URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 23rd November

17 hours 54 min ago
96 URC Daily Devotion 23rd November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 16: 16-33

Jesus said:

“A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.”    

Then some of his disciples said to one another,

“What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a
little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”

They said,

“What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”

Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them,

“Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.
“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.”

His disciples said,

“Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.”

Jesus answered them,

“Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
Reflection Years ago, the paddle-steamer Waverley used to leave its home on the Clyde to visit ports around England, and hence I found myself on board with a group of Primary age children for a trip down the River Tyne, out to sea, along the coast a little and back. The day before, as we talked about the trip, I warned them that when the ship turned at sea, it would cease to go up and down, and instead rock side to side for a little while as it faced a different thrust from the sea, and indeed it did, the starboard paddle (the side we were standing) rising dramatically out of the water to whirr wildly. Back in the classroom, one boy said, in heartfelt tones,
“I’m glad you told us what would happen when it turned, or I’d have been dead scared!”

Murmurs of agreement all round.

Warnings are useful, and a large part of this passage is advance warning, as Jesus prepares the disciples for the crucifixion; the time when others will be glad but they will mourn; the time they will not see him, will think he is gone but this is not a time without hope. In the resurrection, they will see him again. Is this also warning and hope for us; the hope that Jesus will return, a hope to hold to when we can’t ‘see’ him; the times we feel as if we are turning against the tide, our faith and emotions tossed about?

It seems to me that this thinking can have, and has had, two possible effects. We can concentrate only on the future hope and fail to connect fully with the present time; those who don’t worry about the earth because it will all, one day, go and they will be caught up to heaven, is the extreme form of this view. Or we can read the words as assurance that what we experience in our lives is a natural thing that is very hard, but that will have a great outcome – like a woman in labour.

He who assures us of this is one with the Father; we are connected wonderfully with God; we can ask; we can receive. We can receive peace even when the world is shaking us about something frightful! And sometimes – often, even – we won’t understand, and just have to hold to the knowledge that we have Jesus with us; that the Holy Spirit will ever guide us.
 

Prayer

Living, loving God,
we praise and bless you for this present moment
when, even though we feel tossed about
by our questions and fears,
even though people mock and say, “So where is this Jesus?”,
even then, we can know your peace and hope.
Bring to us, we ask, and to the world,
the courage to believe and
the peace Jesus brings,
a peace that nothing can take away.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Crofton is a retired minister living in 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 22nd November

Wed, 22/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 22nd November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 16: 4 - 15

Jesus said:

“But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.  But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:  about sin, because they do not believe in me;  about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer;  about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Reflection When someone goes away it is sometimes good to have a reminder of them. If a friend goes on holiday, they may send a postcard. Distant family relations may send us cards for Christmas and birthdays. If a loved one dies, we hold onto the memories of that person and sometimes that is through the places or objects that were special to them. In our reading today Jesus is going away “to the one who sent me.” Some of the disciples didn’t understand what he was saying when he said he was going away (see John 16:17-18) and perhaps they thought he was going to be with them for their whole earthly lives. However, Jesus had a different life plan. He was to go to Jerusalem, surrender his life and rise again to fulfil what the prophets had written of the Messiah. Jesus wasn’t going to leave the disciples alone, then or today. He promised the Holy Spirit, to be a counsellor or advocate (paraclete) for us. Some of the Holy Spirit’s work is outlined by Jesus and is summed up as:

Conviction Helping people to see Jesus for who he is and our need of him
God’s Righteousness Pointing to the work of Jesus on the cross, freeing us from sin and death and making us right before God by his grace
Judgement Reminding us that one day Christ will come again and judge all
Truth We, who follow Jesus, will be guided by the Spirit in our lives and as we read God’s Word
Glory The Holy Spirit always points to Jesus and Jesus to the Father. A wonderful Trinitarian dance of love!

We are not left alone as we have the Holy Spirit with us in power. As disciples of Jesus we have to be open to the Spirit’s power to work in and through us in our daily lives and in our times of worship so that the glory and honour goes to our Trinitarian God.
 

Prayer

Lord I come to you
Let my heart be changed renewed
Flowing from the grace that
I have found in you
And lord I have come to know
The weakness I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of your love

Hold me close let your love surround me
Bring me near draw me to your side
And as I wait
I’ll rise up like an eagle
And I will soar with you
Your spirit leads me on
By the power of your love

Lord unveil my eyes
Let me see you face to face
The knowledge of your love
As you live in me
Lord renew my mind
As your will unfolds in my life
In living everyday
By the power of your love

Hold me close let your love surround me
Bring me near draw me to your side
And as I wait
I’ll rise up like an eagle
And I will soar with you
Your spirit leads me on
By the power of your love
Amen.

By Geoffrey Bullock for music go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga6Qtxzd6vk

Today's Writer

The Revd Stuart Nixon is a Pioneer Minister serving at MediaCItyUk Church, Salford.

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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Church House Advertises the Daily Devotions

Tue, 21/11/2017 - 23:16
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Daily Devotions Story
from Church House Press Office

Dear <<First Name>>

I thought you might be interested in the news story that the Church House Press Office have produced on the Daily Devotions.  You can read it by clicking here or by copying and pasting the link, below, into your web browser.

http://www.urc.org.uk/latest-news/2491-inspiration-in-your-inbox.html

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 21st November

Tue, 21/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 15: 18-16:3

‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.”

‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me.
Reflection This September, I returned to Sarajevo, a city I visited Interrailing ten years ago. As a child, I was aware of the siege of Sarajevo, the troubled history of its country and the many atrocities that took place – the hatred of people because of their faith and their culture and the barbarity of one human for another. Museum after museum – and graveyard after graveyard – tell of people who have been subjected to extreme and violent persecution and hatred.

We hope that such violence and hatred against people based on religion, race, gender, sexuality and ability are mistakes of the past. Yet, the past 18 months have seen an increased rhetoric of hate in our media and politics. We’ve seen far-right groups and candidates get increased media exposure and electoral success. Hate crime figures have seen a dramatic increase. The tone of our politics seems to be increasingly negative: setting up barriers, breaking down unions, excluding those among us.

Jesus knew what it was to be hated, despised, and rejected; he could relate to what it meant to be hated “without a cause.” Jesus refers to those who are hated as friends with him, called by him to serve. Jesus promises God’s Spirit to those who are hated, those who are scorned, and those who are persecuted. For all who have been on the receiving end of racist, sexist, homophobic or ableist abuse or violence, Jesus’ words speak of a God who knows what it is to be hated, and the wrongdoing of those who hate.

Perhaps the only, and slight, upside to hate is that God can relate to the sufferings. But the problem with hate is that it is so negative. Hate doesn’t show signs of growth or development. Hate doesn’t bring people together or share community. Instead it puts a wedge in communities, cuts ties and breaks bonds. Jesus clearly shuns this. We should too.
 

Prayer

Loving God,
may we testify to your love and peace,
as companions for those who are hated by the world.
May we work to bridge divides in communities,
to form bonds of love and peace between peoples,
and grow as your people. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is 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 20th November

Mon, 20/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 15: 1 - 17

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower.   He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.  You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.   I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.   Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.   If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Reflection I have always found verse 3 difficult, and have reflected on it here by bringing a number of ideas and verses together.

First, the ‘already’ is interesting – Jesus is talking to his closest disciples in the hours immediately preceding betrayal, denial, abandonment, arrest and torture – before the cross. Yet already Jesus has accomplished something amongst them.

Secondly, we meet one of John’s favourite words – ‘word’, logos – that description of Jesus from the magnificent opening to the Gospel. ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.’ Yes, ‘word’ means something Jesus has said, but he could also be referring to himself. We are reading the richly- layered Gospel of John today – and it’s probably both.

Bring those two thoughts together and we discover that Jesus has already done something amongst his disciples through his teaching and through his person.

Thirdly, if we ask how John understands the accomplishing of Jesus’ work, our answer will (unsurprisingly) be multi-layered here too. Certainly, Jesus’ accomplishment is on the cross (he cries ‘it is finished!’ – not a despondent ‘it’s all over’, but a triumphant ‘it’s done!’), but his accomplishment is also in his coming into the world at all. ‘The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us,’ (1:14). Now look at that alongside Isaiah 55:11

my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.


The God who sent his Son/Word into the world had a purpose for him, and the Son can only return to the Father once that work is triumphantly finished! … done by being amongst us, teaching us, offering a quality of life now (already) as well as that which is bought through the cross.

We receive this by living that abundance out amongst all the children of God (the vine), but also in the world (which God loved so much that his Son came into it and lived out his life and ministry there).
 

Prayer

Holy vine-grower and world-lover,
accept our thanks for all that you have accomplished for us,
for all that you are still accomplishing amongst us,
and for the privilege of being part of the vine which grows in your world.
Help us to play our fruitful part in your accomplishing work
until your word is spoken to all and your Son’s life lived out for all.
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 November

Sun, 19/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 24
 

The world and all in it are God’s,
all peoples of the earth,
For it was founded by the LORD
upon the seas beneath.

Who may ascend the hill of God,
or in his temple stand?
The one who shuns false gods and lies,
who’s pure in heart and hand.

He will find favour from the LORD,
and from his Saviour grace.
Thus are they blessed, O Jacob’s God,
who truly seek your face.

You ancient gates, lift up your heads;
you doors, be opened wide—
So may the King of glory come
for ever to abide.

But who is this exalted King?
What glorious King is he?
It is the LORD of strength and might,
the LORD of victory.

You ancient gates, lift up your heads;
you doors, be opened wide—
So may the King of glory come
for ever to abide.

But who is this exalted King?
Who can this sovereign be?
The LORD Almighty, he is King
of glory, none but he.

 
You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the tune Winchester (often used for While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night) here and to the rather difficult tune St George's, Edinburgh here.
Reflection This Psalm has always been in the Premier League for Christians. In the early days of the Church the “ancient gates” were taken figuratively to represent Death whose gates were opened by the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. In 1598 it opened the worship at the Louvre in Paris when free worship was first permitted after the Edict of Nantes, and in much more recent times a metrical version often opened worship on Communion Sundays in Scotland.

We start with the unequivocal declaration that the Lord God founded the whole of Creation and then move on to a different theme and consider who is worthy to offer worship.

We may not find God’s Creatorship a problem in theory (though recognising that the Creator must be greater than the creation – immense though it is, beyond our comprehension). However,  the next section is far less comfortable because it becomes much more personal. Of course, we agree that we should all be pure in heart and actions, and shun the false gods of worldliness and deceit – but who among us is worthy?

The use of the word “Saviour” in the third stanza of this version is in some ways questionable as Christians are likely to read it as referring to Jesus which the original clearly does not. But using this in Christian worship reminds us that it is through Grace that we are saved, not through works however pure and worthy.

So, we can conclude with the triumphant declaration that the King of glory is the Lord of victory.

Prayer

Most gracious God,
we thank you that our worship is joined with that of your people through the ages
and that through our risen Lord and Saviour we have a place in your kingdom,
unworthy though we be.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd Julian Macro is a retired minister and member of Verwood URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 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 November

Sat, 18/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 14: 22 - 31

Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
 
‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid. You have heard me say to you “I am going away, and I am coming to you”. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.’
Reflection The intimacy of John’s Gospel is astounding. In the farewell narratives it is at its warmest and most beautiful. The closeness which Jesus experiences with his Father becomes the measure of the closeness Jesus feels for his friends. It is an intimacy which the friends of Jesus must treasure no matter which century or country they live in. John believes it is unique to them. The “world” cannot grasp it, until it embraces that quality of love which is grounded in the divine. But the friends do not and cannot hold on to this love selfishly, for love is not love unless you give it away. No group of Jesus’ friends can be sectarian or selfish, building walls around themselves through dogma or ritual. The intimacy which they have experienced is a gift through which they embrace the pain of the world. It is as they become this suffering and serving body that they truly experience the gift of Shalom, the Peace which has been promised. The loving community of Jesus cannot stand still. Jesus says to us all: “Get up, we must be on our way.” The journey never stops. Nor does the love, the peace, and the joy.
 

Prayer

Loving God, in Jesus our Friend, you come close as close can be,
sharing our road, our home, our days of joy and sorrow;
in human weakness you shed your power and tread the path to life and death.
In Jesus you pitch your tent and stay;
And even after the darkest of Fridays you do not withdraw your gift.
In a miracle of love, you make us your children and call us to suffer and serve
in this beautiful and dangerous world, making visible again your grace in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Jenkins is a retired minister and member of Marple URC in Cheshire.

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 17th November

Fri, 17/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Hilda
Abbess of Whitby, 680    

Hilda was born in 614 of the royal house of Northumbria. Baptised in York at the age of twelve by the Roman missionary Paulinus, she was later an influential lay leader of the Church. She was encouraged by Aidan of Lindisfarne to become a nun, and subsequently established a monastery at Streanaeshalch (Whitby). This house became a great centre of learning and was the meeting-place for the important Synod of Whitby in the year 664 at which Hilda's rôle was that of a reconciler between the Roman and the Celtic traditions. She is remembered as a great educator, exemplified in her nurturing of Caedmon's gift of vernacular song. She died on 17 November in the year 680.

Ephesians 4. 1-6

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
 
Reflection North East England is one of my favourite places for a quiet break, I love to read about the ancient Celtic saints, and to see the places where they lived. There’s something profoundly moving about knowing I’m standing where others have shared my faith for over a thousand years, and, like many other people I find this can be a time for spiritual renewal, re-reading the stories and following in the footsteps of some of those saints, including Aidan and Cuthbert.

So, when I visit Whitby I wonder how Hilda really felt at the time of the Synod. She was a gracious and caring hostess to all the visiting clergy, but the decision to establish Roman Christian practice as the norm in Northumbria, must have been disconcerting for this powerful abbess of a Celtic-practice monastery, maybe it stretched her humble patience almost to the limit.

It seems that Hilda responded to this different way of being Church with more grace than the monks from Lindisfarne, who apparently refused to accept the decision and withdrew to Iona. Hilda lived by the standards laid down in Paul’s letter to the people of Ephesus, a tiny passage from the letter is today’s reading.

In this beautiful letter, Paul talks about God’s intention to unite Jews and Gentiles in a new community, which is the Church, the body of Christ. Paul offers a description of early Christian life, and in this passage, he is urging Christians to live their lives being focussed, disciplined and humble – supporting each other in love, regardless of ethnic differences. The Message paraphrase says: “Everything you think and do is permeated with Oneness.”

It resonates over the millennia for the Church today. Some churches may need to look different if they are to share faith with people who have never even heard of Jesus, yet we are all called to travel in the same direction and stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.

We can’t guess how the Church will look in the future; just like in Hilda’s time, and in Paul’s time too, culture is changing and the Church can join in by listening to and immersing itself in that culture, loving and serving and thus sharing faith. There are already many new expressions of Church which exist alongside more traditional churches. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, we are invited to be part of the body, accepting of the other parts. Our place, is to accept that there may be changes and yet be “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”. 1,500 years ago, Hilda understood the significance of this message, now it’s up to us.

Prayer

Compassionate God,
We know that you call us to be one church, yet sometimes we struggle to grasp that this church may take many different forms.
Help us to celebrate difference and understand that we are all working together to share the love of Jesus with people who may not be like us. Help us understand that this means sharing our faith in many different ways, and help us to celebrate new expressions of church as they bring people to Jesus – even if we don’t fully comprehend them.
In the name of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Linda Rayner is the URC Co-ordinator for Fresh Expressions.

Bible Version

 
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 16th November

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 14: 1-21

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
 
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
 
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him,
 
“Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
 
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
 
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
 
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Reflection Jesus challenges us both to believe and to love. For many who call themselves Christians, these have become increasingly difficult to do. Jesus’ words might shock us and disturb us.

Jesus encouraged his disciples to believe in him fully and then he said boldly, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” When I was sharing with a colleague how I, City Temple, and many other URC ministers and churches actually believed what Jesus said in this passage, the colleague accused me of being “divisive” and “controversial”. The colleague said he felt “shocked” and “grieved” by my level of “intolerance”. I was neither offended nor surprised by his comments. But they did remind me of how other people must have heard Jesus’ words in the same way. Jesus’ words have always seemed divisive and controversial, difficult to understand and even more difficult to rationalise — especially in our modern world.
 
Thankfully, Jesus didn’t tell us that we must fully understand or explain what he said. He simply encouraged us to trust him and believe. Then he showed us that he was worthy of our belief by dying on the cross for us and rising from the dead. Certainly, it is bold to believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. But Jesus asks for our belief.
 
We might think that Jesus’ encouragement for us to “love” would be far less controversial and divisive. However, for Jesus the command to love involves keeping his commandments — in other words, obedience. It is so easy for us to define “love” by cultural norms, societal whims and seemingly sacred sentimentality. “Love” thus defined becomes weak and wishy- washy, changing and easily changed.
 
Jesus defines love in terms of God and obedience to God no matter the cost, knowing that such love will always show itself as a self-giving, sacrificial commitment to others for their benefit. Love defined in these terms resembles the very heart of God as God has given himself through Jesus. If we really love Jesus then we will do what Jesus tells us to do. What Jesus tells us to do will always lead to a deeper love for others.
 
Since only God can generate and sustain such amazing love, Jesus promises that his followers would receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would become our Helper, living in us so that we might love in truth and love to the fullest. Loving thus, we would become living embodiments of the reality of Jesus, loved by the Father and by the Son, and showing Jesus to the world.
 

Prayer

Loving God, we sometimes struggle to accept the full reality of what Jesus said. Jesus’ words challenge us and stretch us. So we need your help. Please fill us anew with your Holy Spirit so that we might believe and love as Jesus taught us. Help us both to believe and to love no matter the opposition, but always with gentleness and respect toward those who disagree with us. Thank you for the promise that you will never leave us nor forsake us. Thank you for the reality that you are with us now in love and grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Rodney Woods is minister of City Temple in London.

Bible Version

 
The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®). ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 15th November

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 13: 31 - 38

When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said,

‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

Simon Peter said to him,

‘Lord, where are you going?’

Jesus answered,

‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’

Peter said to him,

‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’

Jesus answered,

‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
Reflection Peter’s foretold denial of Jesus appears in all four Gospels. John’s account places this in the Upper Room; the other three place it slightly later in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts also echo the other Disciples’ resolve. We know what happened next: Judas betrayed Jesus; Peter denied Jesus; the other 10 ran away! The intimate meal they had just shared was thrown into chaos with a revelation of imminent betrayal; emotions ran high.

As Christmas approaches, TV soap-opera producers will already have filmed the explosive Christmas episodes, where some surprise revelation over Christmas Dinner will have the characters’ lives similarly thrown into chaos. Personal revelations can be life-changing for both the individual and the family. In the congregation where I serve as an Elder, many who come to us – myself included - have experienced similar when we ‘came out’ as lesbian or gay. For some, this led to fleeing their countries for their very lives; for others, estrangement from family.

Probably because we are so familiar with Jesus’ Passion narrative and that the four accounts blend into one in our minds, it is easy to overlook the verses unique to John’s account: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” Here, the Greek uses ἀγαπᾶτε – ‘agape’ (sacrificial) love.

The brokenness we experience often stems from failure to love: others, God, even ourselves. In the middle of that painful scene in the Upper Room, Jesus focuses on love. Despite Peter’s denial, we know later from John 21 that Jesus restored Peter, where Jesus again focused on ‘agape’ love. Jesus’ command to love allows us to move beyond the denial and live once more.
 

Prayer

Risen Christ, Your miracle in us in Your constant forgiveness.
Risen Christ, You take us with our hearts just as they are.
Why think we must wait for our hearts to be changed before we go to you:
    You change them.
Your voice comes to bring light to our darkness,
and the river of praise opens up within us.

    (Prayer: Brother Roger of Taizé)

Today's Writer

Walt Johnson is a serving elder at Wilbraham St Ninian’s, 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 14th November

Tue, 14/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 13: 21-30

After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. “One of you is going to betray me.”

The disciples looked around at one another, wondering who on earth he was talking about. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. Peter motioned to him to ask who Jesus might be talking about. So, being the closest, he said, “Master, who?”

Jesus said, “The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I’ve dipped it.” Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him.

“What you must do,” said Jesus, “do. Do it and get it over with.”

No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor.

Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night.
Reflection Jesus became visibly upset.  The Greek word is ἐταράχθη - the root word is transliterated as tarraso, meaning “to stir up, to trouble, to put into motion”.  In some manuscripts of the Gospel of John, angels tarraso healing waters (5:4).  Jesus is tarraso-ed when he sees Mary crying at Lazarus’ tomb (11:33).  Jesus is tarraso-ed again as he realises that soon he will bring glory to God’s name (12:27).  And in this passage, Jesus is tarraso-ed on the night before the Passover feast.  (In John’s gospel, Jesus is crucified as the Passover lambs are sacrificed in the Temple.)  From healing, to compassion, to obedience, to determination – God stirs.

One of you will betray me – Jesus is stirred.  A friend who had witnessed time and time again the power of God first hand was trying to usurp the will of God.  Someone was trying to thwart the advancement of the Kingdom of God.  A betrayal – an attempt to shackle the coming liberation.  Someone still did not understand what God was trying to do.  Jesus was stirred into action.  The only way to free this betrayer from himself would be to face the cross.  It was time.

What you must do, do. Possibly the betrayal by a close friend made Jesus even more resolved, more determined to help humanity?  His presence, ‘God dwelling among us’, wasn’t enough to save us from ourselves.  Part of us would never really fully understand God’s ‘kingdom-of-grace-and-mercy’ project.  Part of us would always rebel.

Creation? We rebelled.
Rainbow? We rebelled.
Kingdom with a Temple? We rebelled.
Promise of a Messiah and restoration? We rebelled.

And even at that moment, one of the closest of the close to Jesus rebels. Jesus had to wonder – would we ever get it?

By betrayal, Jesus was stirred, even more determined to defeat sin and death for the sake of us all.

What stirs you?  What troubles you to the point of action?  What makes you stand up, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in?  What sets you in grace-filled, God-led motion for the sake of others?
 

Prayer

Holy Spirit of God, Help me to see my work colleagues, friends, family, church family, and community as You do.  Show me what stirs You into action.  Stir me up!  Empower me and set me into motion, working with You on Your ‘kingdom-of-grace-and-mercy’ project.  For Your glory and for the sake of us all.  In Jesus’ name  Amen

Today's Writer

Angela Rigby is an ordinand at the Northern College and member of Christchurch URC in Haydock, St Helens.

Bible Version

 
THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 13th November

Mon, 13/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 13: 1-20

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to him,
 
‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’
 
Jesus answered,

‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’  
 
Peter said to him,
 
‘You will never wash my feet.’
 
Jesus answered,
 
‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’  
 
Simon Peter said to him,
 
‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’  
 
Jesus said to him,
 
‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’  
 
For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said,
 
‘Not all of you are clean.’
 
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them,

‘Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.  I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfil the scripture, “The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.”  I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he.  Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’
Reflection In Catholic Churches around the world, on Maundy Thursday, priests, bishops, cardinals, even the pope, wash the feet of members of the congregation in emulation of Jesus at the Last Supper.  In some American churches foot washing is an integral part of every celebration of Holy Communion.  This rite is a visual reenactment of the command to love and serve each other.
 
I suspect that Foot Washing isn’t an integral part of normal URC communion services though I suspect some may reenact this on Maundy Thursday.  Yet the command to love and serve one another is something we should follow as disciples of the Lord.  
 
Foot Washing was a necessary task in a dusty country where open sandals are worn; what might contemporary Foot Washing consist of?  Listening to those in mental pain; generously giving food to the food bank; inviting a destitute asylum seeker to share your home or any number of practical acts of love emulate our Master who washed his servants feet.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
as a servant you washed the feet of your disciples,
showing love, humility and grace.
May we,
through acts of loving kindness,
so serve your people,
that all may come to know you
and your saving love for all.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Southside Cluster in the Synod of Scotland.  He also co-ordinates the URC Daily Devotions 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 12th November

Sun, 12/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 23
 

The LORD is my shepherd; no want shall I know.
He makes me lie down where the green pastures grow;
He leads me to rest where the calm waters flow.

My wandering steps he brings back to his way,
In straight paths of righteousness making me stay;
And this he has done his great name to display.

Though I walk in death’s valley, where darkness is near,
Because you are with me, no evil I’ll fear;
Your rod and your staff bring me comfort and cheer.

In the sight of my en’mies a table you spread.
The oil of rejoicing you pour on my head;
My cup overflows and I’m graciously fed.

So surely your covenant mercy and grace
Will follow me closely in all of my ways;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD all my days.


You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the unusual tune Twarthie here
Reflection Today, on Remembrance Sunday, we all unite in thinking of the many men and women who have sacrificed their lives during war.  We stand to honour them and in remembering the horrors they have suffered we hope and pray for a more peaceful future.

As I write this, a Service of Remembrance is taking place at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium where the graves of almost 12,000 soldiers (3/4 of them unidentified) stand in stark whiteness against a blue sky.  It was very different 100 years ago when the battle of Passchendaele raged for 100 days under grey rain clouds and in mud that drowned and buried men from across the world.

I visited this place in April and stood amongst the tombstones, read their stories and felt the keen wind blowing across the flat land, trying to imagine the soldiers suffering the cold, the wet, the fear and the utter desperation, never knowing if they would survive the next attempt to gain ground. I wondered if those frightened men would pray in longing and recite the 23rd Psalm – the one that was probably most familiar to them – for it is, more than anything, a psalm of confidence and a prayer of hope.

This simple but deeply spiritual psalm became especially meaningful to me (and my goodness, it sounds trite and pathetic compared with the horror of Passchendaele) when I walked my first long distance walk. The weather was variable and we had to contend with mud and snow and my boots hurt! The route was beautiful through pastures of wild flowers and besides flowing streams but it was very steep at times and I came to rely on my walking sticks which I began to call affectionately ‘my rod and my staff’ - for they comforted me! The words of the psalm accompanied me throughout that long walk and has done so on subsequent ones which have, at times, been even higher and tougher and it has reminded me that God always walks beside me and can transform the scariest, most threatening situations into ones that even though I suffer fear I can feel confidence in God’s presence.

I see so many of our church friends walking with sticks these days and I hope they too see them as their ‘rod and staff’ to comfort them and give them confidence, but perhaps we all need to consider what our rod and staff could be as we walk the way as disciples of Jesus.

Prayer

We pray for peace, loving God.
Peace amongst the nations,
amongst all peoples and amongst all faiths.

And we pray for peace in the hearts and minds
of all who are distressed, troubled and frightened.

Be their rod and staff, their comfort and confidence.
Anoint us with your goodness and mercy
and follow us closely as we walk in your ways.
Amen
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen  is a retired minister and member of Kendal URC.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th November

Sat, 11/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 12: 37 - 50

Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him.  This was to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”  And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them.”   Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him.  Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God.

Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me.   And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.  I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.  I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.  The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.”
Reflection The first part of this passage is quite troubling.  John takes two quotes from Isaiah; it is the second that is troublesome: Isaiah 6:9-10.  Isaiah heard to voice of the Lord saying to him, ‘… make the mind of this people dull, stop their ears and shut their eyes …’  This apparent demand from God for Isaiah to prevent the people from hearing the word of God was a recognition of what was going on, not an act of retaliation; some people would just not listen and understand.  Isaiah seemed to be using shock tactics to get them to ‘wake up.’

In the rest of the passage Jesus is reflecting the same issue many years later – it was ever thus!  Interestingly, Jesus introduces a third category to the believers and unbelievers – those who are closet believers; they understood the implications of openly accepting Christ: rejection from the synagogue and Jewish society which would severely restrict their access to friends, family and wealth creation.  Jesus neither condemns the unbelievers nor the closet believers but warns them that they will not escape judgement forever.

We are not all gifted with the courage of the apostles (and don’t forget even Peter the ‘rock’ stumbled).  I have often wondered what I would do under those circumstances.  My first father-in-law (who died before I met his daughter) was a conscientious objector, a steadfast Congregationalist and a staunch CND supporter.  I remember some of the stories of the hate, prejudice and ostracism he and his wife ‘enjoyed’ in their west country village during WW2: this was not an easy option, but one which resonates with the treatment the OT Jews would have received had they admitted their faith in Jesus.
 

Prayer

Forgiving Father,
we give thanks to you for all your faithful and courageous disciples;
those who fear God more than they fear humankind.
Lord, we pray that you will continue to support,
guide and inspire those who love you so much
that they put themselves into positions of danger by not denying you.
Almighty and omnipotent saviour
we ask that you will gives us all
the courage and stamina needed
when we are put to the test in your name.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Alan Yates is the Moderator of General Assembly 2016 to 2018.

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 November

Fri, 10/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 12: 20 - 36

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.  Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’  The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’  Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine.  Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’  He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.  The crowd answered him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?’  Jesus said to them, ‘The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in the darkness, you do not know where you are going.  While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.’

After Jesus had said this, he departed and hid from them.
 
Reflection John’s Gospel gives us a different angle to other gospels, by which to look both at the Jesus of history and the one who meets us here and now, bringing life in abundance and to making us children of light.  The gospel writer tells this story so that readers and hearers ‘may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and through believing ..may have life in his name’ (John 20.31).

Today’s passage follows on from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.  The storm clouds are gathering and Jesus speaks of his death in three ways.  First he gives the picture of the seed sown in the ground, dying to bring new life, a harvest of many.  It’s a picture drawn from the kingdom parables – the mustard seed and the sower – but now focussed on the act of Jesus dying, his giving of his life for the world God so loves.  The death Jesus dies is a real death – and it troubles his soul – but in John’s telling of the story he refuses to ask to be saved from it.  Rather this self-giving is his raison d’être.  So the second picture is of his death as glorifying God: ‘Father glorify your name.’  This is to be Jesus’ hour – and it will bring glory both to his Father and ultimately to himself.   And thirdly John pictures the cross as a lifting up of Jesus – to show him to the world and to draw people (Jew and Gentile) to him.

So in a world where there are many disturbing pictures let reflect on these three pictures of the cross – ‘we wish to see Jesus.’
 

Prayer

Prayer
Lord Jesus we picture you on the cross
- a seed sown in our world
           and bearing an amazing harvest of grace
- a moment of strange glory,
           for which we praise you.
- a sign of eternal love
           that draws us to yourself.
Help us to see you in our world today.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Terry Hinks is the Minister of Trinity URC, High Wycombe and Cores End 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 9th November

Thu, 09/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 12:12-19

The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

‘Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
   the King of Israel!’
Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
   sitting on a donkey’s colt!’

His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.  It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him.  The Pharisees then said to one another,

‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!’
Reflection Nobody has a clue what is happening...apart from the Pharisees.

The disciples don’t get it, as usual.  It’s not until later when they look back on things that it all starts to make sense.  Isn’t that the way of life?  Often when we are in the middle of something we don’t realise its significance until well afterwards.  It’s like watching someone tipping that first domino, knowing that a train of events has been set in motion but also knowing that you won’t really know what has happened until all the other dominoes have fallen and the pattern they have made can be seen.

Decisions we make as people, as a church, a denomination and a country.  Unintended consequences.  Expediency.  Lack of foresight.  Lazy thinking or plain self interest.  We have all done it and will all do it again.

Perspective is one of the gifts of the Gospels.  They are not diaries.  They are accounts, written with hindsight, something I think we often forget.  The writer of John is watching the dominoes fall and making sense of the pattern for us.

A prophecy fulfilled.  A crowd behaving oddly.  Waving palms and shouting for the King of Israel is treason, but this Jesus can raise people from the dead.  They had seen the ultimate miracle for themselves, so maybe, just maybe, it’s worth the risk.  

The pharisees know that their moment is not yet here.  The crowd are fickle.  Their time will come.  But not yet.

Each time I read this story I wonder where I would stand, and who I would stand with.  And wish once again that I had the gift of perspective.
 

Prayer

God who takes the long view
Help us who are right in the middle of it all
To step back,
To slow down,
To look around
And to see with your eyes
The consequences of our actions
For those we rarely even give a thought to.

Help us to learn from our past
And the past of others.
Give us eyes to see
And ears to hear
Your perspective.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Stewart Cuter is the minister of St Ninian’s LEP, Stonehouse in the Synod of Scotand.

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 8th November

Wed, 08/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 12: 1-11

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.    But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,

“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?”   

(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said,

“Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.
Reflection “The unbound tresses, appropriate for the harlot, would be regarded as shameful on the part of the lady of the house” - this delicate description of Mary’s Rapunzel moment comes from my 1952 version of the Interpreter’s Bible. Tom Wright is a bit more racy when talking of the unbound locks, “roughly the equivalent, at a modern polite dinner party, of a woman hitching up a long skirt to the top of her thighs.”

It seems that Mary’s action goes beyond good taste. It also surpasses extravagance – perfume worth nearly a year’s wages. Both can make the onlookers and indeed the reader, somewhat uncomfortable.

John tells us though, that Jesus accepts it all graciously and gives her action meaning. He allows himself to be ministered to. That is one point.

More, according to John, the woman doesn’t speak. When this story, or versions of it, is told in all the other Gospels she never speaks, though everyone else has plenty to say about what she has done. She doesn’t speak, she acts. In the midst of carp and small mindedness and terribly good common sense, her somewhat bizarre, loving actions echo down the centuries and as John so poetically puts it, ‘fill the whole house with fragrance.’

A final thought for those not really in a position to pour out a year’s wages or not inclined to show their knickers (men included) at a dinner party – there are times when it is not prudent but nevertheless necessary, to put yourself in a place where good sense does not reign. If today, God gives you the opportunity to go beyond yourself, to be a bit foolish, to open your home, or your heart, or your closed mind, or your purse - grasp it. In Christ, all love is graciously received and given meaning.
 

Prayer

Today, Lord Jesus
let me know and share your love;
teach me the way I should walk
and help me walk it in wonder.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ros Lyle is a retired minister working in Thames North Synod and a member of Muswell Hill.

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 7th November

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 11: 55-57

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves.  They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another, as they stood in the temple,

“What do you think?  Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”  

Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
Reflection What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?

They were looking for Jesus (v.56), the crowds in Jerusalem, that is.  Looking for Jesus.  But really, he wouldn’t come here would he, not at this time, not when the tensions are high, not when the Romans are here, the Jewish leaders are plotting, and there’s a price on his head.  Surely not.  He won’t come.  I don’t know, what do you think?  The small addition of the words ‘will he?’ indicating a vain hope that he should, and it would be amazing if he did, but he probably won’t.  It’s the remark of a people whose hopes have been dashed on too many occasions, whose lives are stuck rather than going somewhere - it’s the hope of a people who are struggling to believe that this Jesus really is who he says he is.   Although there have been miracles, healing, joys, truth, sermons and compassion in the past - can we dare to believe that he can now complete what he has begun?

What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?

They were looking for Jesus, the Church in the UK, that is.  Looking for Jesus.  But really, he wouldn’t come here would he, not at this time, not when the bombs are going off and cars, vans and lorries are being used as machines of terror, not when this government is in charge, not when the Brexit plans are like this, not when there’s a price for naming Jesus as Lord.  Surely not.  He won’t come.  I don’t know what do you think?  The small addition of the words ‘will he?’ indicating the vain hope that he should, and it would be amazing if he did, but he probably won’t.  It’s the remark of a people whose hopes have been dashed on too many occasions, whose lives are stuck rather than going somewhere, it’s the hope of a people who are struggling to believe this Jesus really is who he says he is.  Although there have been miracles, healing, joys, truth, sermons and compassion in the past - can we dare to believe that he can now complete what he has begun?

What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?

I’m looking for Jesus; well I really mean you - yes you, sat reading this. Looking for Jesus. But really, he wouldn’t come here would he, not today and now, not when life is like this, not when these struggles are so real, sin so nagging, brokenness so broken, not when I’ve failed quite so often as I have, not when the price he must pay for me is so high. Surely not. He won’t come. I don’t know what do you think? The small addition of the words ‘will he?’ indicating the vain hope that he should, and it would be amazing if he did, but he probably won’t. It’s the remark of someone whose hopes have been dashed on too many occasions, whose life is stuck rather than going somewhere, it’s the hope of someone who is struggling to believe this Jesus really is who he says he is. Although there have been miracles, healing, joys, truth, sermons and compassion in the past - can I dare to believe that he can now complete what he has begun?


 
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,

Come.

Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Paul Robinson is the minister of the United Church in Rhyl.

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 6th November

Mon, 06/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 11: 45 - 54

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said,

‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.’

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them,

‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’

He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.
Reflection This short passage tells of a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus, as told by John.  Occurring immediately after the Raising of Lazarus, the final miracle or ‘sign’ of Jesus, it marks the end of one phase of the gospel – the ‘book of signs’ and sets the scene for the next phase – the ‘book of glory’.  Jesus’ hour had now come, and the Temple authorities began to make plans to put him to death.

Whilst it is clear that some people recognised these signs as from God and believed in Jesus as a result, others remained blind and were quick to report Jesus to the Pharisees.  They in turn had only one concern - to protect their own interests in the face of the Romans.  

It is perhaps too easy for us to condemn the Jewish leaders for their attitude and subsequent actions when we so often are prone to behave in similar ways.  How many times do we fail to see God at work in our lives, or are blind to good things that are happening in the world because we fear for our established way of life, resisting change or personal upheaval?  How often do we say we are acting to protect the interests of others when in reality it is our own interests that are at stake?  We dress things up to make it look like we are helping others when our primary aim is to look after Number One.  
Caiaphas’ solution to the problem was quite simply put.  Get rid of Jesus.  Eliminate the trouble maker and everything can return to normal.  The status-quo can be restored.  And so, this is what they began plotting to do.  Unwittingly though Caiaphas makes a very profound statement – prophetic even – that Jesus’ death would lead to the saving of the nation of Israel and those beyond it too.   

The good news in this is that God’s work in the world cannot be snuffed out as easily as some might hope or believe.  In the face of selfish ambition and the desire to remain in control, the power of God to overcome even death itself proves much stronger.  Perhaps those who sought to get rid of Jesus in order that they might save themselves should have realised this.  And perhaps we, who so often act in ways that have similar aims should realise this too.   The irony however is that when we, sometimes unwittingly, attempt to protect our lives and our selfish interests from the disruption that true discipleship might bring, there we find Jesus with outstretched arms, saving us from our very selves.

Prayer

Saving God, help us, today and all days
To recognise the signs of your presence
In our lives and in the lives of others.

Give us the courage to act on what we see.
To rid ourselves of selfish ambition
And to live our lives in the service of others.

And when we fail,
Remind us that by your grace alone
we are redeemed and restored.

Through the saving power of Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Salsbury is minister of Dyserth and Holywell and Training and Development Officer in the National Synod of 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 5th November

Sun, 05/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 22
 

My God, my God, O why have you
Forsaken and abandoned me?
Why are you far from giving help,
From listening to my anguished plea?

My God, I cry to you by day;
You do not hear when I complain.
I call to you throughout the night;
In silence I cannot remain.

Yet you are holy: on the praise
Of Israèl you are enthroned.
In you our fathers put their trust;
They trusted, and were not disowned.

They called, and you delivered them;
You listened to them when they cried.
Our fathers were not put to shame,
Because on you they had relied.

But I’m a worm and not a man,
By people scorned, reproached by all.
And those who see me shake their heads;
They sneer at me, and thus they call:

“This man has trusted in the LORD,
So let him save him from his plight.
Now let his God deliver him,
Because in him he takes delight.”

Yet you, LORD, brought me from the womb;
When I was at my mother’s breast
You gave me cause to trust in you.
From birth upon you I was cast.

Yes, from my mother’s womb till now,
O LORD, you are my God alone.
Be not far off, for trouble’s near,
And other helper I have none.

Strong bulls of Bashan circle me,
Wild bulls approach on every side.
As roaring lions tear their prey,
At me their mouths they open wide.

Like water I am emptied out,
And all my bones are torn apart;
My inmost being melts away,
And into wax is turned my heart.

My strength is dried like shattered clay,
And, as I fight to draw my breath,
My tongue is sticking to my jaws;
You lay me in the dust of death.

A pack of dogs encloses me;
Their circle round me is complete.
I am beset by evil men
And they have pierced my hands and feet.

I count the number of my bones;
With gloating eyes the people stare.
They throw the dice to get my coat;
Among themselves my clothes they share.

Come quickly, rescue me, my Strength;
Do not be far from me, O LORD.
Save me from power of evil dogs,
My precious life from cruel sword.

From menace of the lions’ mouths
And from their fury set me free.
From peril of wild oxen’s horns
You heard my cry and rescued me.

Now to my brothers I’ll declare
The praises of your glorious name;
Within their gathering I will stand
And your renown I will proclaim.

Praise him, all you that fear the LORD;
Give honour to him, Jacob’s race.
All Isr’el’s children, worship him;
Bow down with awe before his face.

He has not scorned the suffering
Which on the afflicted one is laid;
He did not hide his face from him,
But listened to his cry for aid.

You are the theme of all my praise
Within the great assembly, LORD;
Before all those who fear your name
I will fulfil my solemn word.

The poor will eat and will be filled
And those who seek the LORD will give
A shout of joyful praise to him.
O may your hearts for ever live!

The whole earth will remember him
And turn towards the LORD their God.
All peoples will bow down to him—
The nations of the world abroad.

Dominion to the LORD belongs
And over nations he is king.
The rich of all the earth will feast
And worship with an offering.

All those whose destiny is dust
Will humbly kneel before his throne;
They cannot keep themselves alive,
For they depend on him alone.

Posterity will serve the LORD;
And generations still to come
Will tell a people yet unborn
The righteous acts that he has done.

You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the tune St Clement here or to the tune Marrel here.
Reflection I have such strong memories of singing this psalm every year to a plainsong chant during the stripping of the altar in an Anglican church that I attended for many years.  It always brought tears to my eyes and it does so, now.

It is referred to as the Song of David but we will never know if David really was the writer/composer.  Even in the introduction to the psalm, David asks the chief musician to play this song on a ‘particular instrument’ indicating that it was meant to be sung.

There is such sadness and anguish about this psalm.  It is a heartfelt prayer of lament from one who feels abandoned by God.  The psalmist is confused. He has grown up hearing about God’s faithfulness towards his people, but in his situation God seems to be absent? What seems to be the problem? He is resolutely confident in God, but at the same time confused. Why is God absent for him, when God has intervened in the lives of so many others?

Surrounded by enemies who are persecuting him, the psalmist cries out for help in the day and the night, and still God remains silent. The psalmist remembers how, in the past, the people of Israel called trustingly upon the Lord in times of trial, and he answered their prayer. He remembers the tenderness with which the Lord cared for him personally in his earlier life, as a child in his mother’s womb, as an infant in his mother’s arms, and yet now God seems strangely distant. Despite such difficult and distressing times, though, the psalmist’s faith and trust in the Lord remains steadfast. The psalm ends on a note of confidence, as God’s name is praised before all the nations. There are many echoes of this psalm in the gospels of the New Testament.  In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the opening line of this psalm is recorded as being repeated by Jesus as he calls upon the Father from the Cross. He too seems to have been abandoned to a cruel fate, while his enemies mock him, attacking him like ravenous and roaring lions, dividing his clothing among them as if he were already dead.

There have been times in my life when I have felt that God is far from me.  I call and He doesn’t respond. I seek Him but cannot find Him.  There have been times when I have felt that instead of God being our Father and Creator, that in fact, we create God to fulfil a need within us.  It is possible that you have felt this on occasion, too.  Remember that the shadow of the Cross gives way to the bright hope of the Resurrection. We too, when we call upon him in times of trial, must place our trust in the God who brings salvation, who conquers death with the gift of eternal life.

Prayer

Loving God,
we live in a world that doubts everything it hears;
and, even with open eyes, doubts everything it sees.  
We know that we can trust you in all things.
In a world that often scoffs at our faith and trust in God,
we praise you that you continue to demonstrate your trustworthiness
to people who have eyes to see,
and ears to hear your gentle words of encouragement, grace and mercy.
We offer you our lives,
our love
and our faithfulness in response.  
Father, strengthen our faith.
Amen

Today's Writer

Ann Barton, Facilities Manager, Church House.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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