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Rev Robert Barthram's Monthly Letter

Welcome to the Rev. Robert Barthram's monthly letter

 

Here Robert will expore what is happening in the world and his life and how it affects his belief and his ministory.

By Rev Robert Barthram, Jul 2 2014 07:22PM

Isnt it the way of things that you dont get a letter for a couple of months and then you get two together? Almost like busses!


Dear Friends,


Earlier this week I concluded an Elders Meeting by saying how we would be able to get home to see the second half. I was of course referring to the opening game of the football World Cup and I knew some wanted to watch it.


When I got home I did see most of the second half and then endured the usual post-match experts. This time however it was a little different. It began with the presenter explaining how a crowd had gathered outside on the beach front road in Rio de Janeiro, they had protest banners and had thrown some missiles at their glass fronted studio leaving it damaged and the people inside clearly quite unnerved. I read the next day how the presenter had gone outside afterwards to speak with the protestors but that had not gone well. My impression was that here was a bit of a clash of two worlds, the pampered and protected world of sport and the media and the world of those who live in the shanty towns of the world’s cities.


This letter was to be about something else altogether but it isn’t because before writing this I was checking my emails and saw a photo taken after that game of football. It was taken by a British photographer and showed some of the crowd leaving and passing a large rubbish bin. A fan was throwing an empty water bottle into the bin and inside the bin was someone scavenging for scraps. A dramatic contrast of two very different worlds clashing, normally they coexist with little contact but not this time.


As Christians we should always be aware of the realities of our world, not seeking to ignore them but seeking to do something about them. Apparently some complained about the photo as it was not the image they wished to see portrayed of their country but ignoring something doesn’t mean it is not there. To look the other way should never be our reaction. Awareness should prompt positive action.


Often as Christians we are very aware and trying to act, giving help to those around us through supporting local food parcels or further away through Christian Aid. It is certainly not wrong to enjoy sport over the coming months or have rest and holidays in the beautiful world God has given us but we should never close our eyes to the realities of this world, they can show up at any time.


Active and aware as we can be: we must never get complacent about this world or our place in it. Although locally as Christians we tend to be among the more comfortable, globally Christians can be among the struggling and suffering, as well as often the oppressed and persecuted. This is often a reality we are ignorant of. So much is unknown to us but we must be proactive in educating ourselves and therefore better equipped to act.


Over the coming two months I hope you enjoy sport, gardening, holidays or whatever. Always though whatever we enjoy in life be aware and active for those who struggle and suffer in our world including our brothers and sisters in the faith.


Yours in Christ,

Robert


By Rev Robert Barthram, Jul 2 2014 07:16PM

Sorry if this letter is a bit late


Dear Friends,


Yesterday I visited the Christian Resources Exhibition, which was held at Sandown Park Racecourse, Esher. It’s an annual event, which this year was celebrating its 30th anniversary. It had a varied selection of over 300 exhibition stands providing almost anything a church or Christian might find helpful in their service of God. Before I went I had to decide whether or not it was a good use of a whole morning and afternoon because things such as this letter still had to be done. In the short term it would in some ways have been easier not to go.


There were several reasons however why I chose to go: it was the last year at Esher and next year it will be much further from Reading; anniversary events are usually special and having attended one of the very early exhibitions I was curious but primarily we need to plan for the future and resources like everything else in this world are ever changing and we need to keep abreast of developments to assist us in mission; and I have come across things at these exhibitions that I have seen nowhere else.


I did find some every useful resources both for me personally and for our churches to be used in the coming months and years but in preparing for this coming Sunday I am using an idea found at a previous exhibition in the 1980’s! As Christians we need resources, we need to be equipped. We wouldn’t undertake many other tasks without being equipped with the right resources. In the month of June we have the feast of Pentecost, the time when we will celebrate the equipping of the believers with the gift of the Holy Spirit who came with signs of wind and fire, the Spirit who gives us power and purifies us and as the apostle Paul explains gives us also specific gifts for the benefit of the whole body of Christ.


This Pentecost we should seek new power and purifying for our lives and gifts to equip us as a church, be it gifts for ourselves personally or recognising those gifts in others. We do have a God who equips us; we are not left abandoned and helpless.


It was no clever planning by me but just a week ago I preached on some of the closing words of the letter to the Hebrews, which includes the prayer that God may:

“equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight” (13: 21).

I said then how, ‘we have a resourceful God who can equip us with everything good.’ We do and this Pentecost let us seek that so we are equipped with the right resources to serve our God in the ways that don’t just please ourselves and others but Him.


Yours in Christ,


Robert


By Rev Robert Barthram, May 1 2014 12:00PM

Dear Friends


During our recent Lent course, several found the fourth session difficult which had the theme Jesus - conqueror of death. It is quite understandable that something that causes such pain should be difficult to speak about. In one of the groups it was related how someone had said they had never heard a sermon on death. It can't be right never to speak about it for as we have just recalled our faith is based on a horrific death on a hill outside Jerusalem; death is a reality that none can escape from, certainly not us.


In the bible, we are told that death is both the most natural thing and the most unnatural. It is natural to return to the dust, 'the silver cord is snapped, the golden bowl is broken' (Eccl. 12:6). It is also quite unnatural, Genesis speaks of death coming through disobedience and the apostle Paul writes, 'sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all' (Rom. 5:12)


In the bible, more is meant by the term "death" than when the heart stops and the brain ceases to function. Death also refers to exclusion from God's presence, a separation as we exist in this world. Our physical death is a symbol of a more serious spiritual death.


Our attitude as Christians to death should be very different to that of others, because of what we see as the problem and answer. Sin is the problem causing us to be shut out from God's presence. The answer is in one person, whoever believes in him, 'has passed from death to life', they, 'will live even though they die' (Jn 5:24; 11:25). So in this earthly life the exclusion from God is ended and eternal life begins as we believe, meaning physical death is robbed of its fear, it no longer is a sign of a deeper death but a stepping stone to a liberated life.


How this is achieved is by Jesus dealing with the problem of our sin in his death, so through faith in him we share in that victory. One who was without sin, for our sakes bore the penalty, so that we might not know exclusion from God's presence; as the Puritan John Owen said 'the death of death in the death of Christ'.


The sign and seal of this victory is the resurrection of Jesus. Easter tells us if we believe ,we share in the victory. We may pass altogether out of the state which is death and be brought into a new state, aptly called by the New Testament, life, and in due course will pass through the gateway of physical death as did our Lord


Wishing you a joyous Easter season. Robert.

By Rev Robert Barthram, Apr 1 2014 12:00PM

Dear Friends,


A month ago my letter was based on two minister’s letters from 100 years ago. The then minister of Broad Street Church was grappling as a Christian with the outbreak of war and how to respond to this unexpected event because as I quoted he had been expecting, ‘a happy holiday in peaceful and healthful surroundings’. He like many others was taken by surprise at the turn of events.


When I wrote a month ago I gave no thought to the country of Ukraine but soon after disturbing scenes from there began appearing on our television screens with commentators warning of implications for all of Europe. Our newsletters go far and wide and I received an email from Scotland about my letter including the words how appropriate it was, ‘especially at a time when we feel all mixed up about Ukraine’. We know what might be happening next week but we certainly never know for certain; events of the next week, day of hour may not be what we expected.


As many of you know this has been the case for me personally since my last letter. My sister-in-law was in hospital as she had been so many times over the years but this time it was very different, she was moved into intensive care, we rushed to be there but nothing could be done and she died soon after. I returned home a few days later while Viv remained there to help make the necessary arrangements. During that first week back there was the beginning of the Lent Groups and the first question for discussion was, “Think back on your life with all its ups and downs. When were you furthest away from faith in God? Have there been moments when you ‘felt’ God’s presence?”


With my recent experience it was good hearing all the answers. Yes some had known moments when faith was a challenge but also at some of the worst times God felt very close. For our Lord faith was not always easy, that cry of anguish on the cross but because of what he did we can be in God’s presence in a very different way, as the apostle said we may have peace with God, ‘by the blood of the cross’ (Col.1: 20).


Yours in Christ,


Robert


By Rev Robert Barthram, Mar 1 2014 01:00PM

Dear Friends,


Every month we have our newsletter giving certain responsibilities to some and the minister a letter to write. Over the years I have got very used to this monthly routine but it had an unusual twist this last month. Several days ago I was in the pulpit of St Andrew’s on a Friday morning and reading out loud a minister’s letter from 1914. The reason for this was because I had been contacted by a BBC journalist, researching The First World War. As you may have noticed the BBC is putting a lot of effort into the centenary of the beginning of that war and this includes local features for local radio and television and their website.


The reason why I was contacted was because part of the local focus is on the former Broad Street Church. Some of you knew the church and many of you have I expect been in what was its building and is now the Waterstones Bookshop. One or two were actually members there and one person was able to give the journalist a guided tour. The interest for me though was what the minister decided to write for his monthly letter at such a moment in history. What would the Rev W Morton Rawlings decide were the right words?


War was declared in August and for the September newsletter he began:

“When I wrote my notes a month ago I had not the remotest idea that a few days would bring such a mighty change. Then, so far as I knew, things were following their normal course in the country, and I was looking forward to the delights of a happy holiday in peaceful and healthful surroundings. But alas for the realisation!”

He knows this is a momentous moment for the nation and beyond but there is no triumphant nationalism but what he describes as ‘the deep waters of anxiety and perplexity’ at what might come.


Few could have envisaged the horrors of trench warfare for the troops and sufferings for civilians that were to come but you would think Rev Rawlings did. He writes of, ‘the awful calamity of war’ and how, ‘we are engaged in one of the greatest and ghastliest wars which the world has witnessed and God alone knows what the end of it all may be’. He with reluctance believed it was the right decision to go to war because of, ‘the obligations of national morality’ but also said, ‘I hate war with a perfect hatred’.


We have I’m sure wise words for 100 years later we still should hate war and only endorse it if it seems the morally right. That means to do all we can to avoid it as they did then for he reminds his readers how a few weeks earlier as the threat of war grew they had spoken out. How, ‘on Sunday, August 2nd – a day never to be forgotten – we passed a resolution at our evening worship, imploring the Government to observe the strictest neutrality’. We should do all we can in this century to avoid conflict whether it is between nations, communities, families or individuals.


Conflict 100 years ago was not avoided so he writes, ‘now that we are committed to the horrors of a gigantic and devastating war what are we as a church and as individuals to do?’ He gives several answers the first is to have faith and he quotes Isa. 30:15; Psalm 46: 1 & Psalm 27:14. The second is to, ‘give ourselves so to prayer as we have never before’ and to aid this daily prayer service had been arranged. Thirdly to ‘work to lessen the evils in this time of war’ and he mentions how ‘already strenuous efforts are being put forth to this end’, including the ladies making many garments! His advice is timeless: faith, prayer and action.


When he writes a month later events have moved on, the church was offering a welcome for soldiers, ‘in strange surroundings’ to protect them, ‘from evil influences’ despite there clearly being grumbles about the disruption to normal church activities. There had also been a wonderful response to help the plight of Belgium refugees.


Again lessons for us, situations and problems change and so must our response but surely based then as now on faith, prayer and action.


With best wishes,

Robert



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