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URC Daily Devotion 10th April

URC Devotions - Mon, 10/04/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser At the Cross her Station Keeping At the cross, her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Where He hung, the dying Lord;
For her soul of joy bereavèd,
Bowed with anguish, deeply grievèd,
Felt the sharp and piercing sword.

Oh, how sad and sore distressèd
Now was she, that mother blessèd
Of the sole begotten One;
Deep the woe of her affliction,
When she saw the crucifixion
Of her ever glorious Son.

Who, on Christ’s dear mother gazing
Pierced by anguish so amazing
Born of woman, would not weep?
Who, on Christ’s dear mother thinking
Such a cup of sorrow drinking
Would not share her sorrows deep?

For His people’s sins chastisèd,
She beheld her Son despisèd,
Scourged, and crowned with thorns entwined;
Saw Him then from judgment taken,
And in death by all forsaken,
Till His Spirit He resigned.

Jesu, may her deep devotion
Stir in me the same emotion,
Fount of love, Redeemer kind,
That my heart fresh ardor gaining,
And a purer love attaining,
May with Thee acceptance find.

Words: Latin, thirteenth century;

You can here the tune here  or you might prefer Karl Jenkin's stunning And the Mother Did Weep from his Album Stabat Mater here. Reflection This beautiful, touching, hymn – also known as Stabat Mater – is used as part of the “Stations of the Cross” liturgy and tries to put into words the stark horror Mary must have felt watching her son being put to death. Well-chosen words put to music stir our emotions in a way nothing else can and this hymn brings into sharp focus Mary’s heartbreak.  I have long thought that no words of mine could adequately describe what Mary must have been feeling that day. When Simeon told her that a sword would pierce her heart too – did she ever in her worst nightmares think that it would end like this? Her beautiful boy, her baby that the angel told her would be very special, this child she had carried as they fled to Egypt, the one she had nursed through childhood ailments – suffering such agony now, and Mary could do nothing. Standing helplessly watching – was she aware of anything other than the scream of her heart?
Which of us hasn’t held our children when they were suffering pain and prayed to be somehow allowed to suffer in their stead? And Mary – who showed such courage when she was asked to give birth to this child, her courage tested now to it’s very limit – waiting, watching, waiting - to be allowed to hold her son once more, to be allowed to take his body and prepare it for the tomb – to do this last thing for him, to in some way bring salve to her breaking heart.   Prayer Loving God,
you know us in our weaknesses,
forgive us when we are tempted to run from the difficult times,
when we turn from you in our distress,
we pray for courage to turn and face another day.
Amen Today's Writer Ann Honey is a Church Related Community Worker serving at Robert Stewart Memorial Church in Fenham. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 9th April

URC Devotions - Sun, 09/04/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser All Glory Laud & Honour
All glory, laud and honour
To thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring!   

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David's royal Son,
Who in the Lord's name comest,
The King and Blessèd One.

The company of angels
Are praising thee on high,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before thee went;
Our praise and prayer and anthems
Before thee we present.

To thee before thy Passion
They sang their hymns of praise;
To thee now high exalted
Our melody we raise.
    
Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

All glory, laud and honour
To thee, Redeemer, King,
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring!

Gloria, laus et honor, Theodulf of Orleans (c.750-821)
translated by John M Neale (1818-1866)
Rejoice and Sing Number
2018 Reflection As a young child, my family had the New Educational Press ‘Bible in Pictures’ book. It was not easily accessible for me to read, but it did have the most beautiful paintings in them, and I used to look stare at the faces of the people some jeering and sad, others laughing and joyful. The picture that reminds me of this hymn, ‘All Glory laud and honour’ takes me back to my childhood, when I turned the page and saw Jesus riding on a white donkey and the people, men, women and children were joyful and waving palm branches.

This Palm Sunday hymn will be familiar for many people throughout the Christian world and will  probably sing this hymn on Palm Sunday. The writer of this ancient hymn, Theodulf of Orleans, approx 820 AD, based the hymn on Matthew 21:1-11 and the occasion of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Theodulf had been arrested and was in prison when he wrote this Hymn of Praise, and then Louis the Pious, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at the time, heard him singing this hymn in the midst of his imprisonment and was so moved that he released him, and proclaimed that the hymn should be sung every Palm Sunday.  

Looking at our world today, millions of people are imprisoned and live with chains of different forms, chains of abuse, addiction, oppression, persecution and injustice. We may think that this ancient hymn is out of place in a world that seems far removed from its original context, but is it really?

Reflecting on the picture I saw as I child, I want to look at it again
Was Jesus focussing on the agony that was surely to come or on the laughter and joy on their faces?

Was he full of anxiety or love and concern for the people?
Did he hear the cheers, or did he hear the quiet Spirit praising God within him.    

Quite rightly we need to balance our Praise with a mirror up to the world, or as Karl Barth writes ‘Take your Bible and take your newspaper, read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible’
Hope is the key to singing this hymn, we know the end story of Jesus fateful week, but in the midst of hopelessness, a clear voice of hope was to be heard.

It is
  • Hope which makes our faith real,
  • Hope that God will equip us with gifts to help others in their desperate times.
  • Hope that one day the Kingdom of God will be seen in all its fullness
So yes, praise God not just on the mountain top, but in the dark valleys, for there we see the Risen Christ.   Prayer Lord
Be with me, as I praise your name in the midst of pain;
Be with me, as I praise your name in the midst of abuse;
Be with me, as I praise your name in the midst of injustice;
Be with me, as I praise your name in the midst of fear;
Be with me, as I praise your name in the midst of confusion;
Be with me, as I praise your name in the midst of death;
Be with me as I praise your name…. for ever and ever;
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Ruth Dillon is the minister of Fleet  and Beacon Hill, Hindhead, URCs in Hampshire. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 8th April

URC Devotions - Sat, 08/04/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser My Song is Love Unknown

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend,
My Friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!”
is all their breath,
And for His death
they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries!
Yet they at these
Themselves displease,
and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He
to suffering goes,
That He His foes
from thence might free.

In life no house, no home,
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb,
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav'n was his home;
But mine the tomb
Wherein he lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend,
in Whose sweet praise
I all my days
could gladly spend.

 

Reflection I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.  You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.  I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.   St John 15: 15-17
  This Passiontide hymn has been described as ‘almost painful in its emotional intimacy and humanity.’ Written in 1664 by Samuel Crossman, the telling of Christ’s story and ours reads fresh from the page, resounding with truth.

‘Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be’ God’s love has flowed into our hearts so that we might be inwardly changed to be more like Jesus. This is the hope into which we have been born – that the fickleness of the human heart is countered by the faithfulness of God.

This exquisite hymn with natural simplicity then claims Christ as friend. With my friend, I can be myself without defences; with my friend, I understand that I am a gift. Most of all with my friend, I see Jesus in warm companionship, and with the hymn writer I testify:

This is my friend,
In whose sweet praise
I all my days
Could gladly spend Prayer Lord Jesus,
On this eve of your triumphal entry
Deliver us from short lived alleluias.
Help us to ponder further, all that your love has accomplished,
Inspire us to call you friend – forever,
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Richard Church is is part of the ministry team at Islington URC and Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship). Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 7th April

URC Devotions - Fri, 07/04/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser When I Survey the Wondrous Cross When I survey the wondrous cross,
on which the prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

See from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down;
did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
spreads o'er his body on the tree;
then I am dead to all the globe,
and all the globe is dead to me.

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.
  Isaac Watts (1674-1748) Reflection
May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14
  Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. Philippians 3:7
This might be Isaac Watts’s best known hymn – it certainly gives Our God Our Help In Ages Past a run for its money.  Isaac Watts might the best known hymn writer of our tradition.  It might be the hymn which the greatest number of our church members know by heart.  It might be indissolubly linked to the tune Rockingham in many minds (although those who were known as Primitive Methodists on Wearside sang it to the tune Job which you can hear here).  But what might it mean for us in 2017?

When I survey the wondrous cross, may I find the power of the cross to save me.  May I find the victor and the victim, who showed the extent of divine love, offered freely and without limit.

When I survey the wondrous cross, may I find both wondrous grace and mercy.  Not a license to do what I want, but freedom to do what I ought.  

When I survey the wondrous cross, may I find that divine love which is and will always be sufficient.  May I find eternal life: abundant, full, and free.   Prayer Lord,
your cross is open to the whole world:
it plunges to our depths,
and lifts us to your heights;
it reaches out to embrace all humanity.  
May we not set limits where you have set none;
may we not imprison your love in our narrowness of doctrine;
may your Church embody your love in its life,
and not lock it up within its walls.  
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Michael Hopkins is minister of Farnham & Elstead URCs and Clerk of General Assembly. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 6th April

URC Devotions - Thu, 06/04/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser We Turn to God We turn to God when we are sorely pressed;
We pray for help, and ask for peace and bread;
We seek release from illness, guilt and death:
All people do, in faith or unbelief.

We turn to God when he is sorely pressed,
And find him poor, scorned, without roof and bread,
Bowed under weight of weakness, sin and death:
Faith stands by God in his dark hour of grief.

God turns to us when we are sorely pressed,
And feeds our souls and bodies with his bread;
for one and all Christ give himself in death:
Through his forgiveness sin will find relief.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(Tune  - Eventide)
Reflection In three days it will be the 72nd anniversary of the death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor and theologian who has become for many a Twentieth Century Saint.

“It is not the religious act which makes the Christian, but the participation in the suffering of God in the world”. Bonhoeffer wrote both the poem, and those comments on its meaning, from prison in July 1944. 9 months later he was dead: hanged in Flossenburg prison just a few days before the Allied forces reached the town. His crime was complicity in the plot to assassinate Hitler. He wrote all his poetry from a prison cell, trying to make sense of a world in which the suffering of God, in the person of Christ, was the source of the forgiveness without which there is no peace.

A modest, scholarly, and largely pacifist Christian, he found out the hard way that there was no escape from the grim realities of the Third Reich, and trod the path of resistance with a heavy heart: violence was not in his nature. He was a reluctant saint and his poems and letters tell of his inner struggle to make sense of his troubled times and his place in them. “Who am I?” he asked, in another of his poems. The outward calm and compassion which impressed even his captors, hiding the inner turmoil as he pondered his fate and imprisonment and his determination to be a good pastor and Christian in a world gone mad.

His was a life which mirrored the suffering of his master, a life which gives strength to all of us in our times of fear and doubt. The best we can do in our own uncertainties and sorrows is  to share his prayer:   Prayer “Who am I?
Lonely questions mock me.
Who I really am,
you know me,
I am thine, O God! Today's Writer The Rev'd Peter Moth is a retired minister and member of Kenton URC in Newcastle upon Tyne. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 5th April

URC Devotions - Wed, 05/04/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th April table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Sing My Tongue the Glorious Battle Sing my tongue the glorious battle                             
Sing the ending of the fray.                                         
Now above the cross, the trophy,                               
Sound the loud triumphant lay:                                  
Tell how Christ the world’s redeemer,                       
As a victim won the day.                                             

Tell how, when at length the fullness                          
Of the appointed time was come                               
He, the Word was born of woman,                           
Left for us His Father’s home,                                    
Blazed the path of true obedience,                             
Shone as light amidst the gloom.                               

Thus, with thirty years accomplished,                       
He went forth from Nazareth,                                     
Destined, dedicated, willing,                                       
Did his work, and met His death;                               
Like a lamb he humbly yielded                                  
On the cross His dying breath.                                 

Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,                           
Be for all the noblest tree;                                         
None in foliage, none in blossom,                              
None in fruit thine equal be;                                       
Symbol of the world’s redemption,                            
For the weight that hung on thee!                              

Unto God be praise and glory:                                   
To the Father and the Son,                                       
To the eternal Spirit honour                                       
Now and evermore be done;                                     
Praise and glory, in the highest,                                
While the timeless ages run.                                   

Venantius Fortunatus (c.530-609)                            
tr. john Mason Neale (1818-1866)  
                         Here proclaim the glorious battle
and the deadly conflict fought;
celebrate the cross, the glory,
and the noble triumph wrought,
as the world’s redeemer conquered
through the sacrifice he brought.

Since the work of our salvation
made for this necessity
that the manifold deceiver
be destroyed on Calvary,
so, from wounds the foe inflicted,
flows the certain remedy.

Cross of faith, among all others
none so noble, none so great;
not another in the forest
bears such leaves, or flowers, or fruit;
wood and nails become so precious,
bearing such a precious weight.

Towering Tree, now bend your branches,
let compassion, reaching wide,
soften all your normal hardness
as your nature is belied;
holding there the King of heaven,
gently tend him, crucified.

Praise to the eternal Father,
raise to the eternal Son,
praise to the eternal Spirit,
honour to the Three in One;
praise the love that has redeemed us;
publish all God’s grace has done.

Venantius Fortunatus (c.530-609)
tr. Alan Gaunt (1935-   )     Reflection Describing Christ’s mission as a battle has fallen out of favour with modern hymn writers. Previous generations had little hesitation in using military images when depicting Christ’s life and work, and the pilgrimage of the Christian. I suppose the use of such imagery was inspired by Scripture’s use of military terminology to describe God in action, as well as the apostle Paul’s analogies. The fact remains, however, that battle images in modern hymns are sparingly used.

The Passiontide hymn ‘Sing my tongue’ is a product of 6th century devotion, written (disputedly) by Venantius Honorius Fortunatus, sometime Bishop of Poitiers. Rhymed, translated and paraphrased many times over, generations have appreciated its bold imagination of the power of the cross. Surviving many cuts and amendments to suit theological objections, it has also been extensively abbreviated.- the ‘original’ Latin text had 10 stanzas. Of special note, and not just to the URC, the Alan Gaunt translation given in ‘Rejoice and Sing’ (see above) gives his selection of verses which breathe fresh insight.

Verse 1 starts triumphantly, urging Christians to extol Christ’s final victory over death and the cross; the victim turned victor, and ‘the world’s redeemer’. If this triumphalism seems out of place at sombre Passiontide ‘a striking dissonance’, it points to the forthcoming transformation of the cross as a symbol of shame and death, to one of glory. This hymn exerted such powerful influence on 13th century Thomas Aquinas that he used it as a basis for his Corpus Christi hymn ‘Now my tongue the mystery telling’.

The Neale translation selects verses which take us from our Lord’s birth to his crucifixion; his resurrection is implied rather than stated. Thus this Passiontide hymn might also be sung into the season of Easter. The 4th verse extols the life of the tree from which the wooden cross was fashioned - an unusual metaphor for 21st century minds. In bearing Christ’s body, the life of the tree is imbued with human senses, and becomes the tree of life for us. Those wanting to explore this metaphor further might consult the ‘Companion to Rejoice and Sing’.

The Gaunt translation (with his selection of verses) pursues the tree metaphor further in verse 4, appealing to the tree’s compassion, so that the naturally hard wood may hold the crucified Christ gently. Though this may be thought fanciful, it can exert a considerable emotional  pull on the reader (or singer). Both translations end the hymn with a Doxology.

Two tunes are often associated with this hymn: ‘Pange lingua’, based on a plainsong chant; and the equally haunting ‘Picardy’, based on a French carol melody. ‘Picardy’ is probably the better known of the two, but the effort of learning ‘Pange lingua’ richly rewards singers.   Prayer Gracious God
let your Spirit speak to us today
in the words and music of this ancient hymn.
May it encourage us to speak boldly of our faith
when it is required of us.
When we learn that our nature
and our environment are not separate,
but one in your redeeming work,
help us to accept the breadth of your love
towards us and your world.
Thus may all come to cry ‘glory’
and worship you as we ought. Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd John Young is a retired minister in the Synod of Scotland and member of Giffnock URC. The Rev'd John Young is a retired minister in the Synod of Scotland and 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th April

URC Devotions - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Ride On Ride On in Majesty Ride on, ride on in majesty,
hark, all the tribes hosanna cry;
thine humble beast pursues his road
with palms and scattered garments strowed.

Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die;
O Christ, thy triumphs now begin
o’er captive death and conquered sin.

Ride on, ride on in majesty,
thy last and fiercest strife is nigh;
the Father, on his sapphire throne,
expects his own anointed son.

Ride on, ride on in majesty,
in lowly pomp ride on to die;
bow thy meek head to mortal pain,
then take, O God, thy power and reign.

Henry Hart Milman (1827) Reflection When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately. This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion;
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting;

“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” St Matthew 21: 1-11
Reflection

“Ride on, ride on in majesty, in lowly pomp ride on to die.”

This hymn, written by Henry Hart Milman in 1820, and published first in 1827, is an essential part of our journey following our Lord Jesus to the cross. The repetition of the words “Ride on, ride on in majesty” at the beginning of each verse emphasises for us the inevitability of what would happen and conveys the length of the journey and the perseverance of Jesus. It is a hymn of contrasts in which tragedy and victory are inextricably linked.

The hymn proved popular and appears in most hymnbooks.

However the words are now expressed, it is a hymn of powerful themes and challenges for all the witnesses, then and now.

Our initial response is often to join the crowds in their joy and praise for Jesus, the focus of all the attention. How we long to have shared in the celebrations, thrown garments and palm leaves before Jesus to show our devotion. As we sing through the verses our thoughts cannot avoid moving forward with Jesus, recognising the heartbreaking contrast of the phrases ‘lowly pomp’ and the loyalty of the donkey, the ‘humble beast’, as he plods steadily forwards in the new and unexpected situation despite the palm leaves, the shouts, cheers and excitement which must have, for Jesus and some of the disciples, been mixed with foreboding and uncertainty. Would that I could be sure of such faithfulness as the donkey showed, given to Jesus in unfamiliar circumstances.

From Jesus’ perspective, the Palm Sunday processions which are often re-enacted in our churches are not the story of the day. The fickle excitement and adulation of the crowds only served to commit Jesus further in his steadfast love for a disobedient nation. It had always been God’s hope that the people of Israel would see the error of their ways as we read throughout the Old Testament. He sent his son to change minds and lives and to an extent he did during his time living on earth At the time his life and work hung in the balance. But the Palm Sunday procession as described so vividly in ‘Ride on, ride on in majesty’ shows the depth of Jesus’ commitment. This is effectively conveyed by the words repeated in every verse: ‘Ride on’. Jesus was determined to face whatever lay before him. Through the events which followed, the way to reconciliation with God is opened for us. We could not win the battle against sin and death ourselves. Hope comes in the final verse: ‘Then take, O God, thy power and reign’. We have the assurance that God’s plan will work out. Jesus, our Saviour, did come through the most cruel death to live forever and give us the hope of eternal life through his triumph over ‘captive death’ and ‘conquered sin’. We see how much we need our Saviour and all he did for us through unconquerable love for a fallen world. ‘Unconquerable love’ should be our goal at all times as we follow Jesus, humble man, lamb of God and Saviour of the world.   Prayer Lord Jesus Christ,
we want to praise you with loud ‘Hosannas’,
we long to follow you to the cross and beyond,
we believe you are our Saviour and King.
Yet so often our worship is less than joyful,
our prayers rushed, our contemplation shallow,
our service and love for others intermittent.
We thank you that still you welcome us into your Kingdom.
Help us to renew our commitment to follow you always.
Amen Today's Writer Hilary Jackson is a lay preacher, elder and member of Gatley URC in South Manchester living in North Yorkshire. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 3rd April

URC Devotions - Mon, 03/04/2017 - 06:00
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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Praise to the Holiest in the Height      Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise;
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways!

O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
a second Adam to the fight
and to the rescue came.

O wisest love! that flesh and blood,
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive, and should prevail;

and that the highest gift of grace
should flesh and blood refine:
God's presence and his very self,
and essence all-divine.

O generous love! that he who smote
in man for ma the foe,
the double agony in Man
for man should undergo.

And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach his brethren, and inspire
to suffer and to die.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise;
in all his words most wonderful,
most sure in all his ways!

John, Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), 1866
Music: “Gerontius” by John Dykes Reflection Since this hymn refers to the whole human story as described in the Bible, from “fall” to redemption, you may find it helpful to read some specific passages on which the hymn is based:
  • Genesis, 2:15 – 3:24 (the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden)
  • 1 Corinthians 15: 20-47 (in which St Paul contrasts the consequences of Adam’s actions, and those of Jesus Christ: “As in Adam all die, in Christ all will be bought to life…..”)
  • Ephesians 3: 18-19 (which provides the idea of the height and depth of God contained in the psalm-like opening and closing verse)
Cardinal Newman’s poem of which this hymn is but a part of the original 35-verse poem, recounts the transition made from death to a form of afterlife by a kind of ‘everyman’, Gerontius (the Greek for “little old man”).  The hymn, like the poem as a whole, is mostly a response to our questions and fears about death.  Though the hymn may be understood independently from its original context, The Dream of Gerontius assumes a Catholic theology that describes a time, following death and the judgement of God, spent in Purgatory, during which the soul of Gerontius will be healed – supported by Masses sung on earth and prayers said in heaven.

The hymn as we know it, make up the angels’ final section, sung directly before Gerontius passes towards the moment of his judgement within “the veiled presence of our God”.   Prayer O Lord, support us all the day long,
until the shadows lengthen,
and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.

Then in your mercy,
grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest,
and peace at the last.

Amen.

( J H Newman) Today's Writer Ann Barton is the Facilities Manager at Church House. 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 2nd April, Fifth Sunday of Lent

URC Devotions - Sun, 02/04/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser This week we take a break from the Markan narrative and look at some Passiontide hymns - old and newer.

From Heaven You Came Helpless Babe  From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live

This is our God, The Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King


There in the garden of tears
My heavy load he chose to bear
His heart with sorrow was torn
'Yet not My will but Yours,' He said

Come see His hands and His feet
The scars that speak of sacrifice
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered

So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other's needs to prefer
For it is Christ we're serving

Graham Kendrick 
© 1983 Thankyou Music


You can hear the song here Reflection This richly evocative hymn, full of biblical allusion, was written by Graham Kendrick for Spring Harvest in 1983.  It was, he said. “a challenge to explore the vision of Christ as the servant...but who was also the Creator of the Universe.” In the first verse we address Christ, in wonder at the paradox of his incarnation: a helpless babe, yet from heaven; he entered our world, his glory veiled; not to be served but to serve (cf Mt 20:28) and to give his life that we might live.  The emphasis on the verb “live” moves us on to the refrain which picks up the vision in acclamation.  The designation “Servant King” is repeated twice, the capital letters heightening the paradoxical role of this glorious being to whom we offer our lives in worship (cf Hebrews 13:15).  But what does giving his life that we might live entail?   Each one of us, personally, now contemplates Jesus keeping vigil in Gethsemane, the “garden of tears” – but whose tears?  Jesus’s?  Certainly Mt 26: 37 would appear to suggest that.  But in this context, might the tears also be ours? the universe’s? or perhaps all of these together? The allusiveness makes the phrase all the more powerful.  In that place of unbearable grief, Jesus  “chose to bear my heavy load”.  It is a heavy load for us and a heavy load for him.  We are reminded of the ritual (Leviticus 16:10) where the High Priest sent a goat, laden with the sins of the people, away to die in the wilderness.  For Jesus also bore our sins, Jesus also had to die outside the camp, outside the city gate (Hebrews 13:11-12);  but Jesus was High Priest and scapegoat rolled into one.  He actively chose to bear my burden of sin.  His sacrifice was once and for all (Hebrews 9: 25-28).  And through his death and ascension, we have an advocate in heaven and just standing before God (Romans 8).  Jesus’s words, as quoted, have a certain ambivalence.  In Mt 26:39, they are clearly addressed to God but in the context of the hymn, might they also be addressed to us?  Is there some sense in which our will also brought Jesus to Gethsemane?  Verse three takes us to the other side of Golgotha; we call others to “come see” his hands and his feet as Thomas did (John 20:27), observing with exquisite poignancy how “hands that flung stars into space” with the joyful abandon of the creator of the universe (Colossians 1:15-16), had surrendered to cruel nails – the cruelty transferred from the people who drove in nails to the nails themselves.  But “come see” is also the classic call  to discipleship (John 1:39,46; 4:29).  And the hymn ends with the determination to serve one another as servants of Christ (John 13:14-15; Mt 25: 34-40)  as we enthrone him as king in our lives.   Prayer Gracious God,
You bring forth springs in wasteland
and turn despair to hope.
Raise us up with Christ,
a new creation,
and bring us to glorify your name
by following faithfully where he has led.
We ask this through Christ, our Servant-King,
our deliverance, our hope and our  joy.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Fleur Houston is a retired minister and member of Macclesfield & Bollington URC. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 1st April

URC Devotions - Sat, 01/04/2017 - 07:00
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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 14:66-72  While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed.  And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept. Reflection There is a saying that asks if there would be enough evidence to convict us if Christianity were to be a crime.  It is all too easy to point the finger at Peter and, perhaps with bravado, promise that we would not deny our Lord and Saviour.  However, when the chips are really down, as in today’s reading, how would we react, when our own life may be at stake, fearing death itself?

However, we also know that it was Peter who so boldly put himself on the line, promising not to deny the Lord who had changed his own life so dramatically. Nobody had asked him to do so although Jesus had, at times, hinted that the cost of true discipleship was being willing to take up the cross to follow Him.

I personally find this whole incident tremendously challenging.   I am certainly not the world’s most upfront evangelical Christian,  however, I know that the life we own and share as we follow the Lord can be even more effective than a thousand sermons.   We can show others our faith as, in quietness and confidence, we just follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  He calls us to be faithful and obedient as we  live the new commandment of loving one another.

There may be a little clue as to perhaps why Peter disowned Jesus so easily if we read Luke’s account of the same incident.  We see in Luke 22:54 the words, “...But Peter was following at a distance.” Was this why Peter, despite his earlier determination, fell rather easily into his all denial of Jesus? The time that Jesus needed his allegiance the most, was the very time, that, because he had not followed Jesus closely enough, that he so easily caved in at the first sign of pressure.

What a warning this is to us that, especially during this time of Lent and the spiritual audit which it can bring, we realise that Jesus paid the ultimate price for us in going through the humiliation, pain, torture, suffering and total separation from His Heavenly Father.  How can we do anything less for him?   Prayer Precious Saviour,
You know how close or afar from you we really are.
As, during Lent,
we try to take a real view of our own spirituality,
may we not shrink from being your true disciples.
Instead, help us to faithfully and humbly trust you
so that we may be all that you long for us to be.
Help us to remain close by your side,
hearing and responding to your voice,
which bids us to follow,
at all costs,
as your love beckons us deeper.
Amen Today's Writer Verena Walder is a Lay Preacher and serving Elder at Tabernacle URC in 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 31st March

URC Devotions - Fri, 31/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 14:53-65  They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.  Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree.  Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ”  But even on this point their testimony did not agree.  Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?”  But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”  Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’ ”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses?  You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death.  Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him over and beat him. Reflection This passage raises a lot of questions. Who reported it? Peter is at a distance and the rest have scattered, so we have no first-hand witnesses. How did it happen? We’re not completely sure about the standing orders for the Sanhedrin at this time but with it happening at night, on a feast day, there being no second meeting to confirm the sentence, that technically Jesus did not blaspheme, and whether or not they could pass a death sentence; all gives us plenty to think about. Maybe Mark was unaware of how the Sanhedrin worked, or did and wanted to portray them as rule-breakers? Possibly it was more of an informal hearing? Perhaps the Sanhedrin were so incensed by Jesus they forgot all of their rules?

So, in what context do we place this encounter? The city of Jerusalem was full of pilgrims for Passover, the festival that remembered their liberation from another empire. The Jewish authorities colluded with the occupying Romans to maintain the peace, retain their position, and ensure the flow of trade and taxes. Jesus was attracting crowds, questioning authority, and declaring that the Kingdom of God was near. Jesus was declaring liberation!

The Jewish authorities were afraid. Afraid of riots on the streets, a brutal response from the most powerful army that marched the earth, the change to direct rule by Rome and risking the imposition of Roman gods and imperial theology, the desecration or destruction of the Temple, and potentially the end of their nation and religion. They were afraid for their people, apart from their own selfish motivations for security, power and esteem.


When people are afraid reason, good order, facts, justice, hope, and mercy, and many more of the attributes healthy societies rely on, go out of the window. Fear is the antithesis to faith. Jesus declared faith in God’s promises. To trust that, despite appearances, God’s Kingdom of justice, peace, mercy was the reality. Fear threw the Word of God into the hands of brutal pragmatists who believed that if you silenced the voice of non-violent protest order would be restored. Rome was the way of the world, but we have faith that it is not the way of God! In the face of fear, we need to hold ever-tighter to our faith.    Prayer “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

St Matthew 5:11–12 (NRSV)

In the face of fear, may we hold on to faith.
When others ignore, ridicule or misunderstand us,
may we trust in God.
When numbers reduce, projects fade or enthusiasm wanes, 
may the way of Christ be ever clearer.
When all we hear is silence,
when the noise of the world overwhelms,
may the Spirit energise us.
In the face of overwhelming data and scarce information, 
deafening opinion and whispered facts, 
may we always pray, act, and speak
in the light of God’s Kingdom.
Amen  Today's Writer The Rev'd David Coaker is minister of Leyland and Penwortham 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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URC Daily Devotion 30th March

URC Devotions - Thu, 30/03/2017 - 06:00
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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 14:43-52  Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; and with him there was a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.  Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’  So when he came, he went up to him at once and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they laid hands on him and arrested him.  But one of those who stood near drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit?  Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled. A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him,  but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. Reflection Many of us know what it is to experience betrayal.  We may have been betrayed by a friend, a lover, a family member, a congregant.  Betrayal is always difficult and involves a whole range of emotions - confusion and anger, rage and depression.  We scream at the injustice of it and struggle with our sense of futility when we realise there is nothing we can do to make things better.

This sense of betrayal is seen most painfully in our intimate relationships; I have experienced betrayal there and in church contexts - both are painful as when we let people into our lives we take a huge risk that we will be hurt.  Sometimes we are tempted not to trust, to keep people at a distance, to preserve our personal space (and sanity) in the hope that we won’t get hurt but life isn’t really like that. In order to love we need to let go and take a risk; that is very hard after a betrayal.  

In today’s reading we see Jesus betrayed by one of those closest to him - and to make matters worse the sign of the betrayal was the intimate touch inherent in a kiss.  A gesture of love becomes the means of betrayal; a sign of intimacy becomes a token of death.  To make matters worse Jesus’ closest friends run off into the night - one not even worrying about being naked as he ran away.

When we experience betrayal we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus knows what it’s like - as his closest companions betrayed him by word and deed as well as by silence and inaction.  In time we can be enabled to forgive as Jesus did; but it takes time and God’s grace.   Prayer Lord Jesus,
betrayed by a kiss,
deserted by friends,
handed over to evil men;
comfort those who are betrayed and battered by lovers,
nurture those deserted by family, spouse or friend,
strengthen those oppressed and tortured by the powers of evil,
and enable us to stand by friends and family and stranger and intimate ones
that we may not betray you or those you entrust to us.
Amen. Today's Writer Andy Braunston is minister-elect in the Glasgow Southside Cluster and coordinator of 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 29th March

URC Devotions - Wed, 29/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 14:32-42  They went to a place called Gethsemane; and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’   He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated.  And he said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.’  And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.  He said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’  He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour?   Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’   And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.   And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.’ Reflection Jesus knew the pain, the torture, the disgrace and the humiliation that awaited him. Jesus wanted to run from that pain, to run from all that crucifixion entailed. And yet Jesus knew that it was the Father’s will for him to suffer. In anguish, Jesus cries out, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’

Most of us cannot begin to imagine what it was for Jesus to face the cross. Jesus didn’t have to go through with it: there was time for a hasty escape and Jesus makes clear in John 10:18 and 20:11 that he lays it down of his own accord; but Jesus chose to lay down his life for our sake. Jesus chose to suffer so that we might see the true extent of God’s love. Jesus chose to “[bear] our infirmities and [carry] our diseases,” to be “wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus chose to ransom us from the powers that hold us captive (Mark 10:45). Jesus chose to forgive us and make us right before God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus chose to invite us to live our lives in him, and him in us (Galatians 2:20).

It is both humbling and awe-inspiring to reflect on the choices Jesus made and what they mean for each one of us. It is also incredibly challenging to realise that Jesus’s attitude and choices are an example to us. We may not face crucifixion, but every day we face choices: will we follow our will, or God’s will? Will we seek God’s Kingdom, or our own kingdoms? We will stand up for the gospel, or stay silent? Will we choose to love and bear the cost, or not? May we pray as Jesus prays, and do as Jesus does: ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’   Prayer Abba, Father, for you all things are possible…

We are overwhelmed by your love for us,
choked by your mercy,
humbled by your grace,
delighted by your new life
and transformed by your hope.

…remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want.

We confess that it can be hard for us to choose your will over our will,
your kingdom over our own petty little kingdoms.

Help us, Abba, Father,
to follow the example of Jesus every day,
choosing You and others over myself;
love over hate;
mercy over unforgiveness;
grace over cost-counting;
new life over death;
and hope over despair.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Matt Stone is the minister of Herringthorpe URC, Rotherham. 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 28th March

URC Devotions - Tue, 28/03/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th March table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 14:22-31  While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.  He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’  But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”   Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.”  Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same. Reflection It is difficult to read these words without thinking about what we do, and hear, on Sundays when we celebrate the Holy Communion together.  I am always struck at what we include, and exclude, from our Communion liturgies.  In the Reformed tradition, generally, we use the passage from 1 Corinthians to introduce, and serve as a warrant, for what we do and so miss out Jesus’ words about not drinking wine again until the coming of the kingdom.  We also miss out his harsh words: “you will all become deserters.”  

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

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion 27th March

URC Devotions - Mon, 27/03/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 14:10-21  Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion 26th March the Fourth Sunday of Lent

URC Devotions - Sun, 26/03/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 26th March the Fourth Sunday of Lent table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; 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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark  14:1-9
It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus  by stealth and kill him;  for they said, ‘Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.   While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head. But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii,  and the money given to the poor.’ And they scolded her.  But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me.  For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.   Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ Reflection This story is hugely significant.  A woman is anointing Jesus’s head.  Not his feet as Luke and John would have it; they miss the point.  For by anointing Jesus’s head, she is proclaiming him king, Messiah, liberator. Had not Zadok the priest, on the orders of David, anointed Solomon king of Israel (1 Kings 1:33-39)?  Had a young prophet not anointed Jehu secretly king of Israel (2 Kings 9:4-8) on the orders of the prophet Elisha? And in each case, had these rituals not led to a coup d’état?  For those who are hoping for the liberation of Israel, the woman’s act spells revolution. The Jewish authorities had good reason to feel unease. It’s Passover time and crowds are gathering in Jerusalem.
 
A second group of people also see the woman’s act solely in material terms.  We don’t know who they are, but they snap at her rudely.  They are outraged.  The ointment she used so lavishly was worth a huge amount of money, the equivalent for a labourer of around ten months wages; it could surely have been sold for poor relief.  In a time of widespread poverty, such conspicuous consumption would certainly have seemed scandalous.  But they too miss the point.
 
See how Jesus reacts.  He affirms the woman’s action and nuances what she has done.  He reminds his hearers that there is never any shortage of poor people to whom they can show kindness (cf. Deut 15:11).  And then come the startling words: “but you will not always have me”.  The woman is “doing a good thing”; she is anointing him beforehand for burial.  In the one action, the woman anoints Jesus king and prepares him for burial.  The implications of Jesus’s words are clear – he, the anointed king, the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, far from leading a political coup, is to die and shortly.  This is the introduction to the Passion narrative.
 
And who is this unnamed woman?  Later versions of the story attempt to give her a life setting.  For Luke she is a forgiven great sinner, for John, this is Mary, sister of Lazarus.  But Mark portrays her as a prophet. In a supreme prophetic act, she proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah, that the Messiah is to suffer and die.   Wherever the gospel is proclaimed, we read, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.  But there is a problem.  She is un-named.   We remember a name.  A name would have inscribed her indelibly in Christian tradition.  Without a name it is all too easy to skip from this faithful disciple to Judas who betrayed or Peter who denied.  This unnamed woman, the priestly prophet, stands for all those faithful women who have been overlooked by Christian tradition down the ages.    Prayer Ever-living and ever-loving God,
I bless you for your hand upon my life.
I thank you that this Christian way I walk is a road beaten hard by the footsteps of women and men, saints, prophets, apostles and martyrs.  I thank you for the sign-posts and danger signals with which it is marked and which are made known to me through the Bible.  Especially I give you thanks for the great gift of Jesus Christ, for his life, his death and his triumph over death.
Bring nearer the day when the hand of your purpose shall be found throughout our nation, throughout the world.  And whatever I myself can do, give me grace this day to begin,
Through our saviour Jesus Christ, 
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Fleur Houston is a retired minister and member of Macclesfield and Bollington URC. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Archive of Daily Devotions

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

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

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

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

with every good wish


Andy


Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator URC Daily Devotions Project

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Sample Article for Church Magazine

Daily Devotions from the URC


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

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--> Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 25th March

URC Devotions - Sat, 25/03/2017 - 06:00
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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St Mark 13:32-37 "But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.  Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,  or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.  And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."   Reflection This is a poignant reading, which comes at a heart-rending time in the life of Jesus. He knows that he’s nearing the end of his time on earth, is facing the reality of a world that has rejected him, and friends who simply don’t understand what’s the matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion 24th March

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

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

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

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

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion 23rd March

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

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

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


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