I spoke last month about the laying of the commemorative stone that people will see as they enter our new building. Some of you may have seen the article about the stone-laying in The Bishop’s Stortford Observer. Well here is the stone in place:
It seemed very important to remind everyone that though this is a new building it is not a new church. We rest on the foundations that others have laid.
2012 is, in fact, an important year for Baptist Churches. This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first Baptist Church in Britain. In 1612 Thomas Helwys and 12 others returned to England from exile in Holland and planted a church at Spitalfields, London. Helwys published a book in which he argued for freedom of conscience and the right of all people to decide for themselves what they believed, without threat or fear. This was the first publication to espouse the idea of religious freedom. He sent a copy of A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity (they all had snappy titles like that in the 17th Century!) to James I who had him arrested for his impertinence. Helwys died in Newgate gaol in 1606.
Yet even 400 years is a very short span compared to the lifespan of the Church worldwide. I picked up a recent copy of Jews for Jesus’ magazine and on the top it says: Established 32AD, give or take a year. It is true that we do not know the exact date that it happened, but everything began with the resurrection of Jesus. His death was extraordinary; we only have to read the accounts of what happened to see that this was a remarkable end to a remarkable life. Jesus death on the cross changed everything but what validates that is his resurrection.
Everybody dies, not everybody comes back to life. It is the resurrection that points to the significance of his death and which gives us hope. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:16-20
For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
On the cross Jesus took my place. He suffered there because He knew He was the perfect sacrifice that could atone for the sin of the world, the sins of each of us. That’s why we call it Good Friday – good won. It is the empty tomb that demonstrates that these claims are valid. Jesus was truly dead and truly rose again in bodily form.
That gives us plenty to celebrate as we come to Easter. Christ is risen! Hallelujah!
Yours in Christ