Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Firming Up

 

July 2022

Dear Friends

Confirmation.  It’s not in the Bible but it is a rite that has been practised by churches for centuries.  During a special service of Confirmation the bishop prays for each candidate in turn, that the Lord would confirm them in their faith in Jesus Christ by the good gift of his Holy Spirit to them.  And each candidate confirms that they have turned away from their sin, that they are trusting in the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and they are following him as one of his disciples.  A certificate is issued and names are entered into the register in the church.

Some were baptised/Christened as children, and this is the natural progression – they are confirmed and begin to play their part as young adults in the church.  Other young people have not been pointed in that direction but might still like an opportunity to hear more about Jesus and to think for themselves whether they intend to follow him in life or not.

From September we plan to begin a group that meets in Burton after school at 4.15pm (probably on Thursdays) for anyone in school year 6 and above.  Over the course of several weeks we will go over what Christians have historically believed and give lots of opportunities for questions and discussion.  Then, those who might want to find out more, and those who are thinking they would like to be confirmed at some point, will have the opportunity of continuing to meet to prepare themselves.  No-one who comes to the group will have to be confirmed if they decide not to proceed.  Anyone can join the group – those who have never been baptised/Christened can be baptised at their Confirmation service if they choose to go ahead.

If this might be of interest to you or your son/daughter then please send me a quick email or text and I will contact you nearer the time with more details. 

And if Thursday at 4.15pm is no good, or if you are much older than Year 6 but you would still like to talk about confirmation or baptism – I would be delighted to hear from you too.  Many adults have never been baptised or confirmed so I think it will be quite common now to see people of all ages who want to declare their faith in Jesus Christ in these ways.

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Our Servant Queen

June 2022

Dear Friends

On 6th February this year Queen Elizabeth II became the first-ever British monarch to have reigned for 70 years.  The Jubilee weekend will be a focus of our thanksgiving for her Majesty’s long reign marked by humble and dedicated service.

At her coronation in Westminster Abbey in 1953 the Queen was presented with several items that are so valuable that they are normally kept behind two-inch-thick bullet-proof glass in the Tower of London.

She received a beautiful gold six-inch sphere with a jewelled cross on the top.   The Archbishop presented it with these words, “Receive this Orb set under the Cross, and remember that the whole world is subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.”

She was handed a sceptre with a diamond-encrusted cross, as a symbol of the authority to rule that God was entrusting to her (Romans 13:1).

She was given a sword, because rulers are charged by God with the punishment of wrong-doers (Romans 13:4).

And our Queen was given a crown topped by a cross because (as the Queen said herself in her 2011 Christmas Day broadcast), “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness and greed.  God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.”

Alongside these costly objects the Queen was also given a book with these words, “We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords.”  What book could be more valuable than the Crown Jewels?  Only one.  A Bible.

In a foreword to a book to mark her 90th birthday her Majesty wrote, “In 1952 I asked the people … to pray for me as I prepared to dedicate myself to their service at my Coronation.   I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for His steadfast love.  I have indeed seen His faithfulness.” 

And here is the request that Princess Elizabeth made before her Coronation: “Pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.” 

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

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