Tag Archives: Love

Term 3 Week 10

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people… that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Greetings from Vietnam!

When you read this newsletter, you will find me attending the Asia Lutheran Education Association conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. I am attending this conference as a representative of all Lutheran schools in Australia. As I shared with our students earlier in the year, our school is one of more than 80 Lutheran schools in Australia and one of thousands of Lutheran schools across the world.

I am enjoying the sights and sounds of Vietnam – the homeland of many of our families at Sunshine. It has been great meeting people involved with Lutheran schools in Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and many other places.

These gatherings remind me of the purpose of Lutheran schools – to proclaim God’s love to the world through the provision of quality education to all who seek it. In this mission we are joined by many brothers and sisters across the world in other Christian schools.

In our reading from this week, the apostle Paul urges us to proclaim God’s truth. How do we do this? Paul encourages us to pray for each other and to live lives that are full of peace. At this gathering of Lutheran schools it has been a great blessing to gather as the people of God, united by his Son Christ, to pray for our schools and our world.

There is so much power in prayer. Not through our own strength, but through what God does through prayer. Being in communion with God, and talking with him in prayer, helps us to live at peace with the world and be open to the things He would have us do.

As we enjoy a brief respite from the rigours of school, may we take time to connect with God and seek to live with the peace Christ left us.

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Term 3 Week 6

“‘Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath day. In the synagogue there was a woman who had an evil spirit in her. This spirit had made the woman a cripple for 18 years. Her back was always bent; she could not stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, your sickness has left you!” Jesus put his hands on her. Immediately she was able to stand up straight and began praising God. The synagogue leader was angry because Jesus healed on the Sabbath day. He said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come to be healed on one of those days. Don’t come for healing on the Sabbath day.”’ – Luke 13:10-14

Our Grade 5/6 students are leading whole school worship services over the coming weeks and their chosen theme this week was ‘Loving people and doing the right thing sometimes means breaking the rules’.

Jewish people had 613 individual rules they were required to follow as part of their religion. The rule the synagogue leader thought Jesus had broken was ‘do not undertake work on the Sabbath’.

Not working on the Sabbath is indeed an important rule that God has given us. After all, we need to allow our bodies to rest in order for us to undertake our work with joy and competence. But keeping the Sabbath is not just about following rules about rest. It is about honoring God, celebrating his mercies and reminding ourselves of the many blessings we have.

While the synagogue leader felt that the Sabbath was the worst possible day for healing, Christians would see that healing on the Sabbath is probably the best day for healing. What better way to honor God, than to care for a woman who had suffered for so long?

May we remember that even when our lives are busy and we have deadlines to meet, the most important thing is to honor God through doing his will and loving others… even if it means breaking the rules.

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Term 2 Week 8

Jesus raises a widow’s son

As Jesus approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out- the
only son of his mother, and she was a widow …. When the Lord saw her, his
heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”(Luke 7:11-17)

The Bible reading given to us this week sees Jesus raise a young man from death. At
first we can easily overlook the richness of the story and I encourage you and your
family to read the story in full in Luke and meditate on it.

The raising of a boy back to life is indeed a great miracle but beyond this we see a
poignant image of Jesus, the son of God. The text records that when he saw the
mother of the boy, a woman who had already lost her husband and had only one son,
“his heart went out to her”. This called Jesus to action. The original Greek word used
here for “his heart going out” really means “a reaction from the gut”. Jesus had
compassion for this woman in her terrible situation.

What we see also is a community gathering around a woman and sharing in her grief.
Jesus too shared a love for this community, and acted to ease their collective pain.

In healing the boy, Jesus crossed a cultural boundary as a follower of Jewish custom by
placing his hands on the dead body in order to bring it to life. It reminds us that Jesus
was never one to be constrained by societal rules or by the need ‘to not get his hands
dirty’.

This Jesus, whose heart went out to this woman and her family, is the same Jesus who
has this care for us all. It is the Jesus whose heart goes out to all of God’s children
across the world who experience pain, suffering and illness.

May we recall that Jesus is for us. He has compassion on his people and loves us
dearly. May we also be mindful of those in our community suffering greatly. Let us
come around them and support them, just as the community did for the widow in this
story.

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Caring for the outsider

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

1 John 3:16-18

This week the Lutheran Church observes Migrant and Refugee Sunday. The readings set down for this event include the lament of the Jewish people who found themselves refugees in Babylon and the account of Jesus, Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt as refugees to escape persecution from Herod.

One of my favourite verses is recorded above. God’s word makes it so clear for us. To paraphrase, “What kind of Christian has plenty but does not share with those in need? Words are not enough – Christians are people who act out the love of God!”

In our school community we have tangible reminders of the migrant and refugee. We have over 20 languages and countries of origin represented. We are a Lutheran school – a school that would not exist were it not for persecuted German migrants arriving in Australia seeking to educate their children in the faith. Outside of those of us with indigenous heritage, our families were all migrants to Australia at some stage.

As I listen to the news and popular opinion in Australia, I often wonder if many have forgotten that the vast majority of us were once newly arrived in this beautiful country. Our families once left homes and travelled significant distance in the hope of a new and better life. The news is a constant reminder that these journeys were not easy and were frequently dangerous. The gospel reading from Matthew tells us something that can easily be forgotten – our saviour, the very son of God, was a refugee forced to live in a foreign land.

The migrant, the refugee, the homeless, the stranger – these are our brothers and sisters who desperately need the support and reassurance of the Christian community. There is not one among us who has not found ourselves in strange lands and new situations. We might not have been a refugee, but we have all felt loneliness, despair, fear and have wondered what the future holds. It is at these times that we needed the support of our brothers and sisters most.

It is very easy for us to say that we welcome refugees and migrants. We can give a few dollars to a charity, sign an online petition or write a letter to our parliamentarians. These are all loving acts but amount only to words if we don’t take the next step. It doesn’t need to be big – invite the family who just moved into the neighbourhood over for dinner, encourage your children to seek out children sitting alone and play with them, say hello to the stranger sitting next to you on the bus stop. As we seek to live as a Christian community in Sunshine and surrounds, let us take God’s word seriously and support those who need it most.

May the Son of God, who experienced firsthand the struggles of being a stranger, refugee and migrant, grant us the courage, strength and hope, to share God’s love with all our brothers and sisters.

Blessings

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Love stands in the middle

Our temptation is to stay on the outside.

To be Etic but not Emic. To attend endless conferences, read endless books, buy endless t-shirts. To dump cold water on our heads, take a selfie and hashtag it. To be about the latest ideas, like those on Mars Hill, to be waiting to see something new, like the newest post or picture online.

Ideas, when used this way, can be very self-indulgent. All the while, we remain outside the issue, and quite possibly, outside of our own story. But the great ideas – love, justice, intimacy, reconciliation – require something of us.

The people I see changing the world are doing it quietly.

– John Sowers

When I worked in Cairo, I was surrounded by good people with good intentions for the people living there. They had great ideas, great passion, but wha tmany of them couldn’t stand it seemed, was getting their hands dirty in order to see ideas and passions have an impact on people.

This article by John Sowers excellently sums up the situation we all face. If we want to have a tangible impact on the world we cannot ignore relationships. Relationships are the context in which the world can be changed for the better.

Sometimes the ideas we have aren’t actually that great or useful to the world. The positive impact on people’s lives is the measure and the test of a good idea.

To paraphrase an often quoted verse from the Bible, “If we do not have love, we are nothing but a loud noise”.

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Cleaning up

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” – John 2:13-16

I have often had cause to reflect on John’s recollection of Jesus clearing the temple. I have heard many use this verse as a justification for getting righteously angry at others and excluding them from communities. I wonder what Jesus would think of this reflection on his actions?

The Temple in Jerusalem was a large building with many sections for different purposes. At the heart of the building was a place called the ‘Holy of Holies’, a place where it was believed God dwelled. Around this was a court where only priests could enter. Another area was given for Jewish men to worship and then another separate place where Jewish women could worship. The temple area that Jesus found people selling animals and changing money in was called the Court of the Gentiles and was the place non Jewish people could come and worship God.

The students this week thought a great deal about what it would have been like to try to worship God in a place full of animals, money changers and all the noise that comes with a marketplace. The students thought that it wouldn’t be very easy at all to focus on God in this environment. We thought about Jesus ‘cleaning up’ the temple and why Jesus did this. Jesus wasn’t just angry and aiming to hurt people. He wanted to make sure that all people could have a place where they could meet God and focus on Him. Jesus wanted to remove barriers to people – regardless of age, gender race or religion – worshipping and accessing God.

As we move forward in this season of Lent, a season when we focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for all, may we all think about the barriers Christians can place stopping people meeting God. Do we require people to believe the same things exactly as us? Do we require them to be of a particular economic status? Do they need to wear certain clothes? Say certain things?

As this passage shows us today, Jesus isn’t concerned about who turns up to worship, but that we provide a space for people of all walks of life to worship God.

May God encourage us all to break down the barriers that the world creates between God and his people.

Blessings

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Good deeds

This week marks the beginning of the church season of Lent. This week the staff and students considered the following words of Jesus:

…when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matt 6:1-4)

The church season of Lent encourages us to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and service. His ministry was often carried out in small ways—quiet conversations, healing people and encouraging them not to tell others and so on. It was a ministry of great humility. This morning we installed our student leaders at assembly and Pastor Cecil encouraged them to remember that leaders are often those who quietly, and sometimes silently, go about their business of supporting others.

As Christians it is a great temptation to become frustrated with those we serve and even express frustration at God’s call to serve. “God, I know you ask me to serve but surely you don’t mean that person who is mean to me?” When I feel this way I am reminded that when Jesus was in the depths of his own despair, he took time to pray for those that persecuted him. He carried such a heavy burden for us all and served so diligently.

The blessing for us all is to know that Christ continues to serve us and encourages us to love as he loves. May our new student leaders inspire us all to serve God’s people in the same manner that he serves us.

Blessings

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What do you love? (Here are a few things that restore my soul)

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

Donald Miller wrote a piece recently about things that he loves and their role in what I would call ‘soul restoration’. You can read the piece here.

I have had a chance over the Christmas break to reflect on the things that I love – the things that I find myself getting lost in. As one who has a very heavy workload on a day to day basis I have found it very hard over the last year to find rest and to ‘turn off’. Perhaps by identifying and making time for these things I may find more rest.

So here goes. A few things I love in no particular order.

Getting lost exploring an important idea. I am currently reading Thoreau’s Walden and find myself drinking deep the ruminations on the consumerist nature of our society. Other topics I easily get lost in include Jesus’ social teachings, Martin Luther and radical grace, simplicity and minimalism, the transformation power of education and the importance of holistic education which values creativity and soul. Reflection accompanied by a cup of tea or coffee while overlooking a majestic landscape, sunset or a rainy day gets bonus points. I can get lost in conversation, documentaries, books etc. – it is all wonderful ‘lost’ time.

Drinking wine and eating good food with friends. An extension of the above, the act of meeting with people and discussing topics of passion restores my soul. Wine and food are not necessary but there is something about them that facilitates deeper conversation. I appreciate the celebration of Creation that wine is – the process of selecting, growing and processing the humble grape produces such a wide range of flavours that mirrors the complexity of the individuals that make up humanity. And food, well, as my handwriting skill attest, I struggle to craft things with my hands but I can cook. Taking raw ingredients graciously provided to us by the earth and turning them into meals that nourish others is very satisfying. Cooking can be quite a mindful exercise – fresh food has such a simple but intense scent that reminds me of new beginnings.

Providing the opportunity for others to engage with big ideas and develop as people. I love teaching and know the transformative nature of good education. The ‘light bulb’ moment is wonderful and seeing others create a conclusion that I hadn’t thought of brings deep joy. One of the many joys of working in primary education is having the chance to teach children the importance of serving and looking after each other. Seeing them put it into practice is lovely.

Physical activity  – especially long sessions of cardio.  In times gone by I was quite overweight and shunned all forms of exercise. Things are certainly different now. The mental space provided by a long run or ride is very restorative. While finding quiet and inspiring landscapes is difficult in Melbourne (Melbourne might have the night life but Adelaide has the scenery!), I like to take the opportunity to get out as often as I can. Exercise is the first thing to go when work weeks grow long. I am not alone in believing in the importance of walking and exercise – especially for leaders of larger organisations.

Silence and stillness. Our world is too loud and too busy. We are bombarded with insanely high levels of information and decisions each day. Sitting still and feeling still are important more than ever.

My relationship with my wife. All of the above activities are often present in our relationship and the support provided therein empowers me to serve others. Marriage is indeed work and one must provide the space for it to flourish. The above are enhanced by the presence of my wife.

So what about you? What are the ‘loves’ that restore your soul?

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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.

Blessings

Tom

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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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