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URC Daily Devotion 19th October 2019

URC Devotions - Sat, 19/10/2019 - 06:00
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Saturday 19th October

Philippians 3: 12-16

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you.  Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

Reflection

The theme of today’s text follows on from yesterday’s. The ‘goal’ mentioned by Paul is knowing the the Risen Christ, a life-long relationship which available for everyone. For Paul, he is focused and unswerving – even single-minded – towards his goal.

Wherever there is a goal, there is also a journey towards the goal.

Recently, a friend invited me to join him at his weekly paddle-sport club at a local reservoir, an experience which inspired this reflection.

As I knelt in the canoe, paddle in hand, the instructor recommended that I have a goal in mind, like a point on the opposite bank of the reservoir. It was a lovely summer’s evening with little wind, and as long as I kept my strokes to the left and right even, I made good progress towards my goal.  Occasionally, I had a stronger or weaker stroke to one side which threw me off course. Also, there were slight gusts of wind which affected my course. If I allowed my thoughts to wander, or take my eye of my goal, I was more likely to go off-course.

As individuals, and as church communities, we are “Walking the Way” towards our goal. We have stronger and weaker days which affect our faith journey, like my paddling strokes. There are times when we are affected by external events, like the wind against my canoe; and sometimes, we are temporarily distracted and lose sight of our goal.

I also learnt on the reservoir that regaining control towards my goal needed care – it was easy to overcompensate and end up going off-course in a different direction! The same can so easily be true in our lives and Walk.

Finally, my evening in the canoe reminded me that the journey can be fun, too!

Prayer

Risen Christ,
You met Your Disciples on the shore,
and they began their Journeys.
You calmed the stormy sea,
and they knelt in awe of Your power.
You walked throughout Judea,
and they learnt how to walk Your Way.
You gave Yourself up and yet rose in glory,
and You were theirs all until their last days.
Source, Guide, and Goal of all that is:
be for us, as You were for them. Amen. -->

Today's writer

Walt Johnson, Elder, Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC, Chorlton, Manchester Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

URC Devotions - Fri, 18/10/2019 - 06:00
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Friday 18th October 

Philippians 3: 1 - 11

Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice  in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh!  For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh— even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh.

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the Church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,  if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
 
Reflection

He’s not a boring sort, old Paul. This short passage leaps from passionate denunciation of those who were trying to lead Christian folk back into the shackles of the Law - complete with superbly Pauline sarcasm as to his own blamelessness! - into the even more passionate heights of his devotion to Christ. This is Paul’s testimony, the meaning of his life and his one aim and focus, we may remind ourselves, as he faces death from a prison in Rome.

We have it so easy in comparison. Our worst experiences are most likely being mocked or snubbed or someone daring to say they disagree with us. And I wonder are we the poorer - and the more boring - for it? In our mild Western world with its politically correct tolerance of everyone and everything, are we all settling down to a beigey blandness?

You couldn’t ever call Paul bland. I don’t think Jesus comes across as bland either, especially when he confronts  corruption and exploitation. And the God of the Old Testament certainly doesn’t hold back when he speaks his mind - and his judgment - against human wickedness.

There’s plenty for modern-day Christians to speak out about. But are we - unlike Paul - afraid of what we might lose? What would the church look like if we were to take a leaf out of Paul’s book and call all our qualifications and advantages and status, all our traditions and privileges ‘rubbish’ for Christ? 

Prayer

Open our eyes, Lord Jesus,  
to what is real and true and to what is rubbish
in your eternal scheme of things.
Open our hands to let go of the rubbish.
Open our hearts to receive the real and true,
and then light-hearted, unburdened by the rubbish,
send us out to share your love,
happy to be your servants in your world. Amen. -->

Today's writer

Dorothy Courtis, lay preacher and member, Thurso United Reformed Church Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 17th October 2019

URC Devotions - Thu, 17/10/2019 - 06:00
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Thursday 17th October

Philippians 2: 19 - 30

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you.  I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But Timothy’s worth you know, how like a son with a father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.  I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.

Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and co-worker and fellow-soldier, your messenger  and minister to my need; for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another.  I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honour such people, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.
 
Reflection

Paul’s letter to the church at Phillipi is affectionate in tone, and his warm feelings seem to have been reciprocated.  While under house arrest, awaiting trial in Rome, we learn that Paul has Timothy with him, a singularly trusted companion and fellow traveller. Timothy seems to have met Paul’s exacting standards, so much so that Paul thinks of him as his son in the faith, entrusted, beyond others, with the care of churches Paul is unable to visit.

This passage also reveals that the church at Philippi has sent one of their valued members, Epaphroditus, to care for Paul during his detention. Travelling some 800 miles to be with Paul, he brings with him gifts to ease Paul’s discomfort, including his very self to minister to him. Paul is deeply appreciative, both for the church’s care of him, and Epaphroditus’ presence.

He now has two fellow Christians devoted to his welfare. Both, for him, demonstrate the essence of the Gospel’s message in word and deed. However, Epaphroditus has paid a heavy penalty in his journeying, barely recovering from illness, and is deeply worried about the effect such news might have on his home church. Commending him for his loyalty and help, Paul sends Epaphroditus home, with warm words of encouragement, in case any might think he has failed in his mission of mercy.

This little gem of mutual human care opens a window on Paul’s nature for us; on the Gospel he, and we, proclaim. The care we bear for each other is intrinsic to the gospel. In the Christian drama in which we play our parts, people matter more than things. May we never have recourse to doctrine or dogma to deny this. May our hearts and heads be well married in living out our faith.

Prayer

Gracious God
when we forget that
your Son’s work is in,
with and through people,
recall us to a proper understanding
of your nature in us.
May our care for
neighbour,  
friend,
family,
fellow Christians
reflect our growth in Christ-likeness. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d John A Young retired minister of the Synod of Scotland and member of Giffnock URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 16th October 2019

URC Devotions - Wed, 16/10/2019 - 06:00
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Wednesday 16th October

Philippians 2: 14 - 18

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain.  But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you — and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.
 
Reflection

What does anger feel like?

Descriptions differ from internal chaos to frustration, and a feeling as though we have an internal volcano waiting to erupt. Sometimes we may feel we just ‘have to have our say’, regardless of taking anybody else’s feelings into account. ‘Getting things off our chest’, we say to ourselves, is a healthy position to be in and, somehow, we can feel better and lighter. We even justify to ourselves that Jesus got angry, (with the money changers), so if Jesus got angry, it’s ok for me to get angry.
There is a difference though; Jesus’ anger was fuelled for passion for God's people, the injustice, suffering, and  oppression; even Jesus presence caused a stir in all the circles of society.

2,000 years later, Jesus still gently persuades, cares for, and compassionately guides people into action.  In turn they shine like stars within their community and culture as they acquire a ‘righteous anger’, and seek change for the good.

When we are serving, being an advocate for God’s people, we do shine like stars, internally and externally. We may not be noticed, or even feel it within ourselves, but we are pouring out our faith for others, by our encouragement and supportive action to projects close to our hearts; we participate with God to enable the flourishing and growth of God’s people.  
Is your light shining brightly or is it clouded by complaints and arguing?

Be a clear and radiant light shining out for God, lets us turn or frustrated anger to righteous anger.  

Prayer

For the times, we speak in haste and anger, forgive us.
For the times we use our power to control others, forgive us.
 
For the times we encourage individuals on their journey, bless us.
For the times we stand up for what is right and just, bless us.
 
For the times we shine like stars within your radiant light,
Lord make us your holy disciples,
that overflow with the gifts of your ever-dancing Spirit.
Shalom.    -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Dillon, Minister of Fleet URC and Beacon Hill Hindhead URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 15th October 2019

URC Devotions - Tue, 15/10/2019 - 06:00
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Tuesday 15th October 

Philippians 2: 12 - 13

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
 
Reflection

As a parent of teenage children I am constantly aware of my hope that all I have taught them in terms of manners and behaviour will stay with them throughout their life.  The litmus test will be once they (eventually) leave home and begin their own lives without us around to check up on them.  Once they have gone, it is up to them to follow the appropriate rules, while making their way in the world.

We are living out our faith in the physical absence of Christ, but in the presence of an all-seeing God.  As with a child under the shadow of parental influence, yet without their physical presence, we can all too easily be tempted to “do our own thing”.  Temptations are all around us, calling to us, telling us, “it’s ok”, or “no-one will know” or “nobody’s looking”.  Sometimes we are overwhelmed and give in, other times, when we are stronger, we resist.

But in either scenario, we are not to be afraid.  God is not out to punish us for sport but there to strengthen us in the path of doing the right thing.  We will know when we step out of line – it is up to us what we do about it.

So, let us allow God to be at work in us, in all we do, that we might work for, and serve Him,  in our lives.
 
Prayer

Lord God, may we so live that you are at work in us.  Strengthen us to face the temptations of the world and guide us on how to resist them.  May we remember your teachings and walk in your footsteps every day of our lives. Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Watson, Minister, Patricroft and Worsley Road URCs in Salford Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 14th October 2019

URC Devotions - Mon, 14/10/2019 - 06:00
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Monday 14th October

Philippians 2: 5 - 11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
 
Reflection

For many years the words of our passage today have known as the Christ Hymn.  Whether it was written before Paul and then used by Paul, or whether it was written by Paul himself is open to debate. The words are much loved and have certainly inspired hymn writers -  everything from 'Servant King' to 'At the name of Jesus' have this passage in mind.
 
As we reflect on the passage maybe the story of Adam in Genesis comes to mind. Adam sought to be equal with God but was humbled, Christ Jesus does not seek that equality for gain, rather he is born as one of us..
 
Why does Paul want to share these words with his readers in Philippi? Paul writes from a prison cell, his ministry has been inspired by the self sacrifice of Christ. So he tells them about Christ who takes the way of humility and lowliness all the way to the cross.
 
In the second part of the hymn, we get a change in tone and we read perhaps one of the highest statements about Jesus that we find in the whole of Scripture. Paul has a hope that Christ will be exalted to the place that is rightly his. Jesus' name will be above every name and will invite devotion and worship.
 
Paul wants his readers to be united and to have the same mind as was in Christ. We are not to seek authority or, as Paul writes earlier in the letter, look to our own interests, but to show a right concern for each other.

Prayer
 
Gracious God,
may we learn from Jesus,
may we not be selfishly ambitious,
but may we take the path of humility,
the way of service.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
and to God's glory. Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr David Whiting, Minister, Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 13th October 2019

URC Devotions - Sun, 13/10/2019 - 06:00
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Sunday 13th October

Psalm 118: 1-14

1 O thank the LORD, for he is good;
His steadfast love endures always.
2 Now let the house of Israel say,
“His love will last through endless days.”

3 And let the house of Aaron say,
“His love for ever will endure.”
4 Let those who fear the LORD declare,
“His love will stand for ever sure.”

5 I cried in anguish to the LORD;
He answered me and set me free.
6 The LORD is with me; I’ll not fear.
What harm can people do to me?

7 The LORD is with me constantly;
He is the one who gives me aid.
I’ll look in triumph on my foes;
I will not need to be afraid.

8 It’s better far to trust the LORD
Than look for help to man’s defence.
9 It’s better far to trust the LORD
Than in a prince have confidence.

10 The nations all surrounded me;
In God’s great name I made them fall.
11 They hemmed me in on every side;
In God’s great name I slew them all.

12 They chased me like a swarm of bees;
But like a heap of thorns aflame
They very quickly met their end.
I slew them in the LORD’s great name.

13 I was pushed back and nearly fell;
The LORD himself gave help to me.
14 He is my song and source of strength;
The LORD gave me the victory.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing Psalm to the tune Crasselius (from v 25) here 

Reflection

The verses are clearly a call to celebration; the speaker calls on the congregation to join him in thanking God and goes on to relate the occasions that leads him to worship God.  Having been surrounded by enemies, God helped him in destroying them. The Psalm is a procession song to the sanctuary, where the individual leads in expressing gratitude on behalf of himself, and then the whole congregation. 

The Psalmist goes on to describe the anguish that he had been facing; caught up in a war, his nation overrun, and his land invaded.  All seemed hopeless, but, somehow, God delivered and gave him victory. Problems swarmed him like bees, but God saved him. He was pushed back, but the Lord helped him.  God does the same for us too, when we are anguished, attacked, pushed back, swarmed, invaded, and hopeless.
 
Like the Psalmist, when I look back over the (many) years of my life, like you, I can clearly see God’s intervention at times of great need.   I remember when I was desperately unhappy at work and could not see a way forward. A, supposedly, coincidental meeting with a URC minister, who told me that there was a vacancy at the Eastern Synod office, changed my life.  If she is reading this, she will recognise herself! Know that I am truly thankful.  
 
This Psalm also forms part of the ‘Hallel’, which is a Jewish prayer - a verbatim recitation from Psalms 113–118 recited by observant Jews on Jewish holidays as an act of praise and thanksgiving.  It is still sung traditionally during Passover in celebration of the Exodus.  We sometimes forget that Jesus was a practicing Jew who would have known the Psalms very well.  He may well have recited the complete Hallel with his disciples, at his last Passover celebration.  Think of that!
 
Prayer
 
Heavenly Father,
we thank you for the things that link us:
for shared worship,
fellowship in prayer,
opportunities to read and study the Bible together,
the forging of bonds and friendship,
ways to express together a caring, loving spirit in our congregation,
our home and community

that all can see who we owe our allegiance to and whom we serve.
Accept our love and thanks, in the Saviour’s name.
 
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

Ann Barton, member and a lay leader at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod Copyright
Sing Psalms (C) The Psalmody Committee, the Free Church of Scotland
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 12th October 2019

URC Devotions - Sat, 12/10/2019 - 06:00
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 Saturday 12th October

Philippians 2: 1-4

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
 
 
Reflection

Attitude/At(t)-I-Tude

And Jesus said
‘Come on give me attitude girl.
That is what we need.
That is what it takes.
That is where we are at - now and always, everywhere, across time and place.’

Jesus said
‘Strut your stuff – after all we created it for you to use.
Compete with each other
Compete with us
Get that ‘tude out there.
That is where we are at – where you are called to be!’

Jesus said
‘there is an I in attitude.
I for identity.’

Jesus said
‘I am the I in attitude.’
The I in attitude is Jesus shaped – both having and being!

Jesus said 
‘there is a you in attitude.
I call you, I exhort you to bring my shape to your attitude,
to shape your actions boldly, lovingly, compassionately 
and to deliver them with my chutzpah.’

Jesus said
‘This is the good news, there is a we in attitude.
We in all our diversity, made in Our Image,
we in our love for one another,
we in our impetus always to prioritise the needs of the other in creation.’
(Thus meeting our own God-given need.)

Jesus the Redeemer said
‘There is a cross in att†tude
I have taken this symbol of power and made it mine.
Made it a symbol of belonging.’

Jesus said
‘Come on give me attitude, loud, proud, I, you, they, we.’

Jesus said
‘This is my commandment…….’

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.”      Teresa of Avila

Prayer

Loving God give us your attitude, shape us and our actions using a Christlike mould. Enable us to contribute to Your great meld of heaven. Today and always. Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Helen M Mee is a member of Morningside United Church, Edinburgh Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th October 2019

URC Devotions - Fri, 11/10/2019 - 06:00
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Friday 11th October

Philippians 1: 27 - 30

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
 
Refection

Big brother is watching! Was Paul unnecessarily controlling as he told the church in Philippi how they should live and that he would see or hear about what they were up to? Of course not. He knew that this fledgling church would face challenging times and needed to be prepared for it. God’s grace and forgiveness is freely given but their and our response is to live a holy life.
And central to this is that they are to stand firm in one Spirit. On a recent visit to Rome we visited the Church of St Ignatius of Loyola. It was a real gem in many ways. But in particular there was an amazing model built by an Italian cabinet maker. He started it when he was 70 and completed it when he was 98 shortly before he died. Around the model there were churches from the five continents. But as you raised your eyes there was a huge dome representing the whole Church of Jesus Christ. The creator was making the point that there are many expressions of Church but they are only part of the whole and that Christ’s Church is so much bigger than our own little churches. It also recalls Jesus’ prayer that his followers would be one.
It was important in Paul’s time as it is today that the church doesn’t divide and fragment. He sees this as central in the Gospel is going to be proclaimed. And he warns that they will meet opposition and describes it as a privilege if they suffer because of their faith. Paul should know as he has been imprisoned for his faith.  Together, Paul in Rome, and the believers in Philippi stand in solidarity as they witness to Jesus.

Dear God,
Help us to stand firm…
to stand firm with our fellow believers
to stand firm for what is right
to stand firm against opposition
to stand firm when we suffer
to stand firm in living and proclaiming the Gospel.
But we can’t do it by ourselves.
We need your help and the encouragement of each other. Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d George Watt, minister of Reigate Park United Reformed Church Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 10th October 2019

URC Devotions - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 06:00
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Thursday 10th October
 
Philippians 1: 19 - 26

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will result in my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
 
 
Reflection

Paul shares the message of Jesus Christ for the benefit of all who will hear it.  He faces persecution because of it.  He is imprisoned.  Yet here, in today’s reading,  he tells the Philippians, “Whatever happens – I live or I die – I’m going to be okay.  However, if I live, all the better for you and people like you, because I can keep telling folks about Jesus” (my paraphrase).  After weighing up what to hope for, Paul chooses life.  What might that mean today to choose life as Paul does?  

Choose life.  Choose risk.  Choose possibly saying the right thing, to the wrong person.  Choose prison.  Choose not knowing if you will be freed in this life or the next.  Choose love.  Choose to love God enough to give God all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Choose to love your neighbour as yourself – no - better than yourself.  Choose to love each other especially when you disagree.  Choose to share the good news to anyone who will listen.  Choose Christ.  Choose the narrow gate, to follow the Shepherd’s voice, to be found when you stray.  Choose sinners.  Choose to eat with, to chat with, to laugh with, and to cry with those people the religious elite have warned you about.  Choose to expect the dead to be raised to new life.  Choose community.  Choose inviting everyone.  Choose the refugee and the migrant.  Choose sharing.  Choose that you might lose your shirt.  Choose gaining your soul instead.  Choose the Earth.  Choose less plastics and petrol.  Choose being a good caretaker of Earth for future generations’ sakes.  Choose to follow the life-changing Messiah.  Choose God’s community building project marked by “fruits of the Spirit” at work within it.  Choose not to “rage against” whatever for the sake of raging.  Choose an intentional life that builds God’s community.  Choose life.  Choose Christ.

 Prayer

God in the prison,
help us to choose the life-giving ways of Christ.
Help us who experience freedom to seek freedom for those held captive unjustly.
Help us to use our freedom to speak Christ’s words of grace with boldness.  
For the sake of Christ and all of His body,
Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister, Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion 9th October 2019

URC Devotions - Wed, 09/10/2019 - 06:00
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Wednesday 9th October

Philippians 1: 15 - 18

Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defence of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.
 

Reflection

Why do you believe in Jesus Christ?

Paul recognises that some Christians’ personal agendas cruise far from the shores of altruism. Instead, they hold darker, and more nefarious, purposes for proclaiming the arrival of God’s rule. Paul goes against the long-standing tradition of naming-and-shaming, and refuses to “call them out”. Instead, he sees the bigger picture and celebrates that Jesus is being proclaimed.

But why do we believe? Is it for genuine reasons of piety, or is self-interest hidden within the folds of faith? Most of us probably oscillate somewhere between the two, thankful that God puts his divine treasure in us - these very earthy “jars of clay” (2 Cor 4.7). But it is clear that Paul is swaying a particular direction, excited about the unique mission opportunities that custody brings. 

Without words, Paul appeals us to live out our faith at a higher level. He appeals to us to trust God  despite opposition to his Kingdom’s rule - even if it is coming from our fellow believers. This helps us to move through the very human reactions of such maltreatment and trust in God that his plans are, indeed, coming to fruition. 

Prayer

Dear Jesus,
wherever we find ourselves
may we be reminded that we are not alone.
You sit with us.

Help us not to become bitter to others who seek ill-will to us.
Instead, help us to respond in love by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Transform us to continually seek the higher purposes of the Kingdom of God.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

Daniel Harris, Ordinand, Westminster College Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion 8th October 2019

URC Devotions - Tue, 08/10/2019 - 06:00
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Philippians 1: 12 - 14
 
I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word  with greater boldness and without fear.
 
Reflection
The Apostle Paul is imprisoned. He was probably already in Rome though some scholars suggest that he was still in Ephesus when this letter was written. While Paul had deliberately, and willingly, used his Roman citizenship to achieve a transfer to the heart of the Roman Empire, we can be sure that his fellow Christian leaders and followers were distressed and disturbed that he was in prison and would, in all likelihood, be condemned to death; for them this was bad news.

Paul assures them that what had happened had actually helped to spread the Gospel; as he had written to the Romans (8:28)  “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.” We can accept this in theory, but how easy is it to accept it in practice?

Circumstances, for example in health, relationships and life opportunities, for others and for ourselves, can turn out very differently from our hopes and expectations.

How do we respond when this happens? Even if we feel able to move on ourselves in the face of such disappointments and worse, it is so hard for sensitive people to accept that the suffering of others is “working together for good.”

But Paul found that the example he gave and the opportunity to witness given to him in prison could be viewed positively and actually increased the confidence of his fellow Christians.

So, while not being insensitive to the problems and suffering of others, let us pray that God will give us the insight and strength to use whatever setbacks befall us as opportunities to witness to our faith and confidence in God’s love and power.

Prayer

Through all the changing scenes of life,
   in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
   my heart end tongue employ.
Of his deliverance I will boast,
   till all that are distressed
from mine example comfort take,
   and soothe their griefs to rest.
 
N Tate and N Brady, from Psalm 34
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, retired URC Minister, Member of Verwood URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 7th October2019

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Monday 7th October

Philippians 1:1 - 11

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,  because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel.  For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Reflection

There’s a post that comes up periodically (and repeatedly) on social media entitled ‘Very British Problems’ which pokes gentle fun at our embarrassed approach to life, worrying unnecessarily and awkwardly about things that really don’t need to be worried about!  

But another of the characteristics associated with our British mores that is valued still is politeness - a characteristic that, sadly and heartbreakingly, seems to have gone out of the window in many circumstances following the Brexit Referendum.  

But politeness is far from a solely British characteristic and one that is clearly evident in all Paul’s letters, even in his one to Galatian churches where he is about to set off both barrels of criticism.  He starts by writing, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ …”

But it’s about more than politeness, it is about that word that is in both this and the Galatian letter, not to mention elsewhere in bucket-loads of Paul’s writings.  It is about Grace.  

Approach people with grace and faithful love (characteristics that are massively evident in the works of God and in the words and actions of Jesus), and there is a more than average likelihood that they will listen, take on board what you say and act in, yes, a grace-filled and loving way.  As Paul began his letter, that is what he was hoping anyway, so that the Philippians will indeed gather the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.  

As we begin to explore this beautiful, and beautifully written, grace-filled letter, may we gather some of that harvest too.

Prayer

God of grace, love and peace, 
may we learn to control our urges to interrupt, 
criticise and / or take umbrage.
As we greet, initiate and share all we know of 
and understand about Jesus,
may we do so with mountains 
of that same grace, love and peace.
Amen 
  -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark is the Minister of the Bridport & Dorchester Pastorate Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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The Letter to the Philippians

URC Devotions - Sun, 06/10/2019 - 18:00
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The Letter to the Philippians & the New Template
 
I hope you found our reflections on the Book of Romans useful and that they helped you understand that Epistle better.   

I also hope you like the new template that is now being used consistently after a few trial runs.  We're told it's easier to read and we have put various links at the top of each email - the first two allow you to Follow the Daily Devotions on Facebook and Twitter - just click the link.  The third takes you to the Podcast - once you click this you are taken to the Devotions website where, on a computer, you will see the Podcast at the top, on phones or tablets it appears at the bottom.  

The next set of links allows you to share the Devotion on your own Facebook Feed, Twitter Account or to forward to a friend.  Remember, if you find these Devotions helpful then your friends may too!  

You can change your email address or switch between plain text or Devotions which look more like webpages by following the link at the bottom marked "update your mailing preferences".  Finally you can unsubscribe by the final link at the bottom.  If you inadvertently unsubscribe you have to add yourself again via devotions.urc.org.uk

Finally, some details about our next series which takes us through the Letter to the Philippians.  This letter is generally assumed to have been written by the Apostle Paul at some point around 50 AD.  Scholars think - due to changes in tone and style - that it is made up of fragments from three other letters. It seems clear that Paul wrote it when in custody and many believe he wrote it from Rome.  Paul greets the church and remains cheerful despite his impending sentence of death. He reminds his readers they don’t need to be circumcised - ie to obey the Jewish Law - and urges them to sort out the, inevitable, problems in their fellowship. 

We hope that the collection of reflections we have will continue to inspire you in your own journey of discipleship.


with every good wish


Andy Braunston
Editor, Daily Devotions from the URC
 
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URC Daily Devotion 6th October 2019

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Sunday 6th October

Psalm 117
 
1 Praise the Lord, O all you nations;
all you people, sing his praise.
For his love is great towards us;
his commitment lasts always.
He is faithful now and ever.
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Regent Square here or to Westminster Abbey here.

Reflection

Psalm 117 forms the shortest chapter of the Bible but it is a little gem of praise. It emphasizes that God’s covenant relationship is with “us” and with “all nations”. Martin Luther wrote a long commentary upon these two verses on the grounds that they were basic to our understanding of the love of God. “As I see it,” Luther declared, “the whole book of Acts was written because of this Psalm.”

On 3rd July, St.Thomas’ Day I was privileged to attend two powerful acts of worship in London when members of the Guys and St.Thomas’ Hospital chaplaincy team were welcomed to both the Community of the Cross of Nails and its new interfaith sister network, Together for Hope. The latter is a network of faith based and secular organisations who inspired by the story of Coventry Cathedral, share a common commitment to work for peace, justice and reconciliation.

The congregation included Jews, Buddhists, Christians and people representing the Muslim, Sikh, Humanist and Hindu commnities. The second ceremony, opposite the Houses of Parliament, was followed by a moment of praise when there was a release of doves on the river bank, signifying peace and healing.

Prayer


For love which heals wounds,
we will stand.
For generosity which opens space for hope,
we will stand.
For nurturing, which builds a culture of peace,
we will stand.
For compassion, which seeks the best for all,
we will stand.
For respect, which enables us to love with difference,
we will stand.
For humility, which allows healthy relationship with others,
we will stand.
Together for hope,
we will stand.

Together for Hope -A Pledge for Transformation
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Mary Taylor, Minister, Crookham United Reformed Church including Flodden Peace Centre, a partner of the international Cross of Nails linked to Coventry Cathedral Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 5th October 2019

URC Devotions - Sat, 05/10/2019 - 06:00
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Saturday 5th October

Romans 16

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae,  so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert  in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys.  Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my relative Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother—a mother to me also.  Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offences, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.  For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good, and guileless in what is evil.  The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Timothy, my co-worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.

 I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord.

Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages  but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.

Reflection

Too many people these words may appear to be just a list of names, like a genealogy which some of us may well have grappled with in other places within Scripture. Perhaps even like a Christmas card list, with little seen or heard from people other than this annual remembrance. However, to Paul these were genuine people who had featured in his life and whom he knew, loved, cared about, and prayed for. These really meant something to him and held particular spiritual depth and significance.

The study of names and the meaning which each one possesses is fascinating. They speak of actual people, rather than just empty words on a page, written centuries ago. People and their individual personality DO matter so much, leaving their imprint upon our hearts. Who still remembers their first Teacher at School, or Sunday School? Their first “best friend” or even first boyfriend or girlfriend?

These names meant something to Paul who wrote fondly about them. They are people he loved, illustrating importantly that people are of the greatest value to us, as they are to God. Later on we read of Paul’s concern for these known and loved people to be vigilant concerning those who would cause a break in the beauty of such relationships, through causing disharmony and opposition. However, this is nipped in the bud as the reassuring ability of the God of peace is given pre-eminence.

Oh that we too valued our friends in the faith as much as Paul did. Sadly all too easily there can be negativity rather than love and a sad lack of acknowledgement of the true value of our friends. Those who stand by us in times of adversity and pray for us should be the ones for whom we should earnestly be seeking God’s rich blessings.

Prayer :-

Jesus, the Name higher than any other,
which means so much to us who believe.
Emmanuel, God with us, Pearl beyond all price.

Thank you for our friends who have a special place in our hearts,
and have been given to us by yourself.
May we love, treasure, respect them and faithfully
uphold them remembering them as your special gifts to us,
Praying for their good as you have shown us by example.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

Verena Walder     Lay Preacher and Elder     Tabernacle URC, Mumbles. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 4th October 2019

URC Devotions - Fri, 04/10/2019 - 06:00
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Friday 4th October

Romans 15: 22 - 32

This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you  when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints;  for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things.  So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain; and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,  by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf,  that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,  so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.


Reflection

The world that Paul knew was much smaller than ours, and time was much more compressed too. This first generation of believers had been expecting all things shortly to come to an end, though some will certainly have recalled Jesus’s words  that “the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations” (Mark 13.10). As the years are ticking by, I sense that Paul is checking up on himself and the scope of his own ministry. And like many of us, he probably wonders if he could have done more.

Here he is reflecting on how far he has been, and how far there is yet to go. He began the letter by expressing the hope that he would soon be able to visit his readers in Rome – a surprising ambition as he is usually concerned only with churches that he has founded himself, “so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation”. Then he knows that there are promises to keep, which will mean first travelling back to Jerusalem, with the money that others have been collecting for the “mother church”.  Jesus’s disciples realise that they are never completely free agents: we may try to make plans, but there are always new challenges and demands on our time.

But now Paul discloses one further ambition – to go to Spain, which is of course in his world as far anyone can go. This is not an item on an ageing man’s bucket list, nor is the journey contemplated just for the satisfaction of saying “from Jerusalem as far as Illyricum... and even further”. Paul is thinking about what faithfulness to the Gospel may now be demanding of him – to take the good news to earth’s very extremity.

But so far as we know, he never made it to Spain. God’s plans and ours do not always coincide.

Prayer

Help us in our life journeys
to follow your directions
to be ambitious only to carry out your will
and to know the fullness of Christ’s blessing
in the company and service of his people.   Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John Durell    Retired minister Member of Waddington Street URC, Durham Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion 3rd October 2019

URC Devotions - Thu, 03/10/2019 - 06:00
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Thursday 3rd October

Romans 15: 14 - 21

I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters,  that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless, on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God  to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God.  For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news  of Christ. Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,

‘Those who have never been told of him shall see,
    and those who have never heard of him shall understand.’


Reflection

When parents evening came around, I, as a child, made sure I booked appointments with the teachers I knew wouldn’t give such glowing reports right in the middle of one’s I knew who would. It was kind of like a constructive criticism sandwich and it meant my parents started and ended the evening hearing wonderful things about me and not focusing on the negative!  I’m not sure how well it worked but this the tactic Paul employed in this part Romans. 
 
Having never met them before, Paul wrote of how he heard positive things about them, how they were full of goodness and able to instruct one another.  He was, however, also keen to point out that he had to oppose some of their strongest prejudices in order for them to be true to the message of the Gospel. In this section of Romans Paul shows the interest that he had in the welfare of these people he had never met. 
 
When we care for one another, we want to be building each other up.  Sometimes, however, we need to be prepared to have difficult conversations. Paul explained that he will only speak of what Christ has accomplished in his own life. We can be all too ready to exploit one another’s struggles when really, we struggle in this area ourselves. Paul brought something to the attention of these people, out of genuine care,  because he had dealt with it in himself . There is no sense of judgement here, only a deep concern for the welfare of the people and the sharing of the Gospel. 
 
Prayer 

Gracious God, help us to have the wisdom to know how to approach difficult conversations for the sake of your Gospel. Let us not be judgemental but to approach things in a loving way seeking your guidance at all times. In Jesus name. Amen 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Josh Thomas,  Minister of Petersfield and Liss URC with the Beacon Church Bordon Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion 2nd October 2019

URC Devotions - Wed, 02/10/2019 - 06:00
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Wednesday 2nd October

Romans 15: 7 - 13

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
    and sing praises to your name’;

and again he says,

‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;

and again,

‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
    and let all the peoples praise him’;

and again Isaiah says,

‘The root of Jesse shall come,
    the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Reflection

For weeks we have been immersed in Paul’s closely argued theology.  In today’s passage he repeats his conviction that Christ is for Jew and for Gentile, and he quotes the Old Testament in support of this understanding. 
 
But it is the first and last verses that make my heart sing.  There is enough challenge and encouragement in these words to last a lifetime, let alone just today!
 
“Welcome one another … just as Christ has welcomed you” (v.7)
 
For the Christians in Rome, and in the context of this letter, this meant welcoming one another across the Jew/Gentile divide.   What does it mean for you? Who is it that you or I might be inclined to avoid or dismiss, but in fact are to welcome? Our welcoming of those God brings us into contact with day by day is to be of the same depth and generosity as Christ’s welcome of us.
 
And lest we be discouraged as we face up to the gap between our intention and our practice, we have in verse 13 a glorious benediction to bless us in the coming hours of this day. 
 
When I consider the little church in the hostile capital of Empire that was Rome, I find this blessing truly remarkable.  Not only did they exist in a threatening external environment, but this letter indicates serious tensions within the community itself.  Yet Paul’s calls on God to fill them with joy, peace and hope. It is an expectant prayer that springs from the writer’s own experience. 
 
So may it be for us on this ordinary autumnal Wednesday.  Whatever each of us is facing today, personally or more widely as a community, God is the God of hope, who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, makes real for us hope in abundance.  
 
Prayer
 
Thank you, Lord, for welcome.
Help us, today,
to understand more deeply
that at the heart of everything
is your welcome, for us, and for everyone.
And so fill us with all joy and peace in believing.
 
Thank you, Lord, for hope,
hope which is rooted in You.
We hold before you situations where hope is hidden …
God of hope
make us today
people of hope and of welcome.
 
Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Gwen Collins, retired minister, member of Avenue St Andrews URC, Southampton Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 1st October 2019

URC Devotions - Tue, 01/10/2019 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Tuesday 1st October 

Romans 15: 1 - 6

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’  For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection

Yes, the strong should help the weak, of course they should!  It's common sense isn't it? This is one of those principles which seems so right - until we try to figure out how it might work in practice.

In the business world, weak might be a bottom line with very small numbers, or very large, but negative, numbers.  Strong might be fingers in big well-known pies. In the sports world, strong might be having rich owners, expensive players at the top of their game, huge publicity budgets.  Weak might be the local cricket team living from hand to mouth, with players giving up their free time not only to play, but to maintain the cricket field and pavilion.

So what about the church world?  Strong could be a large congregation on Sunday mornings, it could be a large reserve fund to provide for those "rainy days" and weak could be the opposite of those measures.  

However, a church can have either, or both, of those features but still be weak if its focus is on protecting the status quo and pulling up the drawbridge of self-preservation.

And a church can be strong with a small congregation, and with no reserve funds available, if that church has a vision  which has been prayerfully discerned and which gives it the confidence to step out in faith and join in God's adventure even if the risks look insurmountable.

Prayer

Father, help us to see our strengths as you see them and help us to use those strengths to help others, be they individuals or fellowships, who have not yet found or accepted your strength and encouragement. Help us also to see our weaknesses as you see them, and be willing and able to accept help from others to overcome our weaknesses and to give you the glory. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Sheila Coop, Minister at Macedonia URC, Failsworth and Oldham Town Centre Chaplaincy Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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