• Rossendale Circuit

The Life - Audio Service 12.12.21

with Revd. David Burrow

Audio Service

Or watch on youtube here.

*Warning - If you have recently had a bereavement you may want to listen to this service with caution as death is quite a large theme, although the overall tone is hopeful.*

The book referenced in the recording including the story taken from it is credited to P

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.

There must be more to life than this' by Freddie Mercury


Suggested Hymns & Songs:

MP 393 'Joy to the world'


MP 345 'It came upon the midnight clear'


MP 211 'Hark the herald angel sing'


Or a medley of the two:


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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, 'The life' and you'll hear Revd. David Burrow begin the service now.

So this week, 'I am the life' Jesus my life, Jesus said in John chapter 11, I am the life. And we're going to begin with the words of John's gospel chapter 1, the first five verses, 'In the beginning was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God, all things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being, what has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people, the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.'

What a joyful few verses that is, it's lovely to spark a bit of joy isn't it first thing in the morning. It's a common phrase in our house 'That doesn't spark joy.'

Let's pray. Almighty God it is good to come into your presence to worship you, and to offer you our lives once again in service, in obedience in worship. It's good to come to be together in your presence to offer you our prayers and we thankyou that as we gather together we can worship, we can bow down before you, for you are our God and you do spark joy in our lives you make our lives fulfilled and complete because of all that you have done for us in Jesus Christ and so father we pray, forgive us those times when we've taken that for granted when we've taken Jesus for granted and Lord as we look forward to celebrating his birth at Christmas and at the same time look forward to his second coming and pray 'come lord jesus' we just pray that as we confess our sin, that you will once again forgive us and once again renew us. Fill us once more with your holy spirit we pray. That we might walk each day in your service, that we might walk each day in your light, in your love and live the lives which you have called us to live, lives that are full, that are fulfilled, lives that are an example, a model to others of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, may we express that joy of knowing you through all whom we are, and through all that we do, for we ask it in Jesus' precious name, amen.

Photo by Jill Heyer via Unsplash

When you were a child, I wonder how many times someone said to you, 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' It's a crazy question isn't it when you think about it, 'cause how many of us end up being what we wanted, what we thought we wanted to be when we were younger. I often wonder about some of these really incredible jobs that people have that are just off the wall jobs, did they think about that when they were at school. You know? How do you get to be someone who explores the depths of the ocean or I mean, I guess astronauts is maybe a little bit, well a lot of kids want to be an astronaut. But you know, I mean all I ever wanted to be was a footballer, that's all I ever wanted to be, and the number of times I scored the winning goal for Preston North End in the Cup Final at Wembley in my dreams, you know, second to none, it was brilliant but that wasn't to be of course. Somehow through rather less than brilliant exam results, very less than brilliant exam results, I ended up, not at university studying audiology which I thought I was gonna do, but at teacher training college and I eventually found myself teaching in a large secondary school up north, as they say. It was fun, I had a good time, enjoyed myself. Especially when it came to coaching the various football teams and that what brilliant. But my life though wasn't really, wasn't really sorted, and I was still searching for something extra and what was it? Well I didn't really know I guess at the time but now I do, I do know that what I was searching for was the one who was the giver of life, Jesus himself, he's the one who provides the answers.

I'm just going to read a passage from John chapter 11, this is that wonderful story of Lazarus of course, we begin in the first 16 verses with the news coming through to Jesus that Lazarus is ill and that Mary and Martha have sent for him, they want him to go along there but he holds back of course, he holds back and then the message comes through that Lazarus has died, I just want to pick up the story in verse 17 and Jesus has just arrived in Bethany, 'When Jesus arrived he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days, now Bethany was near Jerusalem some two miles away and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to consult them about their brother, when Martha heard that Jesus was coming she went and met him while Mary stayed at home and Martha said to Jesus, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." And Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." and Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me, even though they die will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die, do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes Lord, I believe that you are the messiah the son of God, the one coming into the world, Amen." Jesus of course raises Lazarus from the dead to show that he is indeed the resurrection and the life. When Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life we need to know that he went on to say, those who believe in me even though they die, will live and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." It takes Jesus to sort out our lives, only Jesus can make our lives fulfilling, we all know that don't we. We know that to be true.

I'm sure that every one of us will have experienced those moments in life when just for a moment everything was wonderful you felt fulfilled you know, scoring the winning goal in the Craven cup semi final was one of those moments for me, in front of a crowd of over a thousand people, wow, that was the closest I ever got to Wembley, but what a moment! Crowd invasion, I disappeared under all these people, great joy. We lost in the final but that's beside the point and I missed the penalty, but I did score the winner in the semi and you know at that moment you're just full of joy aren't you and for other people maybe you've got those moments in your lives where your life is just wow, maybe a wedding day, hopefully. The birth of a child. Maybe your graduation. I went last week with Samuel to his graduation it was a lovely day, wonderful day, special day for him. And then maybe the day you've bought your first house and moved in, everything was in the right place and there was no rubbish anywhere, it's all perfect, life's good, life's good. Everything you know, was full of opportunities, those times whenever the future looks bright.

Sadly, as we know, life's not always like that and there are people who are always chasing their dreams and trying to find out something, discover something that makes them happy. Wealth, people chase after wealth don't they, power, sex, drugs, all these things that people try and utilize as you like, to fulfill their lives. Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, asked the question in his song, 'There must be more to life than this.' I don't know if you can remember that song, 'There must be more to life than this.'

On a happier note Peter Shilling in the book where we've taken our inspiration from over these last few weeks, writes about when he took the decision to be, or rather to join the disciples of Jesus as he puts it, he decided to join the disciples of Jesus and he writes this, 'my life became full and not in an artificial or temporary way, I have found that for me, in taking what Jesus claimed about himself and what he can do for each person and making it my own, life became whole, colourful, meaningful and secure and I found such a gift of life, genuine and permanent.' And he spells life with a capital F as in, Life in Jesus. Jesus said I am the resurrection, and the life.

I can testify to a, you know, a similar experience, when I finally decided to take God seriously and Jesus seriously you know, and made that decision that yes, God I will be, I'll serve you wherever, I prayed what I call my martini prayer, any time any place anywhere God. I mean I was in Papua New Guinea at the time when I prayed it but eventually I moved to Manchester and to Rossendale and since then there's been no escape. But that decision to take God seriously, what a difference it makes to your life, when your life becomes fulfilled, life takes on another, a whole new meaning and you can say, as Peter Shilling says, you can say, Jesus has sorted out my life. And the reason for that is that Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life and it's Jesus' resurrection that makes our lives meaningful, makes our lives whole, makes our lives fulfilling and secure. The resurrection that gives our lives that sense of fulfillment because when we believe these words of Jesus as Martha did, we have a solid foundation on which to build our lives, Jesus' victory over death means that in the end we know that we too will be victorious over death and that Jesus has been victorious over the powers of evil too. You know, you go back to Freddie Mercury's song, 'There must be more to life than this' he also asks, 'why is this world so full of hate, people dying everywhere and we destroy what we create, there must be more to life than killing, a better way for us to survive, what good is life if in the end we all must die there must be more to life than this.' What a song that's so lacking in hope isn't it, 'there must be more' just a plea, a cry, and in the final verse he says, 'I live and hope for a world filled with love, then we can all just live in peace, there must be more to life than this.' You can hear him sort of appealing to something, whatever it might be but I pray that he found that peace eventually in God.

But thank God that Jesus' resurrection provides the answers that Freddie Mercury was looking for, that provides the hope that he was looking for. You know, we have read the end of the story in the book of Revelation, haven't we, we know how the story ends. We know of the promises of Jesus himself that in heaven there'll be no more suffering, no more death, no more tears, no more crying. Evil is conquered and goodness reigns, darkness will not hold sway, the light will never be overcome, sin is not victorious holiness is, hatred is conquered by love and what about death? Hallelujah, death does not have the final say. Life does.

That's the foundation, this is the foundation on which we build our lives, Christ centred, holy spirit filled lives, because like Martha we can say to Jesus, yes we believe. And as Peter Shilling then goes onto say, Jesus has sorted out my life, he has also sorted out my death because he said, Jesus said, those who believe in me, even though they die will live, we will live. You know, so often people are afraid to talk about death will say things like, oh he's passed away, gone to sleep, you know, just slipped out of the room, that poem, but we need to be willing and ready, again when I was in Papua New Guinea, death was something that was very very sadly normal, because the life expectancy was so short because of Malaria and other diseases and things, children you know, were not expected to live too long on the whole, it was such a shame but, so people had no problem talking about death it was very much a part, yes there are in this country now, places called death cafes, I don't know if you've heard of them. Where you can just go and talk about the things to do with dying, it's just an intentional way of trying to help people to face up to what death is, so a minister friend of mine she was running one and she said, the first hour these ladies had come and they were gathered round and they spent the first hour talking about flowers, because somebody said what about flowers and somebody said I thought about flowers, what do you do about flowers, you know, so it was on that level to start with but gradually it becomes on a deeper level, but it's great, the number of times people have asked me what happens in the crematorium? And these are adults. You know I mean for me I guess it's, I've been to so many funerals now but for most people, they only go to a handful of funerals all their lives, some people have never been to one, they finally come to a funeral and it's their mum or their dad, their first funeral and they're already in their 60s. It's amazing isn't it when you think about it. So people don't talk about it, and shy away from it and a lot of people's knowledge comes from films, oh my word, you know, all these things that they picture and imagine, where the coffin, what happens to the coffin, nobody knows what happens behind the curtain at the crematorium, apart from those of us who've been given a tour. But so, people need to talk about this. But I remember when I was just very new into ministry, me and a friend, we'd trained together and we were in our first year if you will, and we were talking about funerals and what we did at funerals, and what was it really that we were trying to do at a funeral and the answer that we came up with was, as well as the sort of practical things making sure we get it right, the answer was, we want to give hope to the family. We want to provide the family with hope. Because as far as the person who's died, it's a bit late. But for the family we want to give them hope.

John Wesley, back in January the 25th, 1736, was on a boat, a sailing ship and a storm broke, and he was so frightened for his life, really, and all, lots of others said the waves were crashing over the boat and the water was going through all cracks in the boat into the decks below, it was almost like the sea had swallowed us up already he said. He said but in amongst all this fear and panic, amongst the English, there was this group of German Moravian Christians who were singing hymns and John Wesley said to them afterwards, 'were you not afraid?' They said, 'No we're not afraid to die.' 'What about women and children? They were singing too.' They said 'they're not afraid to die because they know Jesus. They believe.' That was a big moment for John Wesley, it made a big impression on him, their hope was grounded firmly in the resurrection of Jesus. And of course John Wesley, thankfully, came to understand that and experience that for himself, that knowledge of the resurrection.

Again, just going back to Peter Shilling, Peter Shilling's book. To illustrate the Christian understanding of death he writes about the difference between the baby bird and the egg, and the life after breaking out of the shell, in the egg the little hatchling is warm it's secure, it's well fed and if you were to tell that hatchling in the egg that it has to break out of this to a whole new world a whole new experience it might think, I want to stay where I am please. I don't want any of that nonsense. But it's only by breaking out isn't it, that it requires the ability to sing and to fly and what a wonderful picture that is of resurrection, when we fulfill that wonderful God given potential to sing, to fly, you know, whatever that means for us, in, after our resurrection, this wonderful resurrection of bodies that can zip around everywhere. You know that can pass through walls and all that kind of stuff like Jesus' body did, fantastic, it should be good shouldn't it, it'd be good fun. We'll have a go I'm sure.

Paul puts it like this, 'Death is swallowed up in victory, oh death where is your victory, oh death where is your sting, thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, hallelujah amen to that one. So we believe that even though we will die, we will live as Jesus said, cause Jesus has sorted out not just my life in the here and now but Jesus has sorted out my death. You know, that's a pretty good message for advent don't you think? Well I do anyway, because it's that wonderful picture of all that we hope for and also that looking forward to Jesus' return and finally there's a little bit more, there's a little bit more, Jesus has sorted out my life. He's sorted out my death. And he's sorted it out for everyone, everyone. Because Jesus said, everyone who lives and believes in me, will never die, everyone. You know, it's not just for a certain few, a few chosen special people. This is for everyone. The gospel is not just for a few people, it is for everyone, all people have to do is believe and accept as a free gift, the gift of life that Jesus is offering. And our task is to model and to offer to everyone, Jesus' gifts of life, to encourage folks to try it for themselves, taste and see the psalmist says doesn't he, taste and see that the Lord is good, why not invite people to taste.

We are as I've said many times before, the salted peanuts on the bar of life, we are there to make people thirsty for Jesus. That's what we're there for, you can't put salted peanuts on bars now these days sadly, because it's all health and safety, but we are the salted peanuts on the bar of life to create a thirst for God in other people. And it's only when they try Jesus for themselves, it's only when they give it a go that they'll discover that Jesus has done everything necessary to sort out their lives, and to sort out their deaths and they will discover the answer to Freddie Mercury's question that there is indeed far more to life than what we see around us, and when they do they'll be able to say, with you and I, Jesus is my life. Amen.

So let's pray and spend a little time in prayer so please feel free to pray, either silently or out loud and I'll open up and we'll close the prayers with the Lord's prayer, so let us pray, 'Lord Jesus we thankyou so much that you are indeed the resurrection and the life and we thankyou that you have indeed sorted out our lives, sorted out our deaths and we have a life that we can build on the fact of your resurrection, Lord we believe. We believe. And as we believe we come to you with our prayers of intercession, praying for those situations, those people where we would just love to see you at work in, in even greater ways than you already are. Lord we thankyou that you are not a God who stands a far off, that you are a God who is involved. So we pray for the world, and we pray especially for our Christian brothers and sisters who will not be able to celebrate Christmas in public, who will have to hide away for fear of persecution. And we pray for our Christian brothers and sisters especially in Iran, remembering the families of those whom we know and love. We pray for the underground churches that meet to celebrate in small groups, singing carols very quietly, secretly watching Christmas broadcasts. And we add our prayers to their prayers as they pray that one day they too will be free to proudly and wholeheartedly celebrate Christmas and the beautiful birth of our redeemer. And we pray that that will be true in Iran. And father we pray that that will be true in so many other nations too. That one day all Christians will be able to worship and celebrate Christmas in freedom. So Father we offer our own prayers to you now, in Jesus' name. And Father we pray for all who grieve, especially for those who this Christmas will be the first Christmas without a loved one. Lord we pray that your holy spirit will bring strength and comfort but also there'll be that knowledge, that sense of belief, the cost of your resurrection, that there is this wonderful gift of hope, this wonderful gift of eternal life and that promise of all that is to come. And although Lord it might seem a long way away, one day it will be a reality and we will all be together once again, and we thankyou for that promise, Lord it's good to know, and to believe, that death does not have the final say, but that resurrection does and we thankyou Lord Jesus that you not only told us that but you showed it through your own life, through your own death and through your resurrection. And we thankyou that as your disciples, as your followers, as your friends, you called us friends Lord, that you've promised that we too will know that reality. Lord we look forward to that day, when we will sing, when we will fly, when we will just, oh what a wonderful day that would be but Lord in the meantime we do pray for those who are grieving and we pray that we might support and encourage and be there for them. Lord open our ears and our eyes that we might see and hear those who are crying out, and as we hear their cry that we might answer, in your name, in the power of your spirit and with your love.

Father we offer you all our prayers, in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to say together, 'Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, your kingdom come, your 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 yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

And let's share the grace together, 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 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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