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Saturday, 2 July 2016

Doing greater things than Jesus!

This morning, at the invitation of the Chaplain, Fr Paul Trathen, I gave the address during the annual Service of Commemoration held at Forest School. This service commemorates the good work of those who founded the School, celebrates its continuing development, and congratulates those students whose time at the School is drawing to a close. In my address I said the following:

Jesus said, 'The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things.' (John 14. 1 - 14)

Jesus said many amazing things that people still repeat regardless of whether they follow him or not. But these words must be among the most amazing because Jesus says that those who follow him will do greater things than him. When you think how amazing Jesus’ own actions were – his teaching, his healings, his miracles, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection - it is hard to imagine how people like us could do greater things than that. So what could he possibly have meant?

I think Jesus was articulating something that I imagine all good teachers think and feel; the sense that all the time he had spent with his disciples and invested in them was not so they would be clones of him, simply repeating the things he did and said, but instead that he had equipped, empowered and enabled his followers to follow him by using their own gifts and abilities and initiative which would inevitably mean that they would do and say different things from him but still with his Spirit and based on all they had learnt from him.

He was saying that each one of us is a unique combination of personality, abilities and potential and, therefore, each of us can make a unique mark on the world. His followers can do and have done greater things than Jesus in the sense that they have done different things from him while still in his name and through his Spirit – things that only they can do for him because they are that unique package of personality, ability and potential.

That, I imagine, is also what your teachers here wish for you. That you will use what you have learnt here and the abilities you have developed here to make your own mark on the world and to continue learning, particularly about the meaning of life itself, and, as a result, to do things that your teachers themselves cannot do as they have a different set of abilities and different tasks to accomplish.

What will be the mark that you will make? Well, we probably can’t accurately make that prediction at this time, although you all hopefully have plans in place for the next stage in your learning, growth and development and, as you leave this place and this stage in your learning, you go with our very real good wishes and prayers for God’s blessing on your plans.

One thing that I would say, however, in reflecting on this passage is that you should take care not to fall into the trap of viewing greatness in terms of becoming famous or making pots of money. Many of the most significant things that people do in the course of their lives don’t make the headlines and don’t build our bank balances! For example, forming faithful, committed relationships is one of the most challenging but meaningful things we can do in life but that won’t feature in the press and media or improve your bank balance. Yet, many of you, later in life, are likely to become parents and will know the joys and struggles of supporting your own children in their development and growth. That is one of the most significant things we can do over the course of our lives; something that is a real act of greatness, being both extraordinary and profoundly ordinary at one and the same time. At the end of the day, Jesus shows us through his teaching and crucifixion that true greatness involves sacrificial love and service of others.

Leaving secondary education is the point at which your choices and decisions about the future begin to come into play and begin to be followed through. You do so at a time of profound uncertainly and soul-searching within the life of our nation where much that was familiar seems likely to change in ways that none of us can accurately predict. The way to respond is always to face the reality of where we are and grasp the opportunities available. None of us chose to be born or to live in such an age; but we can choose to let its problems challenge us, its discoveries exhilarate us, its injustices anger us, its possibilities inspire us and its vigour renew us for the sake of God’s kingdom's.

My prayer for you therefore is what Jesus prayed for his disciples that you will go on to do greater things than your teachers by making your unique mark on the world and that you will go ever deeper into truth by continuing to learn throughout your life.

Let us pray for God’s blessing on your leaving, your doing, and your learning:

We thank you, Lord, for each one of these your people - for their unique combination of personality, abilities and potential, for all they have learnt while here and for all the friendships they have formed. We pray for your blessing on them as they leave this place and for you to be with them in grasping new patterns of independent learning and growing life skills as adults. We pray for your guidance as they seek to make their mark on the world by using all they have learnt here together with their unique combination of personality, abilities and potential. We pray that they might do great things, things that we cannot do and cannot yet predict. We pray for them the blessing of committed, sustained friendships and relationships and the blessing of ongoing, lifelong learning. Most of all we pray that the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit will rest upon and remain with each one of them now and forever. Amen.


John Rutter - The Lord Bless You And Keep You.

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