Thursday, 5 May 2022

Mothballed?

May 2022

Dear Friends

I am just old enough to remember the deployment of ‘Green Goddesses’, fire engines from the 1950s brought out of retirement and driven by soldiers in 1977 while regular fire brigades were on strike.

Some people think of Jesus in a similar way.  40 days after his resurrection he was withdrawn from active service on this planet and returned to base.  There he waits, still, for the day when our world is in such need that he will be brought out of retirement and will return to sort things out. 

But ‘retired’ (and bored or restless?) is not at all how the Bible speaks of Jesus’ life now.  Yes, he sits at the Father’s right hand because his great battle on the cross is over and his triumph is complete.  But his seat is not a deckchair or a recliner; it’s a throne from which he directs the course of world history.  When Jesus ascended it was to the place of all power and authority over heaven and earth (Philippians 2:9).  Jesus sustains everything in this universe by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3).  He has sent out his heralds to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19) by announcing that he is graciously willing to offer peace and forgiveness now (Acts 2:38) before he returns ‘to judge the living and the dead’.

I think some Christians prefer the idea of Jesus in passive retirement because they can then avoid difficult questions about the terrible suffering in the world on his watch.  Jesus is, they think, a loving and sympathetic grandfather figure who can only wish that the world was a happier place.

But what if the Bible is right and Jesus is God and Lord?  Then we will have to re-think our ideas about everything: what our lives are for, where the world is heading, and what is the good, loving and just way to rule the world, because the Lord Jesus clearly thinks very differently from us about how to do the job.

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Divided and torn apart

April 2022

Dear Friends

The Archbishop of Canterbury has recently said that “war and violence is never an answer”.  But I am not sure what justification this leader of our national church has for rejecting the understanding that has been shared by Christians for centuries.

Of course war is always truly terrible and the immense suffering of people on both sides of the current conflict is heart-rending.  But if an invader begins to wreck your country and inflict horrible suffering on your people, and if he won’t leave when asked politely or pressured in other ways, I wonder what the Archbishop thinks you should do?

From at least the 4th Century onwards Christians have overwhelmingly agreed that defending the nation is a responsibility that God has laid on each ruler or government, and that going to war will sometimes be right.  The wide-ranging tests of a ‘Just War’ have included:

1.       Will our action be defensive, rather than aggressive?

2.       Is war the last resort in this situation?

3.       Will the means we use be in proportion to the threat we face?

4.       Will we avoid targeting civilians?

I’ll leave you to discuss whether those questions have been asked in recent conflicts, including those that our nation has been involved in.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace and every war involves at least one side (and often both) refusing to submit to his loving rule.  Jesus is the Prince of Peace but he has warned us that his kingdom will grow slowly as people, families and nations - one by one - stop fighting against Him and accept his authority in their lives.

For a world that gives up its resistance to Jesus, the end is clear: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

But, while evil continues in the world, being prepared to fight remains a tragic necessity.

“Almighty Father, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of all: govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, to be subject to his just and gentle rule”  (Prayer for Remembrance Sunday)

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Finding hope again

March 2022

Dear Friends

Happiness.  We all look for it.  We know it when we have it, but it’s not easy to find and it’s easily lost.  A sudden ending of a relationship, an unexpected diagnosis, a downturn in business or even a cancelled holiday can result in the happiness draining out of our life like fuel from a punctured tank.

When that happens most of us don’t appreciate the glib reassurances of those who just say that everything will probably turn out OK!  So how is it that some of the best known, and best loved, words of Jesus seem to be a little like that: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted …” (Matthew 5:3-4)

Jesus was not being insensitive or cruel; he was no aloof leader untouched by trouble.  Those in need flocked to him and he helped them. 

Jesus was not saying that all people find a silver lining to their clouds; he was speaking specifically to his disciples - those who were being trained and disciplined by Jesus their boss, who were listening to him and following him. 

And in telling them that everything would be alright in the end, Jesus was not cynically deceiving his new friends.  Had he not just given a foretaste of his power to deliver on his promises when the crowds “brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralysed, and he healed them”? (Matthew 4:24)  All that is truly good will belong to those who trust the Lord Jesus and who walk in his ways even when everything seems to be against them.

Is there any chance that Jesus might actually have the answer to your search for happiness and true blessing?  ‘Hope Explored’ is an informal and relaxed three-week course.  It’s for anyone who wants to find hope, peace and purpose in life.  The next groups of explorers will be meeting on three Thursdays (afternoon or evening) beginning on 17 March and you are very welcome to join us.  Please contact me if you would like to know more or take a look at our church website: www.burtonandholmechurches.org

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Sick with worry

 

February 2022

Dear Friends

While the world has been fretting about you-know-what, another disease  has been sweeping our nation, an even more damaging epidemic of depression, loneliness and worry.

One type of therapy used to help those with mental health struggles focuses on identifying and changing unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaviour that are out of step with reality.  It involves learning to speak truth to yourself, reminding yourself what is really real.

If I were to develop, for example, a fear of going out then a therapist might explore what lies behind this.  My fears would need to be questioned.  What am I afraid of?  How likely is this to happen and how serious would it be?  How do I know?  What are the thoughts or actions that trigger my fear?  How can I avoid them?  Can I begin by going somewhere local and non-threatening and move slowly towards the full city-centre experience?

This seems to me a sensible approach – we all have irrational thoughts and beliefs and sometimes they need challenging.

Is this what Jesus was doing when he told the crowd not to worry (recorded in Matthew 6)?  Jesus challenges them, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”  I don’t suppose any hands went up.  Jesus reminds them that their worry does them no good, as, deep down, they already know. 

“Do not worry about tomorrow,” says Jesus, “for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Again, he is reminding them of reality.  Thinking too far ahead just piles up all the problems onto today.

But Jesus’ central message is that they shouldn’t worry because they have a heavenly father who provides for his children, just as he faithfully feeds the birds and beautifully clothes the flowers.

If that is not true then Jesus is asking them to focus on myths which will only lead to disillusionment and deeper worry.  But if there is a powerful and wise God who is a father to those who put all their trust in his Son then this is the ultimate therapy.  Such a truth would be the deepest of all truths, the really real thing in our universe.  Learning to speak this truth to ourselves each day would not only challenge our everyday worries but would show us the answer to our deepest fears.

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

What a mess!

December 2021

Dear Friends

Sometimes a bit of advice is all we need when we mostly know what we’re doing.  However, when we’re really stuck, mere advice is the last thing we need. 

“You should have removed the widget first.”
“Yes, I can see that, but it’s too late because now I’ve broken the whole thing!”

“You need to take a firm control of this situation.”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do all along!  Do you think I messed this up deliberately?”

When we’re really making a mess of something then we don’t just need someone to tell us what to do, we need someone to get down into the mess we’ve made, to come alongside us to help us, or perhaps to fix the problem for us.

That’s what Jesus was doing when he came to us.  We had God’s instructions, but we didn’t and couldn’t keep them.  We already had a good idea what wise living would look like, but we were incapable of breaking out of our foolishness.  We knew what kind of behaviour threatened the peace of our family, village and  nation but we had no power to change.

And so Jesus, God’s eternal Son, came to us in our mess.  If you don’t accept that Jesus is God’s Son let me gently ask whether you have read one of the Gospel eye-witness accounts recently?  How else do you account for Jesus’ extraordinary life and the unparalleled influence he has across the world?

Jesus did not come to show us up (though it’s true that our self-absorbed ways don’t  look good against his selflessness).  Jesus did not come merely to instruct us (although there would be much to learn from him if we were able to take it in).  Jesus became one of  us – he shared in our weakness, he submitted himself to the treachery of his own people and the cruelty of Roman execution – to save us from a messy end.

He joined us in our mess, not to tell us to sort it out but to generously do that for us.  Now he calls us to simply trust him as he invites us to join his mess-free family with Jesus as our brother, his Father as our father and his Spirit to live in us.

That’s Christmas Joy!

Graham Burrows

Monday, 1 November 2021

A problem shared ...

November 2021, to the people of Holme

Dear Friends

You will have received with this Parish Newsletter a Tower Appeal leaflet which explains the extensive repair work that needs to be done at Holy Trinity church.  Stonework needs repointing to keep the rain out and rotten floors must be replaced throughout the full height of the tower.  The leaflet gives much more detail on all that needs to be done.

Some people have been working hard for over 18 months to reach this point.  Thorough investigations have taken place to find the cause of the pervasive damp in the tower and to discover the extent of damage to wooden joists and floorboards.  We have worked with historic building and church clock specialists, our church architect and a structural engineer to draw up a specification for the work that needs to be done and we have obtained the necessary permission for the restoration to take place.  Contractors have been invited to tender for the work and by the time this goes to print we should know who we intend to appoint to carry out the project.  The congregation have been invited to give towards the repairs (and a few others have become aware of the need) and I am pleased to say that more than £18,000 has already been given or pledged.  That is amazing – thank you!

But now it is time to ask everyone in the village and others with links to Holme to consider supporting this work if you can.  Holme Church, like all churches, is not funded from government taxes or central Church of England finances but primarily by the generous giving of local people.  The giving of the congregation pays the day-to-day bills and the costs of ministry and for routine maintenance but a large project like this is beyond our means.  And yet we know that many who live here value the presence of this building built in the heart of the village for the public worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many want it to be safeguarded for the future and kept in good repair.  If you can help in any way we would be very grateful.

You can find more information on the repair work and how you can give:

·         In the Church Tower Appeal leaflet

·         At our Open Afternoon on Sunday 21st November

·         On our church website at www.burtonandholmechurches.org/tower-repairs

·         On the Burton and Holme Churches YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/R-jzuQil3DE

With many thanks,

Graham Burrows

Rafters and Rainwater

November 2021, to the people of Burton

Dear Friends

Thank you to everyone who came to our Autumn Fair.  I think we’ve really missed such events of late!  Thank you too for your generosity, £1003.95 was raised from takings and donations and will go towards the repairs needed to keep St James Church open for the public worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Here's an update on the work that is in progress or planned:  

In April 2021, as we were investigating rainwater leaks into the Atkinson Room (south-east corner of the church), we discovered significant problems with the 16th Century oak beam roof structure which required urgent attention.  The Atkinson Room is used for children’s work, group meetings and for serving refreshments.  We quickly installed scaffolding to support the roof and to give access for investigation and expert advice.  Seven months later we are drawing to the close of a project to replace rotten oak purlins and rafters before replastering sections of the ceiling with traditional lath and plaster.  This work has cost thousands and leaves the church with very little money in the bank for future building works. 

You may have seen that we have been digging shallow trenches in the churchyard.  We have been finding out where the blocked storm-water drains go to – the answer … nowhere!  Over time this will undermine the foundations of the church so as soon as we can raise sufficient funds we plan to lay new pipes from all the gullies to proper soakaways within the churchyard.

We have been working towards the next major project – to repair the vestry, which was built in 1872 on the north side of the church.  This small but important room is used to prepare for services, to store church records and to house our lovely 1850 pipe organ.  Falling internal plaster has been a sure sign of rain-water ingress which has now been thoroughly investigated.  The repair and restoration work – outside and inside – has been costed at £55,000. Thank you very much to all those who have already given money towards this project – as I write £25,837 has already been given, nearly half of the total.  Thank you very much!

More information on the repair work is available:

·         At our Open Afternoon on 31st October

·         On our church website at www.burtonandholmechurches.org/vestryrepairs

·         On the Burton and Holme Churches YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/TC8OIVaZLyo

With many thanks,

Graham Burrows