Here is 'The Messenger' downloable for free: April Magazine.
Dear brothers and sisters,
It’s understandable why in more normal times people in our country might think the Christian faith has little to say to them. Life seems to be pretty safe in the West. We have little to be afraid about, and so the big questions of life seem less relevant. Instead, questions like: Which job should I take? Where should I live? Whom should I marry? and How many kids should I have? might seem more important than: Did Jesus really rise from the dead? But these are not normal times, and the last year has forced us to see that while jobs, partners, and number of children are important there are bigger and more important things in the world which we need to think about.
Over half of February, and the entire month of March, we have been journeying through Lent, a time of questioning and reflecting on our lives and on who God is calling us to be. In a similar way the whole country - indeed the world - has been journeying through a whole year of questioning and reflecting. Some big questions have been asked, from national questions about the need for Green Recovery, to individual questions about the place of faith. I have had a number of people who have never been to church contact me about the Christian faith, and we have seen a handful of new people at services. This is not surprising given that the pandemic has changed all of our lives, and, if we’re honest, there have been times in the past 12 months when we have all been afraid. Afraid that we might get the virus. Afraid that those we love might get the virus. Afraid to live, and afraid to die. Now, as summer approaches, and as the vaccine is being rolled out, we might be starting to feel more hopeful. And so now more than ever people will be reflecting on what we have been through, and may well be following up some of those big life questions.
The first Easter morning - over 2000 years ago - the disciples were afraid, and most of them were hiding. No doubt the women were afraid too, but courageously they travel to prepare Jesus’ body. Death had taken their Lord but they could - at least they thought - give Him a proper burial. However, they don’t find a dead body, they find a very alive angel, and no doubt they were alarmed, they were afraid. No wonder the angel begins in Mark’s Gospel by saying 'Don’t be alarmed'! And as the angel continues with his message, it’s the most amazing, and perhaps for many, the most unbelievable, news ever: ‘Don’t be alarmed’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here’. With this, the angel delivers to the women who were afraid the good news, the gospel news, which Christians have been speaking about ever since. Good news, that we do not need to be afraid of our mistakes, of our pasts, of a virus, for our life, or even of death. Why?… for Jesus is risen! Jesus is risen, which proves that He is powerful enough to overcome anything. Jesus is risen, so nothing can stop Him. Viruses cannot control Him, and death cannot defeat Him. Jesus is alive, actually alive, right now in 2021, even though He was dead. And the good news, the great news, is that Jesus promises to share that life - that death-defying life - with us if we would just trust Him. Yes, Christians still get ill; Yes, Christians still die; but if we follow the One who rose from the dead, then death is not the end for us either! Those who follow Jesus do not need to be afraid of anything or anyone, for we - like Jesus - will rise again. And because we do not need to be afraid we can get out there and serve our community in acts of love and service, as well as sharing the Good news with those who will listen.
As we rebuild after Covid, as we rebuild our church family, our finances, and our faith, we have a rare opportunity to reach people while they are thinking about wider questions than just where to live and which job to have. We have the chance to share with them something of the love of God, and the good news of Easter. Let’s take this opportunity and keep in mind the angel’s words 'Don’t be alarmed… He has risen' as we reach out to the people of Chorley.