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Thought For The Week - 17-10-22

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

I recently visited a church school outside of this Diocese whose vision was rooted in Matthew 5.16, Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds. Part and parcel of belonging to this school community was recognising that each person had inherent worth and that it is the responsibility of everyone to help shine a light on this. The school used the parable of the Lost Sheep to help the younger children understand how it is important to be the person who shines a light on others so that their good deeds can be known. Every day, a member of staff hid a big fluffy toy sheep somewhere around school. The challenge for the pupils was to find the sheep so it could be brought to collective worship at the end of the day where the whole school community shone a light on all the good deeds that had taken place that day.

I loved the idea of the pupils keeping an eye out all day long to find the lost sheep so that it could rejoin the school community, so I decided to use this parable with the children at my church on Sunday. I asked one child to read out the story, which can be found in Luke 15. The Bible we used was The Message version and I noted as the child read that in this translation the lost sheep is compared to a sinner, and the sinner is contrasted with “99 good people”. Sinner is a tricky word, so I asked the children what they thought it meant. Unsurprisingly, they went for the opposite of ‘good’ – a sinner is a ‘bad person’. This struck me as deeply problematic and strongly against the actual theme of the parable itself. We spent some time talking about the fact that there are not good people and bad people; just people: people who make good choices and bad choices. The story shows that we all make bad choices sometimes, but that Christians believe God always offers a route back when bad choices have been made. One bright spark told me that that was what Sirius Black had meant when he told Harry that “the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on.” (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).

We are entering a season that weaves together light and dark in complex, challenging and beautiful patterns. Next week, Hindus will celebrate the festival of Diwali, which is rooted in a story about good choices and bad choices, and celebrates darkness being overcome with light. Christians, too, - particularly in this area of the world, - frame the preparation for Jesus’ birth as a narrative of light overcoming the dark. We explore stories about people making good choices (Mary’s acceptance of God’s will that she should become the mother of Jesus) and people making bad choices (Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth, who does not believe that she will bear a son and is made silent by the Angel Gabriel for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy because of his lack of faith).

I know that you all help the children and young people in our schools and academies understand that the world cannot neatly be fit into black and white categories; that real life is much messier and more complex than we might sometimes like. I hope that you know that we celebrate along with you when good choices lead to flourishing in your schools and we stand alongside you when bad choices (of any kind!) make life trickier for you. We wish you all a smooth final week of the half term (how are we there already?!) and a wonderful rest over the half-term holiday.

from Gillian Georgiou, RE & SIAMS Advisor

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