URC Devotions

Daily Devotion by John Young

4 hours 45 min ago
96 Daily Devotion by John Young Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 2: 1-10 

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.  I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain.  But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek.  But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us—  we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.  And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me.  

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised  (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles),  and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.
Reflection This passage should be read by those of us who are inclined to be starry eyed about how the Church should be. It reveals that from early years the Church was no stranger to conflict.

On more than one occasion the apostle Paul feels he has been misrepresented and needs to argue his case. The back story is that Paul was not one of the original ‘Twelve’ nor, apparently, had he been properly accredited by the Jewish Christian authorities in Jerusalem.

With this background, Paul’s missionary journeys to the Gentiles were regarded with suspicion by some Jewish Christians promoting traditional values. One of these traditions concerned circumcision of Gentiles. Circumcision was not a practice enjoined by Jewish law, but was widely regarded as the sine non qua of the Jewish male. Paul’s universal gospel of redemption through the death of Christ cut loose Gentile converts from many Jewish traditions. The battle between the traditionalists and the modernisers joined.

If we wish to update this scenario consider two theological wings – the conservative and the liberal; our debates in the United Reformed Church about human sexuality; the nature of authority in the URC; end of life issues; the nature of ministry adapting to changing social patterns; missiological priorities in a multi-faith environment . Now none of these is a perfect match for the early Church’s struggles , though some seem keen to hark back to issues that were not (and maybe cannot) be resolved. But we can learn much from this passage.

Paul’s missionary journeys continued, reaching out to all countries which enjoyed (or bore) Pax Romana. The outcome of this meeting in Jerusalem was decisive in this regard – it did not hinder his missionary drive – bringing the gospel word to all who would listen. And ‘face to face’ is best.These  priorities our church must retain, despite grappling with contentious issues. ‘The Lord has yet more light and truth to shine forth from his word’.
 
 

Prayer

Gracious God
listening for your word to us
takes time and concentration,
sometimes beyond us
but always for our benefit.
In the midst of competing voices
we hear your call for generosity,
of spirit, in speech and always action.
We pray that fresh understandings of
your Gospel invigorates our mission
to share the good news with others
AMEN

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John Young is a retired URC minister in the Synod of Scotland and a member of Giffnock 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Lindsey Sanderson

Sun, 27/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Lindsey Sanderson Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 48

1 Great is the LORD—his praise all else excels—
In our God’s city, on his holy hill.
2 Mount Zion is the joy of all the earth,
So high and fair like mountains of the north;
Here is the city where the Great King dwells.

3 God is the fortress of Jerusalem.
4 When kings joined forces, ready to advance,
5 They looked, and fled in terror and surprise,
6 Gripped like a woman who in childbirth cries.
7 Like ships destroyed by storm, you shattered them.

8 As we have heard, now we have seen it so
Within the city of Almighty God—
The city of the LORD, which by his grace
9 He makes secure. Within your holy place
Your never-failing love we seek to know.

10 O God, your name is known throughout the earth,
And to its farthest shores your praise goes forth;
Your strong right hand is filled with righteousness.
11 To Zion your great deeds bring joyfulness,
And Judah’s villages are filled with mirth.

12 Walk round and count the towers of Zion’s hill.
13 Note well her ramparts and her citadels,
And speak of them to your posterity.
14 For this God is our God eternally,
And to the end our God will guide us still.


You can hear the Genevan Psalm tune, Old 124th here.  This tune is the one recommended for this version of the Psalm. Reflection Psalm 48 is a community song, celebrating God’s reign over the earth. In the Psalm we are invited to survey Zion and marvel at the great city of God. The Psalm may have formed part of the liturgy at the Feast of Tabernacles when the people came to Jerusalem in order to commemorate the provision of God during their wandering in the wilderness.

The Psalm proclaims that God is great and the city of God’s dwelling is holy because of the presence of God. Jerusalem has become the high mountain dwelling place of God; the city is now the holy mountain. The city is both beautiful and full of joy and yet an invincible fortress, so that invading armies quake as they approach in attack. God’s attributes are celebrated, particularly God’s love, righteousness and judgements. The people are called to process around the city to experience for themselves the strength and protection of God so that they might pass their experience on to future generations.

Psalm 48 celebrates the safety and peace of Jerusalem as a sanctuary in which God dwells. We will each have places of sanctuary -  it may be a mountain top or an ancient place of worship; it may be a place we go to alone, or one where we are blessed by the presence of others. There will be a whole range of places where we find refuge and a place to feel secure in the presence of God. Being in our sanctuary place may evoke the same feelings and ideas about God that we find in today’s Psalm – feelings of safety and peace, celebration and joy, love and righteousness.  We may feel we gain strength from our place of sanctuary to face a world in which God’s presence is sometimes difficult to find.
 
 

Prayer

Companion God,
Help me to find a place
of sanctuary in you today.
In each task that awaits,
may I feel your safety and peace,
celebration and joy,
love and righteousness.
Draw me ever closer to you
and grant me strength
as I encounter everything
that this day holds. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson,  East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Dan Morrell

Sat, 26/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Dan Morrell Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Jean Calvin 

The French reformer John Calvin was born at Noyon in Picardy in 1509 and, since he was intended for an ecclesiastical career, he received the tonsure and his first benefice at the age of twelve, not untypical at this time. Two years later he began studying theology at Paris but for some reason changed to law and moved to Orléans where he came under his first Protestant influences. He broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1533, having had a religious experience which he believed commissioned him to purify and restore the Church of Christ. The first edition of his Institutes appeared in 1536, being a justification of Reformation principles.

Calvin accepted a position in Geneva which involved organising the Reformation in that city and, after a sojourn in Strassburg, spent the rest of his life there. His pre-eminence could be seen in that he wrote to the Protector Somerset in England indicating to him what changes he felt should be made and corresponded similarly with other nations' leaders. During all this, his literary output never wavered. His immense reputation and influence have continued in the churches of the Reform to the present day. He died on this day in 1564.

Isaiah 6. 1–8 

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ Reflection “Here I am send me to be your hands and feet, here I am send me I will go”, these are the words of the bridge in Vicky Beeching’s song ‘Break Our Hearts’. Powerful words, words God wants to be hearing from us! The second verse of the song goes: “It’s time to move outside our comfort zones, to see beyond our churches and our homes. To change the way we think and how we spend, until we look like Jesus again”. I’m grateful to the work and words of, particularly Lawrence Moore, focussing on how we can be a more Jesus-shaped people, in a Jesus-shaped Church, making a Jesus-shaped difference. The words of Vicky Beeching very much resonate with this idea. Calvin’s work also hinted at something like this too: Living our lives and proclaiming God’s sovereignty to the world. Research says there’s nothing to dislike about Jesus, a large majority of people see Jesus as someone positive. However these same people’s opinions on Church are, however, far less positive. How do we solve that? Make Church look more like Jesus! Our churches need to ensure that no-one is left out, that they are places of welcome, places of sanctuary. They need not be confined by the four walls but be outgoing and open to change.

Prayer

Dynamic God,
Speak through our hearts today,
As you spoke all those years ago to Calvin.
Helps us be engines of change,
And voices for the poor and marginalised
Send us out as your people,
filled with your love
To do your work,
and make your Kingdom come
Amen

Today's Writer

Dan Morrell, currently attending St Andrew’s, Roundhay is Immediate-Past Youth Assembly Moderator

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Rosalind Selby

Fri, 25/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Rosalind Selby Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 1: 13-24

You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased  to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being,  nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days; but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother.  In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!  Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ;  they only heard it said, ‘The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.’  And they glorified God because of me.
Reflection The story of the conversion of Saul is so well known that “Damascus Road experience” has passed into our language.   Perhaps less ‘on our radar’ is the period after those few days and before Paul’s missionary journeys began. Here Paul gives us a glimpse into his experiences during those 12 years. He’s giving mixed messages but in a helpful way if we are looking for a discernment model  –  for ourselves  or as local churches or even as a denomination.

Paul’s first instinct seems to be to say – I’m not being guided by human beings but by God. God’s is the voice I’m listening to. God’s is the guidance. God’s is the grace in ‘my’ calling. But, he’s also showing us that he did consult – eventually. He talked to Cephas (Peter) and to James in Jerusalem (then the  centre of the Church).

In our Conciliar Structure (Church Meeting, Synod, Assembly) we are discerning together the will of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Many of us will have experienced meetings where one or two voices have spoken and clearly been the word we needed to hear that makes the way clear, brings peace, or offers a motivating  challenge. Both being open to God  the opinions of others, together, is the whole-ness of how we govern ourselves.

Another example is in the testing of a sense of calling in a range of lay, commissioned or ordained roles.   That calling is tested through personal prayer and consultation; both are needed. No-one can insist that ‘God is calling me to XYZ’ if that inner sense of certainty hasn’t been tested by the Councils of the Church.

This Pauline wrestling of divine and human tension is a good discipline in many areas of our church life. Perhaps this could also be an encouragement to any who chair the Church Meeting to do our best to ensure this is what really happens. And perhaps, too, this is a word  to anyone exploring a sense of calling – each person’s sense of God’s word to them does need to be tested by the wider Church in its (God-guided) humanity.
 

Prayer

God
be with us in our meeting together
in all our humanity
in all our wrestling.

God
guide us in our decision-making
as we listen to you
and to each other.

God
keep calling
keep calling us to discipleship
keep making it clear what that looks like for each person.

God
bless the places of discernment
may we be humble
to hear what others have to say
for they – and I – are part of the Body of Christ together
I’m not in this on my own.

For we ask it in Jesus’ Name. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Rosalind Selby is principal of Northern College in Manchester and a member of Didsbury 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Colin Hunt

Thu, 24/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Colin Hunt Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

John and Charles Wesley,
Evangelists, Hymn Writers, 1791 and 1788

Born at Epworth Rectory in Lincolnshire, John Wesley was the son of an Anglican clergyman and a Puritan mother. He entered Holy Orders and, following a religious experience on this day in 1738, began an itinerant ministry which recognised no parish boundaries. This resulted, after his death, in the development of a world-wide Methodist Church. His spirituality involved an Arminian affirmation of grace, frequent communion and a disciplined corporate search for holiness. His open-air preaching, concern for education and for the poor, liturgical revision, organisation of local societies and training of preachers provided a firm basis for Christian growth and mission in England.

Charles shared with his brother John the building up of early Methodist societies, as they travelled the country. His special concern was that early Methodists should remain loyal to Anglicanism. He married and settled in Bristol, later in London, concentrating his work on the local Christian communities. His thousands of hymns established a resource of lyrical piety which has enabled generations of Christians to re-discover the refining power of God's love. They celebrate God's work of grace from birth to death, the great events of God's work of salvation and the rich themes of eucharistic worship, anticipating the taking up of humanity into the divine life.

John died in 1791 and Charles in 1788.

Ezekiel 2. 1-5

The Lord God said to me: O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you. And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, "Thus says the Lord God." Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. Reflection Israel was at a low ebb. With the exception of the elderly and the weak the nation had been captured and taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel's calling was to minister to those in exile. Ezekiel was a street preacher rather than one who used the pulpit in the local synagogues. Our study passage today speaks of his call to awaken the exiles to God's presence regardless of whether or not they took notice whilst in a strange land. The underlying issue was how they would respond to the challenge. God gave Ezekiel the difficult task of declaring God's will to a people who were so wrapped up in their situation that they would not listen, but regardless, he was encouraged not to be afraid and to speak out.

On this day in 1738, John Wesley found himself in a similar position. He, and his brother Charles had returned from a mission to the Native American  in Georgia. Like the exiles in Babylon they did not listen. John and Charles returned to London feeling dejected. John records in his journal that on this day he attended a meeting in Aldersgate Street, London. Luther's preface to Romans was being read at which point John records “I felt my heart strangely warmed, I did trust in Christ and Christ alone, for salvation.”

Like Ezekiel, he became a street preacher, in market places and other centres of population. We too are today surrounded by people with fears and doubts. Often, we seemingly are unable to respond to their needs. Can we also be challenged, by meeting people where they are and respond to their doubts and fears by sharing the joy of knowing Jesus as Lord by both word and example thus revealing a new lease in life, a lease offering both freedom and security.
 
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
forgive us when we fail to respond
to the needs of others,
especially when sharing your word
would bring both comfort and hope.
Make us more sensitive
to the needs of people
who are outside the fellowship
in which we worship you.
Enable us to leave
what might be our comfort zone,  and
like Ezekiel and  John & Charles Wesley
meet people where they are,
responding to their needs,
in Jesus name.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Colin Hunt is a retired minister, worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church in Essex
 

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by David Scott

Wed, 23/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by David Scott Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 1: 10 - 12

Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Reflection An underlying theme of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is that they have gone too far. Having listened to Paul these former Gentile Galatians have converted to Christianity but have been heavily influenced by a group of Jewish Christian evangelists. They followed Paul and as far as he was concerned, they undermined his teaching resulting in much confusion.

This must have been frustrating for Paul. He has been to Galatia where for many his message has been received and accepted. Paul is clear in what this is and as the Jesus movement gained momentum he moved on. However, for others the message is not so clear as they try and weave together and negotiate a union of the old and the new. This seems like good middle ground. It’s safe and should keep everyone happy - but according to Paul they have missed the point.

Finding the safe middle ground position is often where we focus our attention through compromise and balance. This might not always be an easy option of course but even if it sparks argument and debate, at least it should keep most people happy when a conclusion is reached. In doing so, is there a danger that by making this our prime objective we too miss the point?

Paul writes to the Christians in Galatia claiming we are not called to simply keep people happy and navigate the path of least resistance to achieve this. We must therefore always be listening for the whispers and discerning God’s will before stepping out with courage and faith. As Paul emphasises, the message he brings is not of human origin so this should make us think, inspire us to act and take us to new places if we truly wish to be servants of Christ.
 

Prayer

God of grace,
In this moment
I seek stillness.
In this moment
let me reach beyond my past experiences.
Give me a sharpness of vision
as I hope for a glimpse of your presence.
Give me a clarity of hearing
as I listen for your whispers.
Show me how to be a servant of Christ.
Show me what to say and what to do.
In moments of stillness and calm
and in moments of noise and chaos;
grant me the courage
to ensure your will is done.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Scott is minister of Duke Street and Saughtonhall URCs in Edinburgh.

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Ian Fosten

Tue, 22/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Ian Fosten Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 1: 6- 9

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed!  As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! Reflection On a first reading of this passage it can seem like we are being given a stiff dose of non-negotiable, orthodox belief and the urgent command to stick to it - or else! Sadly, down the centuries this has been a feature of many otherwise well-intentioned religious and political movements, for whom high-minded ideals end up becoming hard and fast rules and those who question them are labelled heretics or unacceptable deviants.

But look and listen more closely to Paul and you will discover that this not so for him. What prompts Paul's strong words is not deviation from a strict set of party rules, rather it is a deliberate attempt by some to undermine the extraordinary gift of freedom in the Spirit, which lies at the heart of a Gospel of gracious forgiveness, by creating unnecessary hoops for new converts to jump through.  From his own experience, Paul knows that we are confined neither by the inevitably dire consequences of our past actions, nor by rigid doctrines, rather, we are welcomed into a marvellously enabling relationship within God whom we meet in Jesus - a relationship which enables us to live fully and well and, as such, make our unique contribution with God's Kingdom.

The challenge I hear in today's reading is to make sure that in my relationships, in church, in all my work I strive to create a 'hoop free zone' in order that all whom I have dealings with are given their best chance to grow freely as the Spirit leads .... and enjoy those wonderful, life-enriching fruits which we'll read about in a few chapters' time!
 
 

Prayer

God of life and love,
by your Spirit enable me to be
always a creator and
never a limiter
of opportunity
within the lives of all
whom you entrust into
my care.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ian Fosten, Norwich Area URC, Team leader

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by David Whiting

Mon, 21/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by David Whiting Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 1: 1 - 5

Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—  and all the members of God’s family who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. Reflection lToday we begin a series of devotions based upon Galatians. The letter begins in a way that is used in many letters of the time. That is the sender, who in this case is Paul, writes to the recipients, who are the churches of Galatia, then follows a word of greeting. Being Paul he departs from mere greeting and fills these opening words with theology.

Paul wants to say something about his credentials and he makes the point that no human agency has given him the title apostle, this title comes from Jesus Christ and God the Father. Paul doesn't work alone. In other letters he refers to his associates by name, here we are just told that it is those who are with him who are part of God's family.

Who are the churches in Galatia? The word Galatia is derived from the same word as the words 'Gaul' or 'Gaelic', it seems to have been likely that they were Celts. There are two suggestions about where the churches in Galatia were situated. On the one hand the term may refer to those who migrated into Asia Minor and settled there in the third century BC on the other hand it may refer to the Roman Province which was designated as such in 25 BC. The former is to the north of what is now central Turkey and the latter is to the south.

Paul greets the Galatian churches with a common greeting of grace and peace coming from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins in order to liberate from this present evil age. Paul is not only thinking about freedom from another world but is mainly thinking of those things that oppress us, things as greed, racial division, and materialism.

In these few words Paul refers both to resurrection and the sacrificial death of Christ, matters that we will read more of in this letter and in others of Paul's writings
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
you come to us in Christ,
giving of himself for our sins,
raised from the dead by you,
bringing liberation
from things that oppress,
from those things
that prevent us from drawing to you.
We thank you for messengers like Paul,
and others through the ages,
who demonstrate to us,
something of you love and concern for us,
who share the message of good news.
To you be glory for ever and ever.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Whiting is Minister of the Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership.

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by John Proctor

Sun, 20/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by John Proctor Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Cor 12:3-13 

I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says 'Let Jesus be cursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Reflection Pentecost. Birthday of the church. Festival of the Holy Spirit. A high and holy day in the Church year. These verses from 1 Corinthians were written to remind a tense and divided company of Christians about the life they shared, in Christ and with one another. The key themes are parity and variety: we are equal yet different; one body in Christ and richly diverse as members of it.

The Spirit gives parity. Christians are in this together. None of us could believe in the risen Jesus, unless the Spirit had kindled that faith within us (v3). Each of us can contribute to the life of the fellowship, in ways that make the Spirit known (v7). All of us have received a touch of the Spirit through the poured water of baptism (v13). We are one. None is greater or better than the rest. All stand on one level - the Spirit level. That is an essential part of being Christian.

The Spirit also gives variety. Because we worship and work together, we cannot afford to be clones and copies of one another. How boring, monochrome and ineffective the church would be if we were. Thank God, the Spirit gives different gifts, varied patterns of service, distinct streams of grace and goodness that flow through and from the lives of Christ's people. The blessing of the Spirit is, in that sense, a mixed blessing, a sweet and wholesome blend, as each of us shares with others what God has shared with us.

So how does Christ's presence in your life enrich the lives of other people? What have you gained from your faith, and how do others gain from that? And how does Christ's presence in other people enrich you? Even - especially - people who are unlike you may have much to contribute to your Christian experience, to show you and share with you of the life of Christ. Pentecost is a day to celebrate all of this.
 

Prayer

Pentecost God, of breath and flame,
coming to the one and the many,
showing Jesus among us and within us,
sharing grace and spreading gifts,
teach us to give and receive in Christian fellowship,
to delight and depend on Jesus,
and to nurture the life of his body, the church.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John Proctor is a URC member in Cambridge, and General Secretary of 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Andy Lie

Sat, 19/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Andy Lie Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 50: 15-26     

Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?’  So they approached Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this instruction before he died,  “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, ‘We are here as your slaves.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God?  Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.  So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.’ In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s household; and Joseph lived for one hundred and ten years.  Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation; the children of Machir son of Manasseh were also born on Joseph’s knees.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die; but God will surely come to you, and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ So Joseph made the Israelites swear, saying, ‘When God comes to you, you shall carry up my bones from here.’ And Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
Reflection We now come to the end of Genesis, with the intrigues and plots of the Joseph Story fresh in our minds.  Joseph dies and is buried after a long settled life and distinguished career in a foreign land, and laid to rest there till his remains are taken to his ‘homeland’. Through time and fortuitous circumstances, yet feeling intense inner pain, Joseph’s willingness to forgive led to reconciliation with his brothers and an eventual reunion with his father.

Joseph’s rise to power should not detract from the fact that he got to Egypt by force. It resonates with the contemporary situation of millions of people being displaced fleeing war, poverty, racism, inhumanity, and calamities of nature - although most of these people don’t do as well as Joseph.   In this story, God is mentioned only at the critical points leaving much unsaid.

Joseph refused to repay his brothers in kind for the way they had treated him. Would he have done so if they were not his brothers or had he not been in a position of authority?

How then do we read this passage in light of revelations of sexual abuse in all our institutions? What about the “Me-too” campaign in outing celebrities who have blighted the lives of many? Do the perpetrators necessarily assume the right to be forgiven? Have we witnessed sufficient personal and institutional contrition?   

Should we see ourselves as Joseph, who had power as Second-in-Command in Pharaoh’s Court, hence claiming some moral high-ground? Or, might it not be that our real place is that of his brothers - mortals in constant need of forgiveness? The beauty of Hebrew Biblical narrative, with its ethical conundrums, is that it doesn’t give you pet answers and constantly challenges the values of our ‘civilised society’.

I take heart in today’s royal wedding, with an outsider marrying into Establishment. Introducing cultural diversity into the royal household, Meghan herself has had to overcome and to forgive racial abuse.
 

Prayer

God,
give us the heart we need to forgive others,
to grow in grace, understanding and love,
so that our forgiving of others may echo,
even faintly,
your forgiving of us.
We ask in the name of Jesus who,
even in his deepest pain,
forgave his tormentors and taught us all
the depth of love.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Andy Lie is the Ecumenical Officer for 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Ros Lyle

Fri, 18/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Ros Lyle Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 47: 27-31    

Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the region of Goshen; and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied exceedingly.  Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were one hundred forty-seven years. When the time of Israel’s death drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favour with you, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal loyally and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt.    When I lie down with my ancestors, carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.” And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself on the head of his bed. Reflection Death talk in my family was usually my grandmother’s preserve.  She was good at it and took a bit of an unseemly interest in the machinations and manoeuvrings that might accompany someone’s demise.  Very often at the heart of it all would be a discussion around who held the ‘title deeds to the lair’- a Scottish phrase meaning who owned the plot in the cemetery.  This individual was able to determine who went in and who was left out.

Abraham had the title deeds for the lair in the field of Machpelah. He bought it to bury Sarah, thus laying claim to it  for him and his descendants. He was buried there and Isaac, Rebekhah and Leah and it is to this burial place, far from Egypt, that Jacob wants to be carried.  His wish is about getting back to the land that he believed God had promised to him and his descendants and he makes Joseph pledge to deal truly with him and carry out his bidding.  A touch ironic for the man who cheated his own father, Isaac, and received the blessing meant for his brother Esau.

It is important to take time to think about what we want to leave behind when we die; to make sure that we don’t leave behind a mess for other people to clear up; that family and friends aren’t left carrying the dead bones of our wishes for the rest of their lives.  More, that our final wishes are not too demanding or divisive but life enhancing for those who come after. My grandmother’s observations about the family intrigues and unpleasantness following the death of loved ones were not based on fantasy; the stories of the patriarchs are testimony to household strife.  Even the closest families can struggle.

The greatest legacy, of course, is how we live and share love now.  How we walk the way of Jesus today, can make it easier for those we leave behind tomorrow.
 

Prayer

God who holds us fast in life and death,
help me to cherish your gift of life
and live it to the full.
And when I die,
by the mystery of your grace,
may my life have been a blessing to others.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ros Lyle is a retired minister and a member of Muswell Hill 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Peter Rand

Thu, 17/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Peter Rand Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 47: 21-26    

As for the people, he made slaves of them from one end of Egypt to the other. Only the land of the priests he did not buy; for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh, and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land. Then Joseph said to the people, "Now that I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh, here is seed for you; sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones." They said, "You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be slaves to Pharaoh." So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth. The land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh's. Reflection There used to be a company directory called “Who owns whom?” In ancient Egypt, there could have been an entry: “Owner: Pharaoh – Owned: every person.”

What do we think of this story? It meant that everyone had food to eat now and seed to plant to grow food for the future. The people’s prayer ‘Give us, each day, the food that we need’ was answered. But at what cost? And at whose cost? As I write, we are hearing the news of the collapse of the huge construction and services company Carillion, and I heard a discussion between two young people about the relative merits of Capitalism and Communism. Neither of them argued very well, sadly.  Whenever we talk about these great systems, we tend to see only how corrupt human beings wreck them. Which system was operating under Pharaoh and Joseph? I can imagine two residents of Joseph’s Egypt discussing the question: ‘So, the state owns us now, body and soul.’ ‘Yes, but at least we are sure to eat! With Pyramid Construction and Agriculture Inc., we could be starving!’ Were Joseph’s food policies benign dictatorship or tyranny?

These are huge questions. As individual Christians, can we hope to influence governments and multi-national companies? Well, surely, we must answer ‘yes’, otherwise we are just pawns, to be pushed around. God has given each of us a brain and intellect. The least we can do is to understand the questions, inform ourselves of what is happening. Who owns us? Jesus said “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” The word translated ‘life’ is ‘psuche’ – which could mean ‘soul’ or ‘essential self’ – much more than just ‘physical life’. Who does the ‘essential you’ belong to?

 
 

Prayer

Lord of ALL,
may those who have power in the world
use it benignly,
so as to ensure
that every human being flourishes.
May we use our wealth and intellects
to ensure those in power
are held to account. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Rand is a retired URC minister and a member of Trinity Church, Bedlington

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Lawrence Moore

Wed, 16/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Lawrence Moore Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 47: 13-20

Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe. The land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. Joseph collected all the money to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. When the money from the land of Egypt and from the land of Canaan was spent, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said, ‘Give us food! Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.’ And Joseph answered, ‘Give me your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.’ So they brought their livestock to Joseph; and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. That year he supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock. When that year was ended, they came to him the following year, and said to him, ‘We cannot hide from my lord that our money is all spent; and the herds of cattle are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our lands. Shall we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land in exchange for food. We with our land will become slaves to Pharaoh; just give us seed, so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.’

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh. All the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe upon them; and the land became Pharaoh’s.
Reflection This story highlights the canniness of Joseph the royal administrator, right?  Now read to the end of the section (v26). By exploiting the vulnerability of the people Pharaoh acquires all the money, land and the citizens as slaves in exchange for seed.  In return, they produce crops, but tithe 20% to Pharaoh. He becomes the most powerful ruler in the region, presiding over one vast slave system. This is all Joseph’s doing!

The Joseph story paves the way for Exodus.  Israel does not belong in Egypt but in the land that God promised.  Israel is not to live by the whim of Pharaoh, but by the grace of Yahweh – the God of the “little people” and the liberator of slaves.  

Two related themes, then: living by faith in the promises of God, and the issue of daily bread.  In Genesis Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all veer between trusting God and taking matters into their own hands.  Here, Joseph uses his access to Empire to secure a future for his family (v27) by making Pharoah rich. It’s a smart move - how could God not approve? But as Brueggemann comments, “Joseph’s shrewdness shows that entering the world of the empire brings dangers with it.  The Egyptian empire offers food and therefore life. But it is never far from exploitation, oppression and slavery”.

Joseph will provide what the people need … at a price - their money and freedom.  This is the way of Empire and the Market. It is compassionless.

That is why Jesus teaches us to ask God for daily bread. It comes with neither strings nor chains attached: we need; God loves.  There is more than enough! The challenge for the Church today is to learn to trust God’s promises of a future and provision for all we need.  We learn that from following Jesus. It’s the only way to resist the temptations of Empire and the Market; to sell our souls in exchange for the promise of a future.
 

Prayer

Exodus God,
Lead us from the land of scarcity.
Deliver us from gnawing anxiety.
Liberate us from the terror that our future depends on our own ingenuity.

Lead us from mere existence to Life.
Teach us to trust you.
Keep us from compromise.
Make us faithfully bold.

May our lives resemble Jesus - individually and as churches.
May we be the answer to the prayers of others.
May we make a Jesus-shaped difference in our communities and our world,
By your grace and by your Spirit.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Lawrence Moore is a Mission & Discipleship consultant and member of Worsley Rd URC in 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Linda Rayner

Tue, 15/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Linda Rayner Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 47: 1-12    

So Joseph went and told Pharaoh, "My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan; they are now in the land of Goshen."  From among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, "What is your occupation?" And they said to Pharaoh, "Your servants are shepherds, as our ancestors were." They said to Pharaoh, "We have come to reside as aliens in the land; for there is no pasture for your servants' flocks because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, we ask you, let your servants settle in the land of Goshen." Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land; let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know that there are capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock." Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob, and presented him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh.  Pharaoh said to Jacob, "How many are the years of your life?"  Jacob said to Pharaoh, "The years of my earthly sojourn are one hundred thirty; few and hard have been the years of my life. They do not compare with the years of the life of my ancestors during their long sojourn."  Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.  Joseph settled his father and his brothers, and granted them a holding in the land of Egypt, in the best part of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had instructed. And Joseph provided his father, his brothers, and all his father's household with food, according to the number of their dependents. Reflection At first glance, it seems unlikely that this little story, rooted in a culture lost over millennia, could speak to us. However, there are plenty of messages for individuals and churches as the story of Joseph unfolds.

Following rejection and suffering caused by jealous brothers, escapades worthy of any adventure-book hero, and a prolonged, forced absence from family, Joseph now has a high-profile, high-office position in Pharaoh’s palace, where he is trusted, respected and known as an excellent listener. His family however, has hit some very hard times, and finally make their way to Joseph, looking for help.

Joseph welcomes them with open arms, is not ashamed of his relations and introduces them to his boss. One feature of this period was the importance of family, and here we see family love enduring beyond challenges that we in today’s culture might consider insurmountable. Joseph doesn’t only welcome them, he works with Pharaoh to provide them with a good place to live, and Pharaoh offers them some shepherding work with his own flock.
When Joseph’s father, Jacob is introduced, Pharaoh accepts blessings from him and asks his age - indicating respect for the older generation – even though Jacob suggests that, at a mere 130, he is relatively young!

What message does all this hold for modern-day discipleship and Church? Joseph cared for his brothers in their time of trouble regardless of what had gone before. He didn’t take decisions on his own; instead he discussed and managed the choices, ensuring that Pharaoh agreed with every idea - he was an excellent listener. Both Joseph and Pharaoh respected immediate, and extended, family, deferring to the older generation. Together they ensured the ongoing care of a displaced group of people and their extended families.

Today’s Western culture may not place so much emphasis on family ties, but 21st Century disciples and churches (whether new expressions, or traditional) are called to offer unconditional hospitality, listening, welcome and care as they serve the neediest people.
 

Prayer

Compassionate God,
Be with your disciples
and your churches today,
as we try to lead lives of servanthood, caring for those who feel dispossessed, abandoned or lost.

Help us to offer
compassion at all times.
Help us to forgive,
if that is what is needed.

Help us to respect our church
and community families,
and to make all decisions
in a spirit of unity and sharing.

Lord, we look to you for guidance
as we try to go out to share your message
in the 21
st Century.
In the name of your son,
Jesus Christ

Amen
 

Today's Writer

Linda Rayner. URC Co-ordinator for fresh expressions of Church

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Neil Thorogood

Mon, 14/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Neil Thorogood Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 45: 21-28

The sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them wagons according to the instruction of Pharaoh, and he gave them provisions for the journey. To each one of them he gave a set of garments; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five sets of garments. To his father he sent the following: ten donkeys loaded with the good things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain, bread, and provision for his father on the journey. Then he sent his brothers on their way, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Do not quarrel along the way.’

So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. And they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive! He is even ruler over all the land of Egypt.’ He was stunned; he could not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph that he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. Israel said, ‘Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him before I die.’
Reflection This chapter of Genesis takes us first to the reunion between Joseph and his brothers and then to the ripples of that reunion reaching out from Egypt to embrace Jacob in the land of Canaan. The brothers are sent on their way now as messengers of the deepest joy. They arrive home laden with the treasures that speak of blessing offered not simply by Joseph, but by Pharaoh himself. Egypt is opening its doors to this alien household and sends the wagons that will gather them all in; hospitality to strangers is assured because Joseph is already known and loved. The invitation is enough to revive Jacob as if almost a resurrection.

The resonances to our day are striking, aren’t they? People are travelling. Across borders people flee as lone individuals and as huddled masses. We are tempted to bracket them such that economic migrants seeking better lives are far less welcome than those in fear of torture and death. Yet all may well have paid the traffickers, lost everything and risked their lives simply to stand upon our soil. My son is now working with refugees in Derby. He can retell stories of the deepest human suffering and the brutal harshness of our “hospitality”.

We need to read and reread this story of people travelling and of families reunited across the impossible miles. We need to hear of a father’s broken heart mended by a reunion he never thought possible. We need to notice those around us who are longing for even a tiny glimmer of welcome and of love. We need to notice that God’s unfolding story is very much a story of migration being a blessing and welcome being a need. In my heart as in my church what are the deep attitudes shaping how we respond to the stranger, to the traveller, to the newcomer seeking shelter?
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
travelling with us,
open our hearts and homes
to welcome others in.
As you travelled the ancient road
from Egypt to Canaan and back again
keep company with us along our way.
Create amongst us
a welcome and a warmth
that can turn strangers into friends,
divisions into healing,
mistrust into hope,
indifference into kindness.
As Joseph prepared to welcome Jacob
prepare us for each day’s
encounters with others.
We ask it in the name of
the one who was a stranger
who came to welcome all of us home.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Neil Thorogood is Principal of the URC’s Westminster College in Cambridge

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Dan Morrell

Sun, 13/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Dan Morrell Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 47

1 All nations, clap your hands and shout!
Let joyful cries to God ring out!
2 How awesome is the LORD Most High,
Great King who rules the earth throughout!

3 He has subdued beneath our feet
The nations who had been our foes.
4 In blessing Jacob, whom he loved,
A heritage for us he chose.

5 God has gone up with shouts of joy,
The LORD amid the trumpets’ sound.
6 Sing praise, sing praise to God Most High;
To God our King let praise abound.

7 For God is King of all the earth;
Sing psalms of praise to him alone.
8 God rules the nations from on high;
He sits upon his holy throne.

9 The leaders of the nations come
To yield themselves to Abr’ham’s God.
To him belong the shields of earth;
Exalted greatly is the LORD!


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the tune Warrington here  Reflection Poetry has never been my strong suit. I struggle to see past a poem that doesn’t rhyme so I’m glad this Psalm translation does. Beyond the pretty rhyming couplets we see instructions, a sending out for us all to go and sing the praises of our God to others. This is no mean feat, it’s relatively easy for us to sing God’s praises in church on Sunday, especially when everyone else is doing that same thing. How much do we challenge ourselves to do this, to tell people about God’s awesome wonder in our everyday lives?

“You shall go out with joy” is the song that comes to mind when reading this Psalm. You SHALL, no back-sies! We’ve been commanded to go out and celebrate the good news, it’s our role as Christians. And as the United Reformed Church as we begin to embark on this journey of Missional Discipleship, this need to sing God’s praises is more prevalent than ever. It’s necessarily, it’s VITAL. It should be a core part of our lives, not something we do on a Sunday.
 

Prayer

The Lord to be Praised,
Help us to learn of your love for us,
Help us to be guided to singing your name
Send us out with joy,
and lead us forth with peace,
So that we may sing of your glory,
and of your might.
So that at your name,
every knee shall bow.
Amen

Today's Writer

Dan Morrell is the Immediate-Past Moderator of Youth Assembly worshipping at St Andrew's Roundhay, in Leeds.

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Hilary Collinson

Sat, 12/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Hilary Collinson Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 45: 16-20

When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, ‘Joseph’s brothers have come’, Pharaoh and his servants were pleased. Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Say to your brothers, “Do this: load your animals and go back to the land of Canaan. Take your father and your households and come to me, so that I may give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you may enjoy the fat of the land.” You are further charged to say, “Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Give no thought to your possessions, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.”’ Reflection High above Swaledale sits the ruins of a chapel once used as a hunting lodge but given by Lord Wharton (of Bible gifts fame) as a chapel for the Dissenters in the Dale. Their successors have come down now to the village of Low Row and, along with the other Christians in the Dale, have formed links with refugees in Middlesborough. Not just giving ‘stuff’ but inviting the refugees to events in the Dale where stories are told of each others’ lives. The Embroidery Guild and Middlesborough guests had a wonderful day together sharing their mutual interest, while the children had a marvellous ‘outdoor pursuits’ experience provided by Marrick Priory.

The market town of Northallerton have received, like many communities throughout the UK, Syrian refugees through the Refugee Council scheme. The churches in the town have again been active in welcoming the families and helping them ‘make a house a home’.

Pharaoh’s generous welcome and offer of hospitality reminds us that Christians are not the only people who can offer a place of refuge and hope to those fleeing their own land for whatever reason- natural disaster, or human-made. Whilst we know the end of the story under another Pharaoh, let us stop for a moment and remind ourselves that this Pharaoh did offer sanctuary to Joseph’s far extended family, but he went beyond just a welcome, he gave the best land and wagons to bring the vulnerable to this haven.

May we be touched too with this spirit of lavish hospitality – going beyond the immediate needs of refugees and asylum seekers in our communities – and, like the people of the dales open up opportunities for learning from each other in mutual respect.
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
We thank you that you
are a God of generosity
and, indeed, lavishness.
We are sorry when we hoard things
for ourselves and fail to extend
those gifts to others.

We ask your forgiveness.

We ask that today,
as we ponder the generosity
of a long-dead Pharaoh,
we may be open-hearted and open-handed
with those we encounter today.

For the sake of Jesus Christ.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Hilary Collinson a Minister in the Tees and Swale 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Heather Penceval

Fri, 11/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Heather Penceval Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 45: 1-15

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, 'Send everyone away from me.' So no-one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?' But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come closer to me.' And they came closer. He said, 'I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh and Lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, as well as your flocks, your herds and all that you have. I will provide for you there– since there are five more years of famine to come– so that you and your household and all that you have will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honoured in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.' then he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
Reflection Joseph never forgot that he was an exile, separated from his family as a result of his own youthful arrogance, his father's indulgence and his brothers' jealousy. His first son was called Manasseh (causing to forget), for, Joseph said, God has made me forget all my troubles and my father's family (Gen. 41:51). But the name itself was a constant reminder. Joseph hadn't forgotten; he had simply buried the memory deep inside himself, and with it all the anger, distress, hurt and sadness too painful to be borne.

Nor had his brothers forgotten. As soon as their mission to buy grain began to go wrong, their first thought was that they were being punished because of Joseph.

Now Joseph and his brothers stand face to face. There is fear in the room; there is guilt as they all remember the past. There is despair. There is pain – the deep hurt of past sins.

The teller of this ancient story knows how to describe overwhelming emotion. Joseph's weeping echoed through the house. Joseph needed reconciliation as much as his brothers did. The past cannot be forgotten until it has been forgiven. All the unresolved feelings, kept buried for years, swept over him, and the man who governed Egypt could not govern his own tears.

The spectre of the past is suddenly a present reality. But Joseph has changed: he is able to see the past and the present from a new perspective – it is the hand of a loving God which has brought his brothers into his power and so prepared the salvation of their people, with bread and forgiveness.
In the prayer which Jesus taught his followers, the only two petitions are for daily bread and forgiveness. It is only by sharing both that we can bring justice and peace to our divided world.
 

Prayer

Unchanging God,
when past memories haunt us
and we cherish old grudges,
forgive us for yesterday and for today.
When we come face to face
with things we hide even from ourselves,
remind us that your constant love
understands and forgives us all.
When a new future calls
give us courage to walk in hope
and share bread and forgiveness
that your kingdom may come. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Heather Pencavel is retired minister and member of Thornbury URC, South Gloucestershire.

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Leo Roberts

Thu, 10/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Leo Roberts Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 44: 14-34    

Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house while he was still there; and they fell to the ground before him. Joseph said to them, “What deed is this that you have done? Do you not know that one such as I can practice divination?” And Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? How can we clear ourselves? God has found out the guilt of your servants; here we are then, my lord’s slaves, both we and also the one in whose possession the cup has been found.” But he said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the one in whose possession the cup was found shall be my slave; but as for you, go up in peace to your father.” Then Judah stepped up to him and said, “O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself.  My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead; he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, so that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall see my face no more.’ When we went back to your servant my father we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother goes with us, will we go down; for we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’  Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons;  one left me, and I said, Surely he has been torn to pieces; and I have never seen him since.  If you take this one also from me, and harm comes to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to Sheol.’  Now therefore, when I come to your servant my father and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, when he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die; and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became surety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.” Reflection “Here I am Lord, send me.” Ok, that passage from Isaiah is the wrong passage – but it’s the same sentiment. It speaks of self-sacrifice, just as Judah offered himself to Joseph as a slave in place of Benjamin. Self-sacrifice for the benefit of someone else – not just Benjamin, but also his father who needed Benjamin to look after him – having lost Joseph, his favourite, due to the plotting and jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, and believed him to be dead.

We read on and, of course, the father finds out that Joseph is not dead, but is still alive. I bet there was a party. There usually was when these things happened. Any excuse.

It also reminds me of any number of detective stories when someone will falsely confess to having committed a crime so that someone they love, who was actually guilty, might be set free.
Now, I love my brothers and sisters (at LEAST 72% of the time) but would I be strong enough to offer myself in their place? It might take a bit of soul-searching that one.

And it doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to see parallels with the New Testament. Someone who sacrifices himself for the benefit of others, someone who was dearly loved by his Father, to someone who would ‘come back from the dead’ and isn’t recognised by those who were once close to him.

Thank goodness that in Jesus we had, we have, someone who was prepared to make that sacrifice.
 

Prayer

Lord, we thank you
for your sacrifice that set us free.
We offer to you our free lives,
to do your work,
to be your hands.
We know that this will mean
that we will have to make sacrifices
and yet we say:
“Here I am, Lord, send me”

Amen

Today's Writer

Leo Roberts is the Children and Young People's Development Officer for the North Western 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Daily Devotion by Branwen Rees

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Branwen Rees Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Genesis 44: 1-13

Then he commanded the steward of his house, ‘Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the top of his sack.  Put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.’ And he did as Joseph told him.  As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys.  When they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, ‘Go, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, “Why have you returned evil for good? Why have you stolen my silver cup?  Is it not from this that my lord drinks? Does he not indeed use it for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.”’
When he overtook them, he repeated these words to them.  They said to him, ‘Why does my lord speak such words as these? Far be it from your servants that they should do such a thing! Look, the money that we found at the top of our sacks, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan; why then would we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house?  Should it be found with any one of your servants, let him die; moreover, the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.’  He said, ‘Even so; in accordance with your words, let it be: he with whom it is found shall become my slave, but the rest of you shall go free.’  Then each one quickly lowered his sack to the ground, and each opened his sack.  He searched, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest; and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.  At this they tore their clothes. Then each one loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city.
Reflection Thanks to Messrs Lloyd-Webber and Rice, this oh so familiar story of Joseph hurtles towards its climax.  Talk about role reversal – the once powerful, bullying brothers are at the mercy of their unrecognised brother.  The previously arrogant Joseph now sees his opportunity - was he out to test his brothers to see if they had changed their ways or was this simple revenge?

How often are we presented with such a moment – a chance to say, ‘I told you so’, an opportunity to get our own back on someone who has slighted us, maybe even years earlier?  It is so tempting to take the opportunity, after all what is it they say, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’.  Social media has certainly made it easier for people to retaliate - be it revenge porn or simple rumour spreading; even better when it can be done anonymously behind a keyboard.

If you don’t know already, you’ll have to wait a few days to find out what Joseph did, but every day we hold power over people – what do we do, do we genuinely forgive and forget, or do we listen to that voice which says, ‘go on, do it, make them suffer as you have’?
 

Prayer

Lord,
we have enormous power for good or ill,
help us, in our daily lives,
to make the right choice,
for as the psalmist said,
‘walk away from evil and do good …
for the Lord loves what is right’.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Branwen Rees, East Wales Regional Minister

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Pages