Chapel Street Methodist Church

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Minister's Letter, 1 April

From the Revd Alastair Bolt

Dear Friends,

The Pennine Way is a kind of north-south version of the South West Coastal Path. It stretches from the Peak District in Derbyshire northwards to Hadrian’s Wall. That is 268 miles and mountains totalling 37,000ft of ascent up the spine of England. I almost got into a team to attempt it once, and I have come across it many times in the hills. It usually takes walkers 2 to 3 weeks to complete, although last year someone ran it in 2 days, 13 mins, 35 seconds! Although I am not that short of time, 2 to 3 weeks seems an insurmountable task. But here on my desk is an old leaflet promoting the Pennine Way. It has the usual sunny pictures of majestic mountains and a map. What continues to challenge me is the strap-line at the bottom of the front page. It just says: Once in a Lifetime. As I sit here writing this in my office I think yet again, ‘give it a go!’

I wonder how many challenges you have parked-up in your life? There may be places to visit, distant people to meet, speeches to make, cake-competitions to win, plants to grow from seed, rooms to paint mauve, someone impossible to bring to Christ, special things you could attempt from your room or from your bed, on a bicycle or on the internet. Try writing it out very briefly on a sheet of paper. Then underneath write: once in my lifetime, and hear the angels cheer.

I still manage to have a non-smart mobile phone which just makes phone calls rather than being a camera, a computer and a miniature entertainment centre. My telecom provider likes to send me promotional texts. I was impressed by yesterday’s text and how personalised advertising has become. It says “Get your new Bolt-On package”.

I wonder whether you have been following the exploits of that huge container ship that got stuck across the Suez Canal and blocked up the whole waterway. There have been lots of dramatic pictures of tugs and dredgers. One particular picture struck me because it reminded me of my travelling down the Canal Zone many years ago in a coach from Alexandria to Cairo. In the foreground were some green crops irrigated by the canal, and a farmer working with a donkey in a manner that can have changed little since biblical times. Behind this age-old scene, the enormous container ship looking more like an office block rears up out of the desert. This ship was at that moment a centre of world attention as limitless amounts of money and technology were used to move it and get international trade flowing again. And yet this man and his donkey were giving it no attention as they laboured on with their daily task. The two worlds were hardly touching.

At Easter, we are regaled with stories rich in the pictures of the Middle East of the first century; the landscape of antiquity, camels, palm trees, primitive agriculture and ancient cities. It is, I feel, easy to be attracted and comforted by that biblical world when today we face all the wearisome troubles of a modern society typified by globalisation and the woes of that container ship. We can celebrate Easter but somehow leave it tethered to the first century. In actual fact, these two worlds collide. Jesus, the 1st-century man crucified when Rome still ruled the world and people rode on donkeys, is the Lord who brings us new life, restoration and peace at the crumbling edge of our technological present. Since the first Easter, Christ is risen, then and there; here and now.

May you know the love of the risen Jesus in your hearts this Easter.

Alastair's signature

Published at 14:59 on 1 April 2021

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