Thursday, 20 May 2010

Balaam’s Donkey – Telling the truth – Relationships - KS 1 & 2

This is a story from the Old Testament of the Bible, from the time of Moses.

Who can tell me anything about Moses?

The people of Israel had been slaves in Egypt a long way from their home for many years. But then Moses had led them out of Egypt, making the Egyptian king, the Pharaoh, let them go.

But to get home they had to go on a long journey across the desert. It was very difficult. They didn’t have anywhere to stay. They couldn’t grow their own crops to eat. They didn’t know where they would find water. But as they travelled, God helped them. He gave them food to eat and water to drink.

After years and years of travelling, they finally got near the land God had promised they could settle in. But to get there they had to go across land that belonged to another nation, and the king of that nation was very worried. “Look at all these Israelites!” he said. “What a crowd” Just imagine if they all decided to gang up on us. Just imagine if they decided to stop in our land and settle here. We’d have no chance against them. We’d be swamped! What can we do?”

Then he had an idea. “We can’t fight them – there are too many of them – but I could ask a magician to put a spell on them, to curse them and make them go away.” As it happened he knew of a magician – the best there was – a man called Balaam. “Send for Balaam,” he ordered. “Make him come and curse the Israelites.”

Off went his messengers to fetch Balaam. “You’ve got to come,” they said. “It’s the king’s orders! And he’ll pay you a lot of money!” But Balaam wasn’t sure. “Stay the night, and I will give you my answer in the morning.”

But that night, Balaam heard God talking to him. . “Don’t go” said God. “These Israelites are my people. I rescued them from Egypt, and I am going to give them their own land. If I have blessed them, there’s no point you trying to curse them. You can’t say they are bad when I have said they are good”.
But in the morning, when Balaam tried to tell the messengers that he wouldn’t go, they were having none of it. “You’ve got to come – the king says so – and anyway he will pay you any money you ask.” And Balaam thought to himself that perhaps he could just tell the king what the king wanted to hear, even if it wasn’t the truth, perhaps no one would realise that.

So Balaam set off to find the king and to curse the Israelites. There were no cars or buses or trains then, but Balaam had a donkey that he used to ride when he wanted to travel. So he saddled up the donkey and got on its back. They set off towards the place where the king was. For a while the donkey trotted along the path but then, all of a sudden, the donkey looked up and there, right in front of it was a huge, fierce looking angel. Balaam couldn’t see the angel, but the donkey could. The donkey wasn’t going anywhere near this great fierce thing. He veered off the path into the field next to it. Balaam got off the donkey and tried shouting at it, geeing it up, hitting it to make it go, but the donkey wouldn’t budge until the angel eventually vanished.

On they went, but they hadn’t got far before once again, there was the angel, standing right in the donkey’s path. This time the donkey couldn’t get off the path because there were walls on either side, so he just stopped still. “Come on donkey” said Balaam “get a move on!”. He hadn’t seen the angel. But the donkey wouldn’t move. He leaned against the wall, trying to hide, but all he managed to do was squash Balaam’s leg against the wall. Balaam was really cross, but there was nothing he could do. The donkey wouldn’t move until once again the angel disappeared.
The donkey went on a bit further, but then, there was the angel again. This time the donkey had had enough. It just sat down. Balaam was furious. He found a stick and started hitting the donkey. But the donkey just looked at him, and opened its mouth and spoke. Now, you don’t expect donkeys to talk to you, but this one did. “Balaam,” it said, “haven’t I always been a good donkey?” “Yes” said Balaam. “So,” said the donkey, “if I am disobeying you, don’t you think there might be a good reason…?” And just at that moment it was as if Balaam’s eyes were open for the first time. Suddenly he saw the angel too, barring the way.
The angel spoke. “Balaam, God told you not to come. You can’t put a bad spell on people he has blessed. You can’t say they are bad when God says they are good. That isn’t the truth. The donkey knew that, but you wouldn’t listen. Now, go to the king and tell him the truth, not what he wants to hear, but what is true.”
So Balaam realised his mistake and he went to the king, and told him the truth. He wouldn’t curse the Israelites, because they were God’s people. He wouldn’t pretend they were bad when they were actually good.

· In that story Balaam wanted to tell the king what he wanted to hear. It took a donkey to make him see that he couldn’t tell a lie. I wonder if you’ve ever said something that wasn’t true to someone. Perhaps you told them what they wanted to hear. Perhaps it was something you wanted to be true – you boasted about something you’d done or something you had – because you wanted to impress them. In the end though, this story tells us that it is always better to be honest, not to pretend, but to be yourself.

Let’s be silent for a bit so we can think about that story, and about how important it is to tell the truth. I’ll finish with a prayer.

· Prayer that God will help us to be truthful with ourselves, and with one another.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The woman healed on the Sabbath KS 1&2 (My relationships - Being pleased for someone else’s achievement)

Luke 13.10-17

Sing “If you’re happy and you know it” (or some other happy song)

That’s a really happy song..
I’m going to tell you about a woman who didn’t feel like singing at all. She was very unhappy because she was ill.
She had a disease in her back. Gradually she had got more and more bent over. Her back hurt, and she couldn’t stand up straight. When she walked along she couldn’t look ahead of her.
It made it very difficult to do ordinary things – just talking to people was hard. And she had been like that for eighteen years.

Every week, though, she went to the synagogue in her town to pray to God on Saturday, because that was the Sabbath day, the day when God had told her people that they should rest and worship. They weren’t to go to work on that day, or to school. It was just a day for resting, for gathering together to pray.
It was hard for her, because she couldn’t stand up straight to talk to her friends. When they sang joyful songs, she just felt sad.

One Sabbath day she went to the synagogue and found that there was a special visitor there, a preacher called Jesus. She had heard of Jesus. She knew he told good stories and was kind to people, always wanting to help them. She wished someone could help her, but she didn’t think he would notice her, and she didn’t like to make a fuss.

She listened to Jesus talking to everyone, telling them about God, and then suddenly he stopped. She wondered what had happened, but she couldn’t stand up straight to see. Then she heard a voice, “Woman, you are well again, you are healed”. She heard him moving through the crowd, and she wondered who he was talking to. Then, there he was, right in front of her. He touched her and told her again that she was healed, and gradually she started to straighten her back, till she was standing up straight and tall.

It was wonderful! She could see everything around her. She could see Jesus. She was so happy that she started to sing…

Begin to sing “If you’re happy and you know it”

But then the leader of the synagogue came rushing over. He was an important man. It was his job to make sure people behaved as they ought to in the synagogue. “What’s all this?” he demanded. “Don’t you know it is the Sabbath?” he said to Jesus. “Don’t you know you shouldn’t be working today? Healing people is work! You shouldn’t be doing it! It’s against the rules!”
The woman stopped singing. What was Jesus going to do?

“Look,” said Jesus. “This is a wonderful thing that has happened here. Never mind if it is the Sabbath. We should all be happy that this woman is better again. Surely God wants people to be well and happy – it can’t be wrong to heal people at any time.”

The leader of the synagogue couldn’t think of anything to say. Perhaps he was jealous of Jesus. Perhaps he just thought rules were more important than people. But he knew that Jesus was right, so he didn’t say anything.
But the woman, and all the crowd around her knew what they thought. They thought it was a wonderful day, because she was better again after so long, and no one was going to stop them from singing…

Sing “If you’re happy and you know it”

To think about: Sometimes it is hard to be happy when someone else does something really well or has something really good happen to them, especially if it someone we don’t get on with. Why do you think that is? (We might feel jealous or that it isn’t fair.)

Pray that God will help us to be as happy when something good happens to someone else as we would be if it happened to us.