People of the Bible
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To reflect on the fact that the characters in the Bible were ordinary people.
Preparation and materials
Have available an image of a traditional biblical character and the means to display it during the assembly. Examples are available at: https://tinyurl.com/hox4ec8
You will also need three readers for the Bible passages, Amos 5.21-24, Acts 2.44-46 and Acts 4.32-35.
Point out that the Bible is full of various characters who have different temperaments and outlooks on life. There are hard-working labourers; smug, self-satisfied leaders; wheeler-dealers; passionate social reformers; unreliable disciples; prostitutes and many others. There are people whose names might be familiar to some of us, such as Mary, Joseph, Peter and Jesus. There are people whose stories are well-known even though we don’t know their names, such as the little boy who gave Jesus his dinner in the feeding of the 5,000 or the paralysed man who was lowered through the roof by his friends. There are rich and poor, old and young, male and female. In fact, the variety of people is much like we see today!
There are two ways to look at the phrase ‘people of the Bible’. It can simply describe the people who appear in the Bible. However, its second meaning can be to describe people who live their lives based on the values and beliefs that are set out in the Bible.
The Bible records the lives and findings of many people who have discovered what it means to live by God’s principles and values. Today, there are many people who are making the same discoveries. In the Bible, they see values, beliefs and principles that they believe to be good and right and they try to use them as a foundation for all that they say and do. Today, people discover new ways of living by God’s values and new ways of understanding them that are relevant to the present time. Christians believe that, although many thousands of years have passed since the Bible was written, the lessons recorded in the Bible are still important today. The people in the Bible may have lived many years ago, but they still have the same basic needs.
One thing that people in the Bible are often concerned about is the idea of justice: fair treatment for all people. About 800 years before Jesus was born, there lived a farmer and shepherd called Amos, who was appalled at what he saw in his society.
Ask the first reader to read the following passage from the Bible (Amos 5.21-24).
I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
After Jesus had gone back to heaven, his disciples became concerned about the poor people who were living among them.
Ask the second reader to read the following words.
In Acts 2.44-46, we read about how the people in the early church helped those in need: ‘All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day, they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.’
Ask the third reader to read the following words.
People were so concerned about the poor that sometimes, people sold their land so that they could help people in need. Acts 4.32-35 says, ‘All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time, those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.’
In every century, Christians have tried to use the idea of justice to make life better in their generation. Examples include Elizabeth Fry, Lord Shaftesbury and Martin Luther King, but there are many more. In fact, many of the institutions that we take for granted and benefit from today are there because someone wanted to take God’s concern for justice and make it available in their generation. Although the National Health Service, social security benefits and welfare benefits were secular government initiatives, it was Christians (among others) who helped them into being and lobbied and worked for them. Concern for the care of the young, vulnerable and elderly are other areas of social justice where Christians have been centrally involved.
The places where help is needed, and the way in which help can be given, change with time. But the principle of justice remains the same.
Time for reflection
What about us?
What can we do to bring justice to help those in need?
We can make small changes. We can support charities or sign petitions. We may even get the chance to go and help abroad, or help locally in somewhere like a day centre for homeless people.
However, we can also look for justice here in school. We can watch out for bullying. We can stand up for someone who is being picked on. We can treat people with fairness and equality.
Imagine what changes this generation could bring about to make the world a fairer and more loving place!
Prayer (a prayer of St Ignatius Loyola)
Teach us, good Lord,
To serve you as you deserve;
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not to heed the wounds;
To toil and not to seek for rest;
To labour and not to ask for any reward,
Save that of knowing that we do your will.