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Old Testament: Jonah 3, 10 -
Our work in Sunday School this month is prompted by a simple question reinforced by a simple visual aid. "When God looks down upon his world, does what he sees make him happy, or sad?" In response to this question, we are looking at three things. First, what are the things that make God happy? Second, what are the things that make God sad? And, third, what can we do to put the smile back on the face of God?
The youngest group are looking at the things that make God happy. They are producing monster mobiles. At the top is the smiling face of God. Suspended beneath are the things that bring a smile to his face. There are flowers and trees. There are birds and animals. There are children playing. There is a new-born child.
In the middle Sunday School group and in the Assemblies, by contrast, we're looking at the things that make God sad. The middle group are looking at the gap between the rich and the poor. They are making a picture. On one side is the prosperous world and on the other side the world of those who have nothing. Between stretches the wide blue sea. In the Assemblies we're thinking of those who are forgotten; those who have no families and who are kept in their homes by illness or disability.
But also in the middle group and in the Assemblies we are thinking about what can be done to put the smile back on the face of God. Before long the middle group will be adding to their picture a ship that will sail from the world of the prosperous to the world of the poor. It is a Mercy Ship - one of the ships we will be supporting at Harvest Festival. It brings help in the form of medical aid to those who have no access to hospitals. It will bring sight to the blind and healing to the sick. And in the Assemblies we shall go on to talk about harvest gifts and what happens to them. We will reflect that we don't send them to people because they are hungry or because they cannot afford to buy things for themselves. We send it as a little way of saying to people stuck in their own houses and often seeing nobody, "You are not forgotten."
Last week's service focused on forgiveness. This week's service focuses on generosity. Both share a common property. Both liberate people. Forgiveness frees people from the burden of the past. Generosity frees people from the cycle of deprivation and from the power of loneliness. Both are key weapons in God's battle to open the way to a better world.