Tuesday, 2 December 2014

He's one of us!

December 2014

So your little spacecraft catches the top of a xylon tree, and crashes with a terrifying splintering into the thick undergrowth.   There you lie, half in and half out of your cockpit, trapped and in great pain, breathing the strange air of planet Eremos.

Hours later you hear a rustling in the bushes; something heading your way in a hurry, beating back the undergrowth.  Could this be help?  But what kind of rescuer could you expect on this strange planet?  What kind of creature is approaching?  Even if it wants to help will it talk your language, will it understand what you need, will it know how to help you?

What a relief then to see the bushes part and a man appear.  It’s an earthling!  He looks like you.  He’s dressed as you are.  He calls out, “Are you alright? Hold on there!”  Here’s someone who understands human bones and blood, and cries and tears, someone who knows what you need.  He’s one of us!

When God comes to rescue men and women how does he come?  As an alien being?  As one of the other creatures he has made – perhaps a strong lion or a friendly dolphin?  No, he comes as a man.  Jesus is God in the flesh – but it is human flesh.  He’s one of us!

Why does this matter?  Because the rescue cannot succeed otherwise.  We human beings have got ourselves and our world into the mess that we’re in.  A human being must get us out, but there is no man on earth who can do this – we’re all trapped and injured in the wreck of our spaceship. 

So God becomes man.  Jesus is the man who lives the life that all men should live but none do.  Jesus is the man who takes on himself God’s just punishment of the rebellion of all men.  Jesus is the man who goes where no man has been able to go before, breaking through death and emerging victorious on the other side with the prototype new life that can never be destroyed.

And he does all this for his brothers; it is his rescue mission to fellow human-beings.

The rescuer has arrived and he’s one of us!

Happy Christmas!


Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

We will remember them

November 2014

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.  We will remember them because they gave their own lives for the sake of others.  We will teach our children to remember them because generations are inextricably linked; even though our children were not alive in either World War they can truly say these people died for me.

When we say ‘we will remember them’ we intend that they will be remembered long after we have gone; we place an obligation on our grandchildren and great grandchildren, even on those yet to be born, not to forget.

We remember too God’s kindness to us as a nation.  We make no claim for our own innocence when we say that God brought down some nations and raised up others.  We take nothing away from the bravery and sacrifice of our fathers and mothers when we say that it was the Father of the Lord Jesus who gave us victory and peace and prosperity.

The people of Israel were commanded to keep alive, down through the generations, the memory of all that God had done for them.  “I will utter hidden things, things from of old – what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done(Psalm 78:2-4).  They placed an obligation on their children to teach those yet to be born about the Lord.  They feared the rise of “a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him” (Psalm 78:8).

It is a tragedy when a nation forgets its heroes and a greater tragedy when a nation forgets its God.

Sincerely


Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

No border signs

October 2014

Imagine, in some remote corner of the world, driving past a sign that reads:

King Maritoba
sovereign ruler of Cantabamba
welcomes you to his kingdom

But, as you pull up in the next town you realise that there are many Cantabambians who don’t recognise King Maritoba’s authority at all.  They tell you they never take any notice of his laws, they deface his statue in the square and they won’t pay his taxes.   Their allegiance is to other rulers.

It’s a reminder that a kingdom is not always defined by border signs and colours on maps, Its extent is seen in the lives of people who are clearly under the king’s authority, who obey the rulers and submit to their laws, either out of fear or love.

So it is that although there are no border signs welcoming you to the kingdom of Jesus and no lines that could be drawn on a map, yet Jesus was not joking when he said that he was forming a kingdom as real as any state or empire that the world has seen, and that would one day eclipse them all.  This kingdom grows every time another person or family bows the knee to Jesus and begins to have a higher allegiance to his sovereign, loving rule than to any other power.

Jesus told many stories to teach about his kingdom.  Over four Thursday evenings I would like to invite you to come and hear some of these stories that tell us what kind of king Jesus is and why we need to reckon with the spread of his kingdom.  You will be very welcome whatever your views; there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion and we won’t assume you are familiar with Jesus’ teaching.

‘The King and I’   7.30pm-9.30pm on 9th & 23rd October, 6th & 20th November.

There is no charge but please book a place by contacting me.

Sincerely
Graham Burrows


Friday, 5 September 2014

The middle-man

September 2014

Margaret Thatcher once seemed synonymous with the Conservative Party.  She has gone but the Tories remain.  Who could have envisaged the English football team without David Beckham, or University Challenge without Bamber Gascoigne?  No doubt, in the future, some will live to see Virgin without Richard Branson or the Royal Family without Queen Elizabeth II.  But Jesus Christ has not been replaced and never will be.  The Christian faith could not continue to exist without him. 

Why not?

No-one is like him.  The apostle John said he had seen, heard and touched ‘the eternal life’.  He had realised that Jesus who became an ordinary-looking man, had also, for ever, been there with his Father.  Jesus alone is the origin of all life in this universe.  He alone is the God-man.

And no-one can do his job.  Jesus, the God-man, stands in the middle, hands outstretched, with God on one side and us on the other.  He has made it possible for us to approach the God who has no darkness anywhere in him.  We may think that we could walk into God’s front garden at any time but Jesus tells us straight that no-one can get access to his Father except through him.

Churchyards are full of the graves of so-called indispensable people who had to step aside for others.  But Jesus doesn’t step aside.  He really is indispensable; he could not stay in the grave. 

This is the Jesus we are telling you about – still alive, still the head of his Church, still the ruler of heaven and earth, and still standing in the middle as no-one else can – the God-man bringing people like you and me back into a relationship with his Father.

We’d love to tell you more.

Sincerely


Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Long-Distance Relationship?

August 2014

Dear Xxxxx

Thank you for contacting us about Christening/Baptism for your son.  I understand how much the strong links that you have with Burton and with St James' Church must mean to you even though you don't live in the area anymore.  Since moving here I have met many people who feel that Burton will always be 'home'.  However, baptism is about belonging to a Christian congregation (as well as a declaration of your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ). When a child is baptised the local church family is publicly welcoming a child who has begun to worship with them each week, and as parents you promise that you will, by your example, draw them into the church family, walk with them in following Christ, and help them to take their place in the life and worship of Christ's Church. This makes no sense if you live too far away to be able to come to church here each week.

I hope that there is a church near you where you could worship each week (if you need help finding one then let me know where you are living and I will do my best to help) and I am sure the minister there would be willing to talk to you about Christening/Baptism for your son. In fact, if you are not already involved in a local church, then I would remind you that your parents promised you to Jesus Christ at your own baptism here in Burton and the congregation all said: "Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world and the devil, and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life." As you care for your son and think about his future, don't miss the opportunity to think about who you belong to and what was promised on your behalf.

If you have questions about anything I've said do come back to me.

With very best wishes

Graham Burrows


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Favourite Books

July 2014

Thank you to all those who worked so hard to organise the great Burton Sports Day, and especially to those who fixed the weather.   And thank you to whoever chose the theme for the decorated floats: ‘Favourite Books’.  When that was announced it was clear that St James’ Church had to enter, and there was never any question about which book our float would feature.  But why is the Christian church so keen on a rather long, old book? 

We all understand when people are attached to other publications:
  • A man who receives a letter from his new fiancĂ©e will keep it close to his heart.
  • If you go walking on the fells you keep your map to hand not buried at the bottom of your rucksack.
  • I get out the bread maker instruction book nearly every evening because I still can’t remember how much water is needed for each recipe.
  • Perhaps you have a favourite novel.  You’ve read it already (maybe more than once) but you will read it again and will delight in things you hadn’t fully seen before.
  • While junk mail goes straight in the bin, a letter with significant news, whether telling you to visit your doctor urgently or inviting you to a job interview, will be read many times.
The Bible is all of these things and more: the maker’s instruction book, a reliable map for life, a letter from someone who loves us deeply, shockingly dreadful news – and almost unbelievably hopeful news, a book with a single, complex and intriguing plot whose depths and wonder will never be exhausted no matter how many times you read it. 

There was a time when the people of Britain were described as ‘A People of One Book’, when even the thought and speech of atheists was Bible-saturated.  Nowadays much of the Bible is unfamiliar, and we can be astonished to find that it doesn’t endorse our 21st Century Western thinking.

But as Moses warned his people, “They are not just idle words for you – they are your life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). 

This is a book that still has power to transform people, families, villages, even nations.  

It’s our favourite book.

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Can they deliver?

June 2014

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.  “I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again.” (Titania to Bottom.)

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 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 or 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 a man prays to God in the name of Jesus, he is denying that any of the things he longs for come ultimately from the government, another person, a comfortable house or anything else in this world.   He is denying that he himself can provide what he most wants.  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 presence of the church of Jesus Christ in the village raises a question – not ‘do you pray?’ but ‘who or what are you praying to, and can they deliver what you are hoping for?’ 

Sincerely


Graham Burrows

Friday, 2 May 2014

Come In or Keep Out?

May 2014


“Can I come to church?” someone once asked me. 

“What do you mean?” I replied. 

“Is it alright for anyone to just turn up?”

I was surprised.  I had not guessed that anyone would think they needed permission to come to their local church.  But I suppose we might wonder if it is alright to ‘just turn up’ at the tennis club, the auction centre or to a Council meeting and perhaps the church seems similar – a club with uncertain entry conditions.

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 they would be welcome too, there are areas in the church that you could use if your child became restless, and at some services there would be a group for them to join.

“But,” you may ask, “Would I be welcome at a deeper level?  Would I feel awkward because I don’t believe the things that you all believe?  Would I not fit in because my marriage was a disaster or because I’ve not bothered with church for years?”

How would Jesus have received you?  He was well known as a friend to all kinds of people. Jesus had meals with the rich and powerful, but he also associated freely with disreputables. 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 were afraid in his presence.

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 that, but Jesus still insists you must come on his terms.  He must have the right to decide what you will or won’t do from now on.

Welcome!


Graham Burrows

Monday, 31 March 2014

Putting the universe together again

April 2014

Imagine a world where it is possible to win the battle against weeds in the lawn and brambles in the hedge.

Imagine a world where buildings can go up that will never collapse, where engines don’t fail, where plans succeed and crops are healthy; where work is never futile.

Imagine a world where governments always serve, where power is not abused, where the things that “must never happen again” never happen again.

Imagine a world where people no longer give up all hope that justice will be done to those who destroyed their family, stole their land or emptied their bank account.

Imagine a world where the things I have done wrong can be atoned for, and the relationships I have damaged can be restored.

Imagine a world where people never hear devastating news from doctors, where life does not become harder and harder as the years advance, where death is not an invincible enemy.

Of course it’s a fantasy world, isn’t it?  This is so far removed from our experience of life on this planet that we can hardly imagine such a world existing without a major overhaul; a complete strip-down of the universe with all the parts put back together in a very different arrangement, almost a whole new creation.

But what if there had been a time when just such a reversal of the universe had been seen?  What if there had been a man whose whole life work never once had the shadow of futility and despair fall across it?

Imagine if we lived in a world where, even just once, a dead man had lived again, with a new kind of body that would never weaken, age or die. 

Imagine the glimmer of solid hope that might be to us!

Happy Easter!


Graham Burrows

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A simple confession

March 2014

“It’s not that I’m against Christian faith, I just like to believe what I believe without a public fuss.”
“Christians are entitled to believe what they like but they shouldn’t expect their views to be taken into account by those who create laws or run our country.”
 “The Christian faith should return to its simple origins when it was about one brilliant teacher and those who chose to listen to him.”

Well, one of the earliest and simple confessions of Christian faith was ‘Jesus is Lord’, but that was never a private belief that didn’t ‘interfere’ in public life.  The resurrection was proof that God had made Jesus Lord, and therefore that the Jewish authorities should not have killed him; that claim didn’t go down well.  Before long the Romans realised that ‘Jesus is Lord’ was a direct challenge to the official line that Caesar was Lord, and the imperial lions were called to deal with the problem.

And in the centuries since, many Christians have discovered that this simple confession has been enough to deprive them of their property, their employment, their family and even their life.
So too today.  Christian faith is a direct challenge to any authority or power that tries to ignore the risen Lord Jesus.  If ‘Jesus is Lord’ over this world then everything is under his command, including the economy and the weather.  If ‘Jesus is Lord’ then his words must determine what my family believes and how we use our time.  Jesus gets to declare what the church must teach and who can be its leaders.  And, in the state, Jesus has the right to say when tax is legitimate, what marriage can be and what constitutes a crime.

That’s the simple and original Christian faith:
“ … if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  (Romans 10:9)

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Why am I still a Christian in 2014?

February 2014

Wasn’t the Christian faith out of date in the last century, let alone in this?  So why am I still a Christian in 2014? 

Well, firstly, because it’s the truth.  I first trusted in Jesus at the age of 12; since then I’ve had many years to consider the Bible’s teaching and the objections to it that are often raised.  My confidence that the Bible speaks truthfully has only grown.  I don’t know of anything else that makes such sense of our bitter-sweet experience of life, that speaks with such disturbing accuracy about my own flawed character and that tells such an unbelievable story (as the account of Jesus seems to be) in such a simple, matter-of-fact, truthful way.  Every century has had its way of hiding this but Christian faith remains true, just as sugar remains sweet and the sky stays blue.

But secondly, I’m a Christian because the message of the Bible gives me hope.  If it wasn’t true then this would just be false hope, but because it is true the hope is of the solid, 24-carat, armour-plated variety.  There is hope for me personally because the great debt that I owed to God for stubbornly resisting his right to tell me how I ought to live has been paid in full and wiped from the slate by Jesus Christ.  There is hope for my family; how can I hope to protect them from all the circumstances that might threaten to overwhelm their lives in the future?  God promises in the Bible that his love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children.”  And there is hope for the whole world because the Bible confidently asserts that the rule of Jesus Christ will increase year by year until there is no town or village outside his just government and no person who does not acknowledge that he is Lord.

Christians often feel pressured to let go of their faith and adopt an easier outlook on life.  But where else could we find such a true hope to live for?

Sincerely
Graham Burrows



Ring out the bells!

December 2013

In our cities now a church building can easily be dwarfed by the surrounding blocks of flats, shopping centres and offices but when old churches were originally built it seemed appropriate that they should be much higher than all the buildings around them.   Here in our village the church can still be seen for miles around but we have other ways of obscuring its significance, chiefly by thinking of it as an interesting, beautiful, but largely irrelevant, ancient monument.  For the last year church services have alternated each week between Burton and Holme with the other building lying empty on a Sunday morning, but our two Church Councils have recently decided that, from January, Morning Worship will be held in both churches every week.  We have agreed to service times of 9.15am at Holme and 11.15am at Burton. 

Why might this be significant?  To have in any village a weekly gathering to worship the Lord Jesus Christ is significant.  The trail of people heading for the church declares to the other rulers and ‘gods’ of our age that there are some who still firmly believe that Jesus is really King of Kings and Lord of Lords; the open door proclaims that the church is still a welcoming place of refuge for those who see their own brokenness, and the loud singing calls to others saying, “you are living in God’s world as if he isn’t there, come back to your senses and return to him”.  Maybe one day we will even find a way to ring the bells again and call the village to worship the living God and his great Son.  As Mary was told about her soon-to-be-born son, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High … his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32-33)

Assuring you of a sincere welcome at any service and wishing you all a very Happy Christmas,

Graham Burrows

 


Tales of the Unexpected

November 2013

Yes I know you don’t normally read this page but I’m glad that you have this month because this is for you.  I’m gathering together some small groups of people who frankly find the Christian faith less than convincing but who would be willing to hear again some of the startling stories that Jesus told and to discuss what he meant by them .  Each of the four evenings will begin with puddings and coffee (always a good place to start), lead on to short DVD presentations of one of Jesus’ stories-with-surprising-endings, and give plenty of time to discuss the stories and other questions that you might have.  These groups will be informal and no-one will be asked to read or pray or sing or do anything they don’t want to do.

Choose between the two ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ groups;  I will lead both.
·         Four evenings 7.30pm – 9.30pm
·         Burton on Wednesdays 6th, 13th, 20th& 27th November
·         Holme on  Thursdays 7th, 14th, 21st & 28th November
·         There is no charge but please book a place by contacting me  - see below.

Why are we doing this?  The church does not exist just for those who think of themselves as ‘religious’.  We are not a closed club.  If the things that Jesus claimed about himself are true then we want to explain them and share them.  We will not assume that you are familiar with the Bible; you are welcome to ask any question, however ‘obvious’.  Nor are we afraid of hearing the views of those who want to question what the Bible says or who are uncertain about the things that the Christian church stands for.  We expect these groups to be full of lively debate and you are very welcome to join us! 

The Rev’d Graham Burrows