The weather in the UK over the New Year holiday was very unpredictable. New Years Day was most definitely a stay-indoors day, with the wind and the rain sending a clear message to all: “Don’t venture out!” Although the sky was blue on 2 January a bitterly cold wind kept most people indoors. We decided to go out and headed down to the beach.
Although the sun was shining it was too low in the sky to make much of a difference. Most of the sea wall seemed to be in the shade. I guess we could have stood around in the sunniest areas, or taken shelter in a café. But our four-year old grandson had been promised he could visit the skate park with his scooter and that meant spending most of our walk in the shade.
Directly above the skate park are the ruins of Scarborough Castle. It amazes me that what is still standing is still standing. Could this be a tribute to the builders, or testimony to the skill of the conservators? Perched precariously on the headland overlooking both the North and South Bays Scarborough Castle catches the full force of the weather. Not much grows on the cliff face, but the castle has survived for hundreds of years.
Christians, we are told, are the world’s most persecuted people. Despite centuries of persecution, which in our so-called enlightened and modern world is worse than ever, Christianity has survived for 2,000 years. How? A tribute to the builders, or testimony to the skill of the conservators? It goes beyond skills in construction and conservation. To understand Christianity we need to look at the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ:
“He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else. He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God gives him the Spirit without limit. The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” (John 3:31-36 NLT).
When I read the above passage this morning I was drawn to the words: ‘God gives Him the Spirit without limit.’ If we believe that the Holy Spirit is also available to the church and to all followers of Jesus without limit, then why is it that the church in the West mostly chooses to stay indoors where it is warm and safe, instead of venturing out? Jesus didn’t give His life as a cornerstone for something to survive as a windswept ruin. Aren’t we challenged by the fact that an uneducated fisherman could find himself eloquently addressing crowds of people having been changed forever by an encounter with the Holy Spirit? This fisherman became the rock on which the church was built. It is still standing, but only just. So what exactly are we going to do about it?
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of our people, are we being questioned today because we’ve done a good deed for a crippled man? Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,
‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. ’
There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:8-13 NLT)