This is part two of a five part series written by USPG entitled All Things Are Possible, exploring how faith in God can change the world.
Key Texts: Matthew 16:13-19; John 18:25-27; John 21:15-17
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states:
‘We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.’
The overarching aim of the SDGs – to feed the world, safeguard the environment and enable all people to fulfil their potential – is a noble one. But it is also an ideal and, in purely human terms, beyond the scope of attainment. This study explores the idea that true fulfilment is only possible in God.
If someone surprises us by displaying a hidden talent or revealing a previously unseen side to their character, we might call them a ‘dark horse’. Without betraying confidentiality, share an experience you have had of encountering a dark horse.
Consider what these stories tell us about human nature.
USPG is supporting a programme run by the Diocese of the Amazon that is training community educators.
Fabio had been working as an educator with people of all ages for ten years before he took part in the Training Course for Community Leaders (TCCL), run by the Diocese of the Amazon. Despite his extensive experience, he found the course to be an inspiration.
Fabio told USPG: ‘This course really opened my eyes. I used to go into a community and feel anxious, wondering how on earth I could help. But this training course has given me new ideas and skills.’
In a nutshell, TCCL encourages educators to see what resources already exist in a community, then help the people to use these resources to help themselves. Typically, these educators work among the Amazon’s indigenous communities, which often miss out on government services and resources.
Fabio said: ‘Now when I visit a community, my eyes are open; I take everything in. I analyse the community as a whole. And rather than seeing people as victims of hardship, I see them as people with skills and creativity who have the capacity to work together.
‘So rather than thinking it’s up to me to teach people what to do, my focus instead is on listening and helping people to develop relationships. Out of this, people start to talk about their needs and wants and capabilities. And then great things happen!’
Fabio offered the example of children’s education. Unable to afford any equipment – even pens and paper – the children were encouraged to enjoy making art using objects found around them, such as recycled materials. And unable to afford text books, the children were taught maths using the local environment as their text book.
In one village, the community was so inspired by the TCCL approach that they came together to re-open a community centre that had been closed for 15 years. The centre is now running maths and Portuguese classes for children, while a social worker meets the children’s families and talks to them about their rights and government benefits.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”Matthew 16:13-19
And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself.John 18:25-27
They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it and said, “I am not.”
One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”
Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”John 21:15-17
He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep…”
Take it in turns to reflect on the question posed at the start of this study: What does it mean to fulfil our potential? Share briefly your insights.
Finding ourselves in God and fulfilling our potential
In silent wordless prayer, with eyes closed, imagine yourself sitting before God. [Pause]
Know that you are totally accepted exactly as you are right in this moment. [Pause]
Now, in safety, allow yourself to put aside for the moment the self you present to the world and yourself – your familiar ideas, thoughts, feelings, hopes and concerns. [Pause]
Now, simply allow your vulnerable self to be present with God. [Pause]
Know that God can see you exactly as you are – know that God accepts you exactly as you are. [Pause]
Allow God’s sanctifying and restorative presence to fill you, so that you may relax into being your true self, as you are in God. [Pause]
As this exercise draws to a close, know that you can return to this awareness of God’s loving and restorative presence in your daily life at any time. [Pause]
God of our pilgrimage, thank you for those who journey with us:
those who inspire, encourage and support us in faith.
May our churches be places of welcome and growth,
as we journey together toward you in faith.