The End - Audio Service 09.01.22
with Revd. David Burrow
Or watch on youtube here.
*This is a service recorded before Christmas but we were unable to post it until now so you may hear some out of date references to Christmas.*
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.
Subtitles available on the video, please click the 'cc' button.
Suggested Hymns & Songs:
'Longing for light, we wait in darkness'
MP 503 'O little town of Bethlehem'
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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 ten am. 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 copywright reasons but we've suggested some links to versions of the hymns below this video.
Jesus my end is the one in whom we place our hope. In that wonderful psalm, psalm 22 which Jesus quotes from the cross, 'my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' Later on in that psalm it says this, 'the poor will eat and be satisfied, all who seek the Lord will praise him, their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy, the whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him, all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for royal power belongs to the Lord. He rules all the nations. So it is this Jesus in whom we put our hope and we look forward to that time when all that will be true.
So let us pray. Father God, we thankyou once again for this time of year, this very special time of year and as the excitement rises, the anticipation grows greater and greater we look forward to the day when we celebrate the coming of your son Jesus Christ and we thankyou for this indescribable gift of love, the gift of yourself in Jesus. And as we praise you and worship you and adore you for all that you have done for us we just want to say thankyou, thankyou so much for the love that you have for us. And we recognise that so often we fall short of that love and we mess up and we cause others pain, we cause you pain. And so once again we ask for your forgiveness and we thankyou that as we come to you that because of the cross of Christ, because of his willingness to pay the price of our sin we can and are forgiven. Father help us to understand more and more the cost to you of our forgiveness and help us to share the wonder that we feel, the love that we experience as we gaze upon Jesus on the cross. For Lord we thankyou so much that you didn't leave Jesus in the tomb but you raised him to new life and we have this eternal hope and we have a new purpose for our lives, to serve you. In serving others. So fill us again we pray with your holy spirit that we might know more and more of your love and as we look forward to that day when the whole earth will acknowledge that the Lord is God and the whole earth will return to him, just as the psalmist has promised, when all the families of the nations will bow down before him because royal power belongs to you, and Jesus will rule the nations and we offer our prayers in his name, Amen.
And so we've reached the end as it were, or is it just the beginning? Saying or singing 'Jesus is my shepherd, brother friend, prophet, priest, king, Lord, life, way and end' is for some the beginning of a whole new way of life as a disciple of Jesus. While for others it's part of their ongoing life story as a follower of Christ and there are times in our lives as Christians that you know, we need on some days to be able to just reaffirm for ourselves that Jesus is for example, Jesus is my shepherd. Those days when you really need that protection and you feel you need the loving arms of the shepherd around you. On other days we, you know, we might want to proclaim with hearts full of praise that Jesus is king and Lord of my life, because hey it's one of those days. And while other times we can quietly testify to someone who doesn't know Jesus yet, what it means to say Jesus is my friend and my brother.
So it's not the end. It's not the end is it? But we need to ask what does John Newton in this hymn that we've been looking at, what does he mean when he writes, 'Jesus my end' ? Now we use the word 'end' in several different ways, you know, on the farm, we knew where our land came to an end, we knew where the boundary was and the neighbors land started, we knew which were our boundary fences you know which marked the end of the land, and so end meant boundary and the Bible uses the word end in that same way in different places, in everyday life we speak of things coming to an end, when something is destroyed for example, oh it's the end of that isn't it? In our house at the moment there's been the end of quite a few things, thanks to two puppies, things that they've destroyed, they're gradually pruning the Christmas tree, keep finding little short branches off the bottom of it all around the house, or we see one of them sat there chewing it away and he's chewing on a branch that he's just snapped off with his teeth, slow destruction of the Christmas tree. And of course a journey ends, we talk about coming to the end of our journey, to our destination. And then finally there's our lives, will come to an end. And so the Bible uses the word end in all those different ways, but to say Jesus is our end is to use the word in the biblical sense of purpose or goal, a target we have set for our lives, to say Jesus my end is to say Jesus my purpose, my purpose in life, is to say Jesus is my aim today and everyday, Jesus is my goal minute by minute, my target for the whole of my existence, my focus, my focus, my end is Jesus.
With this in mind we need to turn to Peter's first letter and in his letter to the churches in Asia Peter deals with those fundamental Christian issues and beliefs that we all hold dear, and John Newton may well have based his hymn on this passage. I don't think he did probably, but he could have done because the same message comes through. So we're in 1 Peter chapter one, and verses 3 to 9. 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, being more precious than gold that though perishable is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him you love him; and even though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy. For you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.'
Photo by Kenrick Mill via Unsplash
Christians that Peter wrote to had been suffering from pretty awful persecution, he's trying to encourage them in their Christian war not to give up. Not to give up but to keep their eyes firmly fixed on Jesus as the writer to the Hebrews tells us to do. But in verse 3 here we have two great statements which stand out, Jesus, it says, 'Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.' There's two there, he's given us a new birth, we're born again and he's, because of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, two great truths of the Christian faith. And the first of course, really, is that Jesus is alive, Jesus is risen and the people said hallelujah. Jesus is risen. You know without Jesus' resurrection we wouldn't be here, we really wouldn't, we might be studying the teachings of Jesus in a course at university, maybe a course on philosophy or religion or a course on theology maybe or just looking at the great teachers, but we wouldn't be worshipping him, if he hadn't been raised from the dead. We are, without the resurrection says Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, we are of all people most to be pitied. No resurrection of the dead, we are of all people the most to be pitied, why should we go through all the suffering and persecution says Paul, that we've been going through, cause he'd been shipwrecked, he'd been stoned he'd been given the 39 lashes, you know he'd had a torrid time. People would have said well you're stupid, what are you doing that for. But he says it's because Jesus was raised from the dead, and he believed that to be absolutely true, and then he says, 'and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.' He was right into these Christians in Corinth where some people were telling them that Christ hasn't really been raised from the dead, so he was saying well, if Christ hasn't been risen you're wasting your time folks, we might as well pack up and go home, if there's no resurrection.
But we believe with Paul and with billions of others that God raised Jesus from the dead, Christians are a resurrection people. St Augustine said, 'Of all Christians,' this he said about every Christian, 'We are a resurrection people and hallelujah is our cry' so St Augustine said that. And the effect of Jesus' resurrection, so that first great truth of Jesus' raise from the dead, the effect of that is that we are born again. All Christians are born again. It gets me a bit cross when someone says, 'Are you born again?' If I'm a Christian, of course I'm born again, the fact that that phrase born again has been kidnapped by certain groups, is a real pain to be honest. Because you can't be a Christian without being born again, becoming a Christian is a brand new start from one life to a new life, from an old life that is self centered, to a new life that is God centered. Jesus says you have to be born again of the spirit, you have to be, to be a Christian, to be one of his disciples. We might not remember when we made that decision, you know for some people it's a gradual progression, but at some point we claimed that belief for ourselves, that we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and in that moment we start a new life. A new life in Christ.
There's a lovely little story in Peter Shillings book that David Watson, I remember David Watson the vicar who sadly died of cancer, he was a vicar in York wasn't he for a while, and David Watson speaks about a lady who in one of his services in the church in York, met the living Jesus and went through a total life changing experience, she became a different person, so much so that she even looked different, with a new radiance and vitality, when she was going on holiday she got her passport out and was horrified to see what she used to look like. This lady looked at what she used to look like, dull, miserable, existing, not living. She wrote to the passport office with a new photograph of herself asking if it could be substituted for the old one. The officials wrote back, 'We cannot believe the two photographs are of the new person' she had to sign a new form and buy a new passport. David Watson told that story, it's true. It's true. How wonderful, when we are born again and we believe in Jesus' resurrection, our outlook on life is changed and we have a new end, a new purpose, Jesus becomes our end, our aim, our goal.
And when we make that profession of faith, you know, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, I believe I've been born again you know, when we say, when we make that profession of faith, Peter helps us to understand exactly what he means, in verse 8, in verse 8 here let me just read it again, 'Although you have not seen him you love him; and even though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.' So to say, Jesus my end, is to say to Jesus, I believe in you, I believe in you, even when we don't see you. Remember Jesus' words to Thomas, the resurrected Jesus, when Thomas finally meets him and says, 'my Lord and my God' you know, no longer does he need to put his hand in Jesus' side or nail prints in his hands, he says 'my Lord and my God' and Jesus says, 'Have you believed because you have seen me, blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe.' and here Peter says, 'Even though you do not see him now you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.' To say that Jesus is my end is to say, I believe in Jesus, like Peter tells us here. And also he says there, if you remember, 'Although you have not seen him you love him' you love him. What a wonderful statement that is, to say Jesus my end means to say Jesus I love you. I love you.
You know John Wesley discovered this at Alders gate street of course, when his head knowledge sort of travelled that 18 inches down to his heart and became faith and heart knowledge, he had this heartfelt conviction, and what a difference that made to his preaching you know, suddenly, even though he didn't really want to, you know he would rather have a cushion he said, he went out into the fields to preach because that's where God called him to. Because now he had this new found love for Jesus and his faith was alive, his faith was alive.
We do not sing Jesus 'A shepherd' we do not sing Jesus 'A King' in this hymn by John Newman, you know, me might sing that if we just had the knowledge of Jesus as a shepherd, Jesus as a king, Jesus as a prophet, Jesus as a priest, rather we sing, Jesus my Shepherd. Don't we? The Lord's my shepherd. You know that lovely story from the Lake district of the young shepherd, that's the one, tell us, yeah. Karen knows it. It comes, it's told in different ways so you may have heard it in different forms. But these two vicars went walking in the Lake district and up on the hills there they met this young Shepherd lad and they got chatting, sat down together and bite to eat and they were chatting away and they were talking to him about Jesus and about how Jesus was the good shepherd and this really sort of resonated with this young lad and he didn't have the greatest education but they told him that what he really needed to remember was Jesus is my Shepherd. What was it again? It's the fourth finger isn't it, the Lord is my shepherd, yeah that's it, the Lord is my shepherd. That's what he needed to remember, the Lord is my shepherd. A few years later one of these vicars was back up there again and he thought he'd look out for this young lad, this shepherd boy and couldn't find him, but he went to a farmhouse and asked about him and they said well it was really tragic because there was a big snow storm and he went looking for the sheep and sadly they found him later and he'd died in the snow storm this shepherd. But he said we couldn't understand why he was holding the fourth finger of his hand. The Lord is my shepherd. As he died he'd held onto that fact, that Jesus was his shepherd, the Lord is my Shepherd.
And we say, and we sing, my shepherd, my priest, my brother, my friend, my king, out of our love for Jesus, it's part of our response to his love for us, 1 John 4:18, 19? We love because he first loved us. And then you know, verse 8 again, all these wonderful things in one little verse, 'you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.' To say Jesus is my end, is to say Jesus you are my joy, you are my joy. It just sort of builds and builds and builds doesn't it.
There's again, Samuel Chadwick who I'm sure you've heard of, I'll find a little story here from Samuel Chadwick that Peter Shilling tells us about, 'When Samuel Chadwick was lecturing his students, he used to say, "When you're preaching about heaven and the glory that is to come, let the joy of it all show in your face, when you're talking about hell your normal facial expression will do"' That's great isn't it, I love that. I've heard that before and it's a lovely story. And joy, this indescribable joy, is a by product of our belief and the love that we have in Jesus. Joy is also of course one of the aspects of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 and that fruit of the spirit which grows in our lives, which grows in our lives as we dedicate our lives to Jesus who is our purpose, who is our end, we dedicate our lives to the end of serving Jesus.
You know, we used to sometimes say rather, well, we shouldn't really have said it, but we did sometimes say about Christians when we were at a certain college, their joy is so deep that you need a pneumatic drill to find it, you know, sometimes, you couldn't, looking for this joy in people, this Christian joy was like trying to find a diamond in a mine somewhere. But it should be there. That doesn't mean that we're always going round with a silly smile on our faces of course, cause that is just irritating isn't it, but there is, even in the darkest places, you know, the knowledge and understanding of that belief that Jesus is with you and there's a joy about that, a real joy. Happiness comes and goes but the joy of knowing Jesus, even Paul when he was in prison singing hymns to God, from the depths of a Roman prison, you know singing hymns to God. So that joy is there. And then there's another one. In verse 3 of here, 'Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus' to say Jesus my end is to say Jesus my hope. What do we hope for? Well people are saying, oh white Christmas. No, some of us are not necessarily hoping for a white Christmas, but you know, it's really nice if it just sort of comes down on the fields and doesn't go on the roads, if that's possible, I'm not sure we can hope for that. We might hope for chips for tea or you know our favourite meal for tea. But that's not the Christian hope is it? That's not the Christian hope.
Those are fairly meaningless hopes really. The Christian hope is very different. Paul describes, non Christians as hopeless, in Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 12, he says this, 'Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.' so it speaks right to these Christians about the time before they were Christians and at that time when they were separated from Christ, when they were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, when they were strangers to the covenants and the promises of God, they had no hope. They had no hope. They were without God in the world.
And I don't know if you've heard of Sophocles, the philosopher, he displayed a hopeless situation when he wrote, 'Not to be born at all, that is by far the best fortune, the second best is as soon as one is born, with all speed to return thither whence one has come' what a depressing guy he must have been, you wouldn't want to be around Sophocles would you? You really wouldn't, you know, let's get it over and done with 'cause there's no hope, oh dear me. Well Christian hope is this wonderful, sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life, and also in verse 4, not only, we've been given a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance, we have an inheritance, you know, that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading and that is kept in heaven for us. Let me just say that again, this inheritance that we have is imperishable, so it's not like your carrots or your brussels that are going off slowly, this inheritance is undefiled, it's pure, it's unfading, it doesn't fade away and it's kept in heaven for you. So it's safe. What an inheritance that is. You know, we already know the forgiveness, we already know the peace of God, we know the joy, the hope of God and this inheritance that we have from God, we are co-heirs, h-e-i-r-s, we are co heirs with Christ, we inherit all that he has received, this is sealed within us by the gift of God's holy spirit. You know when we sign up and say, we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, we have this wonderful knowledge that we are sealed with the gift of the spirit. So we sign up, we're sealed and one day we will be safely delivered into the presence of the one who is our end, Jesus himself. Signed up, sealed and delivered, cue for a song, signed, sealed, delivered, there you go. That's the best way to remember it, think Stevie Wonder.
And then in verse 8 again, to say Jesus my end is to say Jesus I praise you, because all of this is about praise isn't it and when you look at the final, the final line of the hymn that we're looking at from John Newman, in verse 4, here we are. 'Jesus my shepherd, brother, friend, my prophet, priest and king, my Lord, my life, my way, my end, accept the praise I bring.' All of this leads to praise, it all leads to praise. So to say Jesus my end, means Jesus I praise you. So our natural response to God's love for us in Jesus Christ is to praise him in an uncontrollable way, says Peter Shilling. Well, maybe you're not given to uncontrollable ways but I remember when I had that wonderful assurance, I remember it as clear as day, that wonderful assurance that Jesus had forgiven my sins, I wept tears of joy, it was uncontrollable, I didn't know whether to stand up, sit down, laugh or cry, so I did the whole lot. It was such an incredible moment in my life. When Jesus became so real to me, that I could almost reach out and touch him.
Peter Shilling ends his book, with a story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as I'm sure you're aware, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Nazi Germany, and he died not long before the war finished in 1945. Hanged in a Gestapo prison. And again I'm sure that you're aware that he was a deeply committed Christian, and his Christianity lead him to oppose Hitler, and he'd escaped but then he'd gone back because he felt that he needed to serve the church there and the Christians that were there. And during the two years that he as in prison from 43 to 45 he became enormously respected and he was really loved for his Christian leadership there. But on Sunday April the 8th 1945 Bonhoeffer held a service for all the prisoners as he did everyday, he'd hardly finished his last prayer when the door opened and two men came in and said, prisoner Bonhoeffer get ready to come with us, and those words, come with us, meant only one thing and everyone knew it, the scaffold. His closest friend wrote, we bade him goodbye and he drew me aside and said, 'this is the end but for me the beginning of life.'
Anyone who sings with John Newton, Jesus my end meaning my purpose, my aim, my goal, can also dare to say with Bonhoeffer, 'this is my end, but for me, the beginning of new life' Amen.
Let's pray, father God we thankyou, that Jesus is all of the things that we've spoken about over these last few weeks, shepherd, brother, friend, priest and king. But we thankyou that he is our end as well and in him we find new life, a new hope and the promise of resurrection and life in eternity with you and we thankyou that as we give our lives, and dedicate our lives to you once more, that you receive us, that you hold onto us and that you will never let us go. And we thankyou and praise you that our names are written in the lambs book of life and that one day, one day, we with all those who've gone before us, we will rejoice with you. For eternity. Amen.
A few moments in prayer and again I'll start us off and we'll finish with the Lord's prayer and if you wish to pray for any particular situation on persons please feel free to do so either quietly or out loud, so let us pray. Lord God we thankyou that we can come to you in prayer and we thankyou for this opportunity now to put a few moments aside to bring to you those situations those people who we know and love and to bring them into your presence where we know there is healing and wholeness where there is hope, where there is love. So we bring our prayers to you, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and savior, Amen. And so we join all our prayers as we say together, our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is 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.
And now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory, with rejoicing, to the only God our savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power and authority, before all time and now and forever, 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 email@example.com