Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Passion of the Christ

Over recent weeks I have been increasingly involved in my local Church of England school in Blackpool. Standing in front of a group of Year 9 inquisitve teenagers talking to them about The Baptism of Christ and Temptations in the 21st Century from a Christian perspective is something that has challenged me far more than I expected. It has required that I am ready to be 'put on the spot' by spontaneous questions and random outbursts - needless to say, preparation has been the key! Asides from making me realise just how much I want to be a teacher it forced me to come across a subject that I have never really looked very far into: The Crucifixion of Christ.

As part of my research into this subject I watch Mel Gibson's version of The Passion of the Christ - on YouTube. The sound had been dubbed with a version of Amazing Grace however, the voices and sound effects were still very audible. As I sat there and watched this unbearable torture of the man by whom I live my life my eyes widened, my mouth became dry and I could hear my heart beat. I was overwhelmed. For the first time in my life, the sudden realisation of what happened to Christ on that day became apparent. Once the video had ended it took a few moments for me to gather my composure - the information I had expected to gain, ready for Period 5's class with 9SY, had been surpassed by an incredible personal gain. In the words of one of the greatest hymns ever written I pondered the question "How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?". Moreover, why did Jesus die? And, why did him dying save us from our Sins? Regularly, in Church we hear people say to us that "Jesus dying paid the penalty for our Sin. It set us free!" but I have never really understood why?

I did some research and chose books off my shelf by David Watson, Michele Guinness and other Christian authors. However, it was in the words of Nicky Gumble's book Question of Life that I found my most satisifying and simplistic answer. Allow me to share with you his words:
This image comes from a law court. Two people went through school and university together and developed a close friendship. Life went on and they went their different ways and lost contact. One went on to become a judge, while the other one went down and down and ended up a criminal. One day the criminal appeared before the judge. He had committed a crime to which he pleaded guilty. The judge recognised his old friends, and faced a dilemma. He was a judge so he had to be just; he couldn't let the man off. On the other hand, he didn't want to punish the man, because he loved him. So he told his friend that he would fine him the correct penalty for the offence. That is justice. Then he came down from his position as judge and he wrote a cheque for the amount of the fine. He gave it to his friend, saying that he would pay the penalty for him. That is love.

The first time I read this out someone raised their hand and mentioned that it was an inaccurate account as a Judge of Law would not be allowed to pass sentence for somebody he knew. However, going beyond the practical points, it does give a wonderful illustration of what it meant for Jesus to die. "Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends". (John 15:13) In the same way that the Judge stood down from his position and paid the cheque to his friend, Jesus laid down his life and paid the penalty for our sin.

The most touching and emotional part of the video clip, for me, came at the end and in particular in the final words of Jesus before he bowed down his head and died "Father, into your hands, I place my spirit". Whilst hanging there on the cross, with three nails through his arms and feet, having been whipped and humilated by nakedness he set aside his pain and commended himself to his Father; not with fear but with faith. Perhaps more of us need to set aside our fears and our pains of life - and commit ourselves to God.

Saturday, 17 October 2009


I have recently submitted a funding application to take a group of 20 young people on four week-long residentials experiences: Canal Boating, Camping, Outward Bounds and a holiday to London. One of the questions asked on the form is "How will your funding application help reduce the causes of poverty and improve the quality of life for these youngsters?'. I struggled to think of answer for the questions. My initial thought was 'Well, I'm taking the kids away, they'll have a fab time... but then they're going to come back into their every day lives - hanging around the arcades and other such dignified pastimes.'

After much deliberation, contemplation and basic brain-racking it hit me! It all boils down to respect. I want to demonstrate to these children that there is far more to life than they find in South Blackpool - there is a world out there! The language that these children speak, their attitude to life and the way they behave is because they don't have any respect - for themselves.

If we can encourage these young people to develop a level of respect for themselves, then everything else will fit into place afterwards. Why do they throw litter? Because they have no respect for the place where they live and therefore, no respect for themselves. Why do they swear? Because they don't care what people think about them because, they have no respect for themselves. Why do they bunk off school? Because they're not interested in an education - once again, a lack of respect for themselves. All of these things, and more, are what contribute towards a society of poverty and deprevation. A person who has respect for themselves and believes in themselves will care about where they live, they will care about what people think of them and they will care about their education. If we can help these children to develop respect for themselves then, slowly but surely, generations will escape the downward spiral of poverty they find themselves in.

So there you have it - my theory of deprevation. If people realised just how much they are really worth, they would never be prepared to settle for anything less, even again!

Friday, 16 October 2009

The Thing I've Learnt

When I was young we moved around quite a lot as a family (that is my Mum and I). It wasn't until I was about 12 years old when we finally settled somewhere. Even then, at 15 we moved again. The distances weren't particularly far apart, in fact usually it was the same town. This is significant because, it always meant that essentially I was always around the same people. However, on the 3rd April 2009 I had an interview for a job in Blackpool; a job of which I am now 4 months into. Needless to say, this meant a move away from my friends, my family and my Church. No longer would I have the comfort of a Grandparent around the corner, or friends to whom I could just "drop-in". The door of life had opened and it was a big scary place ahead.

However, despite the initial fears and concerns - which, by the grace of God, are all now well overcome - I feel settled in Blackpool. I am thankful for the opportunities that have arisen to me through my faith. In my interview they asked me why I felt I was suitable for the job. I answered that I felt I had two primary gifts; both of which were God given. The first, is the ability to work with young people. The second, is the power of the Holy Spirit. Individually, I told them, these gifts were very strong. Together, the possibilities were endless.

The evidence for this is apparent by the successes that have been created through the work of God through me in Wallasey and in Blackpool.

Essentially, I have learnt that when we do things for other people in the name of Christ and for God they will be extremely successful. It is only when we do things for ourselves and ourselves alone that we begin to fail.