3.2 Nurturing Faith
The second descriptor for leading the team is nurturing faith. This descriptor involves providing opportunities for the spiritual formation of others appropriate to their spiritual journey. It includes demonstrating a commitment to one’s personal faith journey, leading the school community in faith, reaching out to the wider community to build faith and deepen their understanding of Lutheran beliefs and values. It also includes creating an environment where Christian spiritual reﬂection and formation are valued and strongly encouraged.
The Apostle Peter is his letter to the early Christians in Asia Minor who were experiencing persecution penned the following words which also impact how we nurture faith in our school communities; Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
How do we encourage the nurturing of faith or spiritual growth in our early learning centres, schools and colleges? You might think I am not a pastor, a chaplain, a Christian studies teacher, I am not a regular churchgoer, I not a person of great faith, that’s not really my thing. But we are all part of the Christian community present in our school, so we all have a part to play in being formed in faith and influencing others to grow spiritually. Whether we are strong in our Christian identity or not we all impact and influence other people, either positively or negatively. The spiritual values and beliefs we model have an impact on others.
Reflecting on your own spiritual journey, how comfortable are you in talking about your faith, your spirituality to others? Many people find it hard to talk about their faith for a variety of reasons. They don’t have the language, the background or the confidence. The advantage of teaching in a Lutheran School is that we are all on a spiritual journey through life, growing in our knowledge of the Bible, God, and the teachings of the Church together. We are not doing this alone, we are part of a community which welcomes the growth and grace that comes from questioning together; where are we and where is God in this?
Check out this list of seven “ush” words below. Seven reasons why people find it hard to talk about their faith.
1) Blush (it’s too personal or private)
2) Hush (I wouldn’t really know what to say)
3) Rush (I would struggle to find the time)
4) Push (I don’t have a right to force my faith on anybody else)
5) Gush (I wouldn’t feel able to speak intelligently about my faith)
6) Mush (my own faith feels confused or unclear)
7) Crush (I’m worried or scared how people might respond)
Gracious God, help me to take time out to reflect on my own faith journey. Encourage me to engage in those spiritual practices like prayer and worship which will grow me closer to you. Give me the grace to live out my faith in my school community and when the opportunity arises to share my faith. Teach me, Lord, that you are with me in a very real way in all the ordinariness of life, of work and of family. Bless me with your presence, Jesus, as you bless others through me. Amen.
 Modern day Turkey
 1 Peter 3:15
 From the resource “Faith Pictures” which is produced by the Church Army UK, Getting started, Session 1, Leader’s Notes, http://www.faithpictures.org
Jesus said this about the eyes in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:22-23; Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! (The Message). Or as it might be remembered from a more traditional translation; The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (NRSV)
A person’s eyes are said to be a window into their soul. That’s why that exercise of standing in front of a person and staring directly into their eyes for an extended period can be very disconcerting but also deeply personal and highly bonding. Writers on spirituality talk of soft eyes as compared to hard eyes. Soft eyes help us look at the world in a different way to the usual; they help us see things in a more soulful way. Seeing with soft eyes is a receptive mode. It is receiving and being open to what you are receiving. Seeing with hard eyes is the judgmental, analytical, harsh way of viewing the world. Soft eyes help us step into the world aware but compassionate, welcoming mystery and grace that we might otherwise miss with hard eyes alone.
Rod Windle and Suzanne Warren state in a training manual written on conflict resolution for schools in the US which uses this technique; Soft eyes happen when we relax the muscles around our eyes and let ourselves see with our peripheral vision as well as with our central, focused vision. We see the individual in front of us, but we also see the people to either side, the clock above his head, the lights on the ceiling and the pattern on the floor. We take in everything and are distracted by nothing. Seeing in this way sends an entirely different set of signals to the brain from seeing with hard eyes. As our eyes see more, somehow our brains become more open to the diversity of possibilities that always surround us. Soft eyes also tend to have a calming effect on the people around us, and often on ourselves as well.
Physiologically, we normally use what’s known as our foveal vision. A tiny area of the retina which helps us see details in a focused, analytical way. Things like threading a needle, reading a newspaper or looking at a screen. Foveal vision is about actively retrieving information through our eyes. It’s great for detail but too much of it, and we end up with eye strain, tension around the eyes and in other parts of the body. When we use our soft eyes, we use our much neglected peripheral vision. The aim is to see the detail still but to maintain our wider field of vision so that we are in the moment, more fully are aware of what’s around us. Soft eyes can be particularly useful in a sport where players can receive a pass focusing on the ball while sensing where everyone else is positioned on the field, in their periphery.
Parker Palmer in “The Courage to Teach” writes; Soft eyes, it seems to me is an evocative image for what happens when we gaze on sacred reality. Now our eyes are open and receptive, able to take in the greatness of the world and the grace of great things. Eyes wide with wonder we no longer need to resist or run when taken by surprise. Now we can open ourselves to the great mystery.
Our eyes are a window to the soul, to God, to other people and how we view the world. As our sight is transformed through the grace of God, may we gaze on people, on the world with soft eyes as the light of Christ shines through us.
A staff devotion I wrote for the thread of purpose we were exploring as a college:
As a young adult in the late 1980s I read a novel that was popular at the time by Douglas Adams called “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. In the story the main character, Arthur Dent roams the universe in a Vogon spacecraft in his dressing gown and towel, after earth has been demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass. The story was originally written for a BBC radio show and overtime it has been adapted to stage shows, novels, comics, a television series and a feature film. Anyone who has experienced “The Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy” story knows the famous scene in which the computer “Deep Thought” calculates the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. Indeed this scene from Douglas Adams has achieved cult status with people readily acknowledging that the answer to the meaning of the universe is the number 42.
Ever since Adams wrote 42 as the answer to the ultimate question of the universe, people have wondered and theorized why he chose that particular number. If you search online there are copious theories about the significance of the number 42 and Adam’s intention in using it. Some English newspapers have suggested that Adams was paying tribute to the writer Lewis Carol, who was a mathematician. Lewis Carol made use of the number 42 in Alice in Wonderland and other writings. The number 42 is special in mathematics as it is a meandric, polygonal, pronic, abundant, Catalan number and importantly, the perfect score for the International Mathematical Olympiad. Another suggestion as to why Adams used 42 is because it is the number of lines used in the first modern book, Gutenberg’s Bible which had 42 lines of text per page. A third suggestion is that it is an obscure reference to the traditional number of rulers of Tibet. Adam’s close friend and voiceover in one of the movies, Stephen Fry, swore to secrecy that he would go to his grave never disclosing his friend’s reason for choosing the number. But one newspaper report is that Douglas Adams is reported to have said when he was writing the story he wanted to choose a simple number and at the time as he looked out into his garden, the number 42 came to mind.
For me, that goes to show who much we as humanity complicate things. When confronted with deep questions such as the meaning of life and what our purpose is, we can theorize, come up with great conspiracies, unduly wind ourselves up in intellectual knots, when really the truth is much simpler than we desire. When I was pondering these questions last night, I came across this Bible verse from Philippians two verse four. It’s in a section where we are told of the attitude of Jesus in coming to earth and taking on human form. In four words at the start of verse four we are told that “in humility (Jesus) valued others”. That nails the ultimate question of the universe for me. It’s that simple and that basic; in humility value others, in humility we are to value others above ourselves.
As we journey through life, with maturity we learn that we are not the centre of universe, that our mortal lives on earth are short, everything we experience is a gift from God, and meaning is made through having humility like Jesus as we value others and in turn serve them. What is our purpose and the meaning of life, the universe and everything? Some would say its a number 42, I would say its a person who in humility values us so we can value others.
About this site
"Meditations & Musings" is my humble attempt to share what I have found useful in ministry in an Australian Lutheran School setting. It contains chapels, devotions and other resources I have written, used and adapted in my K-12 school context. If you would like to also share your ideas, resources or start a conversation about mission and ministry in your church- school location, feel free to contact me.
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