Thursday, 29 March 2018

A new theory of everything


April 2018

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 and bridges can go up that will never collapse, where planes don’t fall out of the sky, 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 wrong-doing is never ignored, where those who destroy families or raid bank accounts or selfishly crush other people have nowhere to hide.

Imagine a world where my guilt for the things I have done can be brought into the open, faced, atoned for; where the mess I have made of my life can be untangled and re-worked like new.

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 life as we experience it now that we can hardly imagine such a world existing without a major overhaul; a complete strip-down of the universe with all the parts assembled differently, a world with a new theory of everything.

But what if there had been a time when just such a rearrangement 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!

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Thursday, 1 March 2018

On the Map


March 2018

Denesh Divyanathan is from Singapore.  His mother was from a Chinese Taoist family.  His father was from an Indian Hindu family.  One day he asked his father about the stirring tales of gods and kings and heroes in the Hindu scriptures, “These are just myths aren’t they, these things didn’t actually happen?”  His father said that they were myths but that they would teach him how he must live.  In time, Denesh decided that he did not need myths in order to be able to work out how to live and he began to call himself an atheist.

Then he came to England to study economics and a friend persuaded him to come to church.  Finding everything in church boring he began to flip through the Bible in the pew and was very surprised.  He was struck not by the size of the Bible or its elegant language or its grand themes, but by the maps included at the back – maps of the ancient world, boundaries of nations and empires, locations of cities, rivers and recognisable coastlines and routes of the journeys made by Israelite ancestors, marching armies, Jesus and his disciples, and by the apostle Paul.  For the first time he realised that the Christian faith claims to be about real historical events taking place in real earthly locations.

That was just the beginning of a long journey from that moment of surprise to Denesh’s present conviction that the Christian faith stands because of the historical truth of the events in the Bible, both the Old Testament preparations for God’s sending of the Christ, and supremely the birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Denesh Divyanathan is now the minister of a church back home in Singapore.  Like us here in our village church, he aims to proclaim these world-changing historical events believing that Christian faith stands or falls on this.  If you’re not sure whether the Bible is myth or history then come along.  Our church Bibles also have maps in them!  And we aim to warmly welcome all those who come through the doors of our church and to be ready to answer any question that you may have.

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Friday, 2 February 2018

2018 CE

February 2018

Have you been writing 2017 and then correcting it to 2018 for the last few weeks? Eventually our brains accept that the counter has moved on one and we know for sure that we are in 2018.  But what are we counting?   2018 since what?  Well, of course, our calendar was designed to count the years since Jesus was born.  Before that, various systems were in use counting the years of a particular emperor or king until someone suggested that we should count from Christ’s birth.  A mistake of four or so years was made in the original calculation, and the idea took a few centuries to catch on, but now the whole world is able to work to this system (even if there are some local alternatives).  Ancient history is ‘Before Christ’ and more recent things are ‘Anno Domini’ (‘In the Year of the Lord’).

Of late, there has been an increasing reluctance to tie everything to Jesus in this way.  Is his birth the one event in history to measure all other dates against?  Is this insensitive to those who are not Christian believers?  But what other event in history would be acceptable as the world-wide marker of Year 1?  (Perhaps when we leave the EU we should restart our calendar and count years ‘Post Brexit’ but I doubt that the idea will be welcomed everywhere.)

And so, increasingly, the labels BC and AD are replaced with BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) as if we know what event our dates are based on but we don’t want to talk about it publicly.  As others have pointed out it’s ironic that CE could just as easily stand for ‘Christ’s Empire’.  For those with eyes to see, all those BCE and CE labels in museums and text books continue to speak about the world-shattering arrival of God’s Son as the all-conquering and just King over a new Empire.

The reign of this Royal Son “will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations” (Psalm 72).  Perhaps when we reach the year 20018 or 200018 no-one will care what letters we add because it will have become clear that no other ruler’s birth will ever be a candidate for the year from which to count all years.  

Happy 2018!

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Friday, 1 December 2017

Yule Reimagined

December 2017

It is said that Christians took over the old Yuletide festival and made it into Christmas.  Very likely they did, but can we agree that Christmas is better?

When you got to the shortest day of the year then it was worth celebrating that the days would now get longer and the warm summer sun would begin to return.  But when the one who created the sun and light itself - when The Light of the World comes into the world then it is really time to light candles and to string sparkling lights around our houses and streets.

When the stores of winter food began to shrink then it was worth having one good feast to mark the passing of mid-winter and the hope that planting and harvesting would not be too far away.  But when the one who can give the food that sustains people not just through one year but for eternity – when the Bread of Life comes into the world then it is really time to open a bottle or two, to spread a table with the best food that we can afford and to eat with joy.

When the dark days of winter were at their most oppressive then it seemed worthwhile to sacrifice animals as gifts to the gods who might control the seasons and the fertility of the earth.  But when the one who does not demand sacrifice but instead freely offers himself as a sacrifice to buy for us freedom from guilt – when the Gift of God comes into the world then it is really time to fill our houses with the sound of ripping wrapping paper and the cries of thanks for gifts given in love.

Do we think that it was wrong to take a winter festival and fill it with Christ?  Jesus Christ glorifies and transforms everything he touches; the world in the depths of its barren winter death sparkles with light and life as His birth is celebrated.

Happy Christ-mas!

Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Facing Reality

November 2017
“There is … a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build …”
So begins the well-known poem of ‘The Teacher’ in the Bible book of Ecclesiastes.  His words echo our experience of life – it’s certainly not all good but it’s not all bad either and if there were good times in the past then maybe there will be good times again in the future.  It’s all part of the rhythm of life and that’s OK.

But when you read the rest of his book you realise that that cannot be what 'The Teacher' meant.  He was deeply puzzled by the apparent pointlessness of life – it’s all a vapour, a fleeting mist, an enigma.  The ‘rhythm of life’ is not a comfort but something disturbing.  For each good thing that is done there is also an undoing, peace is replaced by war, beautiful buildings are torn down, strong relationships fall apart and life is overtaken by death.  ‘The Teacher’ longed for a better world where good things don’t come to an end.

And so he taught his hearers to hope for a day when the world would be different.  He prepared them to hear about a man whose life was not a fleeting mist because death would be unable to crush him; a man whose words would never be forgotten, whose accomplishments would never dim, whose just and righteous government cannot fail. 

Ecclesiastes is a book for our day.  We hope that all our busyness and fretting is accomplishing something important and yet we are troubled by reality.  What is the point of spending your life working hard if everything you achieve is temporary?  Exactly, says Jesus, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”  (Luke 9:24-25)

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Forever Love

October 2017

“We don’t have to live very long in this world before it becomes painfully clear that nothing lasts forever. The car we were so proud of when we bought it is spending too much time in the garage getting fixed. Those clothes we picked up on sale are now in the hand-me-down box. At home, the roof eventually leaks, the appliances break down, the carpet needs to be replaced. And relationships that we think will endure often fall apart.

Nothing lasts forever – nothing but God’s love, that is. Twenty-six times we are reminded of this inspiring truth in Psalm 136. Twenty-six times the writer gives us something for which to praise the Lord, and then he reminds us, “his love endures for ever”.

Think of what this means. When we sin and need forgiveness, His love endures forever. When our lives seem a jumbled mess that we can’t control, His love endures forever. When we can’t find anyone to turn to for help, God’s love endures forever. When each day is a struggle because of illness, despair or conflict, His love endures forever. Whenever life seems overwhelming, we can still praise the Lord, as the psalmist did – for God’s love is always new and fresh.

No problem can outlast God’s forever love!”

The above is one page from a helpful booklet called Our Daily Bread which is posted out quarterly across the UK (and beyond) from an office in Sandside.   The generosity of donors and local volunteers means that no payment is required – you simply need to tell them that you’d like to receive the booklets.  Contact Our Daily Bread by phone, letter or on-line (015395 64149  Our Daily Bread Ministries, PO Box 1, Carnforth, LA5 9ES   odb.org/subscription/uk).  If you prefer you can receive Our Daily Bread pages by e-mail or to your phone.

And if you are longing for hope and strength in times of trouble and you would like a visit from someone on behalf of the local church then we have small teams in the villages who can be contacted - the details are in the village newsletters.

Sincerely

Graham Burrows

Saturday, 2 September 2017

The human animal?

September 2017

Has a cat ever wondered what life must be like for Smudge who lives next door?

Do blackbirds decide that next year they will build an improved kind of nest, better than any built before?

Do dogs leave old Rover’s food in his bowl for when he wakes up because it would be wrong for them to eat it?

Has a nightingale ever decided it would like to have a go at writing some new songs?

Does a fox feel that there must surely be some reason why he is alive?

Would goats be upset if they heard that drought in Africa is killing their cousins?

Did Mr and Mrs Beaver have a desire to gather their relations as witnesses while they promised undying love to each other?

When sharks kill half of the shoal, do the remaining herring think, “It should have been me”?

Can a penguin be cross with herself?

Does a cow wonder what her children will remember about her when she is gone?

Do monkeys spend much time on food presentation and beautiful table decorations?

Do owls look up at the stars and think about how big the universe is and how small owls are?

Has a dolphin ever wondered, “what if I’d lived my life differently?”

When did a rabbit last catch himself thinking about who made him, and why?

So why do we do these things?

Sincerely

Graham Burrows