Weekly Update – 9th July

A few weeks ago Jackie shared with us some thoughts to do with “heat” and retold the story in Daniel of the 3 men in the fiery furnace – their punishment for keeping to their moral compass and being true to themselves even in exile. At Faith Explorers, for the past month, we have been looking at the book of Daniel, and have found that repeatedly Daniel has been called upon to stand up for what he believes in and not to give in to the pressure from those around him – not even kings! His values are constantly being challenged, and consider how hard it must have been to stick by his beliefs when he was living in exile in a completely different culture, with  all that that entails. Despite all the challenges (or maybe because of them!), Daniel thrives and is elevated to high positions within his adopted country as subsequent kings value his integrity and may even have sympathy with his views and certainly come to respect “Daniel’s God”.

This week we have welcomed the Y6 pupils from our local primary schools into the church to spend some time reflecting about their time at primary school and what they can expect at secondary school and beyond. There are always concerns about making new friends and one of the prayer stations gets the children to look at themselves, both physically in a mirror and mentally by asking themselves questions to find out who they really are. The best advice for going somewhere new and meeting new people is just be true to yourself and don’t try to be something you are not. A lesson that Daniel’s life illustrates well. The gospel reading this week is from Matthew and at the end features the well- known verse “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11 v 28). That’s not the bit I want to focus on – earlier in that chapter (v16-19) Jesus is talking about the comparisons made between him and John the Baptist, about the way they behave. John the Baptist chose to live on his own out in the desert, fasting and not drinking and was criticized. Jesus was criticized, by the same people, for eating , drinking and being sociable . Jesus drew from this that in following God we have to stay true to Him, whatever outside influences come to bear, behave in the manner that God wants us to and this may look different for us all. Maybe the “rest” that He speaks of in v.28, is not necessarily physical rest but mental rest from the stress of trying to be something that we are not, trying to make ourselves fit into society’s expectation of us instead of how God wants us to be. The Message version of v28-29 says “Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” Doesn’t that sound idyllic – don’t worry about having the perfect life on social media or trying to keep up with those around you, stay true to Jesus and the way he lived and those things don’t matter anymore, those stresses are gone. As Daniel found in the lions den – stay true to and stand up for your beliefs and God will be with you .

May God be with all of us over the coming week as we “walk and work with Him” and try and learn the “unforced rhythms of grace”.