Friday 1 December 2023

Where are the soldiers?

December 2023

Dear Friends

Some people are missing.  We’ve got a few behind doors all set to tell the travellers that there are no vacancies.   Others, with tea-towels on their heads and smelling of sheep, are ready to kneel before their future king.  Kings are waiting in the wings carrying beautifully wrapped, expensive presents.  And here comes the foot-sore young man with his exhausted pregnant wife.  But shouldn’t Herod’s soldiers be here somewhere, brandishing swords with which to carry out Herod’s terrible massacre of the young boys in Bethlehem?

We understand why children’s nativity plays usually end the story before the soldiers arrive.  But there are good reasons not to forget that the soldiers are very definitely part of the story in Matthew’s Gospel.

Soldiers are part of the violent world we live in, and that Jesus was born into. Tragically, children are all too often the victims of the self-centred actions of adults – whether they’re unwanted, caught in the crossfire, or deliberately targeted.

Secondly, the soldiers remind us that the violence of our world was directed against Jesus Christ himself.  From Herod’s attempt to kill him at birth, to the Jewish leaders’ later death plots and the Roman authorities’ collusion with their wishes, Jesus Christ was in the firing line.

In fact, Jesus came into our world knowing full well that this would happen, that the whole world would oppose him and crush him and that he would absorb in his own body all the guilt and horrifying  consequences of our hostility towards him and his Father.

Amazingly, Jesus, knowing how we would treat him, still came. 

Wonderfully, death could not hold him, and no human plot could prevent his enthronement as the invincible sovereign of our world.

“Unto us a boy is born!
King of all creation,
came he to a world forlorn,
the Lord of every nation,
the Lord of every nation.”

You will be warmly welcome at any of our services or family events, at Christmas or at any other time.

Happy Christmas!

Graham Burrows

Wednesday 1 November 2023


November 2023

Dear Friends

Fractured.  Would that be your description of relationships in our world?  As I write, hundreds of Israelis have just been brutally murdered by those who crossed the nearby border driven by intense hatred.  The expected response from Israel will lead to many deaths on both sides and huge suffering and destruction in the Gaza strip.  

On 12th November many will gather at our village war memorials just before 11am to remember with gratitude and sadness the sacrifice of those who defended our nation and allies when conflict engulfed the world.  We would like to think that such cataclysmic days are long past but I doubt it.

Our relationship with creation is broken too.  I’m not talking about our current climate panic but our long-term world-wide struggle to produce the food and other resources that we need without despising or desecrating all that God has made.  I’m writing from a cottage on the Outer Hebrides and it is sobering to see what it took for crofters to live here in this cold, boggy, weather-beaten land.

Then there is our relationship with ourselves.  How many of us are happy with who we are and feel at peace with ourselves?  Sometimes our anger and frustration with others springs out of our disappointment with ourselves.  Why do I find it so hard to change?  We are, so often, our own greatest enemy.

But the root of all this brokenness, according to the diagnosis of the Bible, is a much, much deeper fracture - our broken relationship with our creator.  We complain that he is distant and unwilling to help us or we complain about the unjust way he runs his world, but mostly we suppress all knowledge of him not wanting to serve and worship him as we instinctively know we should.  He seems nothing like a ‘heavenly Father’ to us.  We cannot fix this fracture from our side.  But what if God made the move from his side, what if he has stepped across the barbed-wire border to offer peace with his wayward creatures?  What if reconciliation with him is the essential first step to a long slow mending of all the fractured relationships with each other, with creation and with ourselves?  What if the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has plans for deep peace on earth?


Graham Burrows

Sunday 1 October 2023

A Trivial Question?


October 2023

Dear Friends

“What do you think of him?”  That’s the question that was being asked about Jesus all over 1st Century Judea.  He was discussed down by the River Jordan (John 1:46), among the ethnic minorities in Samaria (John 4:26), by the festival crowds in Jerusalem (John 7:26) and by the religious elites at the temple (John 7:51). 

Aware of all the whisperings, Jesus asked his friends directly, "But what about you?  Who do you say I am?"  (Matthew 16:15).  He wanted to know if they thought he could be the man they were all waiting for – the ‘Christ’ promised by the prophets.  ‘Christ’ (or ‘Messiah’) means ‘King’, a royal Son with God’s authority to rescue a people who knew that their nation was in trouble - trapped by powers beyond their control and by the self-destructiveness that afflicts us all. 

Some people at the time thought that Jesus was a fraud or worse but others pointed to the evidence – would the real Christ do more miraculous things than Jesus had done? (John 7:31)  He opened blind eyes, but others testified to something deeper; that he had opened their mind’s eye to the truth and they knew their lives were changed forever (John 10:21). 

Amazingly, although this all took place in three short years and in one little corner of the Roman Empire, it wasn’t all that long before people all over the world would answer the question, “What do you think of Jesus?” with a resounding, “He is King of Kings forever, and my Rescuer and Lord!” 

Some people today hope that this delusion, as they call it, will wither and die as humanity throws off the shackles of primitive thinking but (despite what is happening in our culture in the short term) across the world there seems to be a continuing rise in those who believe that Jesus is the Christ of God.  Didn’t Jesus say that his kingdom would be like yeast that is mixed into a large amount of flour to work its way right through the dough?  (Matthew 13:32) 

What about you?  Who do you say that Jesus is?  It may seem like a trivial question but what if true life can only begin when this foundation block is in place?  (John 6:40)


Graham Burrows

Friday 1 September 2023

Growing Up

September 2023

Dear Friends

On 24th September it will be 10 years since I began as the minister of Burton and Holme.  I sometimes think that nothing has changed much in that time (I don’t look that much older!) but children are an inescapable reminder of the passing of years.  Those who were in Reception when I began are now entering Year 10 to study for their GCSEs and many of those who were in the top year at our primary schools are now working or at university.  As of July, we no longer have teenagers in our own family. 

Children, of course, are meant to grow up!  Parents and teachers have a responsibility to train children, to pass on wisdom and a love of learning and maturing, so that they grow in body, mind, character and abilities.  But that’s not enough, for our children or for us.  Because we can only grow up to be like our teachers or our parents.  And that means sharing the same disappointments in life and the same destiny – decline and death – that our teachers and parents faced.

God’s Word says that children and adults also need to grow up in Jesus because he is the head of a new human family that will not be subject to frustration and decay.  If we want to know what it is like to be truly human then we must look at Jesus – loving, trustworthy, self-controlled and fearless.  If we become part of his family and grow up to be like him, then we will share in his glorious and forever-secure future.  And in the same place (Ephesians 4) Paul says that church ministers have a foundational responsibility to make sure that the truth of the Bible, spoken in love, is bringing people to maturity in Christ.

I hope that you’ve been growing in Christ.  I’m sorry if I’ve not been a help to you in that.  I wish I could have been more fruitful over the last 10 years but I hope that you’ll give me a chance to help you in the next 10, whether that’s through our Sunday Services, our regular study and discussion groups like Christianity Explored, or in conversation whenever I meet you.


Graham Burrows

Tuesday 1 August 2023

A Mountain of Evidence


August 2023

Dear Friends

When I wrote to you in July I encouraged you to drag out a garden chair (not knowing how much rain we were going to get!) and read an eyewitness account of the man of truth, Jesus.  But what evidence is there that these short biographies (aka Gospels) are indeed eyewitness accounts and not bad history with little connection to real events?

Firstly, we can have confidence that the Gospels available to us are reliable copies and translations of the originals.  Compared to other ancient writings (that are widely accepted as genuine) we have in existence today far more – thousands more – ancient copies of the New Testament books.  This mountain of copies of whole Bible books and fragments are far closer in time to the originals than for any other ancient text.  The oldest surviving New Testament fragment is on display at the John Rylands Library in Manchester and is believed to date from the 2nd Century.

Secondly, we have copies of many letters, sermons and other writings of early church leaders from the first few centuries AD.  Between them they tell us that

  • The Gospels of Matthew and John were written by those two members of the original 12 disciples
  • Mark (who was not one of the 12) accompanied Peter on his extensive travels and recorded what Peter was teaching from his personal knowledge of Jesus.
  • Luke, the doctor, used eyewitnesses as his sources (See Luke 1:1-4)

So, their claim is that the four Gospels are all, in one way or another, eye-witness accounts of the things that Jesus said and did.

It is these eyewitnesses who claimed that Jesus had no deceit in him at all, and who heard Jesus say that those who hold to his teaching “will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I still have some free Gospels left so I’ll repeat my offer – just send me a text or email and I’ll be delighted to deliver one to you.  I’m sure that summer is not over yet and that there will be some sunny days for you to sit and read and allow the authentic Jesus to appear before your mind’s eye.


Graham Burrows

Saturday 1 July 2023

In Truth

July 2023

Dear Friends

Don’t you hate it when you are lied to?  From the deep betrayal of a close friend, to infuriating bare-faced scams, to yet another lie from political leaders, we loathe it all.  How can they say that, knowing it is not true?!

For our own part, we say we’re truthful people, of course.  We’re only economical with the truth when it’s ‘justified’, even though we wouldn’t want anyone else to justify their decision to deny us the truth.  This truth-lite mindset destroys the trust of others like little else.  And it destroys us too.  Once we start to drift away from the rock of truth, powerful currents drag us further out to sea and away from all grip on reality.

How refreshing then when we meet people who tell it like it is, who neither flatter to our face nor slander behind our back, who don’t cover up their mistakes or spin everything to suit their agenda.

Truthful speech was one of the things that people noticed about Jesus.  Even his enemies acknowledged that he spoke the truth and wasn’t swayed by men (Matthew 22:16).  There are nearly 80 references in the Gospels to Jesus saying, ‘I tell you the truth …’.

He told people the truth about themselves even when it was unwelcome (Matthew 23:27).  He spoke the truth about himself and his Father even when that risked a violent reaction (John 10:31).

Others said that he not only spoke truth, he was full of truth - there was simply no deceit in him at all (John 1:14, 1 Peter 2:22).  Can you imagine how it felt to encounter someone so refreshingly straightforward, and yet unnervingly honest?  To meet this man is to have your inner self laid bare and yet to be led from crushing slavery to glorious freedom.  Jesus said that those who hold to his teaching “will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Why not drag out a garden chair this summer and read one of the short biographies (aka Gospels) that are eyewitness accounts of this man of truth?  If you’d like a free Gospel then send me a text or email and I’ll be delighted to deliver one to you.


Graham Burrows

Thursday 1 June 2023

Anointed One


June 2023

Dear Friends

“God save the King! Long live the king!” reverberated around Westminster Abbey as the choir sang the magnificent ‘Zadok the Priest’ while King Charles, hidden behind a screen, was anointed with oil.

All this is taken from the Bible: Kings in the Old Testament were anointed with oil as a sign that they were set apart by God for their role and not self-appointed.  Zadok was the priest who anointed Solomon king in Israel some 3000 years ago while the people shouted “Long Live King Solomon” and rejoiced “greatly, so that the ground shook with the sound”(1 Kings 1:34ff).

Not everyone was pleased to hear that sound.  One of Solomon’s brothers, Adonijah, had already decided that he deserved to be king instead and he and his guests were still at his coronation feast when they heard all the noise coming from Solomon’s coronation.  Adonijah’s guests quickly got up from their meal and fled!

The British coronation service makes clear that the King of Kings is Jesus Christ (the Greek title ‘Christ’ means ‘Anointed One’).  King Charles was reminded of this when the Archbishop presented him with the gold globe and said, “Receive this Orb, set under the Cross, and remember always the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.”  All kings, prime ministers, presidents and other rulers must govern under the kingship of Jesus, either serving Jesus or opposing Jesus.

Some people deny that Jesus rules over anything, let alone all the nations of the world.  Others say that if everything in our world is under Jesus’ authority then his rule is a disaster.  To many it feels as though the world is out of control, no-one is in charge, and there is no reason to have any hope that the world, or our lives, will get any better.

We would love to have the opportunity to tell you why we think Jesus’ rule is gloriously real and indestructibly full of hope for those who acknowledge his kingship.  We’re running the excellent ‘Hope Explored’ groups again in June – 3 meetings with a choice of times and venues.  Details are on our website – do please send me a message or ring me if you might be interested in joining us.  You would be very welcome.


Graham Burrows