Judas. Mary Magdelene. Pilate. The believing officer. The repentant thief… The list of individuals caught up in the events of Christ’s passion is a lengthy one.
But one individual who has long held a particular interest for me is Simon of Cyrene.
On a pilgrimage to Jerusalem from one of the Jewish communities in North Africa, Simon was forcibly drawn into the events of that first Good Friday and made by Roman soldiers to help carry Jesus’ cross towards Golgotha. In so doing he became a model for those who walk alongside others in times of pain and difficulty, offering support and helping to shoulder some of the strain. The resonance with Jesus’ own words is clear, ‘For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you invited me into your home… when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me’ (Matthew 25:35, 40).
A number of years ago, I spent some time volunteering for a small charity called The Simon Community. The work involved reaching out to those sleeping on the streets in central London, sitting with them, chatting with them, offering food and clothing supplies, or night-shelter accommodation if it was needed. Set up originally as a Catholic mission, it gets its name from Simon of Cyrene.
Simon challenges us. His example of walking alongside the struggling and helping to bear the burden of pain and difficulty is something that God calls each of us to. And there are many ways in which as a church and as individuals we will already be involved in doing just that.
Two new initiatives that very much express this sense of care and concern are our soon-to-launch Tuesday Drop-In sessions for those who are experiencing loss and bereavement (for more details see further on in this edition of Focus, or email ) and a home for vulnerable/homeless people in the town which is being set up through a partnership between Churches Together in Epsom and the Christian charity, Hope into Action (for more information, please email ). It is our hope that these projects will be a very real help to many – in addition to so much else that this church and others are already involved in doing.
As we take time over Easter to reflect and to celebrate, may we be assured of the love of the Saviour Jesus, whose death and resurrection means life for all who believe, and may we keep learning how to follow his example of love in all we do.