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URC Daily Devotion: 12th February

URC Devotions - Sun, 12/02/2017 - 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 This week we have the first of an occasional series looking at hymns from our tradition.   Hymn: I Sing Almighty Power of God 
Rejoice and Sing 43  I sing the almighty power of God
that made the mountains rise,
that spread the flowing seas abroad
and built the lofty skies.

I sing the wisdom that ordained
the sun to rule the day;
the moon shines full at his command,
and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord
that filled the earth with food;
he formed the creatures with his Word
and then pronounced them good.

Lord, how thy wonders are displayed,
where'er I turn my eye,
if I survey the ground I tread
or gaze upon the skies.

There's not a plant or flower below
but makes your glories known,
and clouds arise and tempests blow
by order from your throne;

God’s hand is my perpetual guard,
he guides me with his eye;
why should I then forget the Lord,
whose love is ever nigh?
Issac Watts had this published in 1715 in a collection for children - not a hymn today that would normally thought of as being child friendly.  It is a simple hymn in praise of God and, historically, has been found in Baptist, Congregational and Methodist hymnbooks but not in Presbyterian or Anglican ones.  

A number of tunes are associated with this hymn.  Rejoice and Sing suggests Montrose - which comes from a book of music published in Paisley in 1790. London New, another Scottish tune, first appeared in 1635 whilst Saint Saviour is a Victorian tune dating from 1876 and the Isle of Wight.

You can hear each tune by clicking on it's name above. Job 9: 1-12  Then Job answered:
‘Indeed I know that this is so;
   but how can a mortal be just before God?
If one wished to contend with him,
   one could not answer him once in a thousand.
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength
—who has resisted him, and succeeded?—
he who removes mountains, and they do not know it,
   when he overturns them in his anger;
who shakes the earth out of its place,
   and its pillars tremble;
who commands the sun, and it does not rise;
   who seals up the stars;
who alone stretched out the heavens
   and trampled the waves of the Sea;[a]
who made the Bear and Orion,
   the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;
who does great things beyond understanding,
   and marvellous things without number.
Look, he passes by me, and I do not see him;
   he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
He snatches away; who can stop him?
   Who will say to him, “What are you doing?”     Reflection Let me suggest, if you don’t know the book of Job very well that you read chapters 1 (the background), 4 (the first suggestion that Job might have done wrong), 31 (after all the accusations Job is still protesting his innocence), 38 and 39 (God eventually speaks to Job and challenges him to greater understanding), and 42 (the epilogue).   You don’t need to read it all today!    

We are not very good on hymns and prayers of adoration of God.  If you’ve ever been asked to lead the opening prayers for worship you have probably found it easy enough to say a prayer of confession and to thank God for his forgiveness then go on to all the many things for which we are thankful.   But that numinous prayer of adoring God for Godself, sacred, mysterious and other, escapes us, even turns into an equally valid prayer of thanks.   I’m not saying it is wrong to not offer prayer of adoration I’m just saying it is very difficult to adore God, simply adore, to be in awe of the almighty.  We run out of words to say, God is too awe-ful for words.  

God challenged Job out of the whirlwind: where were you …  what do you know about this … this … this … (chs 38 & 39) Eventually Job promises to fall silent, though he apparently can’t resist another answer and my imagination runs away with me.  What might Job go on to say to his three friends about his new understanding of God?   Maybe Job, in his dissent from the world view which said his losses of health, family and wealth arose from something he had done to offend God, would recognise in this dissenter’s hymn something he wanted to say.   The recognition that God asking “where were you” cannot be answered but reflected, in hymns of praise.   It is said that St Augustine of Hippo pointed out that the one who “sings, prays twice”.   If ever he did then this hymn is a prime example of singing a prayer of adoration for the creator of the earth. Prayer Creator of the universe,
you are everything to us.  
We cannot find the words to tell you
how much we adore all that you are constantly in our world.
May we, when we cannot find the words,
find the grace to stand in your presence and adore.
Amen  Today's Writer The Rev'd Ruth Browning is a retired minister and member of Thornbury URC in Gloucestershire. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 11th February

URC Devotions - Sat, 11/02/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion: 11th February 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 Luke 23.32-43  Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said,  “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”  And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  He replied,  “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Reflection I suspect, like me, you will have heard this passage at Easter many times before. Most often with the focus on the remorseful words of the second criminal and his recognition of Jesus innocence, which in turn prompts Jesus to respond with the enigmatic, 'today you will be with me in Paradise'. Many a sermon of deathbed conversions and repentant sinners will have been preached based on this short dialogue peculiar to Luke's account of the Gospel.  

However, something rather different occurred to me in this familiar encounter which had not struck me before. That the words of the second criminal are extremely unlikely.

Let's remember the context. This is first century Jerusalem, held under brutal Roman rule. Crucifixion, was not just a means of execution, it was a public execution, a purposely agonising and humiliating execution reserved for enemies of the state, to serve as a warning to others of the fate which would befall them if they too challenged Roman authority. It was the punishment for treason, for terrorists, for revolutionaries.

So I find myself asking this question and invite you to do the same. Would a person who was being tortured and killed by those they regarded as an illegal occupying oppressor really believe that they were 'getting what we deserve for our deeds’?

A delve into the ancient Greek and the key word in question ‘Axios’ or ‘fitting’ suggests within the context I describe that the more likely reading should be legal rather than moral. That is, we have received the appropriate sentence under Roman law for our crimes, rather than, we are getting what our actions clearly deserve.

The whole curious encounter thus for me becomes one of a contrast between violet and non-violent resistance, not a simplistic parallel between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘innocent’ or ‘guilty’.

However, I am still drawn to how this encounter is rendered in most of our English translations, and the concept of the guilty ‘getting what they deserve’. Does anyone deserve death for what they have done? Is violence of that state superior to violence by an individual? Can violence be used to end the cycle of violence?

These are not easy questions to answer, but are ones those of us who follow Jesus are required to grapple with as we interact with our world. Prayer God who holds all of humanity
we pray for situations of violence in our world
and all the questions which are hard to answer.

We pray for people on ‘Death Row’, both the ‘guilty’ and the ‘innocent’, and ask is death what anyone deserves for their crimes?

We pray for those in war ravaged parts of the world, where bombs are dropped to bring an end to conflict, and ask, can violence ever truly bring peace?

We pray for all those who have tried hard ‘to do the right things’ and yet feel life has not rewarded them with what they deserve.

And we pray for ourselves, that we may not settle for easy answers to difficult questions, nor shy away from asking then, and asking them again, and again, till we are all at peace and with Christ in paradise. Today's Writer The Rev'd Mike Walsh is a Pioneer Minister working in the cafe and bar culture of Chorlton, south Manchester, predominately amongst non church people in the 20s to 40s age range. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 10th February

URC Devotions - Fri, 10/02/2017 - 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; 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Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Reflection So when you’re visiting foreign parts and encounter someone in need: ignore them, support those that wish to exclude them, declare your own background superior, call them less than human, and if all else fails see the light and help. So if at first your prejudices aren’t listened to, try twice more before questioning their validity!?
This is a very hard passage for us. When we read the gospels Jesus is the hero, the teller of tales, healer, friend of the excluded, denouncer of hypocrisy, whose very life declares to us what God is like; and then we get a passage like this where his words echo our worst thoughts and actions.

One approach to reading this passage is to put a twinkle in Jesus’ eye as he encourages the woman to challenge him as he parrots the prejudice of others. Of course Jesus didn’t believe those horrible things he says about her, he’s using her to shame his disciples. To an extent this works if we focus solely on Jesus, but what if we focus on her?

We are outside the borders of Galilee, in Phoenicia, in the district of Tyre and Sidon (cities with an evil reputation) and she is a Canaanite, both female and a historic enemy of the Jewish people. It is the woman who is at home, Jesus is the foreign visitor. She sees him, recognises him or recognises the spirit within him, and in her pain at her daughter’s infirmity she starts shouting. Her shouts declare Jesus Lord, Son of David, in effect master and messiah, and she begs for help. Jesus’ response is silence. She knows she is beyond the Jewish covenant but responds to Jesus’ presence in a similar way to Peter, who will declare him “Messiah, and Son of the living God” in the next chapter. She is making a declaration that even Jesus’ closest followers haven’t made yet, and Jesus ignores her.

If she was completely calm perhaps she could have picked up in Jesus’ body language as he encouraged her to challenge him, but she is far from calm. She is frantic because of her daughter, she is also having an intense spiritual experience as she encounters this foreigner and makes a declaration of faith in him, and he remains silent. Far from a scene of calm the image that most readily comes to me is of the rest of their conversation continuing with the disciples struggling to keep her at bay as she tries to slap him for being so rude. Fortunately, there is a happy ending and the woman is commended for her faith and her daughter is healed.

So if Jesus did believe what he said, what does that mean to us as his followers? The key to me is that he changed his mind. Their conversation started with him thinking she was worthless and ends with him declaring her worthy. Jesus was surprised, learnt something about himself and his people, and sought to alter his attitude and that of others.     Prayer Living God,
we are all affected by our backgrounds,
experiences, and insecurities,
and some we see
and others we are blind to.
In all of our daily encounters,
in what we read or see,
in what we say or think,
open us up to the other.
Remind us that we are all children of God
and help us to see our family resemblances
as we share the journey of life together.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Dave Coaker is the minister of Leyland and Penwortham URCs in Lancashire. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 9th February

URC Devotions - Thu, 09/02/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion: 9th February 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 John 18.28 - 19.11 Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters.  It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.   So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’  They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’  Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.’ They replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’  (This was to fulfil what Jesus had said when he indicated the kind of death he was to die.)  Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’  Pilate replied, ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’  Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’  Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’  Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’  After he had said this, he went out again and told them, ‘I find no case against him.  But you have a custom that I release someone for you at the Passover. Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’  They shouted in reply, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ Now Barabbas was a bandit.  Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.  And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and striking him on the face.  Pilate went out again and said to them, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him.’  So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’  When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him.’  The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God.’  Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever.  He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer.  Pilate therefore said to him, ‘Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?’  Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’ Reflection Pilate is the weak civil servant that needs to uphold the status quo at all costs.  He knows the pesky Jews were excitable and looking for the One who would overthrow the hated Roman overlords.  It is clear, however, that he doesn’t think that Jesus is the revolutionary that the religious leaders of the people made him out to be.  He clearly tells the crowd that he finds no fault in Jesus - and his encounter with Jesus leaves him rather bemused about Jewish theology.  However, the crowd worries him and so he agrees to have Jesus flogged and then handed over to be crucified - after all what’s one other death in the greater scheme of things?   Pilate is a judge without the courage of his convictions.  The one who worries what others may say and do - maybe the religious leaders would report him to Rome, maybe the crowd will riot and that will reflect badly upon him.  

Against Pilate the writer of John portrays Jesus as being resolute, hardly dignifying Pilate with much of an answer and certainly refusing to plead his case.  In the face of the authority of Rome, Jesus reminds Pilate of where true power comes from.  The Americans have an expression: “telling truth to power;” this is personified in Jesus’ encounter with Pilate here.  Maybe Jesus doesn’t see he has anything to say to this representation of brutal earthly imperial power; maybe he realises that nothing he can say will make a difference.  Either way he says little.  

Sometimes we have little to say; sometimes our words have no effect.  Sometimes it is our actions which need to speak.  The powers of this world are not easily influenced by words but by action.  Our  politics have been transformed, for good or ill, by actions more than words over the last year.  Maybe the way we have to speak “truth to power” is based on our actions, our random acts of kindness, our subversive ways of welcoming the stranger, seeing God in the outsider and listening to those the world sees as being of no account.   Prayer God of silence,
help us to live your truth.
God of the weak,
help us to be strong in the face of injustice.
God of justice,
help us to transform the systems of our world,
that your kingdom may come.
Amen Today's Writer Andy Braunston is an ordinand at the Scottish Congregational and United Reformed Church College and co-ordinator of the URC Daily Devotions project. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 8th February

URC Devotions - Wed, 08/02/2017 - 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 John 5.1-18 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.  In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed.  One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’  The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’  At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’  But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.”’  They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’  Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.’  The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.  Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’  For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.   Reflection Healing stories are hard. Full stop.

I appreciate and often share that the healings of Jesus are always about far more that physical healing. Healing has social, communal, emotional, global and physical aspects - all these and more. Receiving healing is also something that can take a lifetime or is discovering a way to cope with and manage the ‘illness’ in our lives.

Jim Cotter, in his wonderful book ‘Healing, more or less’ reminds us all that we are tied to each other and that I am not healed and whole whilst my brother and sister suffer. There is a very real sense in which my health is dependant on the health of all. Just as an example - how can I consider myself ‘healthy’ whilst my desire for cheap clothes leaves some working long hours for little pay?

This is clearly seen as Jesus encounters a man at Bethzatha: ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me’.

We are left with the question: what stands in the way of our healing?

But lo and behold that direct and unsettling question is not what ‘the Jews’ ask. Not, ‘what can we do to bring healing?’, ‘do we stand in the way of others healing?’ but ‘how dare you heal on the sabbath!’.

Jesus stepped in and acted where others had only stepped over or ahead of the man.

Perhaps those ‘others’ were furious with Jesus for showing them up and wrapped their anger in zealous vitriol about the sabbath rather than face the truth.

I am always tentative when discussing biblical healing - not least because I’ve faced my own share of ‘pastoral care’ and opinions over the years. This one point has stood out from the text and from my own experience - that healing is about all of us. Your reactions to me, matter. They can help me cope or they can be yet another barrier to my living in confidence and hope.

We are bound to each other and my healing depends on yours, and yours on mine.   Prayer Bind us together Lord,
With cords that cannot be broken.
Bind us together in love. AMEN Today's Writer The Rev'd Martin Knight is the minister of St Paul's URC, South Croydon. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 7th February

URC Devotions - Tue, 07/02/2017 - 09:06
96 URC Daily Devotion: 7th February 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 Luke 10.38-42 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked,

‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’

But the Lord answered her,

‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’ Reflection Where would our churches be without the “Marthas” of both genders – caring, catering, organising, DIYing? Are we sure we want to use such a Scripture in our worship?  

Yes, Jesus visited Martha and Mary, but this is Martha’s story, not Mary’s, even though among Martha’s many concerns was her annoyance that Mary was not helping in the way she wanted her sister to help. Using Mary as an example to commend a contemplative life rather than an active one misses the point that we should focus on Martha.

Jesus noted that, as Luke, records, Martha was distracted by her many tasks. In other words in trying to do so much all at the same time Martha was probably not doing anything as well as she could and was unable to benefit from the presence of Jesus.
       
Don’t we all know this problem? There is always so much that needs to be done at church, in family life, in working life – so many tasks clamour for top priority and yet few can be achieved most effectively when so much is being attempted at the same time.
       
It is a matter of rejoicing that Christian people are so active in trying to sort out many of the social ills that affect millions on our planet and we thank God for organisations like Christian Aid, Traidcraft and Christians Against Poverty (to name just some of many excellent groups), but even in such activities it is essential not to lose sight of the reason for our commitment – following in the way of Jesus Christ. I want to think that as a result of listening to Jesus Mary was a more effective witness and disciple; I want to think that after receiving the gentle rebuke from Jesus Martha was better able to sort out what was truly important from all the other issues that confronted her.

Is it possible that our priorities are wrong? Are we so aware of the enormity of the problems confronting us that we get distracted and fail to achieve the best outcomes on any of them?
Does the desire to be active prevent us from recognising what God’s priorities are, and from checking that we are indeed following in the way of Jesus Christ?

How does this apply to our churches as well as to ourselves?     Prayer Gracious God,
when many claims are made on us
and our churches
we can get distracted
and find it hard to sort out what is truly important:
help us, we pray,
to see and do
what you want us and our churches
to see and do.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Julian Macro is a retired minister and member of Verwood URC in Dorset. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 6th February

URC Devotions - Mon, 06/02/2017 - 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 Luke 7.36-50  One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.  She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.  Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.’  Jesus spoke up and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Teacher,’ he replied, ‘speak.’  ‘A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?’  Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’  Then turning towards the woman, he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’  Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’  But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’   And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ Reflection It’s interesting that, although the heading of this passage is “Simon the Pharisee”, we don’t know his name until Jesus uses it. Yet Luke uses the word Pharisee four times before we find out his name is Simon.

We automatically react to the name Pharisee as an enemy of Jesus, though all of them weren’t. We don’t know Simon’s motive in inviting Jesus to his house for a meal: was he someone who might think he has found a leader, perhaps the Messiah? was he truly interested in hearing Jesus’ ideas? or did he want to show the new wonder boy to his friends and possibly demolish him with clever argument? We don’t know, but later on the way his behaviour is compared with the unknown woman’s we get some idea.

He is appalled by her over- the- top treatment- weeping and washing and drying Jesus’ feet with her hair and perfuming them with oil from an alabaster jar ( no  expense spared here). He is surprised that Jesus doesn’t recognise her for the sort she was. But of course Jesus does recognise her for what she is and what Simon is too though he didn’t speak his thoughts aloud to Jesus.

Simon grudgingly answers one of Jesus’ clever questions, the sort that make you realise you have just judged yourself. Then Jesus really lets Simon see himself. He did none of the things a host does for an honoured guest. In a dusty land where washed feet are a pleasure, this is almost a basic obligation of hospitality. The kiss bestows honour and the perfumed oil shows you are really welcome. Simon has merely invited Jesus to eat, possibly with the idea of his earning his supper with informed debate. Perhaps Jesus was also an unknown quantity so let’s not waste too much on him.

The woman has no such inhibitions; she does what she feels, even though if we were there, we would probably feel embarrassed by her too.

Jesus isn’t embarrassed, which is probably good news for us. We all know what it feels like when a child does something really embarrassing and we try to apologise for them. Jesus doesn’t apologise for the woman- he knows what she means, how full her heart is with love and thankfulness and the relief knowing she is forgiven.

Simon begins the evening dismissing Jesus as a prophet as he doesn’t recognise the “type”. What must he have felt like to discover Jesus was not just a prophet, but was behaving as if he were God, forgiving sins.

I doubt Jesus was invited back!   Prayer Oh, Lord,
You know how much we have in common with Simon.
We judge people by our own standards
And can’t believe that they are as worthy as us to belong to the Kingdom.
Open our eyes to see others as Jesus sees them
With love, compassion and humility
Amen Today's Writer Chris Eddowes is a Lay Preacher in the Northern Synod and a member of St. George’s URC in Hartlepool. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 5th February

URC Devotions - Sun, 05/02/2017 - 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 John 4.5-34 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink’.  (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?’ (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’  The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’  Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’  The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Go, call your husband, and come back.’  The woman answered him, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You are right in saying, “I have no husband”;  for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!’  The woman said to him, ‘Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’  The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’  Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.’

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’   Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,  ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,can he?’  They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’  But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’  So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.   Reflection ‘If you only knew . . .’

‘Well, who do you think you are? Are you greater than our ancestor, Jacob?’

If we only knew. We do know – we know the stories of Jesus so well. But most of the time, we move along from day to day, doing what’s needed, getting by, managing. Relationships up and down. Work, sometimes stressful, sometimes boring. Another day at the well, or the water-cooler.

But then, comes the day, the moment, when, suddenly, we know the difference Jesus makes in our lives. On those best of days it is truly like a spring of fresh water, fizzing and bubbling through our lives, filling us with energy and life. We hear Jesus speaking to us, as if he was sitting right there in front of us, on the garden wall, or standing by the next machine to ours. We feel his knowledge of us and his care for us just as surely as the village woman did in the story.

On those best days, we can go rejoicing, as she did, and tell everyone, ‘Come and meet a man who knows me inside out!’     Prayer Lord Jesus,
Sometimes we know you,
And we feel your power in our lives.
Help us to be more and more open to you
So that the days when we taste your living water
Overtake the dry days
Until we are filled, and satisfied.                Amen Today's Writer Peter Rand  is a member of Trinity United Church in Bedlington, Northumberland. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions: 4th February

URC Devotions - Sat, 04/02/2017 - 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 Today we start a short series looking at some of the people that Jesus met.

St John 3.1-15 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.  He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’  Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’  Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’  Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’  Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’  Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

‘Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.   And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Reflection Nicodemus - a case of so near and yet so far.

Thomas the Doubter wanted signs to convince him; Nicodemus saw signs but didn’t know how to be convinced.  Sometimes we carry so much baggage in our lives that we can’t pick up anything new.  Sometimes we’re so sure of ourselves, that we can’t see what’s in front of us, and we stumble in the dark.: A Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night”.  John’s Gospel plunges us into the heart of the matter at the very beginning: The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. Nicodemus came at night, in the darkness.

There’s the clue; and in the ensuing conversation Jesus gives Nicodemus the full works, and out it all comes. The tables are turned, and the old teacher becomes the new pupil. So it is for us. Cherish those keywords as John sets out the story: light and dark, signs and belief, water and spirit, lifting up, born again. It is all too much for Nicodemus to digest in one evening, and no easier for us now, burdened as we are by our old baggage, saddened by this loss, that grief, uplifted by this unexpected joy, that act of friendship. We may be decent, good people, but none of that gets us out of the darkness into the light of what Jesus was about. We still feel that there is something lacking and we can’t free ourselves to go and find it. That is how Nicodemus felt. There must be more than this darkness; Jesus knows that the darkness is very dark indeed

Nicodemus comes by night, in the dark. Towards the end of John’s story of Jesus there is another who comes to Jesus for light, but he slips back into the darkness and goes to betray him, and it seems as though the darkness covers the whole earth. Nicodemus has to come again at night with his friend Joseph of Arimathea, to Pontius Pilate, to collect the body of this puzzling young teacher. Nicodemus had not given up on the man who wanted to turn his world upside down. Nicodemus would have his chance to be born again.

So shall we. Our Christian life is governed by a rhythm which takes us continually upwards to God and back down to the earth, as it was for Jesus. It was the pattern of his life, descending to be with his people, rising to save us, and returning to the Father to bring back down to us the spirit.

“How can these things happen to you and me ?”  That is for the Spirit to decide.     Prayer

Hidden God,
We struggle to see you in the darkness;
We strain to hear you through the tumult of the world..
We stagger through our days weighed down by the baggage of our lives.
Reach into the darkness and draw us into your light.
With the living water wash us clean;
with the fiery Spirit burn away our fears and doubts,
so that we may rise like the phoenix out of the flames of your love into the peace of your eternal presence, through Christ our Lord. Amen

Today's Writer The Rev'd Peter Moth is a retired minister in the Northern Synod. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 3rd February

URC Devotions - Fri, 03/02/2017 - 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 Genesis 27.1-17  Isaac was now old and had become blind. He sent for his older son Esau and said to him, “Son!” “Yes,” he answered. Isaac said, “You see that I am old and may die soon. Take your bow and arrows, go out into the country, and kill an animal for me.  Cook me some of that tasty food that I like, and bring it to me. After I have eaten it, I will give you my final blessing before I die.”

While Isaac was talking to Esau, Rebecca was listening. So when Esau went out to hunt, she said to Jacob, “I have just heard your father say to Esau, ‘Bring me an animal and cook it for me. After I have eaten it, I will give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, son,” Rebecca continued, “listen to me and do what I say. Go to the flock and pick out two fat young goats, so that I can cook them and make some of that food your father likes so much.  You can take it to him to eat, and he will give you his blessing before he dies.”

But Jacob said to his mother, “You know that Esau is a hairy man, but I have smooth skin.  Perhaps my father will touch me and find out that I am deceiving him; in this way, I will bring a curse on myself instead of a blessing.”

His mother answered, “Let any curse against you fall on me, my son; just do as I say, and go and get the goats for me.”  So he went to get them and brought them to her, and she cooked the kind of food that his father liked.  Then she took Esau's best clothes, which she kept in the house, and put them on Jacob.  She put the skins of the goats on his arms and on the hairless part of his neck. She handed him the tasty food, along with the bread she had baked. Reflection Reflection

Just be you!

This passage makes me feel really uncomfortable. At its heart is the plan to deceive Isaac and make sure that Jacob receives Isaac’s final blessing in place of Esau, whom Isaac had asked for.

Rebekah knew that she was doing wrong because she even told Jacob that any curse will fall on her, and not him. She really was desperate for Jacob to get this blessing in place of Esau. It feels competitive.

Modern day society feels endlessly competitive. Everything is both instant and disposable. Trying to keep up with trends is both exhausting and expensive, and we are often judged on which of these we have (or not).

I have two children - a three year old  and a five year old. Already, I can see how much of their lives are spent in competition with each other. Despite them being very different characters, they want the same things, not because they actually really want it, but because if they don't have it, then the other is favored.
The thing I find myself telling them most often is that they are different people and like different things, and so having the same things does not make sense.

I see one of the most important things that we can do as a parents is teach our children to be comfortable in their own skin – the media dictates perfection and drives competitiveness and I wonder had Jacob and Rebekah not been driven by these things in this story how much better it would have been for Jacob.

We know that Jacob struggles after this encounter– and maybe out of guilt over this situation he spends a night wrestling with God.

How different could his life have been if he had been secure enough to let Esau have the blessing, knowing that God maybe had different plans for him?

However, do we do this ourselves?
How often do we pray to God and then take our own direction in situations.

Sometimes it is about having the courage to let go of others expectations of us and be ourselves.

When all the technology and media and other fads have gone – there are constants left – ourselves and God.

We don’t need to compete – because God is not interested in the rest. Just you. Prayer Wonderful God,
We thank you for who we are right now,
and we pray for the journey that we will take with you as we
pray and seek you in our everyday lives.
Rather than just saying it,
let us spend a few minutes today contemplating your love and its meaning to us
and see how we are transformed by it.
In your name, we pray
Amen Today's Writer Lee Battle is an ordinand at the Northern College in Manchester. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 2nd February

URC Devotions - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 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 Genesis 25.19-28 These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham fathered Isaac,  and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife.  And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. The children struggled together within her, and she said, “If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”
When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob.  Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.  When the boys grew up, Esau was a skilful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents.  Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob Reflection The title ‘Genesis’ (Gk. Geneseos) means ‘generations’.  Genesis is a record of ten successive generations.  The point being that generations come and go, but the Lord remains and never changes.  The Book of Genesis is a record of the faithfulness and patience of God.

We live in an ‘instant’ society.  We have instant coffee, instant breakfasts, instant soup, instant pudding and microwave popcorn.  We have instamatic cameras, Internet and email, universal cell phone coverage, cable TV, iPods, DVDs, Playstations and Palm Pilots.  We have become conditioned to ‘fast food’, Quick-print and Express-mail.  As efficient as all of this is, we have become products of an ‘instant society’.  We want everything quicker and faster.  We cannot wait for desires to be met in the fullness of time. We demand instant gratification.  If there is a complication in our lives, we search for an instant solution.  What I find a little worrying is that we seem to believe that we have an inalienable right to be happy.  No-one waits for anything and for the most part – no-one has to!

In this passage, we learn that we must accomplish God’s will, God’s way. God is going to work out His will, in His way, and in His time, but we must wait upon Him to accomplish it. Prayer God is working His purpose out
As year succeeds to year;
God is working His purpose out
And the time is drawing near;
Nearer and nearer draws the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

A C Ainger (1841-1919) Today's Writer Ann Barton is the Facilities and Health & Safety Manager at Church House. Bible Version   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 1st February

URC Devotions - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion: 1st February table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Genesis 24.42-end  Abraham’s servant said:  ‘I came today to the spring, and said, “O Lord, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going!  I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,’  and who will say to me, ‘Drink, and I will draw for your camels also’—let her be the woman whom the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.”

‘Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water-jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, “Please let me drink.”  She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, “Drink, and I will also water your camels.” So I drank, and she also watered the camels.  Then I asked her, “Whose daughter are you?” She said, “The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.” So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms.  Then I bowed my head and worshipped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.  Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.’

Then Laban and Bethuel answered, ‘The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you anything bad or good.  Look, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.’

When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed himself to the ground before the Lord.  And the servant brought out jewellery of silver and of gold, and garments, and gave them to Rebekah; he also gave to her brother and to her mother costly ornaments.   Then he and the men who were with him ate and drank, and they spent the night there. When they rose in the morning, he said, ‘Send me back to my master.’   Her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the girl remain with us a while, at least ten days; after that she may go.’   But he said to them, ‘Do not delay me, since the Lord has made my journey successful; let me go, that I may go to my master.’   They said, ‘We will call the girl, and ask her.’   And they called Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ She said, ‘I will.’  So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men.  And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

‘May you, our sister, become
   thousands of myriads;
may your offspring gain possession
   of the gates of their foes.’

Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.

Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb.  Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming.  And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel,  and said to the servant, ‘Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?’ The servant said, ‘It is my master.’ So she took her veil and covered herself.  And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done.  Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. Reflection Isaac is waiting for a wife. Everything depends on the safe return of his father’s servant from Haran, and on the success of his mission. Everything, that is, that God once promised Abraham: descendants as countless as the stars in the heavens.

But in this part of the story God no longer speaks so clearly. When Eliezer arrived in Haran, how was he to know where to start looking for a suitable bride to take back to Isaac?  It seems that he had to take the initiative as he turned to this God who no longer speaks. And he decided – or somehow they decided together – that the first girl who came to the well and was willing to help water the camels (the sort of practical skill that Isaac might be hoping for in a wife) should be the chosen one.

Not only did Rebekah give Eliezer the sip of water that he asked for from her jar, but without prompting she offered to draw water for the camels – all ten of them. How many trips down to the water did that require? Eliezer noticed not only her warm and generous personality, but the fact that she was strikingly beautiful. And then it turned out that she was part of his master’s own family – granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor.

It wasn’t just the jewels that she brought home from the stranger at the well that made the eyes of the men of the household light up. Hearing Eliezer’s story, the penny drops: “The thing comes from the Lord.” If God has been silent, it may be that there was nothing he needed to say. It is crystal clear that  he has been behind this whole train of events, to the extent that Rebekah herself is ready to leave immediately, and begin her new life in the land of the promises.

And when Isaac, out in the fields mourning his mother, and soon to be mourning his father too, looks up and sees Rebekah, modestly veiling her face as she slips down from the camel, he too recognises God’s hand in all that has happened to bring them together. Yes, it is an arranged marriage; but not surprisingly  we are told that Isaac took Rebekah, and loved her. Prayer Gracious God
though your ways are often hidden from us
give us insight to recognise that you are at work in our lives
and prompt us to make the right decisions
that may further your purposes of good for all.  
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd John Durell is a retired minister living in Durham in the Northern Synod. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 31st January

URC Devotions - Tue, 31/01/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion: 31st January 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 Genesis 21.9-21 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac.  So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’  The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named after you.  As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.  Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, ‘Do not let me look on the death of the child.’ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.  And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.  Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’  Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.  He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt. Reflection What have your rejected lately, dismissed, turned away from, chosen you wanted to be no part of?  Why? I’m no scholar of the Old Testament, so on reading and reflecting on this passage I was struck for the first time by Sarah’s harsh response to Isaac playing with Ishmael. My thought is that Sarah’s response is grounded in the sense that what she wants is under threat, what she believes may be challenged and ultimately she is afraid. Her reaction is to remove the threat. What then surprises me is God says to Abraham do what Sarah wants, what doesn’t surprise me is God does not follow Sarah’s thinking. God does not reject or turn his back on Hagar or Ishmael but continues to work with and through them, as much as he does Sarah and Isaac, creating two great nations.

Was the thing you rejected recently because it was a threat or caused fear? Mine was. In my role as a Church Related Community Work Minister I found myself in deep conversation with a lady who shared with me, as the conversation progressed and was getting more personal to me, that she was a psychic and medium. I suddenly felt uncomfortable and my internal response was, thanks but no thanks I have no personal interest in hearing what you have to say to me, and I politely removed myself from the situation. This is not my way, therefore, I was simply rejecting it. The art of psychics and mediums continues not to be my way however, it has surprised me just how much God has then chosen this experience, and the continued opportunities of conversation with the lady since, to speak to me.

Let’s not lose sight of seeing God at work in all things. As this scripture shows us God continues to speak even through the things we reject and turn our backs on.

What as a church or personally do you reject through fear or a sense of threat? Are we brave enough, faithful enough, to look again and see God at work in all things and all people, even those that threaten us or we have already chosen to reject?     Prayer God of all people and all understanding,
help me not only to see you in the things
that I understand and offer me comfort
but also in the things I choose to reject
and that leave me feeling threatened.
Amen Today's Writer Helen Stephenson is a Church Related Community Worker in the Sunderland and Boldon Partnership in the Northern Synod. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 30th January

URC Devotions - Mon, 30/01/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion: 30th January table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Genesis 18.9-15; 21.1-7 They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’  Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.  So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’  The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?”  Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’  But Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised.  Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.  And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.  Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.  Now Sarah said, ‘God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.’  And she said, ‘Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’ Reflection Sarah laughed.

Wouldn’t we all?

It’s easy to say that we trust in God, that we believe God can do anything, that God is capable of doing whatever God chooses.

But when it comes down to it we are much more like Sarah that we might want to be.  Not me.  I’m too old or too young or too set in my ways or too inexperienced or too busy or too whatever.  How could God possibly use me?  How could God possibly think that I can be part of his plans?

Our church is full of Sarahs.  We look around at our aging congregations and see decline when God looks and sees new possibilities.  Or we feel ourselves less capable, our creaks and groans remind us of how things used to be.

And yet God chooses Sarah to carry and raise a child.  God chose Sarah to birth a whole new nation.   Even though she laughed at the very suggestion of it.

I wonder what plans God has for us, despite our laughter?  I wonder what you are called to bring into being, even though we might chuckle at the thought? Prayer God,
who hears our giggles
but chooses us anyway,
plant in us a willingness
to say ‘yes’ to your plans for us
to be prepared to carry
and birth
and nurture
the new ways you have planned for us. Today's Writer Stewart Cutler is an ordinand at the Scottish Congregational and United Reformed Church College. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion: 29th January

URC Devotions - Sun, 29/01/2017 - 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 Today we start a short series of devotions looking at Sarah, Hagar and Rebecca.

Genesis 16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar,  and Sarai said to Abram, ‘You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.  So, after Abram had lived for ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife.  He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.  Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!’  But Abram said to Sarai, ‘Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.’ Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.  And he said, ‘Hagar, slave-girl of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’ She said, ‘I am running away from my mistress Sarai.’  The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her.’  The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.’  And the angel of the Lord said to her,

‘Now you have conceived and shall bear a son;
   you shall call him Ishmael,
   for the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
He shall be a wild ass of a man,
with his hand against everyone,
   and everyone’s hand against him;
and he shall live at odds with all his kin.’

So she named the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are El-roi’; for she said, ‘Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?’ Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.

Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. Reflection I am sorry to have to mention this, but someone has broken the Hebrew in the passage above, and I think it matters. English translations of verse 13 want Hagar to say “Have I really seen God and remained alive after seeing him?”, because this is the kind of thing people in the Old Testament would say. But as soon as you look at the Hebrew this interpretation just doesn’t hold. To find anything here, we have to add some letters or explain away some confusing word choices. That done, Hagar seems to say either ‘Have I really seen the backside of the one who sees me’ or ‘Would I ever have looked here for the one who sees me?’

Both readings are exciting. Hagar is standing by a well, on the road by which she was fleeing back towards her people, away from a household who have made her pregnant and begun to mistreat her. We can imagine a long form of her speech: “Who would have thought that doing what I am doing, and in a nowhere place like this, the God who sees everything would send someone to meet me and change what I am doing.”

But, perhaps we should be paying attention to that word “backside”? It seems to make Hagar’s encounter with this angel a little bit like that of Moses (Exod 33) when he is given permission to look at God passing by – a famous passage in which God tells Moses “you cannot see my face”. If we start to pay a lot of attention to God’s backside, and try looking it up in the Greek text of Genesis, we find a real puzzle. In Greek, Hagar says to herself “Have I seen face to face with the one who sees me?” A growing number of translators wonder whether Hagar’s reference to God’s hind parts is a euphemism created by a Hebrew scribe to hide the word ‘face’. It acts to take away the impression that this slave girl, who was fleeing from the divine plan for Abraham’s family got a better view of God than Moses did. A young girl, but with a clearer understanding of God’s attention and intention than Sarah, who laughed at God’s plan.  Meeting with a stranger in a nowhere place, Hagar realises that God cares even for her. God is looking out for her, and and God is looking at her. And the braveness with which she has looked right back gives her strength to go back into a dark situation and wait for God’s plan to unfold. Prayer God who sees me,
let me look for your face,
gaze into your eyes,
and wonder what you have in store for me.
And strengthen me for whatever shall come.
Amen.
  Today's Writer The Rev'd 'Frin Lewis Smith is the Minister of Darwen and Tockholes URCs. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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