Revd Geoff Scarlett (Semi-retired Methodist Minister)
A competition to create a space vehicle, capable of landing on a distant planet and collecting and analysing soil samples — this was just one of several projects screened on a television programme a while ago. Then there was the challenge to make and test a series of small boats, designed to deal with oil slicks at sea, with comments and suggestions canvassed across the Internet. I recall too the special flask, that could be filled with contaminated sea water and somehow converted into pure drinking water — a practical asset in disaster situations. I marvel at the imagination and creativity of such scientists.
Two questions, however, occur to me. Where do such gifts come from and what do they lead to?
No-one on the programme hinted at or declared any Christian faith. Where did they think their gifts came from? For me, Jesus’ parable of the talents points directly at God as the giver of all good things.
Towards the end of the programme I felt a tendency to arrogance and triumphalism. ‘Look at us humans! We can do anything. The future is ours to shape and control.’
Is that really how modern man feels? Discoveries in themselves can be either put to good use or bad. So, for instance, laser technology can lead to laser surgery or laser weaponry. Social networking on the computer can lead to good and happy friendships, but can also enable bullies to pinpoint victims, even hounding them to death. Where will it all lead?
I remember that little episode tucked away in Genesis 11, where people boast that they will build a city with a tower that reaches to the sky. Thus they hope to make a name for themselves. God realises their situation, scatters them over the earth and mixes up their language, causing confusion and division.
Tower of Babel in Minecraft
The picture changes dramatically at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit falls on Jesus’ friends. The words Peter speaks then are heard and understood by people of different nations, and the result is personal repentance, coming to faith and an explosion of love! This, surely, is where our efforts are meant to end — in giving glory to God and uniting us to each other and to him, in Christ.
Easter’s gone … hasn’t it?
Hot cross buns! At the close of the Walk of Witness on Good Friday, the worshippers on the green at the centre of Hedge End made their way into the United Reformed Church for a hot drink and hot cross buns — much appreciated!
But Good Friday is over now.
Christians will still remember Jesus’ sacrifice every time they celebrate Holy Communion, but hot cross buns won’t be a regular feature of church life. No doubt the supermarkets will make sure they’re still around — but they’ll just be buns, that happen to have a cross marked on them.
Easter day is over. Jesus has been crucified, taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb, sealed by a large stone. But then the stone is rolled away. A risen Jesus appears in some form to Mary Magdalene in a garden, to Thomas in a locked room and to other disciples, including Peter, on a beach. Nor does it stop there.
Paul, the fanatical persecutor of Christians, meets with the risen Jesus on the Damascus road, is converted and becomes probably the most effective apologist for the Christian faith we know. The centuries roll past. John Wesley, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, David Suchet, C.S.Lewis, Cliff Richard… and many more have been touched by the risen Christ and chosen to follow him.
After over fifty years of ministry I am glad to be counted among the Christians. What about you? If you’ve not yet experienced Jesus, simply pray, ‘Come to me, Jesus. Be real in my life’, because, in a sense, Easter never ends. Like the love of God for you, it wonderfully goes on and on …
A cross, a simple cross
Stands stark against the sky.
The best of men, the best of God
Is hanging there to die.
My Lord, my loving Lord
Is hanging there for me —
He takes my sin, he bears my guilt,
Forgives and sets me free!
A cross, an empty cross,
A myst’ry unexplained,
Why Jesus gives new life to me,
Alive with me again!
He calls: ‘Take up your cross
And come and follow me.
Through suffering and sacrifice
Share in my victory!