Example #101 Blessings and RE

What if learning about blessings became being a blessing to others?

Nathan’s Primary class had been learning about different prayers and blessings in religious education. He wanted to follow this up in personal development (PSHE), thinking about how people can be a blessing to others.

"I introduced the idea of a blessing as something that you did nothing to earn, it is freely given, a gift. To demonstrate this I gave the children a gift of five minutes extra playtime after the lesson. I showed two blessings and we read them aloud and discussed what was being said.

‘May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you and may God enfold you in the blanket of his love.’

‘May you have work for your hands, friends for your heart and a loving home to lay your head.’

"I asked the children to choose a blessing, close their eyes and imagine a person close to them. As I reread the blessings, I asked them to put that person’s name in instead of the word ‘you’. I asked the children to write their own short blessing, based on either example, for someone else; thinking about their needs.

For example: ‘May the road to work not have traffic jams.’ (For Mum)

Some chose to write a prayerful blessing: ‘May God make your day a smiley one.’

"We went on to look at ways in which we could be a living, breathing blessing to others, making their day better. Children came up with practical suggestions of how they could do this. They put their names in a hat and we paired them by drawing names together. (I paired with the teaching assistant.) Each child decided on one way in which they could be a blessing to their partner. We stressed that is what not about drawing attention to what we do or getting a reward for it."

What’s going on here?

Nathan saw that he could teach personal development (PSHE) from the perspective of blessing which draws on the Christian concept of grace, love that is unearned and freely given. He changed the changed the focus from self to others.

He engaged his pupils by making connections between faith and life and across two subjects. He encouraged his class to learn from their work on blessings not just about them.

Nathan reshaped his practice by framing his lesson with the concept of grace, changing students' interaction and making his learning personal, relating it to someone close to the pupils.

How do I do this myself?

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

Blessings are a way of communicating love for another person. Blessings are not just verbal; they can be followed up by action as a person becomes a blessing to someone else. Blessings hold out hope for they are not earned; they are an expression of grace – free and undeserved love and goodness. As such they can break the cycle of people getting only what they deserve and, in doing so, move a relationship onto a different basis.

What difference does it make?

Linking religious education and personal development (PSHE) makes explicit that personal development (PSHE) can have a foundation in faith.

Where could we go from here?

Other links with religious education and personal development (PSHE) can be pursued, for example values in the Bible and what these look like embedded in people’s lives as virtues.

Digging deeper

God is generous and indiscriminate with his blessings, which fall on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45). In response, Christians are called to bless others, not just people they like (Matthew 5:46-47), for even the hated tax collectors greeted their friends and greetings often contained a blessing, such as, ‘Peace be with you’. The Bible calls on people to bless those who persecute them (Romans 12:14) rather than call down a curse.

Blessings are an aspect of grace, which is the free, undeserved love, goodness, help and favour of God. Salvation is by grace (Ephesians 2:8); it is the gift of God not something that is earned – no one is good enough for that. A champagne bottle being opened is a good image of grace, as is laughter. It is an outpouring of goodness that we did not earn or create. It is God’s measure: full, patted down and running over (Luke 6:38). It creates delight.

Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God. Karl Barth

Grace is living in remembrance that all is gift. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can a life of grace be lived and people changed.

Once more, never think that you can live to God by your own power or strength; but always look to and rely on him for assistance, yea, for all strength and grace. David Brainerd

The Christian life is joyous, grateful living – a very different attitude to just ‘keeping the rules’. Living a life of grace is the opposite of living life doing the bare minimum, or seeing life as a series of contracts where we only do what it is expected in that situation, and no more. Grace produces an attitude of the heart, a state of mind and a way of life.

Explore similar examples:

What if a topic on heroes helped learners to see themselves realistically?
What if a literature class helped students to think about choices?
What if dance expanded pupils' ideas of forgiveness?

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1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the side of a mountain and sat down. Blessings (Luke 6.20-23) Jesus' disciples gathered around him, 2and he taught them: 3God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven! 4God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort! 5God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them! 6God blesses those people who want to obey him more than to eat or drink. They will be given what they want! 7God blesses those people who are merciful. They will be treated with mercy! 8God blesses those people whose hearts are pure. They will see him! 9God blesses those people who make peace. They will be called his children! 10God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right. They belong to the kingdom of heaven. 11God will bless you when people insult you, ill-treat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. 12Be happy and excited! You will have a great reward in heaven. People did these same things to the prophets who lived long ago. Salt and light (Mark 9.50; Luke 14.34,35) Jesus continued: 13You are like salt for everyone on earth. But if salt no longer tastes like salt, how can it make food salty? All it is good for is to be thrown out and walked on. 14You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, 15and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. 16Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven. The Law of Moses Jesus continued: 17Don't suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning. 18Heaven and earth may disappear. But I promise you that not even a full stop or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen. 19If you reject even the least important command in the Law and teach others to do the same, you will be the least important person in the kingdom of heaven. But if you obey and teach others its commands, you will have an important place in the kingdom. 20You must obey God's commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don't, I promise you that you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. Anger Jesus continued: 21You know that our ancestors were told, Do not murder and A murderer must be brought to trial. 22But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell. 23So if you are about to place your gift on the altar and remember that someone is angry with you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God. 25Before you are dragged into court, make friends with the person who has accused you of doing wrong. If you don't, you will be handed over to the judge and then to the officer who will put you in jail. 26I promise you that you will not get out until you have paid the last penny you owe. Marriage Jesus continued: 27You know the commandment which says, Be faithful in marriage. 28But I tell you that if you look at another woman and want her, you are already unfaithful in your thoughts. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, poke it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to end up in hell. 30If your right hand causes you to sin, chop it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Divorce (Matthew 19.9; Mark 10.11,12; Luke 16.18) Jesus continued: 31You have been taught that a man who divorces his wife must write out divorce papers for her. 32But I tell you not to divorce your wife unless she has committed some terrible sexual sin. If you divorce her, you will cause her to be unfaithful, just as any man who marries her is guilty of taking another man's wife. Promises Jesus continued: 33You know that our ancestors were told, Don't use the Lord's name to make a promise unless you are going to keep it. 34But I tell you not to swear by anything when you make a promise! Heaven is God's throne, so don't swear by heaven. 35The earth is God's footstool, so don't swear by the earth. Jerusalem is the city of the great king, so don't swear by it. 36Don't swear by your own head. You cannot make one hair white or black. 37When you make a promise, say only Yes or No. Anything else comes from the devil. Revenge (Luke 6.29,30) Jesus continued: 38You know that you have been taught, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39But I tell you not to try to get even with a person who has done something to you. When someone slaps your right cheek, turn and let that person slap your other cheek. 40If someone sues you for your shirt, give up your coat as well. 41If a soldier forces you to carry his pack one kilometre, carry it two kilometres. 42When people ask you for something, give it to them. When they want to borrow money, lend it to them. Love (Luke 6.27,28,32-36) Jesus continued: 43You have heard people say, Love your neighbours and hate your enemies. 44But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who ill-treats you. 45Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. 46If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. 47If you greet only your friends, what's so great about that? Don't even unbelievers do that? 48But you must always act like your Father in heaven. Giving Jesus said:
1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the side of a mountain and sat down. Blessings (Luke 6.20-23) Jesus' disciples gathered around him, 2and he taught them: 3God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven! 4God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort! 5God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them! 6God blesses those people who want to obey him more than to eat or drink. They will be given what they want! 7God blesses those people who are merciful. They will be treated with mercy! 8God blesses those people whose hearts are pure. They will see him! 9God blesses those people who make peace. They will be called his children! 10God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right. They belong to the kingdom of heaven. 11God will bless you when people insult you, ill-treat you, and tell all kinds of evil lies about you because of me. 12Be happy and excited! You will have a great reward in heaven. People did these same things to the prophets who lived long ago. Salt and light (Mark 9.50; Luke 14.34,35) Jesus continued: 13You are like salt for everyone on earth. But if salt no longer tastes like salt, how can it make food salty? All it is good for is to be thrown out and walked on. 14You are like light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, 15and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. 16Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven. The Law of Moses Jesus continued: 17Don't suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning. 18Heaven and earth may disappear. But I promise you that not even a full stop or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen. 19If you reject even the least important command in the Law and teach others to do the same, you will be the least important person in the kingdom of heaven. But if you obey and teach others its commands, you will have an important place in the kingdom. 20You must obey God's commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don't, I promise you that you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. Anger Jesus continued: 21You know that our ancestors were told, Do not murder and A murderer must be brought to trial. 22But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial. If you call someone a fool, you will be taken to court. And if you say that someone is worthless, you will be in danger of the fires of hell. 23So if you are about to place your gift on the altar and remember that someone is angry with you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God. 25Before you are dragged into court, make friends with the person who has accused you of doing wrong. If you don't, you will be handed over to the judge and then to the officer who will put you in jail. 26I promise you that you will not get out until you have paid the last penny you owe. Marriage Jesus continued: 27You know the commandment which says, Be faithful in marriage. 28But I tell you that if you look at another woman and want her, you are already unfaithful in your thoughts. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, poke it out and throw it away. It is better to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to end up in hell. 30If your right hand causes you to sin, chop it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one part of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Divorce (Matthew 19.9; Mark 10.11,12; Luke 16.18) Jesus continued: 31You have been taught that a man who divorces his wife must write out divorce papers for her. 32But I tell you not to divorce your wife unless she has committed some terrible sexual sin. If you divorce her, you will cause her to be unfaithful, just as any man who marries her is guilty of taking another man's wife. Promises Jesus continued: 33You know that our ancestors were told, Don't use the Lord's name to make a promise unless you are going to keep it. 34But I tell you not to swear by anything when you make a promise! Heaven is God's throne, so don't swear by heaven. 35The earth is God's footstool, so don't swear by the earth. Jerusalem is the city of the great king, so don't swear by it. 36Don't swear by your own head. You cannot make one hair white or black. 37When you make a promise, say only Yes or No. Anything else comes from the devil. Revenge (Luke 6.29,30) Jesus continued: 38You know that you have been taught, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39But I tell you not to try to get even with a person who has done something to you. When someone slaps your right cheek, turn and let that person slap your other cheek. 40If someone sues you for your shirt, give up your coat as well. 41If a soldier forces you to carry his pack one kilometre, carry it two kilometres. 42When people ask you for something, give it to them. When they want to borrow money, lend it to them. Love (Luke 6.27,28,32-36) Jesus continued: 43You have heard people say, Love your neighbours and hate your enemies. 44But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for anyone who ill-treats you. 45Then you will be acting like your Father in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong. 46If you love only those people who love you, will God reward you for that? Even tax collectors love their friends. 47If you greet only your friends, what's so great about that? Don't even unbelievers do that? 48But you must always act like your Father in heaven. Giving Jesus said:
1Dear friends, God is good. So I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing. That's the most sensible way to serve God. 2Don't be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him. 3I realize how kind God has been to me, and so I tell each of you not to think you are better than you really are. Use good sense and measure yourself by the amount of faith that God has given you. 4A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. 5That's how it is with us. There are many of us, but we are each part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another. 6God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. 7If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach. 8If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully. Rules for Christian living 9Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. 10Love each other as brothers and sisters and honour others more than you do yourself. 11Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. 12Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. 13Take care of God's needy people and welcome strangers into your home. 14Ask God to bless everyone who ill-treats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. 15When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. 16Be friendly with everyone. Don't be proud and feel that you are cleverer than others. Make friends with ordinary people. 17Don't ill-treat someone who has ill-treated you. But try to earn the respect of others, 18and do your best to live at peace with everyone. 19Dear friends, don't try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says, I am the one to take revenge and pay them back. 20The Scriptures also say, If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads. 21Don't let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good. Obey rulers
1In the past you were dead because you sinned and fought against God. 2You followed the ways of this world and obeyed the devil. He rules the world, and his spirit has power over everyone who doesn't obey God. 3Once we were also ruled by the selfish desires of our bodies and minds. We had made God angry, and we were going to be punished like everyone else. 4But God was merciful! We were dead because of our sins, but God loved us so much that he made us alive with Christ, and God's wonderful kindness is what saves you. 6God raised us from death to life with Christ Jesus, and he has given us a place beside Christ in heaven. 7God did this so that in the future world he could show how truly good and kind he is to us because of what Christ Jesus has done. 8You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God's gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. 9It isn't something you have earned, so there is nothing you can boast about. 10God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That's why he sent Christ to make us what we are. United by Christ 11Don't forget that you are Gentiles. In fact, you used to be called uncircumcised by those who take pride in being circumcised. 12At that time you did not know about Christ. You were foreigners to the people of Israel, and you had no part in the promises that God had made to them. You were living in this world without hope and without God, 13and you were far from God. But Christ offered his life's blood as a sacrifice and brought you near God. 14Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us. Christ gave his own body 15to destroy the Law of Moses with all its rules and commands. He even brought Jews and Gentiles together as though we were only one person, when he united us in peace. 16On the cross Christ did away with our hatred for each other. He also made peace between us and God by uniting Jews and Gentiles in one body. 17Christ came and preached peace to you Gentiles, who were far from God, and peace to us Jews, who were near God. 18And because of Christ, all of us can come to the Father by the same Spirit. 19You Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God. 20You are like a building with the apostles and prophets as the foundation and with Christ as the most important stone. 21Christ is the one who holds the building together and makes it grow into a holy temple for the Lord. 22And you are part of that building Christ has built as a place for God's own Spirit to live. Paul's mission to the Gentiles
1One Sabbath when Jesus and his disciples were walking through some wheat fields, the disciples picked some wheat. They rubbed the husks off with their hands and started eating the grain. 2Some Pharisees said, Why are you picking grain on the Sabbath? You're not supposed to do that! 3Jesus answered, Surely you have read what David did when he and his followers were hungry. 4He went into the house of God and took the sacred loaves of bread that only priests were supposed to eat. He not only ate some himself, but even gave some to his followers. 5Jesus finished by saying, The Son of Man is Lord over the Sabbath. A man with a crippled hand (Matthew 12.9-14; Mark 3.1-6) 6On another Sabbath Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, and a man with a crippled right hand was there. 7Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses kept watching Jesus to see if he would heal the man. They did this because they wanted to accuse Jesus of doing something wrong. 8Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he told the man to stand up where everyone could see him. And the man stood up. 9Then Jesus asked, On the Sabbath should we do good deeds or evil deeds? Should we save someone's life or destroy it? 10After he had looked around at everyone, he told the man, Stretch out your hand. He did, and his bad hand became completely well. 11The teachers and the Pharisees were furious and started saying to each other, What can we do about Jesus? Jesus chooses his twelve apostles (Matthew 10.1-4; Mark 3.13-19) 12About that time Jesus went off to a mountain to pray, and he spent the whole night there. 13The next morning he called his disciples together and chose twelve of them to be his apostles. 14One was Simon, and Jesus named him Peter. Another was Andrew, Peter's brother. There were also James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15Matthew, Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus. The rest of the apostles were Simon, known as the Eager One, 16Jude, who was the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed Jesus. Jesus teaches, preaches, and heals (Matthew 4.23-25) 17Jesus and his apostles went down from the mountain and came to some flat, level ground. Many other disciples were there to meet him. Large crowds of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon were there too. 18These people had come to listen to Jesus and to be healed of their diseases. All who were troubled by evil spirits were also healed. 19Everyone was trying to touch Jesus, because power was going out from him and healing them all. Blessings and troubles (Matthew 5.1-12) 20Jesus looked at his disciples and said: God will bless you people who are poor. His kingdom belongs to you! 21God will bless you hungry people. You will have plenty to eat! God will bless you people who are crying. You will laugh! 22God will bless you when others hate you and won't have anything to do with you. God will bless you when people insult you and say cruel things about you, all because you are a follower of the Son of Man. 23Long ago your own people did these same things to the prophets. So when this happens to you, be happy and jump for joy! You will have a great reward in heaven. 24But you rich people are in for trouble. You have already had an easy life! 25You well-fed people are in for trouble. You will go hungry! You people who are laughing now are in for trouble. You are going to cry and weep! 26You are in for trouble when everyone says good things about you. That is what your own people said about those prophets who told lies. Love for enemies (Matthew 5.38-48; 7.12a) Jesus continued: 27This is what I say to all who will listen to me: Love your enemies, and be good to everyone who hates you. 28Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you. 29If someone slaps you on one cheek, don't stop that person from slapping you on the other cheek. If someone wants to take your coat, don't try to keep back your shirt. 30Give to everyone who asks and don't ask people to return what they have taken from you. 31Treat others just as you want to be treated. 32If you love only someone who loves you, will God praise you for that? Even sinners love people who love them. 33If you are kind only to someone who is kind to you, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners are kind to people who are kind to them. 34If you lend money only to someone you think will pay you back, will God be pleased with you for that? Even sinners lend to sinners because they think they will get it all back. 35But love your enemies and be good to them. Lend without expecting to be paid back. Then you will get a great reward, and you will be the true children of God in heaven. He is good even to people who are unthankful and cruel. 36Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you. Judging others (Matthew 7.1-5) 37Jesus said: Don't judge others, and God won't judge you. Don't be hard on others, and God won't be hard on you. Forgive others, and God will forgive you. 38If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated. 39Jesus also used some sayings as he spoke to the people. He said: Can one blind person lead another blind person? Won't they both fall into a ditch? 40Are students better than their teacher? But when they are fully trained, they will be like their teacher. 41You can see the speck in your friend's eye. But you don't notice the log in your own eye. 42How can you say, My friend, let me take the speck out of your eye, when you don't see the log in your own eye? You show-offs! First, get the log out of your own eye. Then you can see how to take the speck out of your friend's eye. A tree and its fruit (Matthew 7.17-20; 12.34b,35) Jesus continued: 43A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 44You can tell what a tree is like by the fruit it produces. You cannot pick figs or grapes from thorn bushes. 45Good people do good things because of the good in their hearts. Bad people do bad things because of the evil in their hearts. Your words show what is in your heart. Two builders (Matthew 7.24-27) Jesus continued: 46Why do you keep on saying that I am your Lord, when you refuse to do what I say? 47Anyone who comes and listens to me and obeys me 48is like someone who dug down deep and built a house on solid rock. When the flood came and the river rushed against the house, it was built so well that it didn't even shake. 49But anyone who hears what I say and doesn't obey me is like someone whose house wasn't built on solid rock. As soon as the river rushed against that house, it was smashed to pieces! Jesus heals an army officer's servant (Matthew 8.5-13; John 4.43-54)