by Steve Wild.
For the last two weeks in the Central Methodist Church in Helston the members have been engaged in a mission outreach. By using the flexible space in the sanctuary they have worked together to hold ‘Prophet’s Progress’ a journey through Bible scenes starting with creation and ending with the Lamb on the throne in heaven. Over 700 children came the first week and cleverly actors from the local churches told the story of each scene. The prophet Isaiah began and explained what was to follow. An actual Cornish fisherman sat by a boat – which had been a prop on the TV programme ‘Poldark,’ and told how his life had changed… ‘because of love.’
This is Holy Week and we commemorate and remember the last week of Jesus’ life on this earth. These are the days leading up to the great Celebration of Easter Day, when love conquered death.
When the New Testament attempts to express God’s love, it points us to the cross of Jesus Christ. Because the cross is all about love. When you think of the immensity of God’s love, the first thing the Bible often asks us to do is to consider the price that was paid.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John ch. 4 : 9)
The Cornish fisherman pretending to be one of the twelve disciples was portraying a fallible human who had given up all to follow Jesus. As Simon Peter he had betrayed Christ and on realising his folly… ‘went out and wept bitterly’…no wonder. As I reflect further on the story he must have seen the crucifixion with horror, yet he discovers forgiveness when later with the risen Jesus he answers the question ‘do you love me?’ The forgiving love has a healing quality so that Simon becomes a great Christian leader.
We have all let Jesus down and being forgiven we can help others know that forgiveness and the powerful love that holds us. My involvement over the years with members of Alcoholics Anonymous[i] has meant that AA members have come to me to help them to be free from the guilt of past misdeeds and to experience the cleansing of forgiveness; for them the cross has a new meaning. One man I helped last November held the simple wooden cross I gave him and said, ‘If Jesus Christ could forgive the soldiers who nailed him to this he can forgive me.’ The Passiontide hymn of Charles Wesley poetically puts this experience powerfully into words.
O Love divine, what hast thou done!
The immortal God hath died for me!
The Father’s co-eternal Son
Bore all my sins upon the tree.
Th’immortal God for me hath died:
My Lord, my love, is crucified!
Great minds have written long and deep about the meaning of ‘atoning sacrifice’ and ‘Bore all my sins upon the tree.’ We see in the Bible how under Mosaic Law the Jews offered ongoing sacrifices to cover the cost of their sins. But Jesus provided the only sufficient sacrifice once for all to cover the sins of the world because he was without sin.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews ch 4 v 15)
This powerful love at the heart of the Easter experience is to share rather than keep to ourselves. Reflecting on the ‘Prophet‘s Progress’ in Helston they were sharing love in the stories of the Biblical scenes as well as in the tea, juice, refreshments and kindness which ran through the whole event.
There are so many different ways for a group of Christians to show Christ’s love to the community. It takes prayer, time and enthusiasm to work together to make the love of Jesus evident in the communities we serve; I see it in many churches I visit – but not enough alas. Together with the power of love we can work side by side and share this love with all we meet.
[i] Alcoholics Anonymous is a twelve-step recovery programme – step three is the one I am involved in: ‘3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.’ For this step, the alcoholic consciously decides to turn themselves over to whatever or whomever they believe their higher power to be. With this release often comes recovery. I personally am a lifelong teetotaler.