Saturday, 1 February 2020

Living water


February 2020

The sandcastles have been precisely placed with a flag carefully inserted in each, the city walls have been built up and the streets decorated with shells and seaweed.  Now it’s time for the moat to be filled with seawater – but now it’s also that sad time when children discover that sand doesn’t hold water and the moat will never be full.

Navvies knew that they often needed to line a newly-dug canal with clay if it were to hold water.  Farmers knew that if there were no natural ponds on their land they could dig one as long as they could make it water-tight.  But you wouldn’t expect them to go to all that trouble if there was already a reliable bubbling stream within a stone’s throw.  Why put all that effort into building something that’s unnecessary and inferior?

Jeremiah expresses the Lord’s surprise and sadness at the wasted and foolish effort of Old Testament Israel in rejecting the God who was everything to them:   "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”  (Jeremiah 2:13)

When your life feels like the dried and cracked bed of a pond that never holds any refreshing water it’s long past time to ask yourself whether you have been ignoring a bubbling stream that flows nearby.  Here is Jesus’ answer to a woman who he met by a well and whose whole life seemed to be a series of painful relationships that had turned sour: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  (John 4:10)

Later this month we are teaming up with local churches and students and staff from Capernwray Hall to offer a week of events that may help you to discover, or rediscover, the life-giving water that Jesus Christ offers to all.  I do hope that you will join us.  Further details are at www.burtonandholmechurches.org

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Left out in the cold


December 2019

Why was there “no room in the inn”* for heavily pregnant Mary?  Was Bethlehem so crowded with people returning to their family town to register for the Roman census that even a king would have found it difficult to find a room with a bed?  Or had people been gossiping about Mary, the young woman who had been pregnant longer than she had been married?  And tattling about Joseph her husband who had claimed that he was not the father of Mary’s baby?  Every society has its ‘untouchables’.  Who would risk the criticism that would be dumped on them for associating with such immoral parents and their illegitimate child? 

We can’t be sure why there was no room but it was a pattern of things to come for Jesus.  “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”*  From the moment (about 30 years later) when he began to reveal who he really was, Jesus was not welcome.  Yes, he had a small group of loyal followers and many were intrigued by him, but in the end most left him out in the cold.
“From his first breath – with only an animal’s feeding trough for a bed – to his last breath – naked and disgraced, in agony on a Roman cross – the Son of God knew what it was to become very, very poor.”

Paul the apostle says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”*  Has Jesus Christ (by his loving self-sacrifice) made you rich?  Rich by freely forgiving all that is wrong in your life?  Rich by inviting you to belong to his family?  Rich by giving you a solid hope for the future?  Rich in the comfort of your home and the abundance of your food?

Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians why they are being made rich in Christ: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.”*

Wishing you a happy and generous Christmas

Graham Burrows

* Bible verses from Luke 2:7, John 1:11, 1 Corinthians 8:9 9:11
from a new book for Advent by Christopher Ash ‘Repeat the Sounding Joy’, p91


Friday, 1 November 2019

Do you remember?


November 2019

Why do we gather at the war memorial and in the village church on Remembrance Sunday?  Here are three good reasons:

To thank people.  Our armed forces (and many other people too) have been willing to put the safety and freedom of others above their own safety and freedom.  They laid down their lives for us and we ought to remember to be thankful.  Previous generations committed us to this when they promised, ‘We will remember them’.

To thank God.  The Lord has shown great kindness to us as a nation.  We are far from guiltless and yet God has given to us peace and prosperity beyond all we deserve.  Defence is something we must work hard at, but it is also true that the rise and fall of nations is the Lord’s work.  Moses told the people of his day not to “forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

Because we’re in danger.  Just as we struggle to live peacefully with those in our families or in our village so, as a nation, we find it hard to live peacefully with ourselves and with other nations.  Dispute and conflict is never far away; so we ask God for the gift of peace and prosperity. 

And that is not an impossible dream.  The Son of God was born as a human being on our planet and not some other.  He was born as one of us to be King of us.  Since laying down his life for his friends the risen Lord Jesus has been sending the life-changing announcement of his advancing kingdom to the ends of the earth. 

“All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.  For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no-one to help.  He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.  He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight.”  (Psalm 72:11-14)

King Jesus is just the man to turn to when we need help as a nation, or as individuals.  That’s what we’ll be doing on Sunday 10th November and you are warmly welcome too.

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Where's the church?


October 2019

“Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and here’s all the people”

I imagine that you know this children’s rhyme with its hand actions (tricky for little ones!)  It’s not perfect - most churches around here have towers, not steeples - but it does at least make clear that the church is the building with its people and not just the empty building.  We have a beautiful church building here in our village but if you really want to see the church then you need to come when the church is in the church.  And you would be very welcome too!   In the same way it can be interesting to visit an empty football stadium or theatre but to really see what the building is for you need to be at the big match or enjoying the play.

The word ‘church’ in our Bibles translates a word (Ekklesia in Greek) that means ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’.  Buildings often get named after the people who meet there: ‘synagogue’ means ‘assembly’ and ‘parliament’ means the people who talk together to make our laws but we think of these as places too.  ‘Church’ properly means those who discover that they are called by God to belong to him, to serve and love him and to gather together week by week in his name.  The place where we do that also gets called ‘the church’.

That said, we are pleased that our church building is valued and appreciated by so many in our village, not just by those who gather each Sunday and if we are to be able to maintain it for the future we are going to need the help of a good number of you.  So if you might be willing to tackle some DIY tasks, wield a paint brush or even to organise contractors to get on with some of the more serious repair projects then do please get in touch with me, a Warden or anyone from the congregation.  Thank you.  We also have Boon Days when we encourage as many as possible to join in the fun of maintaining the grounds and deep cleaning the building – all in return for a cup of coffee!  Burton’s is on 12th Oct; we’ve just had one in Holme but there will be another in the spring.

Sincerely

Graham Burrows


Monday, 2 September 2019

Jungle Danger


September 2019

If you have young children then probably you will have spent the summer holidays encouraging them to have a great time – but wanting them to stay safe.  What do you make, then, of a mother who deliberately took her 3-year-old daughter into the Amazon rainforest to live among a fierce tribal people who had already killed her husband and four others?

This summer I had the privilege of meeting that daughter, Val Shephard.  She is now in her 60s and we had invited her to be a speaker at the families’ camp that Julie and I organise each year.  Her father, Jim Elliot, had been attempting to bring the good news about Jesus Christ to the Waorani tribe in Ecuador when, in January 1956, he and his four friends were brutally speared to death.  Val has spoken about her father’s death in a four minute BBC programme which you can find here: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04tl78m

Two years after her father’s death two women from the Waorani came and asked Val’s mother, Elisabeth Elliot, to come to the tribe and tell them about God.  And so 3-year-old Val found herself riding in a back-pack chair as her mother and a sister of another of the murdered men trekked into the rainforest to meet with and to live among the Waorani tribe.  Val still vividly remembers those years in the jungle as she saw her mother sharing the love of Christ with these isolated people.  She would have liked to have known her father but she is so grateful for her parents’ example of loving self-sacrifice and costly devotion to Jesus Christ.

Her father kept a diary and is known around the world as the author of these words:  “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”  Jim Elliot was re-phrasing what Jesus himself had said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24).  If we make safety our number one priority we will never be truly safe, but if we are willing to live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ and give our lives to his service then we receive as a gift from him life in all its fulness, a gift that is eternally secure.

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Will they deliver what they promise?


August 2019

Many people would say that they don’t pray.  But you do!  You might not pray to God but ‘pray’ doesn’t necessarily mean asking God for something.  It sounds archaic now, but “I pray thee” was once a common way of saying ‘I beg you’ or ‘please’.  To pray was to make an earnest request of someone. 

You and I have things that we long for – health, contentment, success in life, the appreciation of other people, certainty about the future, and to be loved by someone who matters to us. 

And, unless we are giving up in the depths of despair, we all think that we know who or what is likely to give us these things – wife, husband, parent, child, the government, a house improvement, an exam pass or a new club joined.  These are some of the people or things we ‘pray’ to.  We might not speak any word of prayer to them but we have an expectation that they will provide, we pin our hopes on them, we devote ourselves to them and we will be disappointed if they let us down.  Or, if we think we are self-made, we will be angry at ourselves when we can’t answer our own prayers.

Who you pray to, or look to, reveals what you believe about ultimate reality.

When someone prays to God in the name of Jesus, they are denying that any of the things they long for come ultimately from the government or another person.  They are acknowledging that nothing in this world will be the answer they seek.  They are also denying that they can provide for themselves what they most long for.

To pray like this is to reveal your conviction that the Father of our Lord Jesus is the creator and source of every good thing and ultimately the only one who can answer the prayer, and provide what you long for at the deepest level.

The question to ask is not ‘Do you pray?’ but ‘Who or what are you praying to, and can they deliver what you are hoping for?’ 

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Monday, 1 July 2019

All welcome?


July 2019

‘You are Welcome’ proclaims our church website. And indeed you are, but that won’t necessarily convince you. It’s easy to imagine that the church is some kind of club and that anyone who doesn’t know the lingo or have the right background or credentials is going to feel out of place.

First let me assure you. If you came to any service in the village church someone would greet you, make sure that you had somewhere to sit and answer any questions you had. Our services are straightforward and we expect that there will always be some present who are ‘just looking’. If you brought children with you they would be very welcome too: one of our Family Support Team is always available to help and to offer an activity for children during part of the service, and there is always a room available for parents with restless children to escape to if they wish. The church has even moved with the times sufficiently to have a toilet and soft paper!

“But,” some may ask, “would I really be welcome? I don’t believe the things you all believe. My marriage was a disaster. I’ve not bothered with church for years. I don’t like singing. I’m not very religious.”

How would Jesus have received you? He was well known as a friend to all kinds of people. Jesus associated freely with those who were shunned by others, but he also had meals with the rich and powerful. He was ready to welcome anyone, but he never left people in any doubt that they had to come on his terms. The well-off were told to stop depending on their wealth. Swindlers realised they had to pay back what they had taken. Adulterers had to change. Strong men stopped sounding off and began to listen to him. 

And Jesus still welcomes people into His church in exactly the same way. His welcome is genuinely and freely extended to all. You are not disqualified by anything you have thought or done because he can deal with all that, and with kindness. But Jesus still insists you must come on his terms. He demands the right to decide what you will or won’t do; he insists on interfering with your beliefs and opinions.

Welcome!

Graham Burrows