Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Free of charge


Yes, I know, according to the old cliche church ministers only work one day a week. That would be nice, but no. In fact, I only tend to take one day off a week, Saturday. Apart from when there's also a Bank Holiday Monday, of course. The wife and I thought it would be a fun if we went to Bournemouth either on the first Saturday of May or the Bank Holiday Monday. The weather forecast would decide which day we headed for the seaside. Initially the outlook was good. At least according to the BBC Weather App. But as the weekend drew nearer rain was predicted both for the Saturday and Monday, and so it turned out. Oh well.    

It was glorious sunshine the following Saturday, so to Bournemouth we did go. On such days you’d think parking anywhere near the beach would be a hassle. But there’s a street we know where you can park all day for free, only 5 minutes’ walk from the seafront. We’ve never failed to find a space. As it happened, one was available immediately we turned into the road. From there you stroll to the seaside down a street with pay & display parking bays. It’ll cost you £13.50 for 6 hours and that’s before you’ve even bought an ice cream. Extortionate.     

Oddly, cars were queuing up to park on the pay & display street. Every bay was taken. Some drivers seemed to grow tired of waiting and left to find a space elsewhere. Others chanced it and parked on double yellows. It was dead quiet where we pulled up. No fiddly parking app. No fumbling for change. Free parking all day long. We didn't feel at all smug, honest. In fact, being a preacher and that, this little episode was suggestive of a modern-day parable.

People were bypassing what was available for free, while falling over themselves to park at great cost. It's a bit like that with the Christian faith. With most other outlooks on life, you 'gets what you pays for'. The religious hope that if they keep the rules demanded by their faith, they will earn an eternal reward. Those with a more secular outlook often believe that given enough hard work, they'll get what they deserve and soon they'll be 'living the dream'.       

The Christian message is different. It is based not on merit, but grace. Which means God giving us what we don't deserve, free of charge. Jesus willingly paid the price of sin by dying in our place upon the cross. God offers eternal life to everyone who puts their faith in his Son as their Saviour. What's not to like? Yet many people spurn this gracious offer, preferring to pay their own way. Eternal life, however, is a gift that can’t be bought.     

Of course, it's my bounden duty as a minister of the gospel to proclaim to anyone who will give me a hearing that salvation full and free is available for all in Jesus. The whereabouts of that road with freebie parking, a short stroll from the golden sand and shimmering sea of Bournemouth? Now, that would be telling.         

* For June edition of various local parish magazines