – a church that was carved out of rock in order to get around the Egyptian government’s ban on building churches. It may be a simple space but the hearts of those that worship there are big indeed.

To get to this church one must go through a small suburb which contains a large population of rubbish collectors who collect all of the refuse from across Cairo. They make a living from sorting and recycling everything they can. As a result, it is said that Cairo has the highest rate of recycling in the world – much higher than what occurs in Australia.

Their story is inspiring but that does not take away from the fact that the entire suburb has a deep and pervading smell that invades your senses as you make your way up to the churches. The people that worship at the churches above the rubbish city do not have much but many ministries abound in the area for Christian and Muslim alike who are in need of help.

It is not appropriate for our students to know the depth of the suffering of the Christians in the Middle East and we have been focusing on how we can follow God’s example by loving everyone regardless of their religion, nationality or gender. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28)

The Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote ‘Silence in the face of evil is Evil itself’. It is my hope that as a community we can in still a deep sense of speaking out when people in our world are not being treated fairly. From the playground to the world stage, Christians should be passionate about continuing the ministry of Christ “…to proclaim good news to the poor…proclaim freedom for the prisoners and…to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4.18)

May we all give thanks for living in a country where we can freely practice our religion and remember those who believe in the face of persecution.


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A big mess!

IMG_0491The Prep/1 room has been undergoing a facelift over the past few weeks and we hope to see the class move back into the room ready for class on Monday morning. It has been an interesting experience to watch the room slowly transform. It is not just the students who have had their faces pushed up against the window!

The photo below was not taken that long ago and captured a moment where the project was perhaps 60% complete. What do we see? We see a pole that still needs removing, carpet missing, holes in the wall, painting needing to be done, electrical work needing to be moved, furniture that needs to be reinstalled…the list just keeps going. It looks like such a mess.

Renovating buildings is never a smooth process and small issues have cropped up along the way. At the time, these small issues do seem to loom rather large and increase the principal’s hair loss. It feels like such a mess.

One of the readings for this week comes from Romans 8 and contains this wonderful statement:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v38-39)

It is so hard to remember in the messiness of our daily lives that God’s presence remains with us. Problems with renovations, struggling to learn a complex skill, trying to make our finances stretch, having an argument with a close friend – none of these are enough to separate us from God’s love.

I wrote my note for the newsletter late on Wednesday afternoon amongst the busyness of a school week. I had almost forgotten that the P/1 room was being renovated when I walked past the room to discover it was totally finished. While things looked like a mess and it seemed that things were not progressing – the builders were working steadily to accomplish the task.

I think God may be in the building business too – I am surprised frequently about the work he completes in our lives without us noting it.

May God continue to be the reliable builder in our lives.

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“…no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”

IMG_0088Contrary to popular belief, school principals do have lives outside of school. I was reminded of this when I bumped into one of our students at Woolworths in Sunshine and the student exclaimed “Mr Brennen, you’re not wearing a tie!”

When I have time (and the Melbourne weather allows) I love to ride my bike. When I lived in Adelaide I was spoilt for rides with the beach and hills both just a few minutes away from my house. Slowly but surely I am finding wonderfully quiet and picturesque roads to ride around Melbourne.

Not too far from Sunshine is Mt Macedon. It takes about 45 minutes for this principal to ride up from the cleared farmland, through the forest that increases in density as the road climbs, up to the windy peak of the mountain which allows spectacular views across the plains.

The day I chose to ride up the mountain for the first time was a little overcast but the sun was peeking through. As soon as I started riding the rain started coming down and only increased in intensity the higher I rode. The wind too had a chance to push me around in the few exposed sections. By the time I reached the top I was soaking wet, covered in muck thrown up by my tires and freezing cold.

I got off my bike and sat overlooking the plains. Suddenly the wind seemed to die down, I felt a little warmer and somehow I felt renewed. As I enjoyed the much easier ride back down the hill I felt fresh and ready to go back into the world.

The gospel reading for this week sees Nicodemus come to Christ in the night with many questions. Nicodemus seems so weighed down with life and expectations. He wants to understand clearly how all of this ‘God stuff’ works. Jesus’ response?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

I like to think that just as I came back from my Mt Macedon ride with a great sense of peace, so Nicodemus left his conversation with Jesus with a similar feeling. It is at these times of reflection are we able to get outside of ourselves and indeed see a little of the Kingdom of God. At these times we can see the person of Christ among us, enabling us to join God’s ministry of love, service and healing.

As the students and staff pause from the busy school life, I pray that God may bless us all with the opportunity to be born again and to find peace in our wonderful Lord.



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Costly love

IMG_0315Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, is an area that has a special place in the history of the Lutheran church in Australia. During a time of persecution of Indigenous Australians, Hermannsburg provided a place of safety, refuge and education for many.

Last week more than 80 principals of Australian Lutheran schools met in Alice Springs for a period of collegiality, professional development and inspiration. As I sat comfortably in the plane travelling to the conference I looked down at the mostly desolate country that lays between north west Victoria and Alice Springs and  could not help but think how hard life would have been for the first pastors and teachers who went to serve the people of central Australia.

One of the speakers at the conference was Dr Dan White, a colleague from Catholic schools in NSW. He had much wisdom to share with us but his thoughts that most resonated with me were what he considered to be the marks of good Christian schools.

While he listed seven marks of great Christian schools, the one that stuck in my mind was the suggestion that Christian schools should be places where costly love is present – a love that is committed to supporting the community regardless of the cost to the individual.

While we seek to teach students many things at Sunshine, my deepest desire is that our children emerge from this school with a deep commitment to loving others in their community. God’s love for us was indeed costly for it cost him the life of his precious son.

Serving others selflessly is seldom an easy road to follow but it is the one that Christ took. I see this love in the student who walks across the yard to play with a someone playing alone, in the teachers putting in additional hours to ensure top quality learning and in the parents who go without to ensure a good education for their children.

As our reading from Romans this week points out, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another…love is the fulfilling of the law”

May the children set us all an example by selflessly caring for others.


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Who do you say I am?

Lovely graphicIn the gospel reading for this week Jesus asks his disciples “Who do you say I am?” The disciple Peter’s response is “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”

All the school staff at Sunshine are committed to continually improving their practice and this week it was the principal’s turn to pause and
reflect on his work in the school. I thank the staff, students and parents who participated and provided feedback in order to assist me to get
better at what I do.

While I have not seen the report yet I know there will be some encouragement for things that people believe me to be doing well and also some things that I can work to improve.

It is so easy when faced with situations like this to believe that we are only what others say about us. It is so easy to allow our self-worth to be defined by the thoughts of others.

This morning’s assembly was another reminder of the wonderful gifts our students are blessed with. We saw some students receive awards for Mathletics, ICAS Science and ICAS Writing. The 1/2 students
presented their creative representations of the creatures of the oceans. The 5/6 class presented photos showing the many activities that they undertook in Canberra – these photos were evidence of a strong
commitment to looking after each other.

Even so, the worth of our students are not measured in the varied gifts they possess. To follow in the thoughts of the disciple Peter, our students are indeed ‘children of the Living God’. They were infinitely valuable to our Creator before they took their first breath and before they could achieve anything in their own strength.

May we all remember that we are more than what people say about us. We are all precious children of God and have boundless worth to Him.


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Give praise to the Lord

UntitledThe writing of this principal’s note was accompanied by the rolling countryside between Wagga Wagga and Holbrook and the tired conversations (and occasional snores) of a 5/6 class returning from a wonderful trip to Canberra.

It has been a very busy week for the staff and students visiting Canberra. Ms Clarke made sure that no stone was left unturned and few venues were left unvisited. There were exploding science experiments at the CSIRO, a respectful visit to the War Memorial, a surprisingly amusing time at Parliament House and a very special visit to Government House and that is only to mention a few of the places we visited. It is not only the students who are tired right now!

While we happened to visit Canberra on a August night that was the coldest in the last 20 years each night we slept soundly in warm cabins.

While visits to parliament and lectures about government are not always the most engaging of topics, students were able to appreciate that we live in a democratic country where free speech is protected and valued.

We ate 3 lovely meals a day and enjoyed a variety of nutritious snacks in between. There was always far more than we could eat.

The trip to Canberra itself is testament to the willingness of school staff, especially Ms Clarke, to put in many extra hours to create such successful and enjoyable learning experiences. Ms Clarke was joined by Mr Blenkiron who has for many years donated his time to drive our students safely to Canberra and provide extra supervision. The trip was further supported by Mr Reddish who shared his infectious enthusiasm for learning about government with the students.

Amongst all this we must never forget the one from whom all blessings flow. As the Psalmist writes “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done” (105:1). While it is sometimes hard for younger people to grasp, at SCS we endeavour to ensure students continue on a journey to gratitude. We are indeed a blessed community who want for very little. As Christians, we must always remember that all the blessings that we experience as Australians come from the providence of God. A God who created the land that supported the Aboriginal people of Australia for thousands of years. A God who called people from around the globe to travel a vast distance to make a new life in a free and democratic country. A God who continues to walk with us today and will walk with the young people of Australia as they lead our nation into the future.

May the community of Sunshine Christian School never cease telling of the wonderful things he has done, and is still doing, for us.



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God is for us

Picture1We find ourselves back at school after a restful break. A few things have changed – Mrs Blenkiron is back from leave but Mrs Clarke and Mrs Peska are now off travelling the world. We have been blessed by the wonderful work of Mrs Libby Haigh and Mrs Susan Arena over the last two weeks. In the yard I see new haircuts, some shiny new shoes and it seems that all of the students have been eating fruits and vegetables over the holiday because everyone suddenly seems taller!

Things have changed in the Brennen household too. Mr Brennen and Mrs Brennen have been blessed by the opportunity to adopt two dogs called Fenda and Henry. They certainly are keeping me very busy at home.

One of the readings set down for this week comes from Romans:

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?…For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:26-39)

It has been a tumultuous time in our world over the last fortnight. We do not need to look very far to see the results of humanity at its worst. Amongst all of this, is a God that does not leave or forsake us. His Holy Spirit is with us wherever we are. Despite the many problems we face in our lives it is indeed true that ‘nothing…can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus’.

My two dogs, Fenda and Henry are a daily reminder to me of the presence and steadfastness of God’s love. When I arrive home they are overjoyed to see me, they wag their tales and jump excitedly. They don’t ask me what my day has been like, if I have done my duties well, what mistakes I have made or the things I left undone. They offer an unconditional love that transcends whatever mood I may be in.
Just like our Lord.

As we go forth into another block of learning, may we all walk in the knowledge that we are dearly loved by a God who allows nothing to separate us from him.

Tom Brennen

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School camps are wonderful!

Photo: T Brennen

Photo: T Brennen

It is interesting to see how students react to learning in an environment away from desks, chairs and iPads. Camps provide unfamiliar situations and challenges too, which allow students to build character traits that support success in life.

Sometimes schools can be guilty of promoting academic excellence as being the central and most important goal in education. I like to think that at Sunshine we place equal importance on developing student gifts and abilities across the domains. We endeavour to celebrate those who demonstrate sporting or artistic abilities just as much as we celebrate high test scores.

Perhaps even more importantly we endeavour to highlight students who demonstrate development of good character. One of the most public ways we do this is by recognising students who demonstrate the school values of persistence, resilience, getting along, organisation, resilience and respect.

This morning at assembly I had the pleasure of awarding each student in the 3/4 class an award for demonstrating one of the values on their camp. Each student at some stage over the two days gave me individual (and collective) reason to be very proud of them indeed.

This week’s lectionary reading comes from Matthew 28 where Jesus calls us to “…make disciples of all nations…and teaching them to obey all I have commanded you”. Jesus finishes while those great words of comfort “Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

Jesus gives us quite a task doesn’t he! To teach others EVERYTHING he commanded is quite a job but we know our endeavours to encourage everyone in our community to grow in Christ-like character are supported by a God who never leaves us.

May we never cease striving to be Christ-like people

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