The Brother - Service 24.10.21
with Revd. David Burrow
or watch/listen on youtube here.
This is an audio recording of a live service that takes place at Longholme Methodist Church on Tuesday mornings at 10am.
The book referenced in the recording including the story taken from it is credited to Peter Shilling in 'In a Believer's Ear' published by the Dome Mission, Brighton England and all copyright is with the author.
We hope the audio is clear enough, you may have a better experience listening with headphones, there are also subtitles available on the video, do let us know what you thought of this kind of service.
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 weeks service is entitled 'The brother' and you will hear Revd. David Burrow begin the service now.
Right let's remember last we started off with Jesus the good shepherd in this book of Peter Shillings 'In a believers ear' taken from the hymn 'how sweet the name of Jesus sounds' so erm this week it's brother, Jesus is our brother. We're going to begin our worship with some words from Psalm 117, 'Praise the Lord all you nations, extoll him all you peoples, for great is his steadfast love towards us and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.' Praise the Lord, Hallelujah. And so let us pray, almighty God we thankyou that you are, a faithful God and we praise you for that faithfulness that down through the millennia you have been there for us. We thankyou that Jesus himself promised to be with us right to the end of the age so we know that that faithfulness endures. Forgive us we pray when our faithfulness fails, when our faith sort of waxes and wanes, when it disappears sometimes, we are left really struggling. But Father we thankyou that in our struggles and in our doubts you are there with us that you walk alongside us and you are ready always to strengthen us, to lift us up once more. And we thankyou that in that time we know that we can place our hope and our trust in you, so Father as we come to worship you this morning, we offer you all of who we are, all that we have that we might serve you in newness of life, we offer our prayers in and through Jesus' precious name, Amen.
I wonder when you fill in a form, which asks you for your next of kin, who do you write down? I guess that's obvious really isn't it, automatically write down the person who is our next of kin. Well, going back a long time now, back to 1989, Jackie and I had been married for about three weeks. (laughter) And we went into Manchester, 'cause we'd got a little flat in Manchester, in Longside there, and went into the university because I had to go and register for my up and coming course that I was going on, and Jackie was with me because we were going shopping afterwards or whatever, and all these forms were there for me to fill in you know with your photograph and everything, all these papers to sign and so I'm filling all my details and the next question was, next of kin and who did I write down? My dad. (laughter) Jackie was watching over my shoulder and went 'Err actually?, you might like to think again about that one' and I'd written down my dad rather than my wife. Congregation member: Have you made that same mistake again? No I haven't, no I haven't made that same mistake again, no. You only do those kind of things once don't you. Yeah and when we sing in that hymn, 'how sweet the name of Jesus sounds,' Jesus my brother, we are claiming that Jesus is our next of kin as it were. You know which when you stop and think about it is an incredible claim isn't it, that Jesus who you know who is the king of kings who is the Lord of Lords who left the glory of heaven to be born on earth you know, we say that he is my brother, he is our brother. I mean who else do you call brother? You wouldn't waltz into the doctors and say 'hi bro, how are you doing?' Possibly. You wouldn't walk into Buckingham palace and say 'hey sis, how's it hanging today,' you know. So these people who we hold in awe maybe sometimes and respect and what have you, we don't just saunter up and call them brother but yeah, Jesus who is the creator of the cosmos, we call him our brother.
Photo by Kevin Gent via Unsplash
And the New Testament's very clear that Jesus is indeed our brother, the new testament writers take that very seriously, Paul in Romans chapter 8 verse 29 says this, well verse 28 first which is that famous verse that says 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.' and then in verse 29, 'For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.' So Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. He is our brother. And those he predestined he also called, those he called he also justified, those he justified he also glorified, we're not going to get into all of that now, there's years worth of sermons there but the fact that Jesus is the first born among many brothers and sisters. And Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians, you know, in answer to the question well how can Jesus be our brother? How is that possible? Says this in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, 'God made him who had no sin, to be sin for us. God who made him who had no sin, to be sin for us. So that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.' Well to put it another way, Jesus became what we are so that we might become what he is. He became like us so that we became like him you know and that's a truth that we celebrate every Christmas isn't it. Jesus became like us, he left the glory of heaven to be born on earth, to be laid in a manger, in Bethlehem you know, the creator of the cosmos became a creature. The creator of the cosmos had to learn to talk, had to learn how to walk, had to be nappy trained, whatever they had in those days. This creator became our brother he made it possible for us to be like him, or as Charles Wesley so brilliantly puts it in that hymn that's in hymns and psalms, number 109 in hymns and psalms, 'our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man.' The poetry of that hymn, yeah the wonder of God all in that one baby. There's also another hymn that we used to sing that's in hymns and psalms as well but hasn't made it into the other hymn books, it's one that we would sing at any time of year and it's the one that goes like this, we sing it any time of year or we used to because it speaks of Jesus' birth, his death and his resurrection and the first verse makes this claim, 'Jesus good above all other, gentle child of gentle mother, in a stable born our brother.' Yeah, 'give us grace to persevere.' Ok?
So that was a hymn we used to sing regularly, well we used to, regularly didn't we but again that hymn states the truth, that God took the initiative and in Jesus he became our brother. Now in his book Peter Shilling tells a lovely little story of identical twin boys who were seven years old when one of them sadly contracted cancer and because of his medication he lost all of his hair. So the two boys, were no longer indistinguishable, you could now tell them apart obviously and at school children who had been friends started to make fun of the twin who was now bald and the pain that he suffered through that bullying and that teasing naturally upset his brother. So what did his brother do? Took himself off to the hairdressers and had his had shaved. So that his brother was no longer the only boy in the class who was bald and now he could fully share in his brothers pain, but it also meant the brother with cancer could fully share in the identity and the wholeness of the brother who had become like him so they could share the same experience. And that's a lovely little illustration of the way Jesus became like us, so that we might become like him. So that's the first part of Jesus our brother and the New Testament writers make it very clear that Jesus is our brother. And then in Mark's gospel in Mark chapter 3 we read about how Jesus himself calls his followers brothers and sisters, and so in chapter 3 of Mark's gospel and verse 20, and Jesus has gone home and the crowd came together again so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it they went out to restrain him for people were saying he's gone out of his mind and the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said he has beelzebub and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons and he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, how can satan cast out satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself that kingdom cannot stand, and if a house is divided against itself that house will not be able to stand. But his end has come. But no one can enter a strong mans house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man, then indeed the house can be plundered, truly I tell you people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter but whoever blasphemes against the holy spirit can never have forgiveness but is guilty of an eternal sin for they had said, he has an unclean spirit. And then his mother and his brothers came and standing outside they sent to him and called him, a crowd was sitting around him and they said to him your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you, and he replied 'who are my mother and brothers and sisters?' and looking at those who sat around him he said 'here are my mother and my brothers, whoever who does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.' So in amongst all this argument that's going on with the Pharisees and the leaders who've come down from Jerusalem Jesus says that the people around him, you know, are his mother, his brothers and sisters. His family had heard that Jesus was going out of his mind that he was beside himself, you've probably heard that phrase about people sometimes, oh they're beside themselves, and Mark's use of words here is very important because he tells us that the family were coming to seize Jesus, to seize him that's the Greek, to seize, and it's the same Greek word that Mark uses when they arrest Jesus when they seize Jesus. So they were not coming to say, oh come on you know gentle, come on, they were coming to get him, to seize him and take him home. And that was because well Mark gives us another word, another Greek word to help us out, it's one that we probably understand really, ecseste, which means ecstatic. Ecstatic. They quite literally thought that Jesus was ecstatic, beside himself, that he was crazy, to put it bluntly. And that kind of behavior brought shame on the family. So they didn't want that so they needed to seize him, take him home and that would the first step in reclaiming the family's honor. Which might be a bit shocking for us, but the important point of this is that when Jesus hears that his biological family are outside he says 'who are my mother or my brothers' and looking at those sat around him he said 'whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.' and with those words Jesus in a sense made it clear that he was turning away from his biological family.
Because the family that Jesus wants is people who do God's will, these he says are the family that really matter, you know, I mean Paul stresses this as well that the water of Baptism, is stronger than family tie and blood. Water in this case is stronger than blood and we think oh my word, you know that sounds harsh to our ears, when family is so important to us and rightly so. But when it comes to being a Christian, all the writers of the gospels are very clear about how important it is to put God first in everything but of course the truth of that is when you look to God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength you're much better equipped to love your family as well, so if you get your priorities the right way round it kind of all falls into place. If you put family first or you put your job first, you know those become your Gods. And that's idolatry and that's the last thing we want so we put God first. So our fellow disciples in the church are our family, our brothers and sisters and you might want to imagine church looking around at the congregation, oh these are my brothers and sisters, you know sometimes we don't get to choose family members do we? People talk about the difference between friends and family, I get to choose my friends, not my family. But yeah the people who are our brothers and sisters are those who do God's will, alongside us. And Mark and Matthew very much focus on the disciples being a family. And this is a wonderful truth that was made very clear to us here in the circuit when our brothers and sisters from Iran came over wasn't it, when they all arrived we didn't know them at all, we knew nothing about them but they came, they became a part of us and that love that we shared in Jesus, there's a bond that was there immediately almost as we got alongside and learnt to love one another. So the New Testament writers are very clear about Jesus being our brother, Jesus himself calls us his brothers and sisters and the final thing is that we all have to play a part in making this happen you know we have to be willing to receive all that Jesus has for us, all that as a free gift of course we have to make it a part of our lives. We can refuse Jesus' gift that goes without saying, we have free will but that's not a wise thing to do.
And the writer to the letter of Hebrews explains why Jesus wants to become, wants us to become rather, his brothers and sisters. 'Since the children he says have flesh and blood, he Jesus shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death, that is the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death, for surely it is not angels he helps but Abrahams descendants, for this reason he had to be made like his brothers, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people because he himself suffered when he was tempted he is able to help those who are being tempted.' Now again that might sound a little bit heavy going, but what it's saying is this, Jesus wants to make us into a new creation. I am a new creation. He wants to give us a totally new status, he wants to give us a totally new outlook on life, he wants to give us a new purpose in our living. I've probably mentioned this many times before but you know, I've got certain heroes in my life, most of them are ordinary everyday people that are not people that anybody else would necessarily know. And Ethel was a lady I knew in Manchester, her faith just shone out of her, you know wherever she went there was almost like a ready brek glow of faith you know it was incredible and I'm sure we all know people like that whose faith just shines out of them. But I wonder did we know them before they became a Christian, were we witnesses to that transformation, you know there's no greater privilege I don't think on planet earth than that of being blessed with the joy of leading someone to Christ and seeing them, the difference in their life, that complete transformation. You know I saw it in prisoners when I was working in strangeways that incredible change that comes about in their lives and they smile more. And when people smile more well other people around them, you know, smile more, it's contagious isn't it. But there's this wonderful change in their outlook, in their physical appearance as well quite often, it makes a massive difference to become a child of God to become a brother or a sister of Jesus Christ and we have to claim that for ourselves, we have to receive all of that for ourselves, because when Jesus became our brother we became co-heirs with Christ, that's h - e - i -r - s not the hair on your head. We are co-heirs with Christ, we inherit all that Jesus inherited, you know we're, James tells us that we're heirs of the kingdom, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Heaven, we inherit all of that. We are partakers it says in Ephesians, we are partakers with the Jews, of the promise in Christ.
So everything that was promised to the Jews is now promised to us as well, because we are brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. And this wonderful little passage from Titus, Paul's letter to Titus, in chapter 3, in verses 3 to 7, 'At one time' says Paul, 'We too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures, we lived in malice and envy being hated and hating one another but when the kindness and love of God our savior appeared he saved us, not because or righteous things that we have done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the washing of rebirth, baptism, and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our savior so that having been justified by his grace we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.' As Jesus' brothers we are heirs, having this wonderful hope of eternal life. So Jesus became our brother and we can now say with Paul, I am a new creation. Jesus is my next of kin. There's one final part that we must not miss, Jesus tells us that those who are his brothers and sisters are those who do the will of God. So there's a task that has to be carried out. When we sing, 'Jesus my brother' we're stating our desire to do God's will wherever we happen to be wherever we happen to live and to live as Jesus wants us to live and we do it together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we're not called to do it on our own. To do the will of God. So together as a church we each have our own part to play we each have our own particular gifts but only together as God's family empowered by the Holy Spirit can we make it work and together as the church we are to build God's kingdom so that it comes here on earth, here in Rossendale, as it is in heaven, so together we do God's will. Together we can say, Jesus is my brother. Amen.
We're going to pray and offer our prayers of intercession. And I'll leave a time of stillness where we can just be quiet or pray out loud if you feel so lead. Or even if it's just a name you want to pray for, just say the name, or a sentence that's fine too. And we'll close with the Lord's prayer. So let us pray. Lord Jesus our brother, we thankyou that you have called us to be new creations. To be remade, transformed, by the power of your Holy Spirit, change from the inside out, change from glory into glory and we thankyou for that work that you continue to do in our lives day by day. But as we thankyou for all that you have done for us, and all that you continue to do, so we pray for this world in which we live, for those who are suffering, for those who really desperately need the touch of your healing power in their lives today. And so Lord Jesus in the stillness we bring them to you now.
And Father I pray too for Samuel as he has a job interview this afternoon and pray again for that sense of peace for all who are in this situation and that you might bring to mind all that they need to say as they draw on all that they have prepared, we pray that you would guide them and lead them. As they go through those interviews. Amen. And Father we offer our prayers for the family of David Amess, Father it's difficult to understand why such tragedies, such terrible things occur but we pray for his family, pray for their comfort and strength, pray that as people of faith they will know your presence and that their faith with strengthen them today and each day in the coming weeks that lie ahead. And Father we pray for all our MP's we pray for their safety and pray for their peace of mind, and Lord we thankyou that people are willing to step up and take on these roles, and we pray that you would guide them and lead them in all that they do, that they might seek your kingdom, just as we seek your kingdom. Father we pray too for those who seek to to do such violent deeds and pray that their minds might be open to hear your voice that they might turn away from their wicked ways and turn to you. Lord we pray that your kingdom would come in their lives too, Amen. Father as we thankyou for the opportunity and privilege of being able to be in your presence today, as we thankyou that we can meet without fear, so we pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who cannot meet in such a way and for whom to come together is to be fearful of the authorities and so we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world and pray that they might know, not only your presence, the gifts of your peace but the infilling power of your Holy Spirit and Lord we thankyou for their boldness, thankyou for their courage, thankyou for their faith. And we pray that it might be an inspiration to us as we seek to speak out for you in our own nation. In our own communities, in our own families. That we might always be ready to make that claim that Jesus is my brother, I am a co-heir with Christ. Lord as we thankyou for the joy of knowing Jesus as our brother, so we thankyou that so many other people know that joy too. And we thankyou for those whom we know who have fled persecution and have come to be friends of ours, our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we pray for them and ask your blessing on their lives today and in all that they do in the future for you. So Lord Jesus, guide us we pray, bless those whom we love and fill their lives with the knowledge of that love, for we ask all our prayers in your precious name, Amen.
We join together in the Lord's prayer, 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.
Just before we play our final hymn there's a story that's been told many many times over the centuries I'm sure, a story that comes in different formats, it's about a teacher and his disciples, sometimes it's a Jewish Rabbi and his disciples, sometimes it's you know somebody from another country but the story's always basically the same and Peter Shilling tells it as a story about a Rabbi who was teaching his disciples and he asked his disciples how they could distinguish the moment when night became, that actual moment when night becomes day, when darkness turns into light. And so they make all kinds of suggestions, when you can see an animal in the distance and then you can see whether it's a cat or a dog. That's the moment when darkness becomes light. No, said the Rabbi. When you can see a tree in the distance and tell whether it's a fir tree or an olive tree they said, no. And in another version it's the difference between a tiger and a wolf or something like that. Each one is different. And so the students go on and have lots and lots of attempts, lots and lots of guesses about how you can tell when darkness turns into light. This is the answer. You know it happens it's when you can see someone in the distance and recognise them as your brother or sister, if you cannot do that, whatever time of day, whatever time of day it is, it is still night and full of darkness. And of course the same applies to us as Christians and our next of kin. If we cannot see Christ as our brother, if we cannot, if we're seeking to do God's will and find new life in him as new creatures then it's still night, it's still dark.
But when we can say 'Jesus is my brother, then light has dawned and new life has become all possible because of Jesus' death and resurrection.
Let's share the grace together. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Be with us all evermore, Amen.
Thankyou 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.