This Easter time it was reported in the Church Times and other national newspapers that more than
half the British believe that Christ rose from the dead. (The survey was carried out by the theology
think tank Theos.) In the think tank's Easter survey, carried out on its behalf by ComRes, 57 per
cent of respondents said that they believed Jesus had been executed by crucifixion and buried, and
had risen from the dead. More than half of these (30 per cent of the total) believed in a bodily
resurrection, while 27 per cent of the total believed that Jesus had risen in spirit form.
The director of Theos, Paul Woolley, said that the research had received "diametrically opposed"
interpretations. Some had seen it as evidence of a decline in the UK in faith; others had seen it
as a boost for belief. He said: "There is perhaps a surprising commitment within our culture to
the belief in the resurrection of Christ. We live in a culture where there's less familiarity
than there was in the past with the Christian story, but there remains this commitment to it;
and there is an openness to spirituality," he said.
What is particularly striking to me is the 'disconnect' between people's willingness to believe in
something and their decision to see that belief effect their life. 71% of people would describe
themselves as Christian, yet around 10% of people would be considered regular church attenders.
As such, their Christian beliefs don't lead them to participate in gathering with other Christians.
Where this stems from, I believe, is our western worldview that consider 'belief' only to be about
'intellectual assent'. For the first Christians living in different (less individualistic) times,
belief was about action as well as thought.
I tell this story to the baptism families that come to see me in preparation for their child's
Jean Francois Gravelet is considered to be one of the greatest tightrope-walkers of all time.
He was born in France in 1824. At age 9 he began performing professionally. When he was older
he devised the show-name of Charles Blondin. He chose "Blondin" for the colour of his hair.
Blondin became obsessed with the idea of crossing Niagara Falls the first time he saw them in
1858. Eventually, Blondin was allowed to string his wire across the falls and on June 30, 1859,
he was the first man ever to cross Niagara Falls by tightrope. A large crowd of 100,000 people
watched him walk on a single three-inch rope, 1,100 feet long and 160 feet above the falls at
one side and 270 feet at the other.
Blondin made many more trips across the gorge during the next year. Each time, he thrilled larger
crowds with more exciting acts. He balanced a chair on the rope and stood on it. He took pictures
of the crowd while he balanced on the rope. He cooked a meal on a small portable cooker and lowered
it to amazed passengers on the Maid of the Mist below. He crossed blindfolded, in a sack, on
stilts, and pushing a wheel barrow.
In 1860 a Royal party from Britain that included the Prince of Wales saw Blondin cross the
tightrope on stilts, and again blindfolded. After that he stopped halfway across and cooked
and ate an omelet. Next he wheeled a wheelbarrow from one side to the other, and returned with
a sack of potatoes in it. Then Blondin approached the Royal party. He asked the Prince of
Wales, "Do you believe I could take a man across the tightrope in this wheelbarrow?" "Yes, I do",
said the Prince. "Hop in, then", replied Blondin. Well, the Prince declined Blondin's challenge!
It is one thing to believe that a man can do something, it is quite another to put your trust in
him. In our Easter advertising, I put a picture of Jesus on the poster (from the latest BBC
The ‘byline next to it was: "Would you trust this man to save your life?" It struck me - from the
photo - He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should
desire him….the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
(Verses from the prophet Isaiah 53)
It is too big a step for most of us to put our trust in Charles Blondin to take us across the
Niagara Falls. Yet, will we only believe with our minds and not trust with our hearts the One
who crossed from death to LIFE?
Hope to see you over the coming months.
Yours, in his service