'Be determined and confident. Do not be afraid of them. Your God, the Lord himself, will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”’ Deuteronomy 31:6
Brothers and sisters, this Sunday is Education Sunday when we turn over a section of our service to the children from our primary school to lead. In September we have Back2School Sunday when our church prays for our school, but Education Sunday is about our school helping the church to pray. This is a lovely tradition which binds school and church closer together, allows the church to benefit from the children’s enthusiasm and be fed by the worship offered at school in both assembly and classroom. Of course, as with everything in the past twelve months, today looks a lot different to a ‘normal’ Education Sunday. However, it is still wonderful to be served by the school in this way, and one of the benefits of these changes is the school Christian Ethos Group have recorded their presentation and it has been added to our YouTube channel, so you can watch in your own time. If you can, why not have a watch, and then pick up this reflection afterwards?
The presentation is HERE!
If you’ve watched the Ethos Group’s presentation, you will know it is all about the motto text for the school: ‘Be determined and confident because God is with us!’. The children unpack this text so well, and it is wonderful to see how faith in God is at the centre of school life, and how it impacts our children in their day-to-day existence. I especially loved the ways in which some of the Ethos Group gave examples of how they had been determined and confident, and how God had been with them. At this time of Corona-virus I think we all need to hear that message don’t we? It has been so hard for all of us. Especially for schools, who have had to open and close, children who have been stuck at home, teachers having to learn to teach online, Teaching Assistant having to take on more responsibility and parents having to teach at home. Corona-virus has dramatically affected life, and I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t think I would have coped had it not been for the Truth behind our school motto text. All of us have had our whole world shaken by the last 12 months. How can we possibly have confidence? How can we possibly be determined moving forward? Well the kids have reminded us, so well, haven’t they? We can be determined, we can be confident, because God is with us. He is with us in Jesus, not just when things are going well, not just at Christmas and Easter, but all of the time. In fact, it is often in times of difficulty, often in times of suffering and hardship, that we find Christ to be the closest to us. In an assembly this week, which I was able to share in, thanks to modern video-conferencing technology, the Headteacher, Mr Purcell shared this lovely poem, which many of you know, and which is called ‘Footprints’:
“One night I dreamed a dream. As I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, One belonging to me and one to my Lord. After the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints. This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. "Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You'd walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.” He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you."
Because God is with us, and at the most difficult moments, if we let Him, He will carry us, we can be determined and confident. All we need to do is reach out in prayer, and He will support us and guide us and help us. For, in the words of one bishop: ‘Even in the darkest moments, in moments of sin, in moments of weakness, in moments of failure, I have seen Jesus, and I have trusted Him. He has not left me alone.’ And one of the ways God does that - as the Ethos Group explains so well - is by giving us each other. We move forward as a family, as the Church. We move forward as a community, a diverse and wonderful community made up of parents and grandparents, teachers and teaching assistants, as children and infants, as priest and head teacher, as a family. And what holds our family together, what is at the root of everything we are and everything we do, is God in Jesus. So let us keep making time to pray for ourselves and one another, to read the Scriptures, to support one another with phone calls, with small acts of kindness, and as we are able to meet together to worship God, the God who is always with us.
‘Be determined and confident because God is with us!’ What a wonderful reminder from our school, and what a wonderful text to choose as our school motto text. We all need to be reminded of that truth, so why not print it out and put it somewhere where you’ll see it? Amen (from Rev. Mike).