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URC Daily Devotion 11th November

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

John 12: 37 - 50

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 10th November

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

John 12: 20 - 36

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 9th November

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

John 12:12-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 8th November

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

John 12: 1-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 7th November

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

John 11: 55-57

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,

Come.

Amen.

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 6th November

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

John 11: 45 - 54

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

Through the saving power of Jesus our Lord.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Salsbury is minister of Dyserth and Holywell and Training and Development Officer in the National Synod of Wales.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 5th November

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

Psalm 22
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Today's Writer

Ann Barton, Facilities Manager, Church House.

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Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS.
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URC Daily Devotion 4th November

URC Devotions - Sat, 04/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 11: 1 - 43

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,

‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’

But when Jesus heard it, he said,

‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples,

‘Let us go to Judea again.’

The disciples said to him,

‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’

Jesus answered,

‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’

After saying this, he told them,

‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’

The disciples said to him,

‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’

Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly,

‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’

Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples,

‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’


When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus,

‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’

Jesus said to her,

‘Your brother will rise again.’

Martha said to him,

‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’

Jesus said to her,

‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

She said to him,

‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately,

‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’

And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him,

‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said,

Where have you laid him?’

They said to him,

Lord, come and see.’

Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said,

‘See how he loved him!’

But some of them said,

‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said,

‘Take away the stone.’

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him,

‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’

Jesus said to her,

‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’

So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said,

‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice,

‘Lazarus, come out!’
Reflection Scientists believe that the Universe is self-consistent, that is, that every event which occurs does so in accord with a set of rules commonly called the Laws of Physics or Natural Laws. At any point in history, we may not know all the rules and some rules may be probabilistic so that more than one outcome is possible. But rules are rules. When something comes along that seems to violate these rules, the scientist needs to consider whether or not their understanding of the rules is correct, or if a new set of rules needs to be formulated to resolve this violation. That’s how quantum mechanics came about in the early 20th Century for example.

Occasionally, an extremely unusual, possibly unique, event occurs which might be difficult if not impossible to explain within the current framework of natural law. Depending on its nature, some people may refer to the event as a miracle, especially if the event is one of healing or some such. However, the scientist may eschew the word miracle, agreeing with philosophers like Hume that as a matter of principle miracles cannot occur, so that all such events will ultimately be explicable in rational terms.

Thinking about miracles is at present an active field of study in science and religion circles, with scientists and theologians seeking to shed light on the subject. Believer scientists may seek to invoke the somewhat spooky world of quantum mechanics as the vehicle for divine action and theologians like Pannenberg and Nichols suggest that miracles happen when God chooses to act in the world but that this action is expressed in the context of faith and prayer.

Bringing Lazarus back to life is an event which may be described as miraculous. The focus of faith and prayer is Jesus himself through whom the miracle is mediated. The nub of the passage is then Jesus’ firm emphasis on the glory of God and not the act itself.

Focussing our lives in prayer and on the glory of God revealed in Jesus may result in miracles, although they may be less spectacular!
 

Prayer

(pause for reflection between each line)

Wonderful God
open my eyes
to the everyday
miracles
in life.
Focus my life
on Jesus
that I too
may be
a mediator
of your
action
today.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon.  He is a member at Upton-by-Chester URC.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 3rd November

URC Devotions - Fri, 03/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 10:  22 - 42

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.  So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,

‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’

Jesus answered,

‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me;  but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.  What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.’

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied,

‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’  

The Jews answered,

‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’

Jesus answered,

Is it not written in your law, “ said, you are gods”?  If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’  

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying,

‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’  

And many believed in him there.
Reflection Many years ago I knew a Christian minister who had been asked to pray for a sick person. Her brother lived in one of the villages he ministered in and she had been very sick for many years.  The sister concerned lived in a nursing home due to her condition which was caused by a drug she had taken for many years damaging the sheath surrounding the nerves.  This meant that she could not be still; her arms and legs were in constant motion and in turn this meant she hadn’t slept for seven years nor could she feed herself.   I’m told she wanted to die but agreed to my minister friend, together with a sister of the ill woman, praying for her.   My friend tells me they spent quite some time in pastoral conversation and then prayed with the laying on of hands.  Of course nothing happened but on their way out the minister suddenly felt angry about the condition of this poor woman and asked to pray again.  She accepted the offer.  Of course still nothing happened but my friend now, mysteriously, felt peace in his heart.  However two weeks or so later, he met the brother who had first begged him to pray for his ill sister.   The brother told him with tears running down his cheeks that his sister was fully well.  She was sleeping and feeding herself, she said she now was happy to be alive and they were taking her out into the park in a wheel chair whilst her muscles got their strength back.  She hadn’t been outside in many a year.   The brother also told my friend that people would begin flocking to the church he cared for as a result, but you know what?  Not a single person came to the church even though the family were well known in the village.

Perhaps that’s something of what Jesus faced.  Recorded here in John 10 we have our friends the Jewish religious leaders saying on the one hand “Go on then prove yourself!” And on the other hand “ It doesn’t matter what “works” you do we already know you’re not from God!”  People believe what they want to believe and disbelieve what they want to disbelieve.  C.S.Lewis once wrote “Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it” (God in the Dock pg 12).   It was and is so often the case that the poor and the marginalised are the ones who seem to have the acutest hearing when it comes to the voice of Jesus .  “My sheep hear my voice”. This was Jesus’s explanation for why the religious leaders, lay and ordained could not believe that he is “God's Son” even though they were witnesses to the works Jesus did.  Such a belief did not match their “preconceptions” even though their prophets were often called “gods” because they bore the word of God to the people.  We are not immune, we too can be deafened by our preconceptions and we all have them.  God longs us to hear the good news that we are God’s and “No one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand for the Father and I are one.”   John here as so often, making explicit what is heavily implicit in the three other gospels.
 

Prayer

Merciful and gracious God, may we always be attentive to your voice, whether it comes to us as a still small voice whispering in our inner being, or through a church service or a friend, or from whatever source.   Thank you that in your Son, Jesus, we find our true security and our true home.  
We pray today for all who do not have the security of decent jobs, or homes to live in both in the UK and abroad.  

We pray particularly for refugees  who have risked life and limb to find a safer and better place to live only to be met with hostility in many European countries especially our own.  We pray for a change of heart for the UK government , that the hearts of those in government may soften towards children and adults fleeing war, famine and persecution.  

In the name of the Great Shepherd and Lover of humanity, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Meek is the Moderator of the  East Midlands Synod.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 2nd November

URC Devotions - Thu, 02/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 10: 1 - 21

Jesus said:

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.  The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.   The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.    When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.    They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’    

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them,

‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.   The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.   The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,   just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Again the Jews were divided because of these words.  Many of them were saying,

‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’  

Others were saying,

These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’
Reflection Before coming into URC ministry I was a teacher, completing my teacher training at St. John’s College, York (now York St. John University) and the motto of the college was, and I believe, still is “Ut vitam habeant et abundantius” – that they may have life and have it more abundantly; drawing upon John 10:10. It was an excellent word for our training which, in those far-off times (the sixties) was supposed to prepare us to teach people who would have shorter working hours and more leisure in which to discover for themselves a fullness of life. Ironically, of course, the reverse has turned out to be true; people either work very long hours or have no work at all, and as for abundant life . . .

But John 10:10 remains very special for me: always the words challenge me to consider just what is life in all its fullness? Does it lie in wealth or health? Both would have come into it for Jesus’ hearers, and still must, surely, for living a full life in extreme poverty or when profoundly ill – mentally or physically - is not impossible but very hard. For many a full life lies in possessions; in travel. For many fullness of life is found in relationships.

But if we look at the image of the shepherd which Jesus uses here, a competent shepherd looks to the whole life of the sheep. He or she makes sure they have good grazing and water and are physically healthy; worries about their safety and works hard for and with them and notices when they are happy or not because their contentment actually matters. This matters to all good keepers of any animals. My late father had a friend who kept free-range turkeys and chickens; one evening, on a trip around an agricultural college we were approaching the poultry sheds, which weren’t impressing him. “But,” he muttered gloomily, “I have to admit the hens sound happy.” How did he know? From the way they were clucking, which to me sounded like – well, just hens clucking. The good farmer really understands the creatures under his care, even if no-one else does!

Is there a clue there as to the meaning of ‘abundant life’?

For me, it is life in which we do care for the body and for the mind, but in which we also maintain a curiosity about life as it is and as it can be even while finding a contentment in the here and now; in which we have the security of being understood and loved by God, and it brings a deep desire that all people should know fullness of life – and a deep desire to work towards that.

But that’s just me. Where do you believe fullness of life lies for you, and for the world?
 

Prayer

Loving, living God,
our newspapers, televisions, radios, Internet
show us a world in which millions live highly restricted lives
and it is too easy to look away.
As Jesus the Good Shepherd knows and understands his sheep,
help us, by the guiding of the Holy Spirit,
to ever seek the good of others,
in prayer and in action
that one day all may indeed find life in all its fullness;
the life that Jesus brings.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Crofton is a retired minister living near Durham.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 1st November

URC Devotions - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him,

‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

Jesus answered,

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’  

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him,

‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent).

Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask,

‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’  

Some were saying,

‘It is he.’

Others were saying,

‘No, but it is someone like him.’

He kept saying,

‘I am the man.’  

But they kept asking him,

‘Then how were your eyes opened?’  

He answered,

‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’  

They said to him,

‘Where is he?’

He said,

‘I do not know.’

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.  Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them,

‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’

Some of the Pharisees said,

‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’

But others said,

‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’

And they were divided.

So they said again to the blind man,

‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’

He said,

‘He is a prophet.’

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them,

‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’

His parents answered,

‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;  but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’

His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said,

‘He is of age; ask him.’

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him,

‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’

He answered,

‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’

They said to him,

‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’

He answered them,

‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’

Then they reviled him, saying,

‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’

The man answered,

‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’

They answered him,

‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’

And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said,

‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’

He answered,

‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’

Jesus said to him,

‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’

He said,

‘Lord, I believe.’

And he worshipped him.  Jesus said,

‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him,

‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’

Jesus said to them,

‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.
Reflection This passage of scripture throw up profound issues.  Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem and the passage begins almost casually: “As he walked along…”  And yet it is as if Jesus expected to meet this man.  Clearly he and his disciples know something of him, because they knew that this man was born blind, therefore they must have met him before; Jerusalem was after all a very small city.   The disciples here show that they share with all of their generation the superstitious belief that anyone with disability must have sinned to be that way and if their disability was inherited, then it must have been his or her parents who sinned against God.  Tragically there are still those in the church who hold this superstitious view.  The disciples were certain of this which is why they ask the question of Jesus " Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The answer they expect is a clear and simple “Parents or him”.  Jesus’ reply demonstrates that whilst he was very much rooted in first century Palestine, he was also a man out of his time.   His reply reminds me of what he said about those who died in the disaster of the Tower of Siloam ( same place name as the pool, interestingly).   Jesus’s reply in one sense is altogether modern: “ Neither his parents nor he sinned…..” Yet Jesus takes it beyond busting superstitious nonsense and sees in this moment a Kairos moment, God’s moment.  Not only is this man innocent of the charges laid against him and his parents but also he has a key part to play in God’s purposes.  His healing not only reveals that Jesus is sent from God, but also that it is so often the case that the blind can truly see and the sighted are often blind.   

The reaction of the religious authorities here is what we’d expect.  As an aside where we read the word “Jews” here, let us be clear.   The author of John’s gospel means the Jewish leaders and authorities, not all Jews.  Passages like this have been used to justify anti-semitism quite wrongly and quite wickedly.  So the religious authorities do not like what has happened.  They cannot see the good news because they cannot see past their interpretation of the law of Moses nor their right to interpret it.  This imposter, Jesus of Nazareth, is usurping their God given role in society and it won’t do!   Isn’t it awful, even frightening what legalism and pride can do?  Both can blind us to what God is doing.  Here both lay people, the Pharisees, and ordained people , “the Jews” ( at least in my interpretation) are guilty of this.   The man’s poor parents are grilled and are terrified, but the healed man is then found and he tells what he knows.   He becomes a teller of the good news himself!

So, let us always treat those with special needs with great compassion and more than that, let us listen for what God is saying to us through them for these sisters and brothers can often be more “sighted” than those whose bodies work as they ought.   Let us also not fall into the trap of the Pharisees and the Jewish Leaders, in other words let us be attentive to what God is already doing amongst us and where God wants to lead us.  Let us never write something off because “ It’s not the way we do things here!”   Too many churches have been killed by such legalism and close mindedness!
 

Prayer

Praying in the tradition of Stephen and Origen:

Lord Jesus, thank you for the love you showed to the man born blind.  Thank you that you took him seriously and treated him as fully beloved of God.  Thank you too for the risk you took to yourself in healing him on a sabbath day and in doing so, revealing your Father’s glory.  We pray today for all who have special needs, that our society will cherish them and that they and we together may see more and more of your love at work in our lives.   For those who are harshly judged in church and out of church we pray.  Lord Jesus help us to see with eyes of compassion and not the eyes of the legalist.  In and through even us ,may your glory be revealed that many more people may come to know you and know they are loved by you.  We pray too for the churches we belong to, that our churches may be ever open to the leading of God and never dismiss works of God amongst us, even when they are surprising and not what we are used to.  Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Meek is the Moderator of the East Midlands Synod.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 31st October

URC Devotions - Tue, 31/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 31st October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Martin Luther
Reformer, 1546

Martin Luther was born in 1483 at Eisleben in Saxony and educated at the cathedral school in Magdeburg and the university in Erfurt. He joined an order of Augustinian hermits there and was ordained priest in 1507, becoming a lecturer in the university at Wittenberg. He became vicar of his Order in 1515, having charge of a dozen monasteries. His Christian faith began to take on a new shape, with his increasing dissatisfaction with the worship and order of the Church. He became convinced that the gospels taught that humanity is saved by faith and not by works, finding support in the writings of St Augustine of Hippo. He refuted the teaching of the Letter of James, calling it 'an epistle of straw'. Martin sought to debate the whole matter by posting ninety-five theses or propositions on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg on this day in the year 1517. The hierarchy chose to see it as a direct attack on the Church, which forced Martin into open rebellion. The Protestant Reformation spread throughout Germany and then Europe, many seeing it as liberation from a Church that held them in fear rather than love. Martin Luther died in 1546, having effected a renaissance in the Church, both Protestant and Catholic.

Jeremiah 1. 4–10

The Lord said to me,   

“I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born I selected you to be a prophet to the nations.”

I answered,

“Sovereign Lord, I don’t know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say that you are too young, but go to the people I send you to, and tell them everything I command you to say.  Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Then the Lord reached out, touched my lips, and said to me,

“Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak.  Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
 
 
Reflection You probably do not need reminding that today is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, if you did, consider yourself reminded! I am sure we do not need to think too hard about the impact that Martin Luther made when he nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on this day five hundred years ago.  Like Jeremiah he wouldn’t have then known the impact of his ministry.  

In the passage the part that stood out for me was “Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak”. In isolation this sounds authoritarian, but Jeremiah is panicking because he does not have the words to speak. Instead of authoritarianism, is it not provision? God’s provision for Jeremiah’s journey.

Can we not see that through Jeremiah and Martin Luther’s lives, the impact just one individual can make?

To understand our gifts and the impact that God wants us to make, it needs to be fuelled by listening…unless we can listen to God, how do we know what God has in store for us?

God will have different paths for each of us, because the thing is, there is only you, that can be you. There is no-one else in the world that can do that, and I don’t think if you were not here, that God would fill the you shaped hole, because no-one else could travel along your path.

So, let us then embrace ourselves, with humble and confident gratitude and prayerfully discern our future, knowing that with God, all things are possible!

I have often been comforted by the prayer of St Teresa of Avila, when she so powerfully helps us to understand that whatever limitations we see – God does not. I pray therefore that we look above our own barriers and see the horizon God has given us.

Prayer

Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Today's Writer

Lee Battle is an ordinand at Northern College and member of Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC in Chorlton, South 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 30th October

URC Devotions - Mon, 30/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 8: 31-59

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’  They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’

Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever.  So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.  I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word.  I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’

They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.  You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’  Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.  Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.  You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?  Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’

The Jews answered him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’  Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me.  Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge.  Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’  The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.”  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word.  Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’  Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’  So, they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Reflection What is “truth” and what is “freedom”? These are two questions begged by this passage, and both raise live issues for our day.

Truth is a significant theme in the Fourth Gospel where we not only find such phrases frequently on the lips of Jesus but also Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”  There have been innumerable, disheartening, instances of politicians in the UK, the USA and elsewhere claiming that their assertions are truthful and factually correct when their statements twisted facts and were untruthful, if only by omission and distortion – economical with the truth, indeed. Within this passage the reliance of the Jews on Abrahamic descent was true insofar as it reflected their confidence in being on the right side with God, but their conclusion from such reliance was negated by their failure to recognise and accept Jesus as coming from the Father.
        
It can be difficult, and for some people seemingly impossible, to accept that what they have been told to be true is in fact wrong. We find this among Christians who have grown up within fellowships dependent on narrow interpretations of either Scripture or the teachings of their Church. We once had an Elder who was dogmatic and decisive in expressing his views; another Elder challenged him, “Don’t you ever change your mind?” The response was instant, “Never” – a response that all too accurately reflected his attitude and revealed his personal tragedy.
        
And Jesus said, “the truth will make you free.” When we have the courage to face up to the truth, accepting where we have been wrong or in denial about ourselves or others, then we are offered freedom, but how are we to understand what that means?
        
The writer of our Gospel was steeped in both Jewish and Hellenistic (Greek) religious thought and was able to use such learning to develop and advance Christian understanding. For Jews the Law was truth and the study of the Law made people free – the greater and deeper the study, the greater the freedom. In the Hellenistic world the Stoics taught that people could obtain freedom by regulating their lives in accordance with the ultimate divine authority of the Logos. For Jews truth brought a total reliance on the Law and freedom from worldly concerns; for Stoics it meant deliverance from ignorance and error. Christians can benefit much from both approaches and here in the Gospel we find that ultimate freedom is deliverance from sin, born again to a new life with our Saviour, fully accepted of children of the Father without needing specific human ancestry.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
the Way, the Truth and the Life;
strengthen and guide us to live in your Way,
growing in our understanding of your Truth
and so finding the Freedom of those
whose lives are grounded in your love and peace:
trusting in your power we pray:
Amen.

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 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 October

URC Devotions - Sun, 29/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 21
 

O LORD, in your strength how the king is exultant!
How great is his joy in the triumphs you bring!
To him you have granted his heart’s deepest longing;
you answered the plea from the lips of the king.

You welcomed him richly with blessings of goodness;
a crown of fine gold you have placed on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave him it freely—
abundance of days, that his years should not end.

Through triumphs you gave his renown is exalted,
and you have bestowed on him splendour and grace.
You surely have granted him blessings eternal;
you filled him with joy by the light of your face.

For the king puts his trust in the LORD high above;
unshaken he stands through the LORD’s steadfast love.

Your hand will lay hold upon all your opponents;
your right hand will seize all the foes in your path.
You’ll set them ablaze with your glorious appearance;
you’ll swallow them up in the fire of your wrath.

From earth you will utterly wipe out their offspring.
They plot wicked schemes, but will never prevail.
Because when you aim with your bow at the ready
you’ll make them turn back and their courage will fail.

Be exalted, O LORD, in the strength of your arm;
we will praise your great might to the sound of a psalm.

You can hear a Free Church sing this to the jolly tune Exultation here.
Reflection The Psalms, together with Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, are known as Wisdom Books.  Psalm 21 is one of the collection of poems or songs, composed over centuries, that were set to music and sung by Jewish worshippers at home, on the road during pilgrimages to Jerusalem and in the Temple. More than half of the psalms are associated with David (who may have written some of them) while the rest were inspired by him or dedicated to him.

There are many songs of thanks to God. Psalm 21 gives praise for a royal victory. The Psalm is addressed directly to God who has answered the king’s requests for long, lasting life, giving him strength and blessings. The king rejoices in his victory and the crown of gold, fame and majesty that he has received, as a gift from God.

We are reminded, by today’s reading, that we can likewise speak directly to God with our requests for healing, forgiveness, peace of mind or courage to take the next steps in our pilgrim life.

The psalmist petitions for the destruction of God’s enemies. We must put our trust in God to deal with “enemies”, as God sees fit . God will secure our deliverance and, in God, we shall come to know the joy of the divine presence. Psalm 21 speaks of the security that God’s unfailing love brings to the king and so, also, to us in the face of struggles. The strength and persistence that ultimately leads to victory will depend on our turning to God in open, honest prayer.

We may not know when or by whom Psalm 21 was written or the king whose praises to God we read here but we can take his approach as our example to believe and trust in God.

Prayer

Dear God,
we open our heart’s desires to You,
asking You to meet our needs
and answer our requests,
as You see fit.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Pamela Dowling served as an Elder at the former St. John’s URC, Forest Hill. London.

Bible Version

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


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URC Daily Devotion 28th October

URC Devotions - Sat, 28/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 8: 13-30

Then the Pharisees said to him,

‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’

Jesus answered,

‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgement is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father  who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’

Then they said to him,

‘Where is your Father?’

Jesus answered,

‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’

He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. Again he said to them,

‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’

Then the Jews said,

‘Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’

He said to them,

‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’

They said to him,

‘Who are you?’

Jesus said to them,

‘Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’

They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said,

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.’

As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
 
Reflection Questions, Questions, Questions!

This is the longest and angriest argument between Jesus and his opponents, and you can almost feel the tension and frustration rising in Jesus’ voice. The opponents question Jesus’ intention, his relationship with God, and his identity, and in return Jesus challenges their authority as Jews.

The root of the matter is one of truth. Jesus gives thoughtful and clear explanations and illustrations of the truth about God, and by the last verse ‘many believed in him’.

The two points to remember in this reading; firstly that John is writing to an early Christian community and need their personal questions answered; but in some ways, you cannot isolate this reading from the rest of the Gospel writings and themes in John. This conversation is really harking back to the question that Moses asks God in Exodus, ‘who are you?’ and God replies ‘I am who I am?’

Secondly, many people in today’s world, whether it be friends, family, work colleagues, children, regular church goers or those who have never attended church apart from a funeral, ask the same questions to us as Christians ‘who is this God you adore and follow’. The question is easily asked, the answer though can be challenging for us as disciples of Jesus, where some of us may be struggling with our faith. To speak about why and what we believe in is testing for some people. To express into words what we feel, is a difficult task.

How can you capture the essence of God?

The God who gives us strength when we may feel frail;
the God who loves us even though we may feel unloved;
the God who calls to us to follow even though we may want to turn away and run.

Once I had a friend whose faith shone from her face and eyes, she lived out her faith with passion for she loved every human being she came across. She lived out her faith in truth, not by eloquent words, but by her actions and her demeanour.

We may not have the clarity of words and eloquence of Jesus, but we must always be true to ourselves and to God.

Wherever we are on the path of discipleship, let us all shine with light of Christ, then when people ask the question who is God for you, they may follow on with … I want what you have in your eyes...Love.
 

Prayer

Treasure us Lord,
When we feel stretched to talk about our faith;
a faith that sometimes feels frayed at the edges,
a faith that sometimes feels fragile as a bubble blown about in the wind,
a faith that can transport us to shifting sands or a solid foundation.
In these times,
bless us with your Spirit
that is truth;
bless us with your Grace
That is unmeasurable;
bless us with your Love
seen on the Cross and in the new life of the Resurrection.
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is the minister at Fleet and Beacon Hill Hindhead URCs in the Wessex Synod.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 27th October

URC Devotions - Fri, 27/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 8: 12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Reflection Jesus calls himself “the light of the world” and promises the light of life to all who follow him. The occasion when he said this, in St John’s Gospel, makes it all the more vivid. Jesus had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles, which commemorated the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness when, guided by a pillar of fire at night, they could see how important was light. The lamps were lit when darkness had fallen and suddenly the crowds saw such bright light that it was said to illuminate every street in Jerusalem. That very moment was the one chosen by Jesus to assert that he was the light of the world; that the light was not in the great candelabra but was present in God’s son, living his life among people. Here he is claiming to give the light of life, while always acknowledging his dependence on God, to know his will and to do his work always.

We all appreciate that light is utterly different from darkness. It shines out to conquer gloom, reveal a situation or show the way. Jesus said his followers too were lights for the world, their good deeds would shine out for the glory of God (Matthew, ch.5, vv.14-16). Behind his followers at all times is the perfect love and justice of God the Father. All this we take on as we try to be followers of our Lord Jesus. St Augustine expressed his conversion as “a light flooded my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”

It can be hard for us to recognise and maintain the light of Christ within us. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul describes Christians as like plain pottery jars that hold a candle. Our lives may look ordinary but we contain  the light of Christ. The same God who said, “Let there be light.” has now placed the light of Christ in our hearts. What a gift!

Many years ago, my family and I were on holiday on the Atlantic coast of south-west France. In many small churches, if 2 francs were placed in a slot machine, the whole altar lit up for a limited time. It was immediately transformed into a gilded pattern of images. What had been dark and difficult to see became a sharp image lit to give beauty and inspiration.

Unfortunately 2 francs, or its modern equivalent, won’t fill us with instant light. We have to work hard to achieve this. Jesus’ description of himself as “light of the world” is significant. Light is the most revealing thing in the world – it shows people things as they are – as Jesus did. Light is the greatest guide on an unfamiliar path and we have no greater guide than Jesus.

There is also an unconquerable quality in light – not all the darkness in the world can extinguish the smallest light. As we try to follow Jesus, we can move out of darkness into light, to live in and through the Light. We put our money in the slot as we read the Bible, pray and contemplate, and all is light. An interesting aspect is that we don’t do this in isolation. When money is put in the slot, the altar lights up and I am not the only one to see it. Everyone in the church at that time cannot help but share in the wonder of the light. As Jesus said, “God’s people are like a light for the whole world.” We should learn to let that light shine out to others. It must be shared.

Perhaps there has never been a time like now when the world is in such need of God’s light. May we persevere in attempting to be a light for the whole world; and perhaps to bring just one more person to share in the light and know God.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you are the light of the world.
Those who follow you have the light of life.
We remember all people who live in darkness,
who experience despair and times of depression.
Help us to bring friendship which brings light.
Inspire us to speak of hope which scatters darkness.
Lighten our darkness, we pray.
Kindle a flame in our hearts.
Amen

Today's Writer

Hilary Jackson is a lay preacher in the NW Synod, now living in North Yorkshire.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 26th October

URC Devotions - Thu, 26/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 26th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 8: 1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,  they said to him,

"Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"

They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them,

"Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus straightened up and said to her,

"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She said,

"No one, sir."

And Jesus said,

"Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."
Reflection I have enjoyed many walks along Northumberland’s beautiful beaches, and during each walk I have been mindful of how each successive high tide wipes the beach smooth and clean with the earlier moated sandcastles, bunkers and deep holes gone: all the nascent civil engineering, artistic flair, creativity and imagination - all smoothed out of existence, along with the intertwined traces of foot and paw prints: defying Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetic image of great lives leaving footprints on the sands of time – all gone!
Today’s reading speaks powerfully of God’s mercy, love and forgiveness, and reminds us that ours is a God of new beginnings.  Jesus is teaching, but is interrupted by scribes and Pharisees bringing a woman caught in adultery.

He does not react straight away, but writes with his finger on the ground, in the dust and sand.  What was he writing? Why does the Gospel writer choose to focus on this small activity twice, when the force of the narrative lies elsewhere?

After writing, Jesus stands up, and speaks, turning the spotlight in front of everyone gathered there onto the scribes and Pharisees themselves.  The impact of Jesus putting their behaviour and attitudes on display is electrifyingly unbearable for them, as one by one they peel away, unable to bear being scrutinised as closely as they were prepared to publicly scrutinise this woman.  Their hypocritical tyranny is laid bare, Jesus literally stands up to them and exposes them for what they are, before crouching down again to continue writing quietly in the sand.

Whatever marks he made, whatever words written, they would have been quickly obscured and swept away by the footprints of many.

Eventually Jesus is left alone with the woman. In a short dialogue, she receives her challenging benediction: just as her accusers have gone and not persisted in their condemnation, Jesus refuses to condemn her, but adds, ‘do not sin again.’

The tide sweeps the beach clean.
 

Prayer

Loving God,
We thank and praise you for your amazing grace.
Help us when we doubt that you are a God of new beginnings.
Help us when the tide of your love mercy and grace
cannot come in and sweep the beach clean quickly enough for ourselves or others.
May we choose our powerful words with care,
and stand up to those who tyrannise and bully
the weak and vulnerable for their own ends.
May our ears and hearts always be open
to your challenging benediction.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Herbert is the Moderator of the Northern Synod.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 25th October

URC Devotions - Wed, 25/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 25th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 7: 37 - 52

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out,

"Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,  and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' "

Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  When they heard these words, some in the crowd said,

"This is really the prophet."

Others said,

"This is the Messiah."

But some asked,

"Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?  Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?"

So there was a division in the crowd because of him.   Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.  Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them,

"Why did you not arrest him?"

The police answered,

"Never has anyone spoken like this!"

Then the Pharisees replied,

"Surely you have not been deceived too, have you?  Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?  But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed."

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked,

"Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?"

They replied,

"Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee."
Reflection Galilee was definitely not on the radar when it came to the widely held expectations of where the Messiah would physically become apparent;  the religious establishment were threatened by Jesus’ ministry. Today’s reading references this twice.  Just when we think we have God sorted and packaged, clearly delineated and fathomed, we discover how wrong we are to try and limit, and comprehend, and hold, such divine mystery.

Expectations are a powerful influence in life, best acknowledged and managed carefully and deliberately.  We all hold many expectations both of ourselves and others.  In our own lives we can either rise to expectations, or they can weigh heavily upon us. They have the power to both uplift or disable our lives.  The same is true regarding our projected expectations of other people and situations.  It is so easy to get it wrong, and most helpful when we get it right.

So much of the Christian’s life is about expectation, as we view our experience of life through the lens of God’s love.  And it is so easy to get it wrong when it comes to our expectations of where ministry lies in the life of the Church; our expectations of worship; our expectations of what resources we need to be and do Church; our expectations of where God’s kingdom is rooted; our expectations of where God’s Spirit is active; our expectations of where true treasure can be found – even in people like you and me despite our frailty and faults, and occasional disillusionment along the way!  After all, as we read again and again in the Bible, and discover along The Way, and, as unpacked in 1983 in the book by Gerard Hughes S.J., ours is a God of Surprises.  Thanks be to God!
 

Prayer

God of Surprises,
Keep us aware of positive and negative expectations in life.
Help us to encourage and affirm those around us,
Especially those who are very different from ourselves.
When it comes to expectations within ourselves of ourselves,
help us to remember we are loved by you,
and find release and inspiration secure in that knowledge.
And when we are surprised by new revelations of the extent and power of your loving presence, contradicting our own expectations,
may we be delighted by that continually expanding appreciation
of your presence and glory in life.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Herbert is the Moderator of the Northern Synod.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 24th October

URC Devotions - Tue, 24/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 24th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 7: 31 - 36

Yet many in the crowd believed in Jesus and were saying,

“When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. Jesus then said,

“I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

The Jews said to one another,

“Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
 
Reflection From the Ephesus file - a contemporary midrash!

Coalitions, I reflect, often bring strange bedfellows, each contemptuous of the other’s perspective.
Not, surely, marriages made in heaven.
No hint of a backhander here though, differences in belief set aside;

Priest and Pharisee bound by a mutual…
Well what? Mutual fear or even hatred?
And of what? The man or the confusion in the public square,
in the psyche of the people, in the retaliation of the Empire – holy and Roman?

Perhaps, I muse,
if we search,
if we screw our eyes up tightly enough we may just catch a glimpse of a wise
woman hurrying past on the corner.
Or is that simply folly?

We see the tussle between heart-felt conviction, that no Messiah could do more
and the head-strong checklist of the signs that would herald just such a Messiah.
All crosses here, no ticks

They are nameless these courtesy chiefs, one by one deposed by Rome
(could they be cried Comey or Priebus?)
but they send their all-bark- and-no- bite men,
beefeaters before their time and place
guarding ceremony, tradition and empty cells,
to effect an arrest.
But, when origins and destinations are beyond expectation
and heads are ruling our hearts
we are left with, but an empty enigma.
 

Prayer

Creating God who breathes life into us.
Help us to recognise you in each and every breath that we take.
Your inspiration, our respiration.
Help us to take a moment to breathe.
A moment that is permissive, allowing us not to engage our knowledge without
taking heed of your tugs on our heartstrings.
Help us to grow in authenticity moment by moment.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Helen M Mee is minister of Granton United Church in Edinburgh and Convenor of the Assembly Equalities Committee.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 23rd October

URC Devotions - Mon, 23/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 23rd October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 7: 25-30

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying,

‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’

Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple,

You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.’

Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying,

‘When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?’
Reflection Sometimes we forget how confusing the events surrounding Jesus were to both his followers and those around him; we have two millennia of interpretation, but they were simply faced with a strange man making extraordinary claims. So it's no surprise people often didn't know what to make of him , and this passage includes a debate on whether Jesus really could be the Messiah. Some people think he can't be, because they know where he is from - presumably Nazareth - and the origins of the Messiah will be more mysterious.

We often define ourselves by where we are from, and it's often one of the first questions we might ask someone we've just met. We've all met people who are living far away from where they were brought up but still think of that place at home. Many people make new lives for themselves in a new town or city, or a new country, sometimes through choice, sometimes through circumstances they can't control. Some people of course are forced by politics or war to make a new home elsewhere, even as they long to return.

So where does Jesus come from, and where does he think of as home - Nazareth, Bethlehem, heaven? In this passage, he tells us he has been sent, but doesn't say who by or where from. Is he an exile, able to say, as the great Woody Guthrie once sang, 'I ain't got no home in this world any more'? Or, as the Messiah, is at home everywhere he goes, on earth as in heaven? And are we, as Christians, at home both everywhere and nowhere; called to be apart, and yet always at home because Jesus is with us?
 

Prayer

Gracious God
we pray for people who feel they have no home
and for those who are building new lives
far from the places they come from.
We pray we will all find a home where we feel safe and comfortable,
yet not too comfortable to respond to
your often disruptive and disturbing call.

Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Nick Jones is Minister at Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough.

Bible Version

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


 
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