The 2019 Good Friday Walk of Witness took place as usual and was well attended with many from the various denominations and churches in Harrogate joining the walk at 11.15am.This was followed by the service at the Cenotaph, ably led by Pastor Tim Lewis, associate pastor of Mowbray Community Church. The worship hymns and songs were led by the group, Life Destiny. Please find also below photos and also a transcript of Tim's message for us all.
(Tim Lewis – Associate Pastor, Mowbray Community Church)
Jesus’ earthly ministry lasted little more than around 3 years.
To put that in perspective, currently Brexit is on course to exceed this length of time!
What did Jesus achieve in those three years?
He began in obscurity and died a shameful death, yet in the intervening period he became known throughout the nation: his life, miracles and teaching impacted thousands. Probably best not to think about what parliament has achieved in a similar length of time. They could probably do with a miracle themselves.
You may be well and truly sick of the ‘B’ word by now. You may not have even voted in the Referendum. You may be thinking what on earth has Brexit got to do with Jesus? Well, I want to suggest that it’s interesting to contrast Jesus’ ministry with Brexit, in as much as Brexit, or reversing Brexit, is supposed to be about political hopes and expectations; ordering the world more justly and how we relate to others.
Jesus more than fulfilled expectations of God’s coming Kingdom – the blind received sight; the lame walked; lepers were cleansed; the deaf heard; the dead were raised and good news was proclaimed to the poor. He embodied God’s love for the lost: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that
whoever believes in him might not perish but have eternal life’. Jesus saw people with compassion – he knew the hearts of all; he knew their distance from a holy and just God, and their helplessness before him; he also knew that they were leaderless, sheep without a shepherd; in dire need of the Good Shepherd to rescue them.
Jesus focused not on overthrowing the Romans, but on loving enemies. He didn’t emphasise increasing prosperity, but giving away possessions to the poor. Jesus taught us not to fear or hate the other, but welcome the stranger and care for those in need. The powers that be saw things differently. The religious zealots and conservatives wanted out of the Roman Empire, out of the compromise and control of foreign powers – they were the ‘Leavers’ of their day.
While the religious institution, the Temple, were quite happy with the status quo. A bit more liberal, they could tolerate a little power-sharing and ideological compromise if it meant remaining in charge and pulling the strings in their little patch – the ‘Remainers’. Neither group was prepared for the radical challenge of Jesus. The hope he spoke of would mean massive changes: the loss of power and control, even the loss of life. Jesus kept talking about a cross and sacrifice – it all sounded a bit too painful. This so-called Messiah also seemed a little over-familiar with God. They were into endless talking, votes and tradition; but Jesus seemed to have a hotline to God. He even described God as his Father. It was just too much. Claiming to be one with God; that he could forgive sins. In the end there could be no deal with such a man. Both groups decided Jesus had to die. While Jesus was raising people to life, they were busy plotting his death.
But ultimately God was in control. Pontius Pilate had no authority except what the Lord allowed him. And Jesus’ betrayal, suffering and death was part of God’s plan to save the world. The events of Jesus’ final days were full of make-shift alliances, political wrangling and desperate attempts to find a credible witness. Popular opinion shifted. There was a sham trial and perverted justice. A guilty man was released and the innocent One condemned. And so Jesus was killed. Crucified between two criminals. The author of life, nailed to a wooden cross. And yet this was God’s way of reconciling the world to himself. Whatever deal the govt finally comes up with regarding Brexit, won’t please everyone. But for the majority of us life will probably continue pretty much as it was before. But nothing can be the same after that momentous weekend in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, when Jesus broke the deadlock of our self-inflicted plight, and opened a way to a real promised land, paradise itself.
God offers each person on earth the greatest withdrawal agreement ever – a way out of our sin, and into life. ‘The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’. There is no divorce bill for this! It won’t cost us a penny. The Bible says: ‘For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’. Jesus takes all our of our sin on himself, bearing the punishment, that we might receive forgiveness, healing, entering into a right relationship with God and others. A once in a life-time deal. If you already know Jesus, that is the glorious truth you are entrusted with as his ambassadors to share. And if you are not a Christian, then I would encourage you, appeal to you, not to delay, but ‘be reconciled to God’.
Speak to someone here this morning. Take a New Testament away. Come along to an Easter service this Sunday. Make up your own mind. Find out for yourself what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection mean for you. The other Brexit B word is ‘backstop’. A backstop is something put in place to protect us if things go wrong.
We all have our own backstops, things we put our confidence in: our work or skills; our family; our bank balance; the idea we’re good people. The truth is in life, there are very few guarantees. We don’t know what the future holds. We are never completely in charge of our own destinies. Our sense of security can be an illusion. ‘No one is good, save God alone’, Jesus said. There is no failsafe backstop, apart from faith in Christ. It is a certainty that there is a Creator God who made you.
You are here because God wanted you to be. He is a good God who loves you. How much, well… God actually gave his own Son to die for you. To bring you peace and salvation. Not just for this short life, but forever. So whatever your views on Brexit, God wants you to: Leave your sin behind. And remain in Jesus.