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URC Daily Devotion 28th March

URC Devotions - Tue, 28/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 14:22-31  While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.  He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’  But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”   Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.”  Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same. Reflection It is difficult to read these words without thinking about what we do, and hear, on Sundays when we celebrate the Holy Communion together.  I am always struck at what we include, and exclude, from our Communion liturgies.  In the Reformed tradition, generally, we use the passage from 1 Corinthians to introduce, and serve as a warrant, for what we do and so miss out Jesus’ words about not drinking wine again until the coming of the kingdom.  We also miss out his harsh words: “you will all become deserters.”  

Of course we do; those words were for the disciples.  And yet we all are deserters. By our words and actions we all fail in our response to Jesus.  We can all imagine situations where we would deny knowing Jesus.  We all shrug our shoulders at some of his teaching - after all most of us haven’t given away all our goods to the poor and it is self evident that most Christians aren’t pacifists.  Yet Jesus’ words shock us and we may, like Peter, protest our faithfulness and love of our Lord only to realise that we too fail.  

As I write this a friend of mine is en route to Heathrow airport.  Baring a legal miracle he is almost certain to be deported, this evening,  back to Cameroon which he fled due to being tortured because of how he loves.  He has had excellent legal representatives but the judge simply chose not to believe him and, despite making legal errors, it has not been possible in the time available to effectively appeal her decision.  The judge was, previously, noted as a very effective barrister for asylum seekers.  She has changed her position with her new role and, as my friend faces deportation I’m tempted to think of her as a deserter.  Yet I wonder how easy I’d be seduced with a judge’s salary, public and media hostility to asylum seekers and an ever-more hostile culture in the wake of Brexit; it’s still government policy to repeal the Human Rights Act after all. So is the judge a deserter?  Probably no more than the rest of us.

The deserters in the story, with the exception of Judas, became the pillars on which the earliest Church was built.  They responded to the witness of their sisters and proclaimed the Risen Christ.  We may desert Christ, we may deny him, but he’s always ready to see past our failures and use us to build his kingdom.   Prayer Lord Jesus,
you forgave those who denied and deserted you
and used them to build your Church.
Forgive us when we deny and desert you
and use us to rebuild your Church in these lands.
In your mercy, too, bless those who are wounded
by our sin and failure.
Amen. Today's Writer Andy Braunston is minister-elect in the Glasgow Southside Cluster of URCs and co-ordinator of the Daily Devotion project. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 27th March

URC Devotions - Mon, 27/03/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th March table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 14:10-21  Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’   Reflection “Judas!” This one word, his name, has become a synonym for betrayal. Betrayal cuts so deeply, because it tears apart the trust in a relationship. If you have ever been betrayed, you will be only too aware of the pain and other powerful emotions it triggers. Sitting as a magistrate, sometimes I hear cases where someone would prefer to receive a harsher punishment - even jail - rather than to betray another!

The motivation for Judas’ betrayal is open to interpretation. Mark, Matthew and John precede this account with the passage we read yesterday, when Jesus was anointed with very expensive perfume. Was this moment the ‘final straw’ in Judas’ mind? Was money Judas’ motivation? Matthew, Mark and Luke mention the financial reward Judas received; John tells us that Judas stole from the collective purse. In contrast, Luke and John ascribe the betrayal to the Devil.

There was most likely a combination of factors behind Judas’ actions.  In seeking to understand them there is also a philosophical and theological issue concerning free-will: Judas’ betrayal led to Jesus’ arrest and subsequent crucifixion. In today’s reading, Judas’ betrayal overshadows the Passover preparations; however, there is a common theme of Jesus’ apparent foreknowledge of events.

The Gospels suggest that Judas is bound up with the fulfilment of God's purposes. John Calvin commented: "surely in Judas' betrayal, it will be no more right, because God himself willed that his son be delivered up and delivered him up to death, to ascribe the guilt of the crime to God than to transfer the credit for redemption to Judas."

Judas’ actions have been the theme of artists, scholars and theologians for centuries. One more modern attempt to understand this is in the musical “Jesus Christ, Superstar!” by Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Sir Tim Rice, where Judas is a principal player. Anyone who has seen this musical will have been haunted by the prolonged suicide scene which hints at remorse. Rice’s lyrics juxtapose the song “I don’t know how to love Him,” first sung by Mary Magdalene, in to Judas’ dying moments.

Betrayal can also be seen  from a different angle: where the Church has in some real sense betrayed God; where people have felt excluded from God’s love because how they have been treated, or the way in which parts of the Church have spoken about them. In many ways, the URC has been at the forefront of reform -  one example of which is the affirming welcome to LGBT people where same-sex marriage is offered in some URC congregations.

My church’s afternoon ‘Metropolitan Congregation’ has a specific ministry to the LGBT people of Manchester and the North West, and we meet so many who have been deeply wounded by churches who have rejected them and thus betrayed God’s loving message. Join with us in restoring the Good News of the all-welcoming nature of God’s love.   Prayer Loving God,
Your message to us is one of boundless love.
We pray for all those who have been deeply hurt:
Those who have been rejected by churches for who they are;
Those who have been rejected by family and friends for who they are.
We pray for their healing and new opportunities to trust.
Pour Your love afresh into our hearts,
So that we might be Christ to all whom we meet.
Amen. Today's Writer Walt Johnson is an Elder at Wilbraham St Ninian's URC in Chorlton, South Manchester. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 26th March the Fourth Sunday of Lent

URC Devotions - Sun, 26/03/2017 - 06:00
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It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus  by stealth and kill him;  for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.   While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii,  and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her.  But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.  For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.   Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ Reflection This story is hugely significant.  A woman is anointing Jesus’s head.  Not his feet as Luke and John would have it; they miss the point.  For by anointing Jesus’s head, she is proclaiming him king, Messiah, liberator. Had not Zadok the priest, on the orders of David, anointed Solomon king of Israel (1 Kings 1:33-39)?  Had a young prophet not anointed Jehu secretly king of Israel (2 Kings 9:4-8) on the orders of the prophet Elisha? And in each case, had these rituals not led to a coup d’état?  For those who are hoping for the liberation of Israel, the woman’s act spells revolution. The Jewish authorities had good reason to feel unease. It’s Passover time and crowds are gathering in Jerusalem.
 
A second group of people also see the woman’s act solely in material terms.  We don’t know who they are, but they snap at her rudely.  They are outraged.  The ointment she used so lavishly was worth a huge amount of money, the equivalent for a labourer of around ten months wages; it could surely have been sold for poor relief.  In a time of widespread poverty, such conspicuous consumption would certainly have seemed scandalous.  But they too miss the point.
 
See how Jesus reacts.  He affirms the woman’s action and nuances what she has done.  He reminds his hearers that there is never any shortage of poor people to whom they can show kindness (cf. Deut 15:11).  And then come the startling words: “but you will not always have me”.  The woman is “doing a good thing”; she is anointing him beforehand for burial.  In the one action, the woman anoints Jesus king and prepares him for burial.  The implications of Jesus’s words are clear – he, the anointed king, the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, far from leading a political coup, is to die and shortly.  This is the introduction to the Passion narrative.
 
And who is this unnamed woman?  Later versions of the story attempt to give her a life setting.  For Luke she is a forgiven great sinner, for John, this is Mary, sister of Lazarus.  But Mark portrays her as a prophet. In a supreme prophetic act, she proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, that the Messiah is to suffer and die.   Wherever the gospel is proclaimed, we read, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.  But there is a problem.  She is un-named.   We remember a name.  A name would have inscribed her indelibly in Christian tradition.  Without a name it is all too easy to skip from this faithful disciple to Judas who betrayed or Peter who denied.  This unnamed woman, the priestly prophet, stands for all those faithful women who have been overlooked by Christian tradition down the ages.    Prayer Ever-living and ever-loving God,
I bless you for your hand upon my life.
I thank you that this Christian way I walk is a road beaten hard by the footsteps of women and men, saints, prophets, apostles and martyrs.  I thank you for the sign-posts and danger signals with which it is marked and which are made known to me through the Bible.  Especially I give you thanks for the great gift of Jesus Christ, for his life, his death and his triumph over death.
Bring nearer the day when the hand of your purpose shall be found throughout our nation, throughout the world.  And whatever I myself can do, give me grace this day to begin,
Through our saviour Jesus Christ, 
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Fleur Houston is a retired minister and member of Macclesfield and Bollington URC. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Archive of Daily Devotions

URC Devotions - Sat, 25/03/2017 - 09:43
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From time to time I have been asked if it's possible to set up an archive of the previous Daily Devotions so they could be used again.  I am pleased to say that this has now been set up with the ability to search the database too.

You can go to the Archive via  http://devotions.urc.org.uk/  

This is also a good link to give to people interested in receiving them as they can read the current devotion, easily see the previous few or search more deeply.  The archive has a link, on the bottom left, where people can sign up.   

You may find the sample article, below,  for a local church magazine helpful.

with every good wish


Andy


Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator URC Daily Devotions Project

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Sample Article for Church Magazine

Daily Devotions from the URC


Every morning a reading, reflection, and prayer is sent out by email from the URC.  They are written by a team of around 100 people from different places and perspectives and provide inspiration in our inboxes! The devotions are designed to help enrich our discipleship and, whilst designed for personal use, have been found helpful for Bible Study groups, service preparation and devotions at the start of meetings.  You can read them all by going to http://devotions.urc.org.uk  where you can also sign up to receive them yourself using the link on the bottom left of the screen.  

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URC Daily Devotion 25th March

URC Devotions - Sat, 25/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 13:32-37 "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.  Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,  or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.  And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."   Reflection This is a poignant reading, which comes at a heart-rending time in the life of Jesus. He knows that he’s nearing the end of his time on earth, is facing the reality of a world that has rejected him, and friends who simply don’t understand what’s the matter.

Jesus’ instruction to stay awake, in order to be ready for whatever comes next, echoes in the following chapter, where he asks his closest friends to keep watch while he prays, and sadly, they fail.

Reading these words about staying alert brings to mind an analogy selected by Rowan Williams as he writes about prayer in his book ‘Being Disciples’; he uses the image of a birdwatcher sitting expectantly, waiting for something to happen, then goes on to say: “living in awareness, your eyes sufficiently open and your mind both relaxed and attentive … is basic to discipleship.”*

I believe the message to stay awake and alert is as strong now for 21st century disciples as it was for Jesus’ close friends on earth, even though we might not expect an apocalyptic event in our lifetime.  

To live in awareness and attentiveness means much more than sitting and waiting, it means behaving like Jesus – being aware of the people and situations around us, and most importantly, acting to make a difference.  Whether it’s “the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn”, the Church needs to be active and alert, ready and waiting for something to happen, and working together to live-out the Kingdom values of compassion, loving service, caring for our neighbours and sharing the love of Jesus.

Only when we do these things, are we ready for any and every eventuality.

* (Being Disciples: Rowan Williams 2016: p 5)     Prayer Lord,
Help us to follow Jesus’ instructions
and to stay awake to everything that is happening around us.
Give us strength to act to bring your values to every situation.
Amen Today's Writer Linda Raynor is a member of Bramhall URC in Cheshire and National Co-ordinator for Fresh Expressions in the URC. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 24th March

URC Devotions - Fri, 24/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark  13:24-31  Jesus said,

‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’ Reflection I have been fortunate to live all my life so far thinking that Biblical passages such as this were rather mysterious, far-fetched, even primitive. The end of the world has not seemed an imminent prospect. I am too young to remember the Cuban missile crisis, and I am likely to die before climate change begins to destroy our part of the planet. However, the inauguration of Donald Trump as US president, promising to build up the USA’s nuclear arsenal, and remarking that there is no point in possessing nuclear weapons unless one intends to use them, has suddenly made these passages seem relevant and important. He also seems intent on speeding up climate change, so we may personally experience rather more of that than we thought until recently.

The ordinary people of Jesus’ time knew nothing of nuclear weapons or climate change. But they did know of lives which were nasty, brutish and short; which could end at the whim of a passing Roman soldier; of being a remote part of an empire whose politics and theology could change at the behest of an Emperor-God far, far away. The end of their world was always a possibility – and in 72CE Jerusalem and their beloved temple was indeed destroyed.

In our age, we can suddenly begin to reconnect with the fears and terrors into which Jesus was speaking. The apocalyptic passages of scripture, about which I have studiously avoided preaching or even thinking for 25 years, have sprung to life for me. Maybe our generation will not pass away before the stars fall from heaven and the powers in the heavens are shaken.
But as I re-read it, I find that this is not a prophecy of doom after all. It is a description of the darkness of the world in which we live, and in which Jesus lived. And it gives us hope. Not the vacuous hope that “it will all turn out right in the end”. Not the selfish hope that we can make our country great again or take back control of our own destiny. Rather, the deep, eschatological, ultimate hope that even if heaven and earth do pass away, these words will survive to teach a new generation, perhaps a new world, of the boundless undefeated love of God.   Prayer Powerful God,
maker of sun, moon, stars and fig trees,
in Jesus you knew the powerlessness of human beings
in the face of changes of regime and human leadership,
and you knew the hubris of leaders
who believe they have divine power.
Help us in our day
not to be totally overwhelmed by human power,
but rather to hold to the eternal power of your words
which will outlive us all.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Gethin Rhys is a member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff, and Policy Officer, Cytun. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 23rd March

URC Devotions - Thu, 23/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark  13:14-23  Jesus said: “You will see ‘The Awful Horror’ standing in the place where he should not be.” (Note to the reader: be sure to understand what this means!) “Then those who are in Judea must run away to the hills. Someone who is on the roof of his house must not lose time by going down into the house to get anything to take with him. Someone who is in the field must not go back to the house for his cloak. How terrible it will be in those days for women who are pregnant and for mothers with little babies! Pray to God that these things will not happen in the winter! For the trouble of those days will be far worse than any the world has ever known from the very beginning when God created the world until the present time. Nor will there ever be anything like it again. But the Lord has reduced the number of those days; if he had not, nobody would survive. For the sake of his chosen people, however, he has reduced those days.

“Then, if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’—do not believe him. For false Messiahs and false prophets will appear. They will perform miracles and wonders in order to deceive even God’s chosen people, if possible. Be on your guard! I have told you everything before the time comes. Reflection It is Thursday, so yesterday I spent working with the asylum seekers and refugees sent by the Home Office to live in my small town. Whether Christian or not, this text is one they know in their guts. When the horror comes, there may not be time to plan or pack. Some of our mothers left children behind, who were not with them on the day they had to leave. One of our fathers cries every day, because he was working away from home - like oil riggers and many miners do - when the situation changed. He cannot go back for his children. Winter has been harsh on the refugee camps, in Europe, and on the borders of countries across the Middle East and Africa. Maybe we weren't praying hard enough? Jesus wanted us to "pray to God that these things will not happen in winter". Maybe we could do more ahead of next winter, to find places of safety and places of healing for those caught up in awful horror.

“But - " someone says in reply, “Jesus was not talking about our refugee crisis.” And of course, he wasn’t. He was speaking of the one already on the horizon at his death, when Jerusalem was besieged, the temple destroyed. Mark’s first readers knew in their guts that life was precarious, that one day anyone might end up packing a bag and fleeing, or not even having time to go back for their coat. Jesus is speaking into our current crises, with empathy and compassion for those pushed out of their homes by violence, war, and threats to their life.
    Prayer O Jesus,
Draw near to those forced from their homes,
and bring comfort.
And draw us near,
that we may bring what we can,
comfort who we can,
and do what we can,
for your sake.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is the minister of Darwen and Tockholes URCs in Lancashire.. Bible Version   Good News Translation® (Today’s English Version, Second Edition) © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 22nd March

URC Devotions - Wed, 22/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 13:9-13 Jesus said: "As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Reflection In yesterday's reading,  Jesus has predicted the destruction of the Temple and some of the types of events to expect in the future, before the end of the age, prompting the disciples to ask when this might all take place.  Not an unreasonable question from their point of view.  They lived under Roman occupancy.  As so often happens where 'empire' is involved - be it Babylonian, Roman or indeed British, the empire calls the shots when it comes to authority, law and order in order to maintain the so-called peace.  But an exception had been made to allow the Jewish faith and traditions to continue on condition they 'toed the line'.  So they would know that life as they knew it was precarious, that sooner or later one of the many uprisings and acts of defiance would trigger the Roman machine into decisive action.  It is generally accepted that this passage is referring to the destruction of the Temple in AD70 but life for the disciples following Jesus death and resurrection became even more precarious as they continued to spread the gospel in direct contradiction to the instructions of the Jewish authorities.  And here Jesus is warning them of what will come but also offering a glimpse of the reward which will be theirs if they hold on to the end.

But whilst this might be referring to a specific set of events in history, it is not stuck there.  It applies for all of time up until the day that Jesus return to put everything back how it should be.  It will always be relevant because the good news that we are commissioned to share flies in the face of the way this broken world works.  A world focussed on self-preservation, on revenge for wrongs, on self-centred motivations is not going to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, or offer an extra coat.  Such a world is not going to accept that refugees and asylum seekers need to be cared for.  Such a world is not going to accept that those who have more than they need should share with those who have nothing.  When the two worlds come close, there will be resistance and suffering

When look at my life, I don't see much suffering compared to many in this world and if I'm honest I don't really want that to change 'cos I'm a coward and some of the stories I hear make my hair stand on end.  So I guess this begs the question - why am I not suffering?  Where is my allegiance, to this world or the kingdom yet to come?  Am I keeping my head below the parapet so as to avoid difficult questions?  Or am I striding out ready to share the good news - with words if necessary!  Or just maybe the suffering is the very fact that I have to challenge myself with these questions rather than just accepting the status quo and the risk there of course is that the answer to the questions may not be what I want to hear!   Prayer Almighty God,
Give us the strength and courage to step up to the plate,
to be willing to forego some of our comforts and cosiness
to offer practical help where it's needed,
to listen to personal stores and experiences,
to challenge when wrong things are said and done,
even if there is a personal cost.  
Help us to hold this world lightly
and reach out for your kingdom
to bring it a tiny step closer to the here and now.
In Jesus' name,
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Sheila Coop is the minister of Macedonia URC in Failsworth. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 21st March

URC Devotions - Tue, 21/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark  13:1-8 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”  Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. Reflection “Do not be alarmed.” It was (comparatively) easy enough for Jesus to say that, sitting under the (relatively) safe umbrella of the Roman Empire – a world power if ever there was one. It might have had its bad moments; the Romans weren’t softies and the taxes were high, but at least they weren’t in a war zone, and the Pax Romana was a kind of peaceful existence. Wars and rumours of wars were a long way off. But in another 30 years it would be a different story, and not one stone of the temple would be left standing. The end was nigh and it seemed that only Jesus knew it.

We are not short of wars and rumours of wars, and some of them come from the very stones on which Jesus and his friends were sitting, and the noise of war and chaos gets louder with each passing day. Are these just birth pangs of a new creation, or the end of the world as we know it? God knows - so do not be alarmed?

Perhaps for too long we have assumed that peace, comfort, stability and changelessness are the marks of true religion. That’s not what Jesus says; those were not the marks of his life. He lived without a regular home, no steady income, no family circle. In the end he had no friend to defend him against the falsehoods of his accusers: ”Throw down the Temple indeed. What rubbish!” And rubbish indeed was what was left, with only a cross on a hill to mark the spot where the Son of Man’s glory was revealed. Our faith may bring comfort to the lost, food to the hungry, healing to the afflicted, but it comes at the cost of a world and its values turned upside down in the birth pangs of our new creation. `”Do not be alarmed” – perhaps Jesus was joking?
  Prayer O Lord support us by your grace
through all the hours of life’s day:
Until the shadows lengthen,
the busy world is hushed,
the fever of life is over,
and the evening comes.
Then Lord, in your mercy,
grant us safe lodging,
a holy rest,
and peace at the last:
through Christ our Lord.
Amen

(John, Cardinal Newman) Today's Writer The Rev'd Peter Moth is a retired minister and member of St Andrew's URC in Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 20th March

URC Devotions - Mon, 20/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 12:41-44 Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury.  Many rich people put in large sums.  A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’ Reflection If there was ever a lesson to be learned in making sure we take a passage in context, this is it!

Here is a woman ... nameless, poor and a widow, and only four verses are taken up with the story ... she’s barely appearing ‘above the radar’... except that Jesus notices her.

Over the years, I’ve heard quite a few sermons on these verses – I expect we all have (I might have preached one of them!) – and every single one of them was reflecting upon the sacrificial gift of the woman, and was probably challenging us to give that much to God. And yet ... just look at what comes before her story. Jesus has just finished denouncing the Scribes who “devour widows’ houses ...” (v40) and of the widow Jesus says she’s given, “all she had to live on” (v44). Surely there is a critique here of a temple system that demanded a tax be paid which, in this case, stripped the poor widow of all she had.  The question is, did she have a choice?  Is this a story about free generosity, or is it a story about a greedy religious establishment?  For years of my Christian journey I believed it was the former ... I now believe it is the latter …

... that’s because of the context of Jesus’ critique of the establishment, and also because I cannot believe that the Jesus who cared so much for the poor and the outcast would want this widow to have nothing to buy her next meal with.

I think this all means that, as we read about the widow and her two small copper coins, we need to be asking ourselves about the demands we place on others ... and the demands that are placed upon us within the life of the church.  Those demands might be about behaviour or ‘fitting in’ (my parents never let me wear trousers to go to church – today that will be something different, maybe the youngsters who have their mobile phones out) ... or they might be about who takes communion (I had to leave the sanctuary and not even ‘watch’ people take communion, let alone receive it until I had been made a member – today, that’s a conversation about children receiving, or who is leading the communion service).

Are there things we need to ‘relax’ in order that all might thrive? Prayer Lord, as we give of ourselves and of our money
we trust that you will help us to be generous and wise, and
we pray that you will steer us in the use of our time
and energy and resources.
As we ask you to guide us,
as a church,
in the demands we make of one another –
may we be generous in our not-requiring
as well as in our offering.
For Jesus’ sake.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Dr Rosalind Selby is the Principal of Northern College in Manchester. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 19th March - Third Sunday of Lent

URC Devotions - Sun, 19/03/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 12:35-40  While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David?  David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,

“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
   until I put your enemies under your feet.’”

David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

As he taught, he said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’ Reflection The Scribes were legal experts; precise, pedantic and pompous. One of the striking things about the carpenter from Nazareth was that he was able to tie them up in knots with logical riddles of the sort they normally enjoyed. The crowds loved it.

But actually I like precise people and will forgive them the occasional lapse into pedantry. A Treasurer knows that without a few precise people around, finances can soon slip into embarrassing chaos; and when nobody insists on pressing that slightly pedantic question, sharp practice and fraud goes undetected until catastrophe strikes.

We need some experts around to help us use God’s gifts wisely and some of them will be lawyers. We should be grateful for all sorts of experts who give of their expertise to enrich the life of the Church.

The problems arise when we think our expertise makes us superior to those who lack it. Be it canon law or flower arranging, when offered as part of our grateful response to the infinity of God’s gifts to us, our area of expertise can be a beautiful gift. When it becomes our reason for demanding the places of honour, Jesus says sternly “Beware!”   Prayer Lord Jesus,
who honoured God’s law and surmounted it,
I can never outwit you and you can never be in debt to me.
Thank you for the skills I have developed with the gifts you have given me.
Give me grace to offer them in your service with humility;
make me as grateful for the skills of others as I would secretly like them to be of mine;
show me fresh ways to use my expertise in building your Kingdom.
And when my work is done,
welcome me where the only skill required is worship.
Amen.    Today's Writer John Ellis is a member of Tudeley and Five Oak Green LEP, URC Treasurer and Immediate Past Moderator of General Assembly.
. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 18th March

URC Devotions - Sat, 18/03/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th March table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 12:28-34 One of the teachers of the Law of Moses came up while Jesus and the Sadducees were arguing. When he heard Jesus give a good answer, he asked him, "What is the most important commandment?" Jesus answered, "The most important one says: 'People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.' The second most important commandment says: 'Love others as much as you love yourself.' No other commandment is more important than these." The man replied, "Teacher, you are certainly right to say there is only one God. It is also true that we must love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and that we must love others as much as we love ourselves. These commandments are more important than all the sacrifices and offerings that we could possibly make." When Jesus saw that the man had given a sensible answer, he told him, "You are not far from God's kingdom." After this, no one dared ask Jesus any more questions.   Reflection I often refer to this passage during prayers of confession when I lead worship: “we fail even to keep these two great commandments, and in the stillness we are conscious of all the other ways in which we have let You down and hurt others…”

If these are the two greatest commandments in the Law, shouldn’t we invest more time and effort into at least keeping them?  Almost certainly.  But that isn’t the whole solution. Elsewhere (James 2:10), we read that stumbling at even one point means breaking the whole of the Law.  It has also been said (and I agree) that if we manage to keep the two greatest commandments, everything else follows.  To love God with our whole being and to love others as much as we love ourselves (oh – you do remember to love yourself too, don’t you?) will cover all we need to do.

Some of you will be shifting uncomfortably in your seats, remembering that Christians are under grace, not Law.  Indeed – we are no longer slaves to sin, so don’t need the Law to keep us under control.  Rather, we are under the law of love – grace – and as beloved people we are responsible for our self-control.

As we choose to follow God’s way we will find ourselves ever closer to God’s kingdom.     Prayer Gracious God,
we thank you for your endless love,
for you do not overlook our failings,
but actively forgive them.  
Help us in our dealings with others
to show them the same unconditional love.  
And as we walk the path of love,
may we always seek to bring glory to you,
with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.  
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Steve Faber is the Moderator of the West Midlands Synod. Bible Version   Contemporary English Version®
© 1995 American Bible Society. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 17th March

URC Devotions - Fri, 17/03/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th March table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 12:18-27 Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and asked him a question, saying, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.’ Reflection It is difficult to know which one of the two faced the prospect with less enthusiasm. Was it the woman, required to wed for a seventh time in order to satisfy male desires for (male) children. Alternatively, was it the man, contemplating marriage to a bride with an alarming reputation for serial widowhood?

Of course it is only a hypothetical story. Although based on existing social custom, this tale took things beyond the realms of probability or even plausibility. It was not intended to be realistic. It was not intended to address justice issues relating to marriage practices of the time. It was told in order to score points in a theological debate about resurrection of the dead.

Jesus takes the time to answer the point ‘some Sadducees’ wished to address with their carefully contrived story, coming down decisively on the side of those who expect a resurrection of the dead. God, says Jesus, ‘is God not of the dead, but the living’.

We do need to explore together what we think and know about important issues, resurrection prominent among them. If, however, the dilemmas of living people ever become mere discussion fodder for theological debates we will have to reorder our priorities.

Both Sadducees and we would do well to focus our efforts, not on discussing the hypothetical future prospects of fictional characters, but upon relating the love of God to life’s realities for real people in the here and now.   Prayer God of the living,
God of today,
encourage us to hear the words of Jesus
and so share your love with others.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Trevor Jamison, a URC minister, is the Environmental Chaplain for Eco-Congregation Scotland. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 16th March

URC Devotions - Thu, 16/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 12:13-17 Then they sent to Jesus some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And  they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him. Reflection This passage is contentious and has created much conversation and debate about what it actually means. Christian Anarchists hold a position that advocates full adherence to God with no recognition to earthly states and powers. There are other Christians who believe that we should adhere to both the State and God.

My challenge to you is to behave with integrity to your faith, which means discerning how God is speaking to you regarding this passage. We are fortunate in the URC that we are a church that is not an established State Church, this provides us with a unique and luxurious position, especially in a country where we are free to critique our government and challenge its decisions and actions. With this in mind, I encourage you to move from discernment to a place of action underpinned by faith, always staying the course. Regardless of the trials and tribulations that this may lead us to, we need to  remember that God is always with the most marginalised and oppressed in our world.     Prayer Heavenly Creator,
We encounter you in our daily lives
and in the mundane earthly things that we do.
Help us to see you in those situations,
knowing that everything we do on earth
is for your glory and praise
as much as we may not be able to perceive that.
We ask for your blessing to continue to serve you as Christ served us.
Amen Today's Writer Kirsty-Ann Mabbott is a Church Related Community Worker serving at Bettws URC/St David's Church in Wales in Newport, South Wales. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 15th March

URC Devotions - Wed, 15/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 12:1-12  Then Jesus began to speak to them in parables. ‘A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the winepress, and built a watch-tower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard.  But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.  And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted.  Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed.  He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, “They will respect my son.”  But those tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”  So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.  What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.  Have you not read this scripture:  “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone his was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes”?’  When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.    Reflection The parallels with the unfolding story of the coming and going of prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures and then the coming of Jesus himself are obvious in this passage. This is what caused the anger of the Religious authorities who heard this parable. It’s meaning was clear. It is also easy for us to gloss over it thinking it is only of relevance to its time. Yet that is to close ourselves to what it tells us about ourselves. How often do we not notice the promptings of the Spirit as we go about our business. Who do we ignore – if not actually beat or kill? What do we not see that is right in front of our eyes because we are looking to the next thing? Who do we not listen to because we have heard it before, or even worse we don’t like what is being said. Who do we underestimate, or side-line or walk away from? What living stones do we reject? May we today pause and look and listen to God’s promptings.   Prayer Lord, today in my business,
may I take time to take in my surroundings,
the people I encounter
and may I be open to what your Spirit is saying
in and through the world I encounter.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Hilary Collinson is the minister of the Tees and Swaledale Pastorate. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 14th March

URC Devotions - Tue, 14/03/2017 - 06:00
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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 11:27-33 Again they came to Jerusalem. As Jesus was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.’ They argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say, “Why then did you not believe him?” But shall we say, “Of human origin”?’—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’   Reflection We tend to find that celebrity has a high status in our society. Whether they are television or cinema stars, or personas in our print and social media, celebrity has an ability to speak into our society as if with authority. The authority of celebrity – without any grounding in the institutions of the day – can create a following of popular ideas and can give rise to concern among those in leadership.

So it seems remarkable that in this story of Jesus the question of his authority is raised. Instead of being distracted by considering where he sources his authority (it seems pretty clear to Christian readers that the answer is ‘heaven’), we should be surprised that the Jewish leaders recognise that he has authority in the first place. Authority means not only the formal right to act, but also a willingness to respond to it. Jesus had authority that gave him a voice in a hostile and changing world, and people liked to listen. For some people that made him worth following, while others were threatened by him.

When we act in our own lives, and in the life of the Church, we must have no doubt that our authority comes from heaven. But how likely are we to follow popular authorities that are crowd pleasing but don’t challenge how we are, instead of being a voice in a hostile and changing world? Maybe there’s something good to be said of having our authority questioned when we do things that truly do reflect God’s work.     Prayer Gracious God,
help us to be aware of your authority in our lives
and in the Church
and speak into our hostile and changing world
with the authority of one from heaven
that we may respond in obedience to your call. Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Dr Matthew Prevett is the minister of St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 13th March

URC Devotions - Mon, 13/03/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th March table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 11:12-14, & 20-24  On the following day, when they came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.  He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it.

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots.  Then Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.’  Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Reflection The passage is a ‘Markan sandwich’, the original cursing and the finding of the withered tree being separated by the story of Jesus clearing out the Temple (the reading for tomorrow). Mark does this quite a lot, setting one story amongst another.  This makes for challenging reading; Mark is insisting we look at the two stories together and let them interpret each another. You might find it interesting to return to this passage after you’ve read about the cleansing tomorrow.

In a nutshell – Jesus is unfair to the fig tree which is, after all, part of God’s good creation. It’s Passover time, and it’s not the season for figs – Mark admits as much. Yet Jesus seems to be angry that there’s no fruit. Some interpreters feel uncomfortable with this, and try to ‘explain it away’ by suggesting it was originally a parable that’s been turned into a ‘real story’. But let’s take the text as it stands, because Mark is surely trying to tell us something!

The ‘sandwiching’ of the stories seems to suggest Jesus looks for fruit in the lives of those engaged in the religious life of the Temple – and becomes angry when he does not see that fruit. Is that us? Are we complacently making excuses for doing, or not doing, things in and around our churches and communities – ‘it’s not the right time to do this’, or some other, apparently good, reason for wriggling out of the challenge of being the fruit-bearers Jesus wants?

In the second part of the story, Mark shows Peter discovering the withered tree – which has happened because the tree did not bear fruit in the first place. And how much is that something that happens in our churches? We need to ask ourselves whether there is any wonder that some of our churches feel ‘withered’ if we are not bearing the fruit Jesus is looking for.

But there is a final stage too; Jesus links this to the faith we have, and so must we. Sometimes we can feel dispirited, tired, or burdened with responsibilities in our local church. I think this passage challenges us to reflect on what we should be doing to bear fruit and flourish in our communities – and to have faith.

Let’s pray: Prayer Loving and Holy God: help us, as individuals and as local churches, to have the faith to stop ... and to listen to what it is you really want of us ... and not to plough our own furrows regardless. If we need to lay down the things that do not bear fruit ... give us wisdom.  If we need to respond to you in new ways ... guide us.  If we need to grasp the hardest nettle of all and let a church building go ... grant us the love and the courage to do what is needful that the whole church might bear the fruit you are looking for. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Dr Rosalind Selby is the Principal of Northern College in Manchester. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 12th March

URC Devotions - Sun, 12/03/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th March table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 11:15-19 Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves, and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.

He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. Reflection Just imagine being in the Temple that day. Word had probably got around that Jesus and his followers were in Jerusalem and, maybe, on their way to the Temple. There would be growing excitement among many of those present and this would add to the atmosphere of frenzied activity as stallholders tried to attract customers.

As soon as Jesus arrived, the people were in for a shock. He seems to have marched straight in, angry and disappointed, and begun to overturn tables, forbidding any commercial item to be carried through the Temple. His anger was clear. Although it was not the first occasion Jesus had shown anger, most of the crowd would still have regarded him as a compassionate man with the ability to heal and teach in a special way. Many stories would have spread about his willingness to show love and compassion to all and to change lives forever in many cases.

Why was Jesus so different on this occasion? He was very clear about it. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.”

In this short sentence, Jesus emphasises what the primary function of the Temple is. He compares what is actually happening in the way of buying and selling to turning this most precious building into a den of robbers.

This indicates what the main purpose of any place of worship should be – it should be a source of prayer for all nations, first and foremost as part of the ongoing worship of God and the study and contemplation of his word. This is a timely reminder of what the church exists for. Sadly, too often prayer can become a peripheral activity. In worship, very often the majority of those present listen to the prayers. Active response is limited and often formal. The opportunities to meet as a prayer community are few.

A prayer group is such a precious meeting for those who value a quiet time praying together silently or aloud. In our time there are many necessary reasons for a church to carry out many activities as well as praying and worship just to keep going and develop itself as a warm and loving centre of a community. Those in a close fellowship, or maybe on the fringes, may need encouragement to keep talking to God in their hearts and, most importantly, listen to his word.

The Pharisees react badly to Jesus’ words and actions and plot to kill him. They seem to be thinking primarily about themselves and preserving their power and influence, as they see clearly how many in the crowd were spellbound by Jesus’ teaching. We can see that Jesus risks his life further by his strong emphasis on the importance of prayer.

How wonderful it would be if there was a new commitment during this time of Lent to ‘pray without ceasing’. It does not always have to be in a house of prayer but it is a reminder to give priority in any church to prayer. As we know, there is no need for words: times of silence, listening and communicating with God, heart to heart in love. As John Wesley said, “My silence speaketh unto thee.” As he continued, "may our hearts be lifted up to God at all times and in all places". Wesley walked with God continually, "having the loving eye all fixed upon him and everywhere seeing him that is invisible".

May God help each one of us toward that deep and lasting commitment to prayer so that we can truly feel that wherever we are is a house of prayer.   Prayer Loving Lord,
may our hearts be led to worship you through thankful prayers,
prayers of confession and prayers for others
safe in the knowledge that you always listen
and are always a loving presence in our lives, now and always.
Amen Today's Writer Hilary Jackson is an elder, lay preacher and member of Gatley URC in South Manchester now living in North Yorkshire. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th March

URC Devotions - Sat, 11/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 11:1-11     When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples  and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.  If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.”’  They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’  They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.  Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.  Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

‘Hosanna!
   Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

  Reflection For a noted Rabbi drawing near to Jerusalem, an accompanying happy procession was not unknown. Small wonder then that when Jesus came into Jerusalem in this way, it was a cause of great joy; significant joy, recorded by Matthew, Luke and Mark in ways that are very similar. Mark’s account has all the ingredients the others have – the obtaining of an ass, the setting out from the Mount of Olives, a significant act in itself as it was along this route that the Messiah was to come, the cheering crowds throwing cloaks and branches in the pathway, and then – and then, in the other Synoptic Gospels, comes the cleansing of the Temple. There is no specific statement that this event followed immediately after the entry into Jerusalem, and the probability is that it followed the next day, but Mark is more specific and the ‘then’ is almost anticlimactic, perhaps the reason the other Gospel writers omitted to mention it: Jesus looked around at everything, going back to Bethany for the night.

Sounds a bit dull? Not for me; for me it makes absolute sense that Jesus would go to look about the Temple; the focus of pilgrimage, entering into the glory of the place, wondering at the structure, sharing in prayer, noting the good and noting the corrupt, then taking time to prayerfully reflect on it all that evening and night.  Although Mark says only ‘he’ I am sure that Jesus’ disciples would have been around; the remark that he went out to Bethany with them would seem to support this. The next day he would return, and then the confrontation would begin as he overturned the tables of the money-changers, but for now, following a joyful, worshipful time in procession, he and his disciples took time to relax together and wander about seeing the sights like any other young men up from the country; a companiable time made extra valuable for Jesus, I suspect, through his awareness of all that was to come.

Which makes me think, how much do I value time with friends – even just short times together? And how often do I take time to really look around and reflect on all I see, with others or alone? It’s no bad idea to try both, especially if the time ahead is going to be fraught. After all, if it was good enough for Jesus . . .   Prayer Loving God,
in this day, guide us by your Spirit
to have eyes, hearts and minds wide open
to the wonder of the holy places,
and the wonder of the city street and country path.
Help us cherish and pray for them, and all about us,
in Jesus’ name.   Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Ruth Crofton is a retired minister and member of Waddington Street URC, Durham. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 10th March

URC Devotions - Fri, 10/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 10:46-52 They came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’  So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.  Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way. Reflection “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus has just asked the same thing of two of his signed-up followers – but they gave the wrong kind of answer.

Now he puts the same question to someone who seems unable ever to become a follower. All that Bartimaeus can do is to sit by the roadside, calling out hopefully but probably not too confidently, while life passes him by. The crowds who have been following Jesus out of the city tell the blind beggar to keep quiet: so far as they are concerned, Jesus is for people like them who can keep up.

But they quickly change their tune when Jesus hears, stops, and responds. One moment it’s “Keep quiet!” The next, it’s “Take heart!” It’s as if just to be in the presence of Jesus, just to walk alongside him, allows the emergence of human sympathy and compassion that being part of a crowd can so often drown out.

It’s as if the question “What do you want me to do for you?” is being put not just to the blind man at the side of the road, but also to the onlookers.  Not only are they wondering what his response is going to be, but also what kind of answer they would give. Bartimaeus it seems answers better than the sons of Zebedee – but then, for the physically blind, to ask for sight is a pretty obvious choice.

But for others around, what might they ask for? What might we ask for today? And can we envisage such a total change-around experience, that like Bartimaeus we too might leave everything behind and “follow him on the way”?   Prayer Lord Jesus
what we want for ourselves
and what we want for others
and what we want for this world in all its need
makes for an impossibly long prayer list.
Help us to recognise the one thing
that will change our life’s direction –
and grasping it as your gift
let us set out with you on the journey ahead.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd John Durell is a retired minister in the Northern Synod. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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