• Rossendale Circuit

Love Serves Pain and Joy - Audio Service 03.04.22

with Revd. David Burrow

Video Service

Or watch on youtube here.

Subtitles available on the video, please click the 'cc' button.

Suggested Hymns & Songs:

Love Divine All Loves Excelling:


Amazing Grace


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Hello and welcome to this audio service by the Rossendale Methodist Circuit, what you'll hear shortly is a recording of a service that usually takes place at Longholme Methodist Church in Rawtenstall on Tuesday mornings at 10am, this is a live recording so do expect some background noise, although we've tried to reduce this as much as we can, the hymns unfortunately have to be removed for copyright reasons, but we've suggested some links to versions of the hymns below this video. This week's service is entitled, 'Love serves Pain and Joy' and you'll hear Revd. David Burrow begin the service now.

Good morning, since Ash Wednesday, we've looked at repentance and forgiveness and hope and trust and sacrifice last week, if you remember sacrifice. This morning, I want to turn to that which is at the very heart of the Easter story. In fact, it's at the heart of the question. Why? Why did God create humanity? Why did God choose the people of Israel and journey with them through the wilderness. Why did God send all the prophets? Why did God take on human flesh to be born in Bethlehem? And why did Jesus die on the cross?

The answer of course is because God's greatest desire is to be with his people. Hence, Jesus was called Emmanuel, God with us. As God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Gethsemene as Jesus walked with his friends in Galilee. So God longs to be with each one of us, to share with us an intimate, loving relationship, a loving relationship in which we love God in response to his love for us. God wants to be with us, because God loves us.

So love is the theme for this morning and I wonder what you think of when you hear that word love. Oh I love chips. Or perhaps a bit more than that we've just celebrated...? Mothering Sunday. Well, some have celebrated it, while others have quietly tried to live through it. Why? Because it's a celebration of love. But on the other hand, it's also about shared and painful memories for others. Love that's been lost. Love that never was. Love so often gives rise to great joy. But to love deeply is to risk, great pain, of course.

Photo by Khadeeja Yasser via Unsplash.

For love, serves both pain and joy. In the words of the writer Sally Welsh, who I've quoted from before 'Love is a challenge both to understand and practice. Jesus commands us to love one another as I have loved you, to love our neighbour and our enemy, to love those who persecute us. To love those who seem to be the most undeserving, demanding and difficult. Jesus asks us to love without ceasing, and without counting the costs. To love as Jesus loves is to be perfect in love.'

So finish this sentence for me, to be perfect in love is...well I put impossible.

To love as Jesus loved. But if we love in this way, as Jesus loved, then Jesus promises to be with us that we might not only share in his kingdom, but also share that kingdom with others.

So let us come to God in prayer. Let us pray. God of love, loving God, we thank you and we praise you for the love that you have poured out into our lives, that you've poured out into this world. And we thank you that you love the world so much that you're sending your own son Jesus Christ. Not to condemn the world but to die, that we might be saved. Thank you for that love. We praise you for that love. A love which never ends, that love which reaches into every part of our being, bringing your cleansing your healing and the wonder of your presence.

Forgive us we pray when we turn away from that love when we doubt your love forgive us and renew us, and thank you that in Jesus Christ who died on the cross to pay the price of sin, to overcome the powers of sin and death.

We pray that as we see that love in Jesus that we might come to you knowing that you do love us and that you reach out to us and that the forgiveness which you offer to us, flows out from the cross even from the very words of Jesus himself. So we come and seek that forgiveness for ourselves once again. We pray that you will create in us a clean heart, a pure heart, a heart that can love as Jesus loved. We pray that you would fill us with your Holy Spirit that we might have the strength to love as Jesus loved.

And then as we put that love into practice, we might not only be able to share it with others, but to show them through our lives that your love is so wonderful and real that it is worth sharing. It's worth exploring. It's worth living for.

So bless us now we pray with even more of your love as we worship you and share together in Jesus's name, Amen.

In the Bible we're going to turn to Matthew's gospel and part of the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew chapter five, verses 43 to 48. Jesus is speaking, as you know, and this is what he says. 'You have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing that others, do not even the Gentiles do the same, be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' Amen.

Be perfect. Even as your heavenly Father is perfect. Not much chance of that eh? When I was a local preacher in training, I preached in a church which was the main church in the circuit where I was living at the time. And I was told later that local preachers went to this church in fear and trembling. I was quite naive. I didn't realise this. Apparently there were several experienced preachers in the congregation every week. There were so many preachers and the great and the good of the local community would gather together in that place. So being new to preaching and as I said, a little naive, perhaps a little overconfident as well. I dared to preach on these words. Be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect. And after the service, which I thought had gone, okay, as you did. I went to the door to shake hands as you could in those days with the people who were leaving. And one of the first men out of the door while he came towards me, took my hand that I went to take but he didn't let go. He dragged me quite literally, out of the door and outside. How dare I preach on being perfect? When I was dressed as I was, drew attention to my shoes, which to be fair, had seen better days.The fact that I wasn't wearing a suit. I had on trousers jacket, shirt and tie. But I wasn't wearing a suit. And I was so shocked and so taken by surprise, and it was all over so quickly that I didn't have chance to say anything in response. He'd said his piece and then he disappeared. Well, later I had a phone call from the superintendent Minister no less, who was Mr. You never called Arthur by his first name. He was always Mr. And he invited me over on the Monday morning to discuss what had happened. He'd heard about it all on the grapevine, of course, somebody had seen it happen and all the rest of it.

Now apparently, this man has an interesting take on faith, he'd bought the carpet for the church and according to the superintendent minister, he was of the opinion that such good works would get him into heaven. So appearances were everything, also, the man didn't know the full story behind why I was dressed like I was. I'd only just come back from Papua New Guinea. You know, as a volunteer teacher, well, you know, I've been paid local wages. I had no money hardly. So I couldn't afford suits. Nevermind new shoes. So he judged before he even knew what was going on. My critic had missed the point completely of what I'd been trying to say that morning.

You know, being perfect is not about how we dress. It's about being like Jesus, which is much more of a challenge than dressing smartly, isn't it?

If perfection is at the top of a 60 foot column I wonder how high we might see ourselves up that column? Probably not very far. Well, I wouldn't say anyway.

Now it's often said that practice makes perfect. But even the most practiced musicians can make a mistake. I remember going to a concert when I was at school in Skipton town hall we were, this pianist was playing, I was part of the school choir then my voice has gone since then, we all went along to listen to this wonderful pianist and I thought he was brilliant. And I said to the lad I was sat next to, weren't he really good. He said no, he made far too many mistakes. I hadn't spotted one. Never, never noticed one of them. I just thought, I was just overwhelmed by the wonder of the music. But anyway, there we were. And I used to practice for hours with a football against the wall in the house on the farm. You know, so many fences that I broke as well wooden fences that were just destroyed by my constantly bashing this ball against a fence. But I could never make that ball do what I wanted it to do every single time in spite of the hours of practice. So practice does not make perfect does it? However hard we try however many hours we put in, we will never achieve perfection. Even those on the Great British Bake Off, you know, doesn't always rise does it, doesn't always come out perfect. So if we can't achieve perfection in something concrete that can be judged, like a music performance or a cake or whatever how on earth can we achieve perfection in love? Be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect, be perfect in love.

How are we to love the lovable and if we simply make ourselves do it, is that not the same as trying to earn God's love, faith by works as it were, trying to earn our place in God's kingdom through our efforts, more acceptable than buying a carpet for the church perhaps, but still the same principle, trying to earn your way into the Kingdom perhaps we should just give up trying to be perfect. If it's impossible, why beat ourselves up with it? Maybe we should just allow God's grace to fill in the gaps where we fall short. Well, God can do the rest. Because we are only human after all. But that's no defense. Many years ago, I realised that claiming to be only human is not an excuse for messing up when Jesus took on human flesh to be with us, He gave us the example of how to live and what it means to be truly human. So someone says, Well, I'm only human. Does that mean you're like Jesus because you're human. To be truly human is to be like Jesus was. So we fall short of that as well.

I mean, just listen to these words from one Peter chapter two and Verse 21.

Peters writing to this church of Christians who are suffering persecution and he wants to encourage them to be more like Jesus to recognise that Jesus is with them in their suffering as well. But this is a little bit that's very interesting for this because he says, 'For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example. (Jesus is our example.) So that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin. No deceit was found in his mouth. When he was abused. He did not return abuse, when he suffered he did not threaten. But he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly, he himself bore our sins in his body, on the cross so that free from sins we might live for righteousness. By his wounds, you have been healed.'

So Jesus is our example we are to walk as he walked to follow in his footsteps and like him commit no sin. Like him tell no lies. Like him when we we are abused for our faith, not offer abuse back, when we suffer for our faith, not to threaten those who make us suffer, but simply to entrust ourselves to God and leave the judgement to him. The one who judges justly unlike the man in the church who judged me. Jesus was truly human, and lived perfectly and loved perfectly sorry. To quote Sally Welsh again she says 'True humanity involves love, lots of love, love which drives out darkness and hate, which brings in light, hope, and a peace filled future.'

You know, the things about Jesus's commands are, they're not so much commands as they are promises. Now I've told the story many times, but I want to tell it again, it's worth telling again, about a prisoner who on his release attended a church service. And he sat there in the pew as he looked at the front, at the pulpit, on either side of the pulpit were the five commandments on that side and five commandments on the other side and he sat there and thought to himself, oh no, more rules, I've had enough of rules in prison. You shan't do this you shan't do that, you shan't do the other.

But as he sat there quietly and read them through the emphasis changed.

The command became a promise, Thou shalt not steal became, Thou shall not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness became, Thou shall not bear false witness. And it's like, he heard God's saying to him, when I am with you, this all becomes possible. The command becomes a promise to be fulfilled, because God is with us. And the command to love perfectly, becomes a promise that can be fulfilled when God is with us in Jesus Christ. We will be perfect once we stopped dividing the world into people we love and people we don't need to love. Jesus said didn't he that the father makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. You know, God doesn't discriminate does he, in his love for people, never discriminates. You know the way to the kingdom of heaven, the way to the kingdom of God is lit up with love for everyone. Love changes things, love changes people, those who love and those who are loved.

It is demanding to love the Jesus way to turn the other cheek when someone hits you physically or metaphorically. Go the extra mile. And then of course, there's the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do to you.

And that's not just the people we like. But those who irritate us those who have cause to nothing but trouble. Yeah and we all know these people don't we and yet we are called to love them. And yes, even the enemy. We are called to love our enemy. What a challenge that is in these days.

In our lent groups, I've been using some stories from this book that Ken lent to me called 'Entertaining Saints, tales from St. George's crypt.' It's a place for the homeless the outcasts the down, down and out people who just find themselves on the streets in Leeds. And it's just for vulnerable people in the middle of Leeds, and people go along there and they can have a meal, sometimes there's a music concert before the meal it only lasts 15 minutes because people are hungry. But sometimes it's just incredible. You know, some of these stories are just amazing. But there's one here called the test and it's all about love. I mean the whole thing's about love really, about how these people love those who are on the streets and those who come to them.

The writer Roger Quick says it's no accident, oh hang on let me start a bit further back, 'If your religion makes you more compassionate, it's a good thing. If it doesn't you need to think again. St. John says as much if you can't love the brother, you see, how can you love God who you can't see. It's no accident that he's just said, John has just, said perfect love casts out fear.

It's true. It happens when you put out love to someone. When you show active compassion. Fear can't stay in the same room as love. Sometimes people in the crypt have made me fearful. And I've always found that if I meet them with love, if I can just stand there rooted in that love, then it soon emerges that the person talking to me is frightened. And is just projecting that fear. If I can reflect back the love they're terrified of, of not having, somehow it gets resolved, in the moment anyhow.'

So what he does, he tries to reflect back above that they're frightened of not having. They think they're unlovable these people but he loves them back and just loves them. And then he talks about, you know, former servicemen just weeping on his shoulder. You know, alcoholics and drug addicts coming back again and again, from the places where they believe they're not loved, to this place where they are loved. And that love makes a difference. Martin Luther King famously said, Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.' In the face of the cruelties, the violence and the suffering of the apartheid system Martin Luther King practiced what he preached he always practiced the art of loving even when that love served both pain and joy.

Let us pray. Lord, God, we thank you for the gift of love. And we thank you that when we practice that love, we come to know more of your love for us, and for those whom we love in return. And we thank you that love changes us. We thank you that your love changes our hearts and our minds. That we might indeed be more like Jesus. And as we become more like Jesus so we can love more like him. And share that love with others. Help us we pray by the power of your spirit. To love as Jesus loved. And out of love we offer our prayers for those who are suffering. We pray again for the people of Ukraine and we pray for peace for an end to the war. We pray for those who grieve and pray for those who are wounded and injured. We pray for those who have fled their homes, the millions who have fled but we thank you. We thank you for those who have received them with open, open arms. Thank you for those who have given money and gifts. Thank you for that outpouring of human love to those who are in desperate need. We continue to pray for those who find themselves in places of great danger and yet continue to work as health workers as doctors and nurses. Pray for those who continue to care and to love, strengthen them we pray and use them to bring healing and wholeness.

And we pray again for the leaders, we pray that hearts might be softened. That ears might be opened, that judgments might be put aside

and that people will be willing to listen to one another and to seek peace.

Father God we don't only just pray for the people of Ukraine and of Russia and the leaders. We pray also for others around the world who suffer pain.

Whether that be through warfare or famine, homelessness, whatever it might be. We pray that your spirit would move and bring healing and reconciliation to all people. And father we pray for your church, for your people, remembering especially those who are persecuted for their faith. And Lord we pray that they might not return abuse for abuse but might be able to love as you love. And we pray for ourselves that we might have the strength to do just that. In the stillness this we offer our prayers for those whom we know, those whom we love. And especially for those who are struggling at this time. Loving God we thank you that you hear our prayers and we offer them to you now in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to say together 'Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory for ever and ever, Amen.

So we pray, loving Heavenly Father, we thank you that you've fed us with this sacrament, united us with Christ. That you've given us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, which you have prepared for all people. We offer you our thanks and praise in Jesus's name. Amen.

Thank you for listening and we hope you enjoyed the service. You can find us online on www.rossendalemethodistcircuit.co.uk and also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Please do let us know what you thought of this service in the comments below and you can always contact us by email at rossendalemethodistcircuit@gmail.com.

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