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Related Bible reading(s): Isaiah 45.1-7; Psalm 96.1-9,(10-13); 1 Thessalonians 1.1-10; Matthew 22.15-22

PostScript: Forming a response…

What does it mean to become an example for God? (1 Thessalonians 1.7)

 

Context

In a sea of startling, sad, and often downright scary Covid-19 headlines, another story about the footballer Marcus Rashford really stands out. With the big hitters of the Premier League investing their time in creating bail-out packages for the rest of the league which appear to effectively grant them even more power and control than they currently have, Rashford is singing quite a different song. Following his successful campaign to feed children on the free school meal list through the summer holidays, he is back this week with a new campaign focusing on food poverty, urging an extension of free school meals for those families who newly find themselves struggling with food insecurity.

 

Reflection

Marcus Rashford’s actions are really interesting. He has seized the agenda around feeding children and is relentlessly keeping the issue in the national press. His focus on food poverty and child welfare is at odds with most of the stories on the sports pages; the Rashford story strikes a very different note. Of course his position as a well-known footballer in many ways makes it easier for him to get heard by the press and indeed the government. But he is still notable for making a choice about how to use the position he has. Rashford’s now well-known back story of being a hungry child is forming his response to society as he finds it. He doesn’t hide who he is, but allows his narrative to give him the energy and drive to stand up and be an example.

And the church in Thessalonica is urged to do exactly the same. The believers also have a very specific back story. The Thessalonians were a community of gentiles who had turned to God and faith in Christ, rejecting the idolatry of the rest of the population which firmly put them in line for persecution and social rejection. But the community, full of the Spirit of God, resisted the external pressures and instead grow together in their faith. In fact it is this back-story that forms their response to their situation. Rather than hide away or keep their heads down they behave like the apostles who had founded the church. They work hard, share their faith and in the opening of this letter are praised by the apostle for being a wonderful model for others. Their story has shaped them, they don’t hide who they are but seem to allow their narrative, fuelled by the power of the Holy Spirit, to give them the energy and drive to stand up and be an example.

Both Marcus Rashford and the Thessalonians are great examples: inspiring and encouraging. But perhaps easy to read about, less straightforward to imitate? Allowing the life that has shaped us to form a positive response to the world as we find it can take a lot of energy and focus. In these strange new times, it is perhaps difficult to strike a different note to the wall-to-wall Covid 19 narrative. While we admire Marcus Rashford it’s easy to think he is able to stand up and be an example because he has the luxury of a well-known face. But the Thessalonians offer a counter to this. They didn’t have well-known faces. No one is named, there’s no famous footballer amongst them. What they have is the powerful experience of the resurrection and God’s Holy Spirit. This is the narrative that gives them the energy to stand up. And what is amazing is that this is the same back story for all believers at all points in all ages. Our own history of faith is an encounter with the truth of the resurrection and God’s Holy Spirit. Of course this will be in different times, places and ways, but the back story is the same. It’s our connecting narrative as people of faith. And if we allow it, the story that shapes us as Christians is enough to propel us to be an example.

 

Prayer

Invite people to think about their faith ‘back story’ in a few moments of silence. 

Father God,
we pray for those who are fearful,
worried about the future and lacking in reassurance.
Please draw near to them and provide comfort.
Lord use us in your work here on earth.

We pray for young people who are anxious about school and exams. 
Give them courage and hope as they look to the future.
Lord use us in your work here on earth.

We pray for those who are hungry and sick.
We pray their needs are met and for your healing.
Lord use us in your work here on earth.

We pray for our communities, our neighbours, our friends and our church family.
Draw us closer together in love and kindness and help us to see your hand in our lives.
Lord use us in your work here on earth.

In the name of Christ.
Amen.

 

Questions

  • How has your back story shaped you?
  • How does your faith energise you to respond to the needs of this world?

 

All-age activity: Amazing examples!

Who are your heroes of faith? Who inspires you or has been a great example? Share stories together.

 

Young people

Invite your young people to try and take as many photos as they can of ‘people being a good example’. They can set them up themselves/try to photograph real situations/create and photograph scenes using plastic people/draw images and photograph them. The aim is to collate as many images as possible.

Once you have gathered the young people’s pictures, create a slide show for use during online meetups. Show it and discuss together what it means to be a good example and what motivates people to try and do this. Talk about the way that faith can propel us to try and become an example/model what Jesus might do.

 

Fiona Dorman is Bristol Cathedral schools liaison officer and an education consultant.

 

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