Sunday School

St Francis of Assisi

Original Homily Rich in Love: St. Francis, a Godly Play-Inspired Story source link below.

Francis was born in the town of Assisi, in Italy. His father was a wealthy merchant, who named his son Francis—which means “Frenchman”—because he loved the fine wares and delicious food of France. Francis grew up loving fine food and wine and beautiful clothes and music and dancing as well, and he loved to have wonderful parties with his friends so he could share these things with them. He wanted to be brave and strong and to protect his town from enemies, so when Assisi went to war against a nearby town he rode off with the soldiers to fight. In the battle Francis was captured and made a prisoner, and he had to live for a year in a dark and miserable dungeon. But even though he was in such a terrible place he still managed to laugh and joke and sing and lift the spirits of the other prisoners. When he was finally ransomed, he returned to Assisi and to his friends and parties, and everyone loved him all the more for the courage and good spirit he had shown in the battle and in the dungeon.

Francis wanted to become a noble knight, and to win glory, and to fight against the Muslims, so his father bought him a fine horse and splendid armor and a magnificent cape, and he rode off to join the Fourth Crusade. But after he had ridden only a single day, God spoke to him in a dream and told him that this was not the right path. Francis was confused, but he returned home to Assisi only to be teased by his friends who thought he had been too afraid to join the Crusade, and scolded by his father who was upset at having wasted so much money on a fine horse and armor for nothing. Francis began to spend time in prayer, asking God what was the right path.

One day Francis saw a poor man who was a leper. He had ugly sores all over his body and wore ragged, dirty clothes and smelled bad. Francis had always loved beautiful things, and the sight of the leper upset him and made him feel afraid. But in spite of this he went up to the poor leper and embraced him and kissed his misshapen hand. Then something happened that surprised Francis. The leper embraced him back, and kissed Francis’ hand, and suddenly Francis felt the most wonderful joy he had ever known. He felt God’s love come into him through the leper’s touch, and he knew that God’s love was for the entire world, and because God loved everything, everything was beautiful. He laughed and sang because of the beauty that God’s love made, but when he turned again to look for the leper, the leper had disappeared.

Another time Francis was praying in the church of St. Damian just outside Assisi, which was falling apart from neglect. There was an image of Christ on the cross above the altar, and as Francis prayed it seemed to speak to him and said, “Francis, repair my house which is falling into ruin.” Francis thought this must mean the ruined church in which he was praying, so he went and sold some of his father’s wares to get money to fix the broken down building. But when his father heard of it he came and took back the money and locked Francis in his room. Francis’ mother helped him to escape, and he returned to St. Damian’s church to repair it with his own hands. Francis’ father though he had lost his mind, and took him to the city court. There, in front of all the ruling men of the city, he said he would disown Francis and take away his inheritance and all his fine things unless he stopped acting so strangely and came back to work in the family business. Francis said, “You have always been my father. Now I will have no father except ‘Our Father who is in heaven.’” And with that he took off all the expensive and beautiful clothes he wore and gave them back to his father, then went out from the court in only a shirt made of scratchy hair. He went to go live in the woods outside Assisi, and when robbers found him and beat him up and took every last thing that he owned, he sang and laughed because now he was free from all the things that had distracted him from finding the right path.

Francis took care of the poor and the sick and lived in the woods and owned nothing and preached about the love God had for everything that made everything beautiful. People began to follow Francis because they wanted to live like he did and know the love he felt for everything God loved. Francis called his followers “Little Brothers,” and he went to Rome to ask the Pope for permission to make the Little Brothers into a real religious order. At first the Pope didn’t want to meet with the strange, scruffy man who lived in the woods, but then he had a dream in which he saw the great Lateran Basilica—the Pope’s own church—about to fall over, and the man from Assisi holding it up. He realized God was telling him that Francis’ mission was very important for the entire Church. He gave Francis his blessing, and the Little Brothers became an order of monastics and were called friars.

Francis saw that because God loved everything, the whole world and everything in it was like a family. He called the sun “Brother Sun,” and the moon “Sister Moon,” and made up hymns about how the whole world praised God by being what God had made it. He once preached a sermon to some birds he saw in the woods, calling them his little sisters. When a fearsome wolf began to frighten the townspeople of the nearby town of Gubbio and eat their livestock, he went and found the wolf and said, “Brother Wolf, you have frightened these people and eaten their livestock, but since you only did so because you were hungry, will you promise to make peace with them and do them no harm if they will feed you every day?” The wolf bowed its head and put its paw in Francis’ hand, and from that day on it lived peacefully in Gubbio, and the townspeople fed it like a pet.

By the end of his life Francis had traveled far and wide telling people about God’s love and helping the poor, and had gained many followers, and everyone knew of the man of God who owned nothing and loved everyone and everything. He had even tried to stop the wars between the Christians and Muslims by going to preach to the Muslim sultan. His preaching caused a great revival among people throughout Europe, for this was the true meaning of the vision he had seen so long ago in St. Damian’s—that he would be a repairer of God’s Church throughout the land, not just a single church building.

We remember St. Francis because he was rich in love.

Sunday School

Today’s Sunday School story is about Jonah and the Big Fish

Today’s story is about Jonah and the Big Fish and can be found in the Old Testament in the book of Jonah chapters 1-4. (Thank you Claire Hannington for this week’s Sunday School story)

There was a prophet called Jonah. One day, God said to him: ‘Warn the people of the great city of Ninevah about the consequences of their sins”
I won’t thought Jonah. I hate those people so he went to Joppa and boarded a ship sailing to Tarshish.
God knew Jonah was running away from Him. God sent a great storm. The ship began to break up. The sailors called their gods and threw the cargo into the sea to make the ship lighter. Jonah was sleeping. The captain scolded him: ‘How can you sleep? Pray to your god, we are sinking!”
Meanwhile the sailors drew lots to find out who had caused the storm. The lots showed it was Jonah! “Who are you asked the sailors, what work do you do?”
I am a Jew, said Jonah. I serve the Lord who made the sea and the earth. I am running away from God. You should throw me into the sea so that the storm can become calm.”
The sailors prayed ‘Oh Lord, don’t let us sink because of this man. Don’t make us kill him innocence. Do what You want to “. Then they threw him into the sea. Immediately the storm became calm. The sailors offered a sacrifice to God. God sent a great fish to swallow Jonah. He was in the stomach of the fish for three days and three nights. Inside the fish, Jonah Prayed “ Lord, You saved me. I am singing to praise you. I will now do what I promised. Then the fish spat Jonah out onto the beach. God again said to Jonah “Warn the people of Ninevah’”
Ninevah was such a big city that it took three days to walk through it. Jonah told the people in forty days, God will destroy Ninevah!”
This made the people of Ninevah think about their sins. They were sorry for their sins, they cried and stopped sinning.
When God saw that they were sorry for their sins. He decided not to destroy Ninevah. This made Jonah angry with God!
“That is just the way You are, Lord!” He said “It is because You are supposed to be merciful and a God and filled with love! I knew You wouldn’t punish these people.
Jonah built himself a shelter and sat outside Ninevah to see what would happen to the city. God made a plant grow to provide shade for Jonah. But the next morning a worm attacked the plant and the plant died. Shortly after this, God sent a scorching wind. The sun burnt Jonah and the hot wind blew. Jonah said “I wish I could die” And God asked him are you angry about the plant?” “Of course said Jonah, I am dying here”. Then God said you are upset about a plant even though you didn’t work for it. But am I not allowed to feel sorry for the great city of Ninevah where there are more than 120 000 people and many animals. And Jonah stopped being angry.

Sunday School

Conclusion of the story of Moses

Numbers 13 – 14, 17 & 21

This week we conclude the story of Moses

From Mount Sinai the Israelites moved towards Canaan. When they reached the boarder they chose twelve men to go into Canaan and find out what the land was like. After forty days the men returned with all kinds of fruit. They told the Israelites who had been eagerly awaiting their return that although the land was fertile their cities were protected by great fortresses.

 The people were so disappointed that they begged to return to Egypt. Joshua and Caleb two of the men who had been into Canaan urged the people to trust in God, but no one wanted to listen to them. God was so angry that the Israelites would not trust him after all he had done for them.

He had rescued them from slavery in Egypt and he had fed them with manna and quails and provided them with water in the desert. So he punished them by making them wander in the desert for forty years.

The Israelites would not obey Moses and they decided to attack the Canaanites but they were heavily defeated. They blamed Moses for their defeat and they challenged Moses and asked him who had given him and Aaron the right to lead them.

Moses suggested a way to solve the problem. He told each of the twelve tribes to choose a leader and to carve leaders name on an almond branch and leave the branch in God’s tent. God will choose one of the men.

When they looked at the branches the next morning, only Aarons branch had burst into flower. God had chosen Aaron. The Israelites were not satisfied for long they soon began to complain again.

This time God decided to punish them and he sent poisonous snakes into their camp.

Many people were bitten. The Israelites begged Moses to ask God to send the snakes away. They asked Moses to tell God that they were sorry for being so ungrateful and speaking against God.

Moses prayed to God. God answered Moses by telling him to make a snake out of bronze and to put it on a stick so every one could see it. So every one who believed in God, only had to look at the bronze snake to be made well again.

After forty long years leading his people around the desert Moses died. God chose Joshua as the new leader. The time had come for the Israelites to enter the promised land.

By Revd Peta May


Water is Life

The story of the people of Israel traveling through the desert of Sin reminds us of the absolute dependency of human beings on water. Many of the current conflict zones have as one of their roots the lack of water.

For instance, the war in Syria was preceded by 7 years of drought which pushed farmers off the land into the cities, creating tensions in those communities.

Cape Town managed to avert the day zero crisis of taps being turned off, but there were threats of the army being called in if day zero had been reached.

In this passage God tells Moses to strike the rock in a symbolic action. Later we hear that God becomes angry with him for the way in which he strikes the rock. In the Numbers passage Moses strikes the rock in his anger at the ‘rebellious’ people.

“Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. (Numbers 20:11-12)

This is a powerful reminder that we are to protect our sources of water, treat them with reverence and not abuse them. Much of Africa (as with the Middle East) is dependent on ground water sources such as aquifers. It is a sin and a crime against future generations if we abuse our water sources because of the urgent demands of people.

A more affluent lifestyle consumes vast quantities of treated water. Drinking quality water gushes into long showers, irrigated gardens and swimming pools, in contrast with the single taps or polluted river water that people in poor communities’ use.

The miracles that are referred to in this passage refer to the wonders of water, how God divided the sea so that the people of Israel could pass through. He split the rocks in the desert to give abundant water. This reminds us of the Exodus passage where the needs of both people and their livestock is met.

Hundreds of feet under the desert of the modern-day Negev lie vast aquifers. The water is brackish, though far less salty than seawater. Throughout the Negev desert there are examples of modern water technology, including huge greenhouses for tomatoes and peppers. The crops from the Negev are timed to provide tomatoes and peppers out of season. And for two weeks each year the majority of tomatoes in Europe come from the Negev desert. This is indeed a miracle. But it is not a renewable miracle. Like seams of coal, once the water is extracted, it is gone forever. There may only be enough to last another 100 years.

Most of the world’s environmental challenges have at the heart the sin of greed. This passage gives the principles for life that could save this planet – be humble as Christ was and look to the interests of others not your own.

It is a desire for status that pushes us to continuously buy the latest gadget, car or TV screen. If we all lived a simpler lifestyle, the planet would have enough for our need, there is not enough for our greed. If we were to put the interests of others first, we would consider the impact on the worker and the environment of the products we buy. There is no such thing as ‘bargain’ clothing. The clothing is cheap because of the exploitative wages paid to workers and the damage done to the environment. As well as a carbon footprint, items have a water footprint It is estimated that a pair of jeans can require up to 20,000 litres of water in the production.

In particular today we are challenged to look at our water usage and wastage and see how we can treasure this miracle from God.

The challenge of our Gospel reading is for us to walk the walk and not just talk the talk! The first son said he would not go to the vineyard and work and yet he did so. The second one said he would go and did not.

Are we willing to actually change our lifestyles?

Many people make resolutions or pledges to change their lifestyles and yet when it comes down to it, they have made no change.

(2:5-7)‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness’

Jesus, the son of God, chose the form of a slave, even to the point of suffering the form of execution often used against troublesome slaves: ‘death on a cross’ (2:8).

Jesus was not captured or sold as a slave; he chose this status. His approach was to consciously put aside his status of godhead, to become a slave, to put the needs of others first so much so that he was even willing to die for them.

As we reflect on how we can have the same mind of Christ, the first thing to note is that these verses do not only refer to our individual lives, because Paul also tells us that God ‘gives him the name above every name (2:9) – Jesus chooses slavery and yet is the Lord and Master of the whole of heaven and earth : to whom every knee bows – both humans and all those who make up the great web of life.

So as we worship the Lord of Creation – together with the rest of creation – both humans and non-human beings, we must take on a Jesus mind set and Jesus life style that is a humble one, putting the needs of others first.

This will put us in conflict with many of the values and aspirations of the culture and society in which we live. Our society has exalted the needs of humans above the rest of creation. We have exalted the needs of a small percentage of those humans over the needs of the vast majority. We are using far more than our fair share of water.

There is a saying that “until you have carried water you do not understand its value”. Across the continent many people live in water poverty – defined as less than 20 litres of water per day. In solidarity with those who have not got access to water, let us voluntarily reduce our water consumption and protect this precious resource.

The Philippians passage draws together two key concepts: firstly, Jesus is the Lord of All Creation. The whole web of life bends the knee to worship him. We are part of a great web of life, it is not only humans who worship the Lord. Water as part of Creation has a value and sacredness, and we are called to treasure and protect it.

Secondly, we are called to live a Jesus- life style, choosing to reduce our status and to consider the needs of others over our own.

We have no right to “Lord it over” creation for it is Jesus who is the Lord of all creation.

If Jesus was willing to give up his status as God in order to become a slave, then we are called to live lives of service to others and to take up the call to a simpler lifestyle.

Are you willing to reduce your use of water, to simplify your lifestyle?

To consciously use water as if each drop were precious?

Let us remember that water is a gift of God. Water is mentioned 722 times in the Bible and yet how often do we actually preach about it? As Christians we became part of the family of God through the waters of baptism and yet we do not treat it as our sacred element.

We all know that Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan.

But do we know our Jordan River?

We think that the water used in our church for baptism came from a tap, but from which river was it drawn to get there?

Can we adopt and protect that river as our Jordan?

What would a simpler lifestyle look like in practice? We live in a water scarce country and the impact of climate change as well as population growth will lead to increasing water shortages in the years to come.

What can we do? Here are a few examples:

Water: we can all have shorter showers and put a bucket in the shower to use in the toilet or in the garden. Wash clothes less frequently and make sure the machine is full. Purchase water tanks for the church and home, and make sure our gardens are water wise.

Food choices: our food choices all have different water footprints. To produce a hamburger requires the same amount of water as a 60-minute shower and the water needed to produce a mouthful of steak could run your dishwasher 22 times. One teaspoon of milk is equivalent to one flush of a dual-flush toilet and the average bathtub could be filled six times for the production of one litre of milk.

A family of four could save the equivalent of 17 bathtubs of water by swapping one meal of beef per week with lentils. Cattle are fed mostly by grazing veld and rain-fed dry land, which means they have a greater green water footprint.

Plastic. Much of the plastic litter that we produce ends up in streams and eventually in the sea. One of the ways to protect the precious gift of water is to become involved in clean ups and to put pressure on companies to stop using single use plastic items.

Water is a precious gift from God, let us protect it.

Rev Dr Rachel Mash (Green Anglicans) (Adapted from Word and Worship)

Additional tips for Toti residents.

Fix leaking taps and make sure that the sewer and storm water drains are separate on your home. Storm water running into the sewer system is a major cause of blockages and causes problems at the Waste Water Treatment Plants.

Report faults to or WhatsApp eThekwini Faults 073 148 3477. Provide details such as your name and contact details, time fault identified, exact location, indicate whether it is sewer or fresh water. If you are not sure contact Fr Andrew for assistance. If you are not responded to or unhappy with the service contact Fr Andrew.

Together we can call make a difference to address the water crisis in our country.


Sunday School

God forgave the Israelites

Exodus 25 – 30

God forgave the Israelites for building the golden calf, and He gave them a second chance. God wrote the Ten Commandments on stone tablets and gave them to Moses. This time the people listened to Moses as he explained the laws to them. God also explained to Moses how He wanted the people to worship Him and what festivals they were to keep.

Then God told Moses that He wanted the people to build Him a special tent called a tabernacle so that God could always be with them. The tabernacle was to be made of goat skin that was lined with fine linen and embroidered with winged figures. The tabernacle is to have two rooms, with a courtyard around it.

The first room God told Moses was to have a golden alter, a lampstand holding seven lamps, and a table. Only the priest could enter the first room. The inner room was to be set apart and could only be entered once a year by the high Priest on the Day of Atonement. On that day the high Priest was to enter the room to pray to God and make peace for the people’s sins.

God gave instructions as to how the Ark of the Covenant was to be built. It was to be made of acacia-wood and covered with gold and have two golden winged cherubim’s protecting it. The ark was to hold the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments are written.

The people were eager to help construct the Ark, their best craftsmen made the Ark and the people gave their fine jewellery and silver objects so the Ark would be beautiful.

As a sign that God had come to be with His people, when the Ark was finished, a cloud covered the tent and the glory of God filled it and the Israelites knew that God had come to be with them.

Moses explained to the Israelites that if they sinned and did not obey God’s laws. God would be very unhappy with them and would punish them. But because God loved His people, He allowed them to sacrifice a lamb or a goat to pay the penalty for their sins.

Once a year on the Day of Atonement, Aaron, the Levites and the Priests offered up special sacrifices for the sins of the whole nation, so that they could live in a right relationship with God.

God gave the people many feasts so that they could celebrate the special occasions in the year and give thanks to God for His goodness to them. In Spring there is the important feast of the Passover when the Israelites remember how God rescued them and they were able to escape from Egypt. Then the feast of the Unleavened Bread. In early summer, the feasts of the first fruits and during Autumn, the Harvest festival.

Most importantly, God commanded His people to work on the first six days of the week and rest on the seventh day. That is why Saturday is considered a Holy day by the Jews. They were to follow God’s example. God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. As Christians we keep Sunday as our Sabbath because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday.

Thank you Revd Peta May for today’s Sunday School lesson.