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URC Daily Devotion 29th November 2017

URC Devotions - Wed, 29/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th November 2017 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 18: 28 - 19:16

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate went out to them and said,

“What accusation do you bring against this man?”  

They answered,

“If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.”

Pilate said to them,

“Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.”

The Jews replied,
“We are not permitted to put anyone to death.”
(This was to fulfill what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him,
 
“Are you the King of the Jews?”
 
Jesus answered,

“Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?”

Pilate replied,

“I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”

Jesus answered,

“My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

Pilate asked him,

“So you are a king?”

Jesus answered,

“You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate asked him,

“What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again and told them,

“I find no case against him. But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?”

They shouted in reply,

“Not this man, but Barabbas!”
 
Now Barabbas was a bandit. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.  And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying,

“Hail, King of the Jews!”

and striking him on the face. Pilate went out again and said to
them,
 
“Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.”
So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them,
“Here is the man!”
 
When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted,

“Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Pilate said to them,

“Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.”

The Jews answered him,

“We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.”

Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus,

“Where are you from?”

But Jesus gave him no answer. Pilate therefore said to him,

“Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?”

Jesus answered him,

“You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out,

“If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor.”

When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge’s bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews,

“Here is your King!”

They cried out,

“Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!”

Pilate asked them,

“Shall I crucify your King?”

The chief priests answered,

“We have no king but the emperor.”

Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
Reflection Members of both the judiciaries that operate England, Wales and Scotland take an oath where they swear to “do right to all manner of people...without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”  It’s a very old oath and is at the cornerstone of our judicial system designed to ensure justice is done.  The oath represents the very opposite of Pilate’s understanding of his role.  Pilate is the epitome of the weak judge who goes with the flow rather than with what is right.  

Jesus seems to engage Pilate until the fateful words “what is truth?” after which He is much more curt.  The powerless speaks truth to power yet the powerful doesn’t understand, nor care, much for truth let alone right!

In our contemporary Western culture we also have a troubled relationship with truth. Since the Enlightenment we see something as true only if it can be scientifically proved.  Of course conceding that ground was bad news for religion where the truths we deal in are the truths of meaning, and myth which guide our lives.  Paradoxically, our culture sees many competing ideas as being equally true - your truth is as good as my truth. Despite Pilate’s weakness we may think his question was rather PostModern.  

So what do we make of truth?  Do we claim to have a higher or better understanding of truth than others?  Perhaps the only way to evaluate truth is to think of the Judicial Oath. Does the truth we live by do right to all manner of people without fear or favour, affection or ill will?
 

Prayer

O Jesus,
you who are:

The Way;
The Truth;
and the Life;
grant us the will to live by your truth,
and do right to all manner of people,
without fear or favour,
affection or ill will.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Andy Braunston is a minister in the Synod of Scotland's Southside Cluster serving Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs.

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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Devotions and Junk/Spam Mail

URC Devotions - Tue, 28/11/2017 - 18:58
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Junk/Spam Email

Dear <<First Name>>

For some time we've had a problem where some people find that the Daily Devotions end up in the Spam/Junk folder.  This can be an intermittent problem so people email me to ask if they have been removed from the list.

I have been working with the URC's email provider and think we've changed enough settings to reduce this problem.  I would also suggest you add DailyDevotions@urc.org.uk to your contacts and your Safe Sender list.  You may need to google to find out how your email programme manages Safe Sender lists.  

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 28 November 2017

URC Devotions - Tue, 28/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28 November 2017 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 18: 12 - 27

So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.  Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest,  but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in.  The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching.  Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret.  Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’  When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’  Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’  Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’  One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’  Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Reflection Snakes and ladders is such a frustrating game. One moment the feeling of annoyance when suddenly we go down a snake. Such games are random and, while we can feel out of control, real life is also shaped by the decisions we take. The real life snakes are often more subtle; we start with something small and, before we know it, we are sliding faster and further than we wanted.

I picture Peter getting increasingly vexed as he replies to those who ask if he knew Jesus.  A combination of fear of the authorities and not wanting to go back on what he had said drives his denials. Judas is seen as the dangerous denier and Peter, we know, resolves things with the risen Christ. Jesus had warned Peter what was to happen because Jesus knew and understood what people are like.

Like Peter, it is the small steps that can catch us out. The small denials set us on a difficult path - whether that is in caring for ourselves or living the faith. We gradually slip from the path we hoped to take, sometimes, like Peter we lash out at those who point out our error or hypocrisy. Like Peter, the dawn can bring the realisation of how we have stepped away from the life Christ hopes for us. Like Peter, on another day, we have the chance to begin again. Walking with Christ helps us find the small steps which help live a life with more ladders than snakes.

Like Peter we do not set out to deny Christ either in word or action. Jesus knew what a struggle being human is. Christ is ready to journey with us throughout our lives. If even some days we can manage to be just a little more Christ-like, a little more able to hold to our devotion to the way he has set before us, we will, indeed, be on a right path.
 

Prayer

Creator God,
you know the struggles of being human.
Strengthen us.
Son of God,
you know how easily people turn away from you.
Strengthen us
Holy spirit,
you know how much help
each one of us needs
to follow the right path set before us
Strengthen and guide us
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Martyn Coe is a minister in the South Lakes Group of Churches, Cumbria.

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 27 November 2017

URC Devotions - Mon, 27/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27 November 2017 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 18: 1-11

After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, because Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that was to happen to him, came forward and asked them,
‘For whom are you looking?’
They answered,
‘Jesus of Nazareth.’
Jesus replied, ‘I am he.’
Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, ‘I am he’,  they stepped back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them,
‘For whom are you looking?’
And they said,
‘Jesus of Nazareth.’
Jesus answered,
‘I told you that I am he.  So if you are looking for me, let these men go.’
This was to fulfil the word that he had spoken,
‘I did not lose a single one of those whom you gave me.’
Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter,
‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?’
Reflection Who hasn’t been betrayed?

Betrayal is one of those circumstances, when we suffer disloyalty from another human being, but the deceit and hurt can lie embedded in our emotions for many years.

This scene of betrayal in John’s Gospel is the most tragic, yet the most powerful in the passion narrative. Here, centre stage are Jesus and Judas, both knowing why they were there, and for Jesus, the path to the cross is looming ever higher. The on lookers, of which they are many, the disciples, the soldiers, police and Pharisees take a back stage, and in the dim light of torches the scene unfolds.

The betrayer and betrayed facing each other.

What about the betrayed? Jesus accepts the betrayal of Judas, knowing that it will  bring glory to God, but the betrayal leaves him at a fork in the road, and to progress onwards to the Cross, Jesus needs to forgive Judas and give instructions to the onlookers and especially to Simon Peter ‘Put your sword back into its sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me? His acute love for his disciples, and I would include Judas here, is clear as he accepts what is to come, with no arguments or defence.

What about the betrayer? Judas is often portrayed in a bad light, but are all people who betray ruthless people? We are all capable of betrayal, it is part of our humanity, for we are imperfect beings, yet for Judas and I expect for most people, the first act of moving onwards is to accept the consequences of our actions and then to seek forgiveness from the person we have wronged. Did Judas ever feel forgiveness and love from Jesus? I think he did, but Judas’ stumbling block was that he could not forgive himself.

This scenario is as real as any modern day situation, political or relational or even a Shakespearean play, a tragedy, a love story, a story of right and wrong, and story of truth and lies, betrayer and betrayed.


We will at some point all deal with betrayal, the secret is knowing how to love and forgive, then move on in God’s grace.
 

Prayer

‘Our job is to Love others,
without stopping to inquire
whether or not they are worthy’.

Thomas Merton

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is minister at Fleet URC and Beacon Hill , Hindhead URC.Wessex Synod

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 26th November 2017

URC Devotions - Sun, 26/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 26th November 2017 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 25

To you, O LORD, I lift my soul;
I trust in you continually.
Do not let me be put to shame,
Nor let my foes gloat over me.

No one who sets his hope in you
Will ever suffer such disgrace,
But those who act with treachery
Humiliating shame will face.

O LORD, reveal to me your ways,
And all your paths help me to know.
Direct and guide me in your truth;
Instruct me in the way to go.

You are my Saviour and my God;
All day I hope in you alone.
Remember, LORD, your love and grace
Which from past ages you have shown.

Do not recall my sins of youth
Or my rebellious, evil ways;
Remember me in your great love,
For you, O LORD, are good always.

Because the LORD is just and good,
He shows his paths to all who stray.
He guides the meek in what is right
And teaches them his holy way.

To those who keep his covenant laws
He shows his love consistently.
For your name’s sake, O LORD my God,
Forgive my great iniquity.

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
He’ll teach to them the chosen way
That they may prosper all their life;
Their children in the land will stay.

God’s friends are those who fear his name;
With them his cov’nant he will share.
My eyes are always on the LORD;
He’ll free my feet from every snare.

Turn to me, LORD, show me your grace;
I suffer pain and loneliness.
The troubles of my heart have grown;
Deliver me from my distress.

Look on my pain and suffering;
Forgive all my iniquity.
See how my foes have multiplied,
How fierce their hatred is for me!

O guard my life and rescue me,
And let me not be put to shame;
For I take refuge in you, LORD,
From those who would destroy my name.

Because I hope in you alone,
Let uprightness protect me still.
From all their troubles, O my God,
Redeem your people Israel.

You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the tune Finnart
here (from the fourth stanza) Reflection The Psalm is a prayer of confidence in the activity of God in a person’s life. It is perhaps possible to imagine the Psalmist reflecting back over a period of time, thinking about the events of his life and his sense of the presence, and absence, of God during the passage of time. God as teacher and the One who forgives are prominent themes throughout the Psalm and although the Psalm narrates a deeply personal faith experience, the Psalmist concludes by looking outwards to his community and asks for salvation for Israel.  We get a sense that it is important to the Psalmist that he does not ‘let God down’ and the opening and closing of the Psalm reinforce the importance of trust and hope in God.

I suspect that many of us will have had similar faith experiences to the Psalmist.  If we stop to reflect there will have been times when we are keenly aware of God’s presence and times when we feel God is absent. We will have shared that sense of not wanting to ‘let God down’, but will also know there are many times when we have done just that and we have asked for forgiveness. Throughout our faith journeys have trust and hope been the dominant motifs?

As part of a recent sabbatical I did a mindfulness course. Although a secular course I found it to be an enriching part of my own spirituality and I am continuing to practise mindfulness as a spiritual discipline. Those who use it from a faith perspective often use the silence in a way similar to the Psalmist, to reflect upon life’s experiences and notice the dominant themes in life. An image which frequently comes in my experience is of being securely held by the love of God, just as a coracle holds a person safe while being buffeted by the wind and waves.

Whatever this day has in store for you, why not follow the example of the psalmist and take time to stop and reflect on your own faith experience, thanking God for God’s presence in your life and noticing the importance of trust and hope?
 

Prayer

O God in the quietness
of these few minutes
Help me to still my body,
mind and soul
and consciously turn to you.
May I be open to your presence in my life;
may I feel your love holding me
in this present moment;
and may trust and hope
guide me all my future days.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson is minister of the  East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate in the National Synod of Scotland.

Bible Version

 
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 25th November

URC Devotions - Sat, 25/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 25th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Issac Watts
Hymn Writer, Theologian and Independent Pastor

Born in Southampton in 1674, Isaac Watts was educated at the local grammar school and had the opportunity to go on to university, but was unable to do so as he was a Dissenter - Oxford and Cambridge were only open to Anglicans.  Instead he attended the the Dissenting Academy at Stoke Newington. He received there an education of high academic standard and he went on to become a pastor to an Independent (later known as Congregational) Church. Because of his deteriorating health, he resigned this post in 1712 and retired to Stoke Newington.  Isaac wrote many collections of hymns, and his own faith showed clearly through them: When I survey the wondrous cross, Jesus shall reign where'er the sun, and many others still used in worship. He died at Stoke Newington on this day in 1748.

Matthew 13. 44–46, 52

Jesus said:

‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’
 
 
Reflection If you’ve ever visited Southampton city centre, you’ll have heard the clock chiming the tune St Anne, to which Our God, our help in ages past (not “O God”, as John Wesley famous edited it!) is sung.  This is because Isaac Watts was minister of the Above Bar Independent Chapel in the centre of Southampton (that building was destroyed by enemy action, and the congregation became a part of what is now known as Avenue St. Andrew’s URC).  It is said that Watts wrote There is a land of pure delight as he looked across the Solent to the Isle of Wight! However, Watts’s most famous must surely be When I survey the wondrous cross, which is best sung with all five verses.

In today’s reading we are given some snippets of signs of the kingdom from Matthew’s gospel: hidden treasure, which is worth everything that we have; a pearl so fine that it is worth everything we have. Matthew is suggesting these are signs of the kingdom of God, and these are what we can see in the hymns and poetry of Isaac Watts.  Our reading ends with the comment about the best of the old and the new, and this is surely what we find articulated in Watts’s writings.  Watts was clearly a Puritan, who lived and thought in the paradigm of the Reformed tradition, but he was a man of the eighteenth century, encountering the then new enlightenment ideas, and these two influences together make his work so profound, and so helpful in illuminating what it means to be a Christian.

Perhaps this is best summed up in words,


“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Prayer

God of truth and grace,
you gave Isaac Watts singular gifts to present your praise in verse,
that he might write psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for your Church.  
Give us grace joyfully to sing your praises now and in the life to come;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is the minister of Farnham and Elstead URCs, and Clerk of the General Assembly.

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 by Verena Walder

URC Devotions - Fri, 24/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion by Verena Walder Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 17: 1-26

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said,
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Reflection I still remember when I first read through this truly awesome and inspiring prayer of our Saviour, nearly half-a-century ago. It awakened within me an amazing reaction that Jesus Himself should have prayed this prayer, for His followers and for all those who would respond to His call. This is so truly personal and insightful, and one’s heart can only bow in worship before a Saviour who is able to see ahead and anticipate some of the situations which his people were to get themselves into.

More than that is the desire of Jesus, for us - his followers -  to share the same intimacy with him as he does with His Heavenly Father. This is really precious and humbling, showing Jesus to place our welfare ahead of any of his own personal preferences or desires. It also gives us a glimpse into the mystery of the Godhead, and the Oneness which has been there since the beginning of the world.

In this we see the great love which Jesus has for all who faithfully own His name. He is aware of the pressures, temptations and even the forces which would seek to lure us away from walking with Him in close fellowship. This was the one true intimacy and unity which God intended for us all when back in the Garden of Eden, he would come down at evening-time, to walk and talk with Adam.

The very fact that he realised how much we would need his prayers and wholehearted support is again evidence, of his love and Fatherly longing for us all. Is this not all absolutely mind-blowing, immensely humbling, touching our hearts deeply? This is Almighty God, revealed through His son Jesus praying for us all, in the places where He has ordained that we should be planted, and bloom and grow for Him.
We all go through times of problems within Church life but Jesus had anticipated the fragility of our mutual  relationships  in the Church which he brought into existence. Such therefore is the comfort which He gives us, that not only as recorded in this wonderful chapter, but even now Jesus IS praying for us! How incredible is that!
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we stand in awe of you!
Your gracious presence, loving concern and prayerfulness.
Reveal to us your majesty, your love and your Fatherly heart toward us.
Keep us mindful of your longing to daily be a part of our lives,
And to know deep in our hearts that you are praying for us.
With thankful and deeply appreciative hearts, we ask this.
AMEN.

Today's Writer

Verena Walder is a  Lay Preacher and elder at Tabernacle URC,  Mumbles.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 23rd November

URC Devotions - Thu, 23/11/2017 - 06:00
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
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URC Daily Devotion 22nd November

URC Devotions - 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
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Church House Advertises the Daily Devotions

URC 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

URC Devotions - 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

URC Devotions - 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

URC Devotions - 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
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URC Daily Devotion 18th November

URC Devotions - 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
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URC Daily Devotion 17th November

URC Devotions - 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

 
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URC Daily Devotion 16th November

URC Devotions - 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

URC Devotions - 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

URC Devotions - 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

URC Devotions - 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

URC Devotions - 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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