From Revd Dr Mark Cheetham

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As I write this letter, China is about to enter a New Year. Tens of millions of Chinese people take this opportunity to return home. It is said to be the largest annual mass migration of human beings on the planet. Vast numbers leave the cities where they work and return to the villages and towns of their birth. Major cities and roads are eerily empty, like scenes from a post-apocalyptic movie. No disaster had struck, the people simply go home.

2,000 years ago, there was an annual migration of Jewish people to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival. The numbers were hardly of modern Chinese standards, but people came in their thousands from all parts of the Mediterranean World and converged on Jerusalem. Among their number was a man called Simon, who was from Cyrene, which is modern day Libya.

Have you ever wondered what kind of day he thought he was going to have that Friday, as he made his way into the city? Without warning, the Roman soldiers conscripted him to carry a cross, on which one of three prisoners was to be crucified. The condemned man seemed to have been beaten so badly that he simply could not carry it for himself. Simon would have carried, not the whole cross, but the crossbeam, the upright being firmly in position at the place of execution.

So here we have this man arriving in the city from a distant country, presumably to celebrate Passover, and he finds himself walking to Calvary in the footsteps of Jesus. I wonder if he found himself complaining about the turn of events, and how he seemed to be in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time. I invite you take a picture in your mind’s eye of this scene. What do you see? Simon provides us with a visual representation of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. How do we re present this or similar scenes to those we worship with?            Best Wishes,   Rev Mark