Chapel Street Methodist Church

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Minister's Letter, 17 February

From the Revd Alastair Bolt

Greetings! I write to you on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and thus 40 days until Easter. Amidst everything that is going on at the moment, I doubt if the general British public are very concerned with Lent beginning. They will be more concerned as to what the Prime Minister will say next week because it will have more immediate impact on our everyday lives. Yet Lent represents things that will have even more impact on our lives than a Government easing of Lockdown, an impact in this world and in the next. Lent reminds us of Jesus’ sufferings and death for us and thus the price and value of our salvation. It is also a time for us to increase our spiritual discipline, to seek to live better, more holy lives. Success in this will be a great blessing. Failure will highlight our need for the forgiveness that Jesus Christ won for us on the Cross.

We tend to think of Lent in terms of giving things up. This can make us feel that Christianity is negative; the more things you give up, the more God approves of us. I came across a car park sign in St Ives which was spectacularly negative. Obviously, you cannot park there without paying lots of money, and if you are touring don’t bring your caravan or your trailer. But there are lots of little icons to cryptically forbid lots of other fun things. You can’t play any ball games, which seems to include football and tennis, you cannot wear roller-boots, use skateboards or do trick-cycling. Camping is forbidden (although how you would get the pegs in I know not), neither is sleeping allowed in cars (so beware sitting down on a sunny afternoon after lunch!). And yet this is supposed to be a ‘Long Stay Car Park’. Who on earth would want a long stay there when you can’t do anything? If the next 40 days of Lent stretch before you as a period of not doing things, then think again. Giving up things which are bad for you (which is what sin is) is not spiritual discipline but repentance. So, your life in Lent with less sin in it will be much better than normal. On the other hand, spiritual disciplines involve attempting good things like prayer, silence, fasting, reading, exercise, or personal worship. As with all good things they take some effort and come at a price, which is why we are tempted not to attempt them. But push forward a little and you will feel the benefit. Jesus Christ says, “I have come that you may have life and life in all its fullness.” Discipleship is not like walking a moral tightrope worrying about falling off. It is like romping around in a big flower meadow edged by hedges to keep you from harm. What a joy to arrive in a small town as I have occasionally done to find a sign which says “Welcome, car park free”. That is pretty near the heart of the Gospel because Jesus has paid the price for us.

Sin is essentially the result of not following our Maker’s instructions. My Dyson vacuum cleaner recently had a deep blockage. I love Dysons, they are so good to explore and I was soon into open-heart surgery. But I got into an intractable situation so that Jane suggested looking at the instruction book as a last resort. Anyway, problem sorted in no time, and I’m thinking I should use the Bible in the same way, but as a first resort. Now I have a new temptation. I know so much about the instruction book that I think I could write it! So how well do I know my Bible?

We have a new fridge. It arrived when only my wife was available to unpack it and it was quite a struggle. Deep inside the fridge, there was an instruction leaflet which began, “this appliance needs two people to unpack it”.

Warm regards to you all,

Alastair's signature

Published at 15:09 on 17 February 2021

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