• Rossendale Circuit

The Friend - Service 31.10.21

with Revd. David Burrow

Audio Service

or watch on youtube here.

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

Suggested Hymns & Songs:

MP 784 'Ye servants of God'


MP 746 'What a friend we have in Jesus!'



The book referenced in the recording 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.


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 10 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 copyright reasons, but we've suggested some links to versions of the hymns below this video, this weeks service is entitled the friend and you'll hear Revd. David Burrow begin the service now.

Photo by Kyle Glenn via unsplash.

We're going to begin our worship this morning with a lengthy reading from Psalm 139 which is a Psalm I'm sure you're all aware of I know lots of people for whom this is their favourite Psalm. Begins in this way, 'Oh Lord you have searched me and known me, you know when I sit down and when I rise up, you discern my thoughts from far away, you search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways, even before a word is on my tongue oh Lord you know is completely, you hem me in behind and before and lay your hand upon me, such knowledge is too wonderful for me, it is so high that I cannot attain it, where can I go from your spirit, oh where can I flee from your presence, if I ascend to heaven you are there, if I make my bed in shore you are there, if I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast, if I say surely the darkness shall cover me and the light around me become night, even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is as bright as the day for darkness is as light to you, for it was you who formed my inward parts, you knit me together in my mothers womb, I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, wonderful are your works, that I know very well, my frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth, your eyes beheld my unformed substance and in your books were written all the days that were formed for me when none of them as yet existed, how weighty to me are your thoughts oh God, how vast is the sum of them, I try to count them, they are more than the sand, I come to the end I am still with you, Amen.

The knowledge of God of each and every one of us. So let us pray, almighty God it is good to know that we are your servants, that we have been called by you to serve you to do the things that you long for us to do, to work with you to build your kingdom in the place where we are. It is good to know that we have been called by you to proclaim the good news of Jesus to all who will listen, to show that love in our lives, to show that good news through our words and our actions, and Lord it is good to know that we have been called to be your core workers, but Father more than that, we thankyou that Jesus has called us to be his friends and Lord what a privilege that is, so forgive us we pray when we have failed to serve you, when we have failed to share the good news of Jesus in those moments when you gave us that opportunity, forgive us when we have been less than friends, when we have denied you, forgive us and call us back to you once more we pray, forgive us and set us free from those things that hold us back that make us fearful, father we thank you that through the cross we can know your forgiveness but as we come to you in repentance, as we turn our eyes on Jesus as once again we bow down before you and receive your love, we receive your forgiveness. Lord God we thankyou that all those hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the prophet Joel promised that God would pour out his spirit on all people and we thankyou that we saw that happen to the disciples at Pentecost and we thankyou that you have poured your spirit into our lives and so we pray once again, come Holy Spirit, come and fill your people. Almighty God we thankyou that Jesus has indeed called us to be his friend and we pray that as your people filled with the power of your Holy Spirit, that friendship will be evident in our lives as we seek to worship you and to walk with you, in Jesus' name ,Amen.

Now I wonder if you can think of a song or name a song with the word friend in the title? 'What a friend we have in Jesus' 'You've got a friend' Excellent, anymore? 'I've found a friend' Yeah. Is that the neighbors theme tune or something, 'friends and neighbors'? Is there? OK. Well I was thinking pop songs, I wasn't thinking hymns and stuff when I thought about this and so I thought well I wonder how many with friend in the title that I can think of and I got a couple so then, as you do I googled, 'songs with friend in the title' and there's a website which sort of comes up with the top 20 songs with friend in the title, I didn't even know the first one, it's called 'Tell your friends' by a group called the Weeknd, weekend is even spelt W - double e - K - nd, Weeknd. But then the second one, 'That's what friends are for' Dionne Warwick, with her friends singing that and then the Beatles of course, 'With a little help from my friends' and then Queen, well I'll have to take it up with this website if that's not the title, is it 'get by?' 'I'll get by' no it's not 'get by,' oh right, well we'll have to google it. Queen, 'you're my best friend' and then there's three that I don't know, 'all my friends' by the LCD sound system, 'Hey kind friend' by the Indigo Girls, anybody? 'We used to be friends' that sounds a bit sad, by the Dandy Warhols and then the one that came to mind first of all with me is Carole King's, 'You've got a friend' and then Andrew Gold, 'Thankyou for being a friend. Do you remember the video on top of the pops all those years ago there was dancing in a circle clapping their hands like that, anyway. 'You've got a friend in me' by Randy Newman made famous by, the film 'Toy Story' yeah, that's number thirteen but then the rest of them I've not heard of. So, there's lots anyway, with friend in the title but how many hundreds more are there with friend in the lyrics, so many, so many.

And that sort of brings us to something that we knew already, that friendship is very important if people write all these songs about it, there's poetry and everything isn't there. And during all the, during the lockdown, the various lockdowns we've suffered over the past 18 months, you know we became very very aware, didn't we, of how much we missed our friends, we just didn't get to see them, and maybe how in the past, we'd actually taken those friends for granted sometimes. And for many people living on their own the lockdown was especially difficult and we were soon hearing about people who were suffering all kinds of issues, loneliness and social isolation. Even though we knew that social isolation was a major issue before the pandemic arrived. And I guess we just recognise that the need for friendship is as important as food, as warmth as shelter. People need friends. And that's why the telephone became so important as well didn't it, you know, people ringing one another and I heard of many many wonderful conversations that people have had on the phone and how they brought comfort to so many other people.

Well in chapter fifteen of John's Gospel we find Jesus speaking to his disciples as he often did, but at this point he's been speaking for a long time and he's going to go on speaking right through chapter 15 and 16 and then when you get to chapter 17 he starts to pray and he prays for his disciples and then he prays for you and for me. And after that he's arrested and then we begin the story of his passion. But I'm just going to pick out six verses in chapter 15 because at the heart of these words is Jesus' declaration that his disciples are his friends. So, it's chapter 15 of John's gospel verse 12, 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you, no one has greater love than this, to lay down ones life for ones friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you, I do not call you servants any longer because the servant does not know what the master is doing but I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my father. You did not choose me, but I chose you and I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last so that the Father will you give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another, Amen.'

Now as we know there's a world of difference between a friend and an acquaintance, and that difference is that that an acquaintance does not know you as a friend does, friends hopefully know you very well. Friendship depends on knowledge, so if I ask you to tell me about your friends I'm sure we could spend a very happy hour or two sharing stories and memories together and I've done that on many occasions with people, talking about friends that we've known or know. You know your friends well and they know you. So, Jesus calls his disciples 'his friends.' One of the issues with Facebook is that you can have, if you want, numerous friends online, who are people that you don't even know, you know, like many other people that use Facebook like I do, people will request to be your friend and you think, I haven't got a clue who you are. Why do you want to be my friend? And you know, perhaps they've come across me somewhere, perhaps they've bumped into me at a funeral or a wedding or a baptism and thought oh yeah I'll ask him to be a friend because people like to have loads of friends don't they. There's something sort of, I don't know, I don't know what the word is I'm looking for really, feels good to say you've got so many hundreds of friends or thousands of friends, but they're not really friends, they're not really friends at all.

So, that's not friendship, friendship depends on knowledge, so if we want to sing as we did a couple of weeks ago in the hymns, 'How sweet the name of Jesus sounds' Jesus my shepherd, my brother, Jesus my friend. Then we need to get to know Jesus. If friendship's based on knowledge we really need to get to know him. And the wonderful thing is of course that he invites us to enjoy an intimate friendship with him, just look at what his says to his disciples in chapter 15 there, he's no longer going to call them servants because a servant doesn't know their master, they get told what to do, they do what they're told to do and that's that. So Jesus wants to take the relationship that he has with people above that, beyond that of the servant to that of a friend. Where we can know one another. So this knowledge of one another is really the key to friendship. Someone once bought me a lovely gift which I still have of course which says on it, 'You will always be my friend, you know too much.' Which always, every time I look at it, it makes me smile because that's true isn't it, we know each other so well.

So taking Jesus' invitation seriously to get to know him is vital if we want to be his friend and that knowledge of course isn't just one way, it's mutual it's a two way relationship which is why I refuse requests to be my friend on Facebook when I don't know somebody, what's the point? Delightfully, and I choose that word on purpose, delightfully God knows us very well indeed and the Bible makes that very clear doesn't it which is why I read that long passage from Psalm 139 at the beginning, you know just to pick out a couple of sentences from it, 'Oh Lord you have searched me and known me,' you have searched me and known me, and then a bit later on in verse 6, 'such knowledge is too wonderful for me, so high that I cannot attain it' you know how wonderful it is this knowledge that God has of each one of us. God knows everything about us, he knew everything about us before we were born, the psalmist says, 'your eyes beheld my unformed substance' even while we're in the womb he knew us. And then if you head to the New Testament of course, the sermon on the mount in Matthew's gospel, we read how we're not to worry about things, he tells us not to worry because our Father in Heaven, knows what we need, he knows our every need and God's knowledge of you and me and therefore Jesus' knowledge is beyond anything that we can understand and I always find that the amazing thing about that is that despite his knowledge of me and everything I've ever done or said or whatever you know, and how I can sometimes behave, he still loves me unconditionally. And that's a miracle, you know I just think that's wonderful. That in spite of what we're like sometimes God still loves us unconditionally, even though he knows the darkest parts of us, he still loves us unconditionally. You know even when people say they don't believe in God and they reject him God still knows them and God still believes in them, you know a friends son left home in a rage, door slamming saying that he didn't want anything to do with his family ever again. Nothing. And after a few years of struggling and drugs and different ways of suffering other issues, he finally returned home and the welcome he received was completely different to what he was expecting it was warm it was a wonderful welcome and when he asked his mother why she said that she had never stopped loving him or believing in him. Jesus our friend does the same for us, he never stops loving or believing in us. And he longs for the friendship and the love, that friendship and love to be mutual, to be enjoyed by both parties. We are no longer servants but friends. To be called to be a servant of God is a high calling, Moses, Joshua, King David, Paul, all servants of God and we too are all God's servants, Jesus spoke of servanthood and showed it in action as he washed his disciples feet. And yet friendship offers so much more, I no longer am going to call you servants, I call you friends says Jesus. Friendship brings love, friendship brings joy, friendship also costs of course, because when you love somebody, when they're you're friend and they suffer you feel that pain with them and you share it with them but that's all part of an intimate, loving relationship. And an intimate, loving relationship means we can call on our friends at anytime. Day or night, hopefully, for a true friend, and how true that is of Jesus isn't it you know the depths of the darkest night we can call on him as his friend we can turn to him, we can seek his help, we can seek his comfort, his power, his presence, anytime. As we've said over the last two tuesdays the last two weeks, the one who is Lord of Lords, the one who is King of Kings the one who is our Shepherd, the one who is our brother, is our friend and we know that he will never turn us away. We'll just spend a couple of moments in prayer before we share communion together.

I don't know if any of you saw the news last night about the situation in Afghanistan, terrible suffering there it's just dreadful isn't it. So we'll pray for the people of Afghanistan and for those organizations like World Vision who are working there still and also let's remember our friends this morning, friends who are sick, friends who are in need, friends who we can just simply go and rejoice with because they're fit and healthy.

So let's pray. Lord Jesus we thankyou as our friend we can come to you and seek your love and care for those who we know your healing, your peace, your goodness, and so we bring to you this morning the situation in Afghanistan and we join our prayers with countless others around the world, praying for that nation, I'm sure Father having seen the reports from Afghanistan yesterday the heartbreaking pictures of the children suffering so much, Father we pray that you will bring peace to that nation, that you will shape their leaders, bring them to a place of understanding, understanding that you are a God who loves us, a God who cares for us. A God who rejects violence and warfare, Father for the sake of those children and their parents, we pray for peace in Afghanistan and Father we pray for groups like World Vision and Médecins Sans Frontières and others who in spite of the difficulties and the dangers continue to work with those who are in need in that nation, we pray for strength for them, we pray for wisdom and we pray that they will have the finances and all that they need, all the resources that they need to do the work to save lives. And Father we pray that no more parents will have to sell their children to raise money to feed their other children. And Lord God as we have thought about Jesus as our friend this morning and how wonderful that is we pray for our own friends, we give you thanks for those who we can speak to, we can ring up, we can call on at anytime just to have a chat or to talk about our troubles and our strife's and we thankyou for those listening ears and we thankyou that we can reciprocate, we thankyou for that knowledge that we have of eachother that enables us to pick up that relationship at any moment. Lord how good it is to have friends. And we do pray for those who are sick, and in the stillness we bring them to you. Father as we lift our friends to you, so we give you thanks. And we pray too for those people whom we have yet to meet, who will become our friends and we look forward to the joy and the wonder of new relationships, Father we ask your blessing on one another now as we share together around this table as we remember how Jesus called us, and continues to call us his friends. And we pray in his name, Amen.

Let us pray, God of power, may the boldness of your spirit transform us, may the gentleness of your spirit lead us and may the gifts of your spirit equip us to serve and worship you now and always, Amen.

And let us share the grace together, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, evermore, Amen.

Thankyou of 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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