Thursday, 17 November 2011

“You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” Deuteronomy 10.19 Anti bullying week. To develop an acceptance of differences.

A very long time ago, the people who wrote the Bible, the people of Israel, were in trouble. They had gone to a foreign country, Egypt from their own land because there was a famine. No one had anything to eat in Israel, but in Egypt there was plenty of food, so the people travelled down there for help.

Years passed, but somehow they didn’t go home. But the people of Egypt still looked at them and saw that they were different. They spoke a different language. They wore different clothes. They worshipped a different God. And the people of Egypt were worried. What if they decide to try to take over? What if they take all our food, and our jobs, and our houses? We must stop them. So they made the people of Israel their slaves. They made them work hard, building the great pyramids and temples. All day long they had to work, and if they complained they made them work even harder. And all because the Egyptians were frightened of them. They were different, and they didn’t like that.

I wonder what it was like being one of those slaves...? (responses included: grumpy, sad, embarrassed & like a child – the last response gave me pause for thought, since these were children who were responding…)

But then God sent a leader, someone who spoke up for the Israelites. His name was…. Can anyone remember?  (Moses – the children who had done his story did remember him!). He went to Pharaoh and after a lot of time and trouble he managed to persuade him to let the people of Israel go back to their own land. It was very difficult. In the end the Israelites had to run for their lives, with only the things they could carry with them because when Pharaoh saw them go he realised that he wouldn’t have so many slaves to do his work anymore. He sent his army after them, but they just managed to get out before the army caught them. They ran until they came to a wide sea, but God made a pathway through the sea, which closed up again when the Egyptians tried to follow (I told this rather more dramatically than this, but this is the outline.)

Moses led them across the desert for years and years and years and years… till finally they came to their new home – the land of Israel which their ancestors had left so long ago. They were going to be in charge of things here. In Egypt they had to do what they were told, but now they could arrange their society just the way they wanted. But what would it be like? What sort of place would it be?

If you were in charge of everything, what would you want the world to be like? Suggestions included: fair, free, full of trains and chocolate!

The people of Israel had to decide what really mattered to them. Moses told them that one rule was especially important.
They must always remember the time when they were slaves in Egypt. They must tell the story every  year so that they didn’t forget it.
Why do you think it might be a good idea for them to remember that time – you might think they would want to forget it.
Children suggested: “in case the army came for them again” and various other things, but eventually someone said , “so that they wouldn’t treat anyone else the way they had been treated.”

So every year, at a special festival called the Passover – the people of Israel, the Jewish people tell that story again, the story of the time they were slaves. They remember it not to make themselves miserable, but so that they won’t treat others the way they were treated themselves and would always welcome strangers in their land.
None of us have been slaves in Egypt – that was a long time ago. But I bet we can all remember times when we haven’t been very happy, when someone has been mean to us, when we have felt different, pushed out, when we feel like we haven’t got any friends.
It’s not much fun feeling like that, but if we can remember what it feels like when other people are mean to us, it can stop us being mean to other people, and that is a good thing.

If I know what it feels like not to have any friends,  that can help me remember to be a good friend to others. If I know what it feels like when someone hurts me, that helps me remember not to hurt others, because they feel just as bad as I did.

Silence & prayer; we remember what it feels like when someone has made us unhappy, and we pray that will help us not to make others unhappy.

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