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URC Daily Devotion

URC Devotions - 13 hours 2 min ago
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Thursday 9th April - Maundy Thursday - 11th Station - Jesus is nailed to the Cross


 “Face to Face: Sieger Koeder
 
St John 19: 18 - 19

There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’

Reflection

What a picture!

The Roman soldier raises the hammer high preparing to strike the nail, while the crowd of people (and animals) look on.  Their expressions reveal a host of emotions. What was each of those gathered feeling? What was the Roman soldier feeling?  Was he feeling anything? Or was it just another day’s work for him?

A few years ago, I read a little book called simply ‘The Nail,’ written by Stephen Cottrell.  The question that was being posed in it was - who killed Christ? Various characters in the story came forward to justify their actions - and pass on the blame. The Roman soldier, holding a nail, said that it wasn’t his fault.  He was simply following orders and he put the nail down.

A few years previous to this, a group of us had gone to see Roger Jones’ musical ‘Mary Magdalene.’  We had to imagine the crucifixion - how can you portray this anyway? But what we could hear was the ringing sound of a hammer hitting a nail - over and over again  That sound lives with me still!

Like that soldier, we have done things we know are wrong, but somehow justify them.  Sometimes we have a good laugh at someone else’s expense.

Jesus on the cross shows the best of humanity - the Roman soldier perhaps the worst.  Where in that gathered crowd are we?

Prayer

Jesus, sometimes, like that soldier
we have done things we know to be wrong
and we have made our excuses.
But just a your body
received the hammer-blow of the nails,
we know that your love also held you to that cross.
We know too that your love and forgiveness
reach deep down inside us
and we are forgiven and made whole.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Sue Henderson retired URC Minister member of Bradford on Avon United 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Stations of the Cross for Wednesday in Holy Week

URC Devotions - Wed, 08/04/2020 - 14:45
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Stations of the Cross
 
The Stations of the Cross are associated with Catholic, and many Anglican/Episcopalian Churches.  They have their origins in the 13th Century when the Franciscan Order started to commemorate Jesus’ journey between Pilate’s court and the Cross.  By the 16th Century the devotion had become widespread in Europe and many churches have carved or bronze Stations around their walls.  For the last week or so each day, in our Daily Devotions, we have been considering Fr Sieger Koeder's Stations of the Cross as we journey with Jesus to the Cross.  The Stations have fascinated artists for hundreds of years and, this evening, we have an audio visual version of them for you.  

Using clips from Mel Gibson's film, the Passion of the Christ, music from a variety of sources - but mainly from Handel's Messiah - and reflections written from the perspective of the Centurion we are invited to set aside some time to prayerfully contemplate Jesus' journey from Pilate's court to the Cross.  

The term Station comes from the Latin meaning to stop and stare.  The devotions invite us to stop, stare, pray and reflect.  They are mainly taken from the Gospels but are supplemented with pious legend – the Gospel’s don’t record Jesus meeting His Mother, Veronica wiping His face nor the number of times he fell.  They are a powerful devotion, especially for Holy Week.  We hope you find them useful.
 
 
to watch these on Youtube.  This will open up a new screen, simply press the forward arrow at the bottom of the panel on the new screen to play. --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

URC Devotions - Wed, 08/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Wednesday 8th April - Wednesday in Holy Week - 10th Station - Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
 


“Counting” Sieger Koeder

St John 19: 23-25

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,

‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’

And that is what the soldiers did.

Reflection

The garment the soldiers preferred not to rip into pieces but let one of them win whole, has lived on in tradition and story.  It is the subject 1950s Hollywood blockbuster The Robe, based on a best-selling novel, enabling the repentance and conversion of the Roman soldier in charge of Christ’s crucifiction.  There are competing myths about its whereabouts and power as a relic. Imagine if you could see or even touch the tunic Christ wore at the end of his mortal life - a tangible bridge across the centuries to the heart of our faith.

On a tourist trip to Ephesus, I sat in the amphitheatre where the locals (encouraged by the silversmiths) had rioted against Paul’s influence in that city dependent on the Temple of Artemis for prosperity.  The story was suddenly TRUE in a deeper way – it really had happened – even though I had always believed.

For early Christians, particularly those from a Jewish background, the fulfilment of a prophecy makes this scene ring true.  The quote comes from Psalm 22, and Jesus cries the opening line as he dies on the cross. We now read this psalm through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and it ends with lines that include us:

‘future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.’

For us the words of the Bible are a bridge to The Living Word – so we chew on this bread daily for loving sustenance and life.  For many of all ages the connection can be made more vivid, the stories real, through employing our senses as well as our minds – things to see, smell, taste, touch and hear.  The meditative images by Sieger Koeder help our immersion in the Passion; sharing bread and wine includes us in the Last Supper – and the promise of the heavenly banquet to come.
 
Prayer

Lord,
Thank you for the gift of words
That act as a bridge between
Your life, death and resurrection
And our lives.
Help us to find life within these words
And find creative ways to tell the stories
So that all may discover truth, liberation and love in Christ.
Amen -->

Today's writer

Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe Community, Oxford.   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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

URC Devotions - Tue, 07/04/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 7th April - Tuesday in Holy Week - 9th Station - Jesus Falls for the Third Time


“Amen” Sieger Koeder.

 
Lamentations 1:14

My transgressions were bound into a yoke;
    by his hand they were fastened together;
they weigh on my neck,
    sapping my strength;
the Lord handed me over
    to those whom I cannot withstand.

Reflection

He passes through the city gates and falls again. The loss of blood, too much pain, the lack of sleep and he falls, the weight of the heavy cross pinning him to the ground where he just lies in the dust with no dignity or energy left to care. Amen. So be it. He had passed through those gates a week before when he had been hailed as king but now he was being forced through those gates again as a criminal - a traitor and blasphemer. He came to his own people in the city he loved and they did not receive him. He has failed and he is in too much pain, has been betrayed and denied  and is just too sad. His strength is completely sapped, he falls under the weight of it all and he cannot move because he is held down by the cross. In his memory he hears his mother singing her special song to him: ‘and you will be called the prophet of the Most High; you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways and give knowledge of salvation to his people’ and he wonders how they could have got it so wrong. Through the blood dripping from his broken head he imagines the tempter creeping towards him saying ‘You still have a chance. You can save yourself if you want! Where is your God now?’ His yoke is no longer easy – he has the weight of his own suffering and that of the world on his shoulders and he croaks ‘Amen’ knowing that it means be firm, steady, trustworthy, faithful. God and the world rely on him. He will lay down his life for the sheep so he struggles to his feet, takes up his cross and staggers to Calvary.
 
Prayer

Suffering God,
we can imagine you holding out your hand as you lay under the cross
hoping and praying someone, anyone, would reach out to hold it
and bring you some comfort.
May we be ready to take the hand of any who suffer
under the weight of pain or loss or fear
and know that we are holding your hand.
Let others rely upon us to be firm, steady trustworthy and faithful.
So be it. Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen is a retired minister and member of Kendal 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 6th April 2020

URC Devotions - Mon, 06/04/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 6th April - Monday in Holy Week - 8th Station - Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem



“Nurturing” Sieger Koeder
 
St Luke 23: 28 -31

Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.”  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

Reflection

One question never to be asked lightly is “why don’t you have children?”. Five words that make everything awkward. There are intrusive variations: “didn’t you want children?”; high pressure versions: “when are you going to get round to having children?”; the one that leads to an employment tribunal: “won’t you be taking time off soon to start a family?”
 
Preparing to die, and inflicted with his own pain, Jesus walks into these emotionally stirring waters. Did a woman in the crowd feel the sting of her childlessness as she heard Jesus praise the barren? Did another feel her breasts weep milky tears and remember a child who had died before being weaned? Did others, like some in the painting clasp a distressed toddler closer, hoping the little one would not understand these harsh words.
 
We read the words as an empathetic warning: mothers, prepare your hearts for they will be broken. Because we trust Jesus, we make them into a lamentation for a city crushed under the heel of an Empire. On other lips this would sound like a curse. “Better never to have children then to watch them suffer and die. You’ll see”.  
 
Asked about the climate crisis, the young politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said: “there’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult. And it [leads] young people to have a legitimate question: Is it okay to still have children?”
 
Little ones born now, and those yet to come, are most vulnerable to climate catastrophe – least able to seek safety, at risk from outbreaks of disease, easily exploited by cynical people looking to profit from disaster. Think, then, of children and those yet to be born as we face our current challenge. Will we be moved to despair or to act with hope?

Prayer

Jesus,
like you may I look with compassion at those around me,
feel empathy to the deepest of my belly,
and act sacrificially for all those made in your image already,
and the generations yet to come.
Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is a healthcare chaplain 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Palm Sunday Service

URC Devotions - Sun, 05/04/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Palm Sunday
 
Today’s service was developed by the Rev’d Andy Braunston who works with Barrhead, Shawlands, Priesthill and Stewarton URCs in and around Glasgow in the central belt of Scotland.
 
 

 Introduction
 
Good morning, my name is Andy Braunston; I work with four churches in and around Glasgow but much of today’s service was recorded in my manse. 
 
Every year since 1992 I have started the Palm Sunday service with an introduction about the long weeks of Lent and how we’ve been preparing ourselves, through works of mercy and self-sacrifice, to celebrate Easter.  This year we’ve all given up rather more than we’ve intended, anticipated or wanted and Lent has seemed very long indeed. 
 
Here, in Glasgow none of us can meet as we are all, like you, allowed very little personal contact with people outside our own homes.  When we venture out to the shops we find that Lenten discipline is taking an unexpected turn with fewer things to buy and more limited choices.
 
We probably haven’t got Palm Crosses to bless, there are no donkeys or Palm Sunday processions today and we’re starting to wonder when this will all end. 
 
So today, in worship, we will reflect on our situation as we recall Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem where the crowds acclaimed him as their anointed king and listen as those crowds suddenly grow fickle and bay for his blood. 
 
Call to Worship
 
People of God, on this wilderness journey, what will you eat?
The word of the Lord is our daily bread.
People of God, in this time of temptation, how will you live?
Our faith is in the faithfulness of God.
People of God, at this kingdom crossroad, whom will you serve?
We worship the Lord our God alone.
 
First Reading:  St Matthew 21: 1-11
 
When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples,  saying to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, “The Lord needs them.” And he will send them immediately.’  This took place to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
 
‘Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
    humble, and mounted on a donkey,
        and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’
 
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
 
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
 
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, ‘Who is this?’  The crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.’

Hymn:      Make Way, Make Way
                Graham Kendrick © 1986 Thank You Music
 
Make way, make way,
for Christ the King
in splendour arrives.
Fling wide the gates
and welcome him
into your lives.
 
Make way!  Make way!
For the King of kings!
Make way! Make way!
And let his kingdom in!
 
2: He comes the broken
hearts to heal,
the prisoners to free.
The deaf shall hear,
the lame shall dance,
the blind shall see.
 
3: And those who mourn
with heavy hearts,
who weep and sigh;
with laughter, joy and
royal crown He'll beautify.

4: We call you now
to worship him as Lord of all.
To have no other gods but him:
their thrones must fall!
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Absolution
 
O God in human form,
we remember the day when you rode in triumph,
we hear the crowds acclaim you as king,
we share their joy and expectation of liberation.
Forgive us, O God,
when we fail to acclaim you with our words and actions,
when we fail to share the joy and expectation of freedom.
 
O God in human form,
we remember too how those crowds soon turned on you,
we stand amazed at their fickleness,
we share your sadness at how easily they were distracted.
Forgive us, O God,
when we change with the wind,
when our fickleness lets others down,
and when we are distracted from following you.
 
O God in human form,
we remember how the crowds remembered their Bible,
and found meaning in your message,
seeing you as their king, their anointed one.

Forgive us, O God,
when we pervert the Bible,
turning it to our own ends,
using it to challenge others but not ourselves.  Amen.
 
Assurance of Pardon

God, the source of all mercy,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
has reconciled the world to Himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace;
you have been forgiven, so have the strength to forgive yourself.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Open your mind to us, O God,
as we again listen for your Word,
contained in the Scriptures,
that we may hear, understand and obey.  Amen.
 
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to St Matthew
 
Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said,  ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.
 
Now on the first day of Unleavened Breadthe disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’  He replied ‘Go to so-and-so in the city and say to him, “The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.” The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.
 
When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples.  And while they were eating he said ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me’ They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not I, Lord, surely?’ He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’ Judas, who was to betray him; asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’ ‘They are your own words’ answered Jesus.
 
Now as they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples and said. ‘Take it and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them saying. ‘Drink all of you from this, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. From now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father.’
 
After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all lose faith in me this night, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered, but after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee’.  At this, Peter said, ‘Though all lose faith in you, I will never lose faith’. Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you solemnly, this very night, before the cock crows, you will have disowned me three times’. Peter said to him, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you’. And all the disciples said the same.
 
Then Jesus came with them to a small estate called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I go over there to pray’. He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him.  And sadness came over him, and great distress. He said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and keep awake with me.’ And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed. ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.’ He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘So you had not the strength to keep awake with me one hour? You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
 
Again, a second time, he went away and prayed: ‘My Father, If this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done!’ And he came back again and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy. Leaving them there, he went away again and prayed for the third time, repeating the same words. Then he came back to the disciples and said to them, ‘You can sleep on now and take your rest. Now the hour has come when the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let us go! My betrayer is already close at hand.’
 
He was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared, and with him a large number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. Now the traitor had arranged a sign with them. He had said ‘The one I kiss, he is the man. Take him in charge.’ So he went straight up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi’, and kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘My friend, do what you are here for’. They came forward, seized Jesus and took him in charge.
 
At that, one of the followers of Jesus grasped his sword and drew it; he struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus said, ‘Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defence? But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this is the way it must be?’
It was at this time that Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Am I a brigand, that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I sat teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me.’ Now all this happened to fulfil the prophecies in scripture. Then all the disciples deserted him and ran away.
 
The men who had arrested Jesus led him off to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.  Peter followed him at a distance, and when he reached the high priest’s palace, he went in and sat down with the attendants to see what the end would be.  The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, however false, on which they might pass the death-sentence. But they could not find any, though several lying witnesses came forward. Eventually two stepped forward and made a statement, ‘This man said, “I have power to destroy the Temple of God and in three days build it up”‘ The high priest then stood up and said to him, ‘Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God’. Jesus answered  ‘The words are your own. Moreover, I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’
 
At this, the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed. What need of witnesses have we now? There! You have just heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?’ They answered, ‘He deserves to die’.
 
Then they spat in his face and hit him with their fists; others said as they struck him, ‘Play the prophet, Christ! Who hit you then?’
 
Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean’. But he denied it in front of them all saying: ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’ When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This man was with Jesus the Nazarene’. And again, with an oath, he denied it, ‘I do not know the man’. A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘You are one of them for sure! Why, your accent gives you away.’ Then he started calling down curses on himself and swearing, ‘I do not know the man’. At that moment the cock crew, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times’. And he went outside and wept bitterly.
 
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met in council to bring about the death of Jesus.  They had him bound, and led him away to hand him over to Pilate, the governor. When he found that Jesus had been condemned, Judas his betrayer was filled with remorse and took the thirty silver pieces back to the chief priests and elders saying. ‘I have sinned;’ I have betrayed innocent blood’ They replied: ‘What is that to us? That is your concern.’ And flinging down the silver pieces in the sanctuary he made off and hanged himself; the chief priests picked up the silver pieces and said, ‘It is against the Law to put this into the treasury; it is blood-money’.  So they discussed the matter and bought the potter’s field with it as a graveyard for foreigners, and this is why the field is called the Field of Blood today. The words of the prophet Jeremiah were then fulfilled: And they took the thirty silver pieces, the sum at which the precious One was priced by children of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, just as the Lord directed me.
 
Jesus, then, was brought before the governor, and the governor put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus replied, ‘It is you who say it’.  But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders he refused to answer at all. Pilate then said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many charges they have brought against you?’ But to the governor’s complete amazement, he offered no reply to any of the charges.
 
At festival time it was the governor’s practice to release a prisoner for the people, anyone they chose.  Now there was at that time a notorious prisoner whose name was Barabbas. So when the crowd gathered, Pilate asked them, ‘Which do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message, ‘Have nothing to do with that man; I have been upset all day by a dream I had about him’.
 
The chief priests and the elders, however, had persuaded the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus.  So when the governor spoke and asked them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ they said, ‘Barabbas’. Pilate said to them ‘What am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified! ‘Why?’ he asked ‘What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Then Pilate saw that he was making no impression, that in fact a riot was imminent. So he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.’ And the people, each one of them, shouted back, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ Then he released Barabbas for them. He ordered Jesus to be first scourged and then handed over to be crucified.
 
The governor’s soldiers took Jesus with them into the Praetorium and collected the whole cohort round him. Then they stripped him and made him wear a scarlet cloak, and having twisted some thorns into a crown they put this on his head and placed a reed in his right hand to make fun of him.  They knelt to him saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head with it. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the cloak and dressed him in his own clothes and led him away to crucify him.
 
On their way out, they came across a man from Cyrene, Simon by name, and enlisted him to carry his cross. When they had reached a place called Golgotha, that is, the place of the skull, they gave him wine to drink mixed with gall, which he tasted but refused to drink. When they had finished crucifying him they shared out his clothing by casting lots, and then sat down and stayed there keeping guard over him. Above his head was placed the charge against him; it read: ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews’. At the same time two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
 
The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself! If you are God’s son, come down from the cross!’ The chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him in the same way saying: ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He puts his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants him. For he did say, “I am the son of God”.’ Even the robbers who were crucified with him taunted him in the same way.
 
From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?' When some of those who stood there heard this, they said, ‘The man is calling on Elijah’, and one of them quickly ran to get a sponge which he dipped in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink. ‘Wait!’ said the rest of them ‘and see if Elijah will come to save him.’ But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.
 
At that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy men rose from the dead, and these, after his resurrection, came out of the tombs, entered the Holy City and appeared to a number of people.
 
Meanwhile the centurion, together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said, ‘In truth this was a son of God.’
 
And many women were there, watching from a distance, the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
 
When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, called Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate thereupon ordered it to be handed over. So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean shroud and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre
 
Next day, that is, when Preparation Day was over, the chief priests and the Pharisees went in a body to Pilate and said to him, ‘Your Excellency, we recall that this impostor said, while he was still alive, “After three days I shall rise again”. Therefore give the order to have the sepulchre kept secure until the third day, for fear his disciples come and steal him away and tell the people, “He has risen from the dead”. This last piece of fraud would be worse than what went before.’  ‘You may have your guard’ said Pilate to them. ‘Go and make all as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the sepulchre secure, putting seals on the stone and mounting a guard.
  
Hymn:      My Song is Love unknown
                Samuel Crossman (1624 – 1683)
 
My song is love unknown,
my Saviour’s love to me;
love to the loveless shown,
that they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
my Lord should take
frail flesh, and die?
 
2 He came from His blest throne
salvation to bestow;
but folk made strange,
and none the longed-for Christ would know:
but oh, my friend, my friend indeed,
who at my need His life did spend.
 
3 Sometimes they strew His way,
and His sweet praises sing;
resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
then “Crucify!”
is all their breath,
and for His death
they thirst and cry.
 
4: Why what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries! yet they at these
themselves displease
and ‘gainst him rise.
 
5 They rise and needs will have
my dear Lord made away;
a murderer they save,
the Prince of life they slay.
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
that He His foes
from thence might free.
 
6 In life, no house, no home
my Lord on earth might have;
in death, no friendly tomb,
but what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heav’n was His home;
but mine the tomb
wherein He lay.
 
7 Here might I stay and sing,
no story so divine;
never was love, dear King,
never was grief like Thine.
This is my friend,
in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.
 
Sermon
 
Today’s long Passion reading is full of reversals.  The newly-proclaimed king is led away to be killed as a criminal; the crowds who cheered him on a few short days ago now bay for his blood; the gentle teacher is made a dangerous rebel; Jesus’ own people  - who have heard him teach and have seen his miracles - turn on him, whilst the gentile Centurion, who’d probably never met him before, recognises his divinity; Jesus speaks, not his normal words of consolation but, instead, words dripping in anguish.  Reversals like these keep us reflecting on this passage – reversals like these are ones that Samuel Crossman explored in our last hymn. 
 
We’re used to seeing reversals in our national life; a busy vibrant economy has ground to a halt; experts – who, not long ago, were derided are now listened to with great respect; suddenly the NHS and social care can have all the money they need, and policies which were, a few months ago, derided now seem sensible and necessary.  Reversals are nothing new but continue to surprise us. 
 
Yet changing fortunes, reversals of fate, and pragmatism are always with us.  The very fact the crowds acclaimed Jesus on that first Palm Sunday probably sealed his fate.  The authorities would have been nervous with the extra crowds pressing into Jerusalem and then he provoked them by fulfilling a prophecy about a coming king.  Matthew records Jesus entering Jerusalem and then going straight to the Temple, clearing it of the money lenders and stall holders.  Upsetting tables, traders and temple types.  Worse, from the point of view of the religious authorities, Jesus doesn’t stop there, day after day in that first Holy Week Jesus goes and teaches at the Temple.  He teaches about the wicked tenants – whom the Chief Priests rightly discern are cyphers for themselves.  Jesus spoke directly, and in parable, and his teaching made the authorities more and more nervous until, in the end, they can take no more and have to silence him.  As Crossman puts it:
 
They rise and needs will have
my dear Lord made away;
a murderer they save,
the Prince of life they slay.

 
On the Cross we are confronted with Jesus’ sense of utter desolation as, quoting Scripture, he cries out to the God whom he feels has deserted him.  
 
On the Cross, Jesus’ cry joins with ours as we struggle under the great reversals of our own time.
 
On the Cross, Jesus joins with our pain, our suffering, our humiliation.
 
On the Cross, Jesus fully identifies with humanity in the hope that humanity will one day fully identify with him.
 
In the 1950s the French priest Michel Quoist published a wee book called Prayers of Life.  This book is still in print and sold over 2.5 million copies.  It’s a modern spiritual classic steeped in Quoist’s deep spirituality and work as parish priest of Le Harve for many years. 
 
My own favourite prayer is called Son, I beseech you, don’t sleep any more.  It’s a dialogue between God and a Christian.  It starts “ ‘I shall be in agony until the end of time’ God says”  The Christian responds saying that this isn’t possible, it’s an exaggeration, for if this were so we’d do something about it.  Quoist has God respond saying that we’re deluding ourselves:
 
“They say they love me,
they believe they love me, and, as I am willing to admit,
they are often sincere, but they are terribly mistaken.
They do not understand, they do not see.
Slowly everything has distorted, dried up, emptied.
They think they love me
because once a month they honour my Sacred Heart.
As if I loved them only twelve times a year!
They think they love me because they keep their devotions regularly, attend a benediction, eat fish on Fridays, burn a candle, or say a prayer before a picture of my Sacred Heart.
But I am not made of plaster, God says, nor of stone nor of bronze.
I am living flesh, throbbing, suffering.
I am among you and you have not recognised me.
I am poorly paid, I am unemployed, I live in a slum, I have tuberculosis, I sleep under bridges, I am in prison, I am oppressed, I am patronised….”
 
The prayer continues in similar vein drawing links between the God who suffered at Calvary and the God who continues to suffer in His people now.  It’s a deeply Catholic prayer remembering, as often we forget, that Jesus suffers with his people – why else would he have told the people, in that first Holy Week according to St Matthew’s Gospel – that we will be judged on how we treat others as He is present in those we consider the “least of these”?
 
So this Holy Week as we consider the great reversals of our time, we think about how we treat Jesus in the supermarket worker, the nurse, the junior doctor, the delivery driver – the people who our society has undervalued for years but on whom we newly realise we rely. 
 
So this Holy Week as we consider the great reversals of our time, we think about how indifferent we are to those who suffer in our world – the migrant having to flee home because of war, persecution and poverty.
 
So this Holy Week as we consider the great reversals of our time, we think about how our society could be different, how we could structure our world so that God is no longer in agony.
 
So this Holy Week as we long for the great reversal of Easter we remember Jesus, stretched out amongst his people, suffering and dying with and for us in the hope that we finally learn to live for Him.

Will you pray with me?
 
God our hope of victory,
whom we constantly betray;
grant us so to recognise your coming
that in our clamour
there may be commitment
and in our silence
the very stones may cry aloud
in your name, Amen.
 
Hymn:  We Turn to God when we are sorely pressed
            Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
 
We turn to God when we are sorely pressed;
we pray for help, and ask for peace and bread;
we seek release from illness, guilt, and death:
all people do, in faith or unbelief.
 
2 We turn to God when he is sorely pressed,
and find him poor, scorned, without roof and bread,
bowed under weight of weakness, sin, and death:
faith stands by God in his dark hour of grief.
 
3 God turns to us when we are sorely pressed,
and feeds our souls and bodies with his bread;
for one and all Christ gives himself in death:
through his forgiveness sin will find relief.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—
which some seek to control, but which others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust: our world belongs to God!
 
From the beginning, through all the crises of our times,
until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever.
Our world belongs to God!
 
We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness,
and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for our world belongs to God!
 
As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise, we offer our hearts and lives to do God's work in his world, for our world belongs to God!
 
With tempered impatience,  eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the earth when Christ appears for our World belongs to God!
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
We bring our prayers to God for our world, our country,  the church and those we know, love and worry about.
 
Eternal God, we lift our planet before you,
we thank you for its beauty and wonder at its complexity.
We pray that this time of enforced reflection and stillness
will be a way for us to re-evaluate how we live and work,
that we do less harm to this our fragile home.
 
God of all people, we pray for our world,
for those living with the virus,
for those researching into treatment and vaccine,
for those living in fear,
for those recovering from illness,
and for those who are bereaved.
We pray for those countries where there are fewer resources,
and where the virus will add to a litany of war, famine and poverty.
Help us, O God, to see unity of humanity,
and to change how we live.
 
Eternal One, we pray for our own nations,
for Elizabeth our Queen, Boris our Prime Minister,
and for all who are elected to serve us,
that they may govern with justice,
and seek the good of all.
 
God of the Church
we pray for your people
adjusting to new ways of being community
and new ways of worship. 
We pray for those around the world
who always have to worship at home for fear of the authorities,
for those who can never take part in Palm Sunday processions,
for those who can never openly share their faith,
may they find comfort in you and strength in your love
as through them
you allow your Church to grow.
 
God of tenderness,
in the silence of our hearts,
we pray for those we know and love…..
 
and we pray for ourselves and our own needs….
Accept these prayers, Eternal One,
for the sake of your Son,
our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  Amen.
 
As our Saviour taught us, so we pray, Our Father…

Offering
 
Last week Phil Nevard reminded us of the need to continue to give, as we are able, throughout this health emergency.  We give in different ways  - to our churches, to local charities, to those in need.  It maybe you are keeping your offering envelopes, putting your money in each week and will return them to your church when all this is over, it maybe you have asked your church treasurer to post you a standing order form, it maybe you’re making direct gifts to the church or other charities’ bank accounts.  However we choose to give, it’s important to continue – it’s as much a part of our faith as prayer and hymn singing after all.  Will you pray with me?
 
All things come from you, O God,
and of your own do we give you.
Help us to continue to be generous, even in times of scarcity,
to be loving even in times of fear,
and to have open hearts even as we have to close our homes. Amen.
 
Hymn:      Lord of the Dance
                Sydney Carter © 1963 Stainer and Bell
 
I danced in the morning
when the world was begun,
and I danced in the moon
and the stars and the sun,
and I came down from heaven
and I danced on the earth,
at Bethlehem I had my birth.
 
Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
and I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
and I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.
 
2: I danced for the Scribe
and the Pharisee,
but they would not dance
and they would not follow me.
I danced for the fishermen,
for James and John
they came with me
and the Dance went on.
 
3: I danced on the Sabbath
and I cured the lame;
the holy people
said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped
and they hung me high,
and they left me there
on a Cross to die.
 
4: I danced on a Friday
when the sky turned black
it's hard to dance
with the devil on your back.
They buried my body
and they thought I'd gone,
but I am the Dance,
and I still go on.
 
5: They cut me down
and I leap up high;
I am the life
that'll never, never die;
I'll live in you
if you'll live in me -
I am the Lord
of the Dance, said he.

Blessing
 
May the One who so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
bring you by faith to his eternal life.
 
May the One who accepted the cup of sacrifice
in obedience to the Father’s will,
keep you steadfast as you walk with him the Way of the Cross.
 
May the One who strengthens us to suffer with Christ
that we may share his glory,
set your minds on life and peace.
 
And may the blessing of Almighty God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with you, and all whom you love,
now and always, Amen.
 
 
Sources
Liturgy

Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Intercession – Andy Braunston.
Absolution adapted from the Roman Rite.
Prayer at end of sermon by Janet Morely
Affirmation of Faith from the Christian Reformed Church of North America
Blessing adapted from the Church of England’s Common Worship
 
Hymns
 
Make Way, Make Way, by Graham Kendrick sung by the author and others.
We Turn to God by Dietrich Bonhoeffer sung by Barrhead URC choir
My Song is Love Unknown sung by the Choir of the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Truro, Cornwall
I Danced in the Morning by Sydney Carter, unknown performer on Youtube
 
Thanks to
 
Members of Barrhead URC, Lorraine Webb, Jonnie Hill, Margaret Higton, and Marie Trubic for recording parts of the service.

Words to hymns, where in copyright, are covered by the various licences of the URC.  Recorded music reproduced according to the requirements of Barrhead URC's OneLicence --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 5th April 2020

URC Devotions - Sun, 05/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 5th April Palm Sunday
 
   

 “With Us” Sieger Koeder (2 versions)


Reading: St Luke 14: 27

Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Reflection

Today on Palm Sunday, we remember previous years when we may have received a new ‘palm cross’ and hear how the crowds cried “Hosanna!” (‘save us’), which later became “Crucify Him!” 

What do you do if you have a  ‘palm cross’ each year? Asking around, most folk keep them somewhere visible at home. As the days/weeks go by, what thoughts go through your mind when you glimpse it? 

Today’s verse echoes back to Luke 9:23, when Jesus first sent out His disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

What does it mean to “carry the cross”? Is it a personal cross? An illness? Living with a tragedy? Our responsibilities? Is it a cross for humanity? Poverty? Inequality? Environment? Sharing the Gospel?

Years ago, I went to see a Passion Play at local church with a full-sized wooden cross. The actor playing Jesus carried the crossbeam: it weighed 45kg (100lbs), equivalent to two full suitcases on one’s back! Imagine carrying that a great distance after being beaten and whipped!

In that context, ‘denying oneself’ and ‘carrying one’s cross’ does not sound appealing!

Looking at Koeder’s first version, five crosses are visible: Jesus, the two criminals at either side, and two in grey in the background. Do the other two represent us?

The artist, a Roman Catholic priest, born in 1925, lived his formative years in the Third Reich. In the second version, Koeder substituted the criminals for symbols of inhumanity: a black man, symbol of slavery and apartheid; and Sister Edith Stein, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, killed in Auschwitz.

The picture’s title is “With Us”: that is the core message of the Incarnation. Whoever we are and whatever we ‘carry’, Jesus is in it with us.

Prayer

Let us pray…
Because you, God, love the world,
because in Christ you walked it,
we dare to pray:
God, send Your Spirit;
renew the life of the earth. Amen.
(Source: Iona, “A Wee Worship Book”)
 
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Today's writer

Walt Johnson, Ordinand at Northern College and Member at 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th April

URC Devotions - Sat, 04/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 4th April - 6th Station - Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus


True Icon, Sieger Koeder
 
St Matthew 25: 40

And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Reflection

We like to think we would have done it, but sometimes we just don’t notice it needs doing.  Sometimes we notice, yet it is such a common sight we don’t contemplate any action to effect change while sometimes we are strangers visiting a strange land and don’t know what is the acceptable thing to do, without making trouble for ourselves. 

There are the times when we do something helpful, because it was for a friend or family member, which we wouldn’t dream of doing for anyone else.  

Maybe she was a resident of Jerusalem who waited to give what comfort she could.  Royal Wotton Bassett was given the “royal” title after an originally spontaneous tribute became a standard to offer comfort to bereaved service families.   

Maybe she was a visitor, there for the festival and shocked to the core by the casual cruelty of the Roman guard.   She snatched her head scarf to wipe his face, to clear his eyes of blood, sweat and tears, a little comfort on the road.  When Jesus was asked the most important commandment his response is to draw out two essentials; love God and love your neighbour (Matt 22:35-40).  Without knowing, this compassionate woman set a standard of Christian charity such that she became known as a true image. The name is perhaps an alteration of the medieval Latin vēra īconica, true image.  

It could have been anyone of us: Ruth (friend) or Andrew (manly / warrior) or Simon of Cyrene or Mary of Magdala, but they call her name Veronica.

Prayer

Creator God, you have created us with our different abilities, gifts and talents.  Grant us to use them all in our service to others, that we might be true images of Jesus, whose attributes name us Christian.  Amen
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Browning, retired minister, member of Thornbury 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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To Err is Human

URC Devotions - Fri, 03/04/2020 - 16:28
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and I hath erred

Apologies, I set the Good Friday service to come out today.  It will be resent on Good Friday.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Good Friday Worship

URC Devotions - Fri, 03/04/2020 - 14:45
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Good Friday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the top of the screen is a large red arrow, press that to start the service then switch back to this screen to follow the transcript and join in with the prayers and hymns.
Worship for Good Friday from the United Reformed Church
 
 
Today’s service has been developed by the Rev'd Andy Braunston who works
with Barrhead, Shawlands, Priesthill and Stewarton URCs
which are either in or near Glasgow.
 
 
                                  

Introduction
 
Good afternoon.  My name is Andy Braunston and I work with four churches in and around Glasgow in Scotland’s Central belt. 
 
Good Friday is the saddest day in the Church’s year.   Our service today is simple, reflective and doesn’t contain a sermon  - instead we let the Biblical readings and the prayers speak for themselves. 
 
None of our churches can meet for worship at the moment so each of us, in our own way throughout these islands,  stands at the Cross to try to understand the enormity of it all.   We have many theologies and explanations of the Cross but today they must stand silent in the face of the God who died.  Our first reading is from the book of Isaiah.
 
Reading:  Isaiah 52: 12 – 53: 12
 
See, my servant shall prosper;
    he shall be exalted and lifted up,
    and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
    —so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations;
    kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
    and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.
 
Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
 
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
    Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
    and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
 
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
     Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
    The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.
 
Hymn       When I survey (Isaac Watts 1674 - 1748)
 
When I survey the wond'rous Cross
on which the Prince of Glory dy'd,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
 
2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ my God:
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

3. See from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose so rich a Crown?
 
4. His dying crimson, like a robe,
spreads o'er his body on the Tree;
then am I dead to all the globe,
and all the Globe is dead to me.

5. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
 
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to St John  
(Jerusalem Bible)

Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron valley where there was a garden into which he went with his disciples. Judas the traitor knew the place also, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, so Judas brought the cohort to this place together with guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons. Knowing everything that was to happen to him, Jesus came forward and said, 'Who are you looking for?'  They answered, 'Jesus the Nazarene.' He said, 'I am he.' Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. When Jesus said to them, 'I am he,' they moved back and fell on the ground. He asked them a second time, 'Who are you looking for?' They said, 'Jesus the Nazarene.'  Jesus replied, 'I have told you that I am he. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.'  This was to fulfil the words he had spoken, 'Not one of those you gave me have I lost.'  
 
Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.  Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?'  The cohort and its tribune and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him.  
 
They took him first to Annas, because Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  It was Caiaphas who had counselled the Jews, 'It is better for one man to die for the people.'  Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest's palace, but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the door-keeper and brought Peter in.  
 
The girl on duty at the door said to Peter, 'Aren't you another of that man's disciples?' He answered, 'I am not.'  Now it was cold, and the servants and guards had lit a charcoal fire and were standing there warming themselves; so Peter stood there too, warming himself with the others. The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.  Jesus answered, 'I have spoken openly for all the world to hear; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the Jews meet together; I have said nothing in secret.  Why ask me? Ask my hearers what I taught; they know what I said.'  At these words, one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying, 'Is that the way you answer the high priest?'  Jesus replied, 'If there is some offence in what I said, point it out; but if not, why do you strike me?'  Then Annas sent him, bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.
 
As Simon Peter stood there warming himself, someone said to him, 'Aren't you another of his disciples?' He denied it saying, 'I am not.'  One of the high priest's servants, a relation of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, 'Didn't I see you in the garden with him?'  Again Peter denied it; and at once a cock crowed.  They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves to avoid becoming defiled and unable to eat the Passover.  So Pilate came outside to them and said, 'What charge do you bring against this man?' They replied,  'If he were not a criminal, we should not have handed him over to you.'  Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law.' The Jews answered, 'We are not allowed to put anyone to death.'  This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die.  So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'  Jesus replied, 'Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others said it to you about me?'  Pilate answered, 'Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?'  Jesus replied, 'Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. As it is, my kingdom does not belong here.'  Pilate said, 'So, then you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'It is you who say that I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.'  'Truth?' said Pilate. 'What is that?'
 
And so saying he went out again to the Jews and said, 'I find no case against him.  But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release for you the king of the Jews?'  At this they shouted, 'Not this man,' they said, 'but Barabbas.' Barabbas was a bandit."
 
"Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head and dressed him in a purple robe.  They kept coming up to him and saying, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' and slapping him in the face. Pilate came outside again and said to them, 'Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case against him.'
 
Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said, 'Here is the man.'  When they saw him, the chief priests and the guards shouted, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves and crucify him: I find no case against him.' The people replied, 'We have a Law, and according to that Law he ought to be put to death, because he has claimed to be Son of God.'  When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased.  Re-entering the Praetorium, he said to Jesus, 'Where do you come from?' But Jesus made no answer.  Pilate then said to him, 'Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?'  Jesus replied, 'You would have no power over me at all if it had not been given you from above; that is why the man who handed me over to you has the greater guilt.'  From that moment Pilate was anxious to set him free, but the people shouted, 'If you set him free you are no friend of Caesar's; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.'
 
Hearing these words, Pilate had Jesus brought out, and seated him on the chair of judgement at a place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha.  It was the Day of Preparation, about the sixth hour. 'Here is your king,' said Pilate to the Jews.  But they shouted, 'Away with him, away with him, crucify him.' Pilate said, 'Shall I crucify your king?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king except Caesar.'  So at that Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
 
They then took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out to the Place of the Skull or, as it is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side, Jesus being in the middle.  Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: 'Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews'.
 
This notice was read by many of the people, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.  So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate, 'You should not write "King of the Jews", but that the man said, "I am King of the Jews". ' Pilate answered, 'What I have written, I have written.'
 
When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another, 'Instead of tearing it, let's throw dice to decide who is to have it.' In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled: They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothes. That is what the soldiers did.
 
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.'  Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
 
After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the scripture should be completely fulfilled, he said: I am thirsty.  A jar full of sour wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the wine he said, 'It is fulfilled'; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.  
 
It was the Day of Preparation, and to avoid the bodies' remaining on the cross during the Sabbath -- since that Sabbath was a day of special solemnity -- the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away.  Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other.  When they came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it -- true evidence, and he knows that what he says is true -- and he gives it so that you may believe as well.  Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture: Not one bone of his will be broken;  and again, in another place scripture says: They will look to the one whom they have pierced.
 
After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus -- though a secret one because he was afraid of the people -- asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away.  Nicodemus came as well -- the same one who had first come to Jesus at night-time -- and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.  They took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried.
 
Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there."
 
Music  Surely He Has Born Our Iniquities – Handel’s Messiah
 
The Reproaches  please join in with the responses in bold
 
The Reproaches are a liturgical text from the 9th Century used on Good Friday, or in Eastern Churches on Holy Saturday.  The version we use today have been adapted for use in the Presbyterian Church of the USA.
 
O my people, O my church, what have I done to you, or in what have I offended you? Answer me.
 
I led you forth from the land of Egypt and delivered you by the waters of baptism, but you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I led you through the desert forty years, and fed you with manna: I brought you through tribulation and penitence, and gave you my body, the bread of heaven, but you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
What more could I have done for you that I have not done? I planted you, my chosen and fairest vineyard, I made you the branches of my vine; but when I was thirsty, you gave me vinegar to drink and pierced with a spear the side of your Saviour, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I went before you in a pillar of cloud, and you have led me to the judgment hall of Pilate. I scourged your enemies and brought you to a land of freedom, but you have scourged, mocked, and beaten me. I gave you the water of salvation from the rock, but you have given me gall and left me to thirst, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I gave you a royal sceptre, and bestowed the keys to the kingdom,
but you have given me a crown of thorns. I raised you on high with great power, but you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
My peace I gave, which the world cannot give, and washed your feet as a sign of my love, but you draw the sword to strike in my name and seek high places in my kingdom. I offered you my body and blood, but you scatter and deny and abandon me, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I sent the Spirit of truth to guide you, and you close your hearts to the Counsellor. I pray that all may be one in the Father and me, but you continue to quarrel and divide. I call you to go and bring forth fruit, but you cast lots for my clothing, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I grafted you into the tree of my chosen Israel, and you turned on them with persecution and mass murder. I made you joint heirs with them of my covenants but you made them scapegoats for your own guilt, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I came to you as the least of your brothers and sisters; I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Hymn       This is Your Coronation
Sylvia Dunstan 1955 – 1993 GIA Publications Ltd
 
This is your coronation –
thorns press upon your head;
no bright angelic heralds,
but angry crowds instead;
beneath your throne of timber,
and struggling with the load,,
you go in cruel procession
on sorrow’s royal road.
 
2: Eternal judge on trial,
God’s law, by law denied;
love’s justice is rejected
and truth is falsified.
We who have charged, condemned you
are sentenced by your love;
your blood pronounces pardon
as you are stretched above.

3: High priest you are anointed
with blood upon your face,
and in this hour appointed
the offering for our race.
For weakness interceding;
for sin, you are the price;
for us your prayer unceasing,
O living sacrifice.
 
The General Intercessions
 
Dear people of God, God sent Jesus into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved, that all who believe in him might be delivered from the power of sin and death and become heirs with him of eternal life.
 
Let us pray for the one holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ throughout the world: for its unity in witness and service, for all church leaders and ministers and the people whom they serve, for all Christians those unable to worship this year and those always unable to openly worship, for those about to be baptized, that God will confirm the Church in faith, increase it in love, and preserve it in peace.
 
Eternal God, by your Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified. Receive our prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in our vocation and ministry we may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
Let us pray for all nations and peoples of the earth, and for those in authority among them: for the leaders of our nation, especially Elizabeth our Queen, our Prime Minister, and members of Parliament for all who serve the common good, that by God's help they may seek justice and truth, and live in peace and concord.
 
Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that justice and peace may increase, until the earth is filled
with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Let us pray for all who suffer and are afflicted in body or in mind: for the hungry and homeless, the destitute and the oppressed, and all who suffer persecution, doubt, and despair, for the sorrowful and bereaved,
for prisoners and captives and those in mortal danger, that God will comfort and relieve them, and grant them the knowledge of God's love, and stir up in us the will and patience to minister to their needs.
 
Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer, hear the cry of those in misery and need. In their afflictions show them your mercy, and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them, for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Let us pray for all who have not received the gospel of Christ: for all who have not heard the words of salvation, for all who have lost their faith, for all whose sin has made them indifferent to Christ, for all who actively oppose Christ by word or deed, for all who are enemies of the cross of Christ, and persecutors of his disciples, for all who in the name of Christ have persecuted others, that God will open their hearts to the truth and lead them to faith and obedience.
 
Merciful God, creator of the peoples of the earth and lover of souls, have compassion on all who do not know you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ. Let your gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it. Turn the hearts of those who resist it, and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Let us commit ourselves to God, and pray for the grace of a holy life, that with all who have departed this life and have died in the peace of Christ,
and those whose faith is known to God alone, we may be accounted worthy to enter into the fullness of the joy of our Lord, and receive the crown of life in the day of resurrection.
 
Eternal God of unchanging power and light, look with mercy on your whole Church. Bring to completion your saving work, so that the whole world may see the fallen lifted up, the old made new, and all things brought to perfection by him through whom all things were made, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.
 
Our Father…
  
Hymn:      Praise to the Holiest in the Height
J H Newman 1801 - 1890
 
Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all His words most wonderful;
most sure in all His ways.
 
2: O loving wisdom of our God,
when all was sin and shame,
a second Adam, to the fight
and to the rescue came.
 
3: O wisest love! that flesh and blood
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail.
 
4: And that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine,
God’s presence, and His very self
and essence all-divine.
 
5: O generous love! that He, who smote
in man for man the foe,
the double agony in man
for man should undergo.
 
6: And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach His brethren,
and inspire to suffer and to die.
 
7: Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all His words most wonderful;
most sure in all His ways.
 
Sources, Copyright & Thanks
 
  • First reading – the NRSV Anglicised
  • The Passion Reading from the Jerusalem Bible
  • The Reproaches and General Intercessions adapted for the use of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and published in their Book of Common Worship © Westminster John Knox Press 1993
  • Hymns are either public domain or reproduced under the URC’s copyright licence.  They were shared by podcast within the frames of the URC’s OneLicence. 
 
Thanks to Tina Wheeler, Jonnie Hill, Adam Scott, Ruth Browning & Kingsley Fulbrook, Margaret Higton, Marie Trubic, and members of Barrhead URC for recording different parts of today’s service. --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Holy Week and Easter Services

URC Devotions - Fri, 03/04/2020 - 12:31
96 Holy Week and Easter Services View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

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Holy Week and Easter Services

Dear <<First Name>>

On Sunday Holy Week starts and we reflect on Jesus' triumphant, and provocative, entry into Jerusalem.  The fickle crowds who acclaimed him as king soon cried for his blood.  We have a special service to mark Palm Sunday and this will be emailed out to you at 9.45 for a 10am start.  I am leading this service.  Of course you can listen to it whenever you want but many people are finding it good to listen at the same time as others.  Last week over 3,200 people listened directly with many others listening on CDs burnt by their local churches or simply following the order of service printed for them locally.

Each morning we have been looking at the Stations of the Cross by Fr Sieger Koeder a German Jesuit priest and artist.  On Wednesday afternoon, at 2.45 we will send out a link to a YouTube film we've created which also reflect on the Stations of the Cross.  We use mix clips from Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, music mainly from Handel's Messiah and reflections written from the point of view of the Centurion to help us focus on Jesus' journey from Pilate's Court to the Cross.

On Good Friday I lead a service which will be emailed out to you at 2.45 for a 3pm start.  This is a simple service of prayer and reflection as we mark the saddest day of the year.  

On Easter Sunday we will send out the service at 9.45 for a 10am start.  The service is lead by the Rev'd Dr John Bradbury currently one of the ministers at Downing Place URC in Cambridge but soon to become our next General Secretary.  This special Easter Service gives an opportunity, if you wish, to receive Communion.  All you need is to have some bread and wine at  hand as we celebrate and are drawn up into Christ's presence together.  Though separated from each other we are not separated from the Risen Lord who bids us welcome.

with every good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Daily Devotions from the URC

 
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URC Daily Devotion

URC Devotions - Fri, 03/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Friday 3rd April - 5th Station - Simon of Cyrene helps carry Jesus’ Cross

Unison Sieger Koeder
St Mark 15: 21

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.

Reflection

He was a countryman, not a city dweller, who had come to celebrate the Passover and, probably bemused, joined the spectators watching the condemned criminals being forced to carry the cross-pieces from which they would hang in crucifixion. What was Simon thinking when, with no warning, he was dragged from the crowd and made to carry that heavy burden?
Mark names Simon and names his sons which leads us to think that they would have been known to Mark’s first readers, presumably as members of the early Christian church community. May we assume that watching Jesus as he went to his death had such an effect on Simon that he linked up with the followers of Jesus? If so, what can we all learn about the effect that meeting Jesus, our living Lord, can still have, what effect the lives and example of Christians, including us, can also have on others?
Simon did not volunteer to “take up the cross and follow Jesus” (Mark 4. 34) but was forced to do so, he had no choice. Together with other groups the UK’s Churches’ Investors’ Group has done much vital work to highlight the fate of those compelled, tricked or coerced into modern slavery: young people, often from Asia or Africa and deceived by false promises, who find themselves tricked and coerced to work in slave-like factories in their own countries or nail bars, car-washes, cannabis farms, brothels and such like in the UK and other western countries. Are we sure that none of our expenditure reinforces this exploitation and degradation? We may all like bargain prices, but who pays the real cost, or don’t we want to know?
Simon, Alexander and Rufus are part of our history: what do we know about those who are part of our contemporary world?

Prayer

Gracious God, we thank you and honour those who have accepted the call to take up their cross and follow Jesus without knowing all that this would involve.
We also give thanks for those who commit themselves to the liberation of all who are forced into modern slavery, praying that captives may be freed and justice prevail through the power of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ: Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, member Verwood 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 2nd April 2020

URC Devotions - Thu, 02/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd April 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Thursday 2nd April 4th Station
Jesus meets His Mother




“No Words” Sieger Koeder

St Luke 2: 34-35

Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed  so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

Reflection

Sometimes there are “no words.”  Mary knew from the moment she accepted the invitation to bear a son that he would be different.  How many people are asked to be the vessel for God’s child? She and Joseph welcomed the Magi, and she treasured all they said in her heart.  She took her son the Temple, and heard Simeon speak of Jesus’ world-changing role. She invited Jesus to help at a wedding and saw a miracle. She listened to him. She watched as he was lead to his death. She loved him, but there were no final words to express her love or her grief.  An embrace and a willingness to journey with him to the foot of the cross where all she could offer. Sometimes there are “no words.”  

When our beloved partner is dying; when our child is struggling with addiction, when our friend loses their job, when something happens out of the blue, out of our control, and is outside our comfort zone, there may be no words.  No words to comfort us, no words that help us cope, no words that help us make sense of the situation.

But, even in that tough space there is love.  There is God. There is a hug, a listening companion who promises to journey with us through the pain.  God is present in the toughest times, in community, in silence, in a friend.

Sometimes there are no words, but a ministry of presence and an ability to stand with us in the pain, and  the promise of love no matter what we face. When there are no words, the ability to stay when others flee makes all the difference to the one in need.

Prayer

Loving God, we thank you that you are with us no matter what we face in life.  We thank you for those people who support us with their loving presence, who can be silent with us when words cannot take away our pain.  When it is our turn to stay with those in need, we ask that you give us courage to be present, to listen and to love them through their grief and loss to a place of wholeness.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Martha McInnes, Minister, Cardiff and Penarth Group. 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 1st April 2020

URC Devotions - Wed, 01/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Wednesday 1st April
3rd Station Jesus Falls for the First Time


“Cornerstone” Sieger Koder

Isaiah 53: 5-7

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.

Reflection

As you look into the sleep-deprived face of the father who is burying his child he asks the question you fear the most, “Why has God allowed this to happen?”. There is no answer that will satisfy that question, heal that soul in torment, or bring peace where there is no peace. The only honest response is “I do not know – and I dearly wish I did”.

But here in Isaiah we hear an answer to a related question “where is God when suffering happens?” – for Isaiah tells us that the servant of God is right at the heart of the suffering – wounded, crushed, bruised, oppressed and afflicted. God’s servant bears the burden of all that is wrong with the world, and somehow heals God’s people.

And when we read this description we think of Jesus and the suffering he bears.

Sieger Koder’s painting seems to show Jesus not only bearing the weight of the cross-piece on which he will die, but also weighed down by the people in the upper part of the painting – who seem to be indulging in every vice imaginable. Jesus is bearing the consequences of every sin, he is the victim of every torment, he is the ultimate suffering servant.

God does not protect us from suffering. But he does not abandon us to it either. In Jesus Christ, God takes our suffering, shares it, shoulders it and ultimately transforms it through the power of resurrection.

We do not understand this bearing of our sin and our sorrow, but we given thanks to God for it. It is the gift of grace and the only thing that makes the pain of life worthwhile, and brings eternal life and peace.

Prayer

God of grace,
When we cry out to you in our pain
Help us to hear the whisper of Jesus our Lord:
“ I am here beside you”.
Lend us your strength, we pray
Shoulder our burden, our sin, our pain
and transform it through your undying love.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead, Moderator, South Western Synod & member at Taunton 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  31st March 2020

URC Devotions - Tue, 31/03/2020 - 06:00
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The Rev’d Dominic Grant, minister, Trinity URC Wimbledon

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Tuesday 31st March
2nd Station Jesus Takes Up His Cross 



“Embrace” Sieger Koeder

St John John 19: 17

Carrying the cross by himself, Jesus went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

Reflection

“... by himself...” The phrase may seem incidental; but place it alongside our accumulated remembrance of Jesus' journey to Calvary, and it stands out as a striking detail. Wasn't there another who carried the cross for Jesus?

Well, later in this sequence of Devotions we will indeed encounter Simon of Cyrene; but in John's Gospel, he's nowhere to be seen. Is it too fanciful to wonder whether John has heard or read the story about another cross-bearer and has said NO! - as if there is a note of quiet defiance in his affirmation that Christ carried the cross by himself?

It is elsewhere in John's Gospel that we find the key to unlock this conundrum. Earlier – before the street-theatre of his entry into Jerusalem, just at the time when tensions between Jesus and the religious authorities had been starting to intensify – John records that Jesus spoke of himself as the Good Shepherd, the one who would lay down his life for the sheep.

And there he said:

“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.” (John 10:17-18)

No-one will take his life from him; he carries the cross by himself.

Perhaps that goes some way to explaining the intriguing title of today's painting by Sieger Koeder. With bloodied hands, Jesus is bold to meet with an EMBRACE the cross on which he will be lifted.

Therefore come to him, when you are weighed down with burdens of hidden guilt or unresolved pain. For though “we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted”, even so “he has borne our infirmities, and carried our diseases.” (Isaiah 53:4)
He carries – our cross – by himself.

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you have trod our path,
even under the terrible weight of a cross.
And in your love, you invite us
to take your yoke, and a burden that is light.
So give us grace and courage
to walk your way.
Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dominic Grant, minister, Trinity URC Wimbledon. 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 30th March 2020

URC Devotions - Mon, 30/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
Pat Stannard, Elder, Muswell Hill URC

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 30th March
1st Station Jesus is condemned by Pilate



Surrender Sieger Koeder

St Matthew 26: 57. 27: 24

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered….So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood;  see to it yourselves.’

Reflection

This episode in its entirety has had repercussions to the present day. A priestly-inspired mob elected to send the pesky preacher Jesus to his death. The later narrative that Jews in general were responsible became a reason – or excuse - for extensive persecution over many centuries. The anti-semitic line has now been picked up by other interests in the Western world. As I write, Jewish properties in London have been daubed with graffiti reminiscent of the kind seen in the lead up to the Holocaust.

Pilate too has been castigated. Washing his hands to appease his conscience over issuing the death sentence to a man whom he believed innocent of a capital crime is seen as abject surrender.

Am I alone in feeling some sympathy for Pilate? Governor of a tricky territory widely regarded by his contemporaries as the armpit of the Roman empire, he had already (according to such history to be found outside the scriptures) endured several run-ins with Jewish leaders, leading to reprimands from Rome. Faced with a potential riot and the likelihood of another bloodbath, he caved in to what probably felt like the best of two bad jobs.  

We may think that we would have had more moral courage. Maybe – or maybe not. We live in an age when the voice of the angry mob is louder than it has ever been in history. Through both old and new media we are subjected to lies and “fake news”, hate politics and threats. Sorting out the truth from the lies takes effort.

“What is truth?” Pilate is said to have asked Jesus (John 18: 38). As followers of Jesus, we are called to seek out the truth, and to speak and act for what is right and not just what is expedient – and maybe to stand up to the crowd.
 
Prayer

Lord,
When we face crises of conscience,
let us remember the words of the hymn:
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour.
 Amen
 
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Today's writer

Pat Stannard, Elder, Muswell Hill 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Stations of the Cross

URC Devotions - Sun, 29/03/2020 - 18:00
96 Stations of the Cross View this email in your browser

The Stations of the Cross

Dear <<First Name>>

As Lent enters its last stages we move, in our Daily Devotions, to the Stations of the Cross.  These devotions have fascinated artists for over 400 years as they trace the journey Jesus took from Pilate's court to Golgotha.  The accounts in the Gospels are supplemented with pious legend and so we reflect on Jesus' meeting His Mother, Veronica wiping his face and falling three times in addition to the aspects of the story we're more familiar with.  Most Catholic Churches and many Anglican or Episcopalian churches have the Stations up around the walls, many artists have created their own.  This year we will be aided in our reflections with the art of Fr Sieger Koeder - a German Jesuit priest and artist.  His Stations are stunning and I hope they, along with the Biblical readings and reflections will aid us on our final two weeks of Lent.  

An additional opportunity for worship during Holy Week will include an audio visual version of the Stations - clips from Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, mixed with classical music and reflections all bound together in one video and broadcast via YouTube will be made available on Wednesday in Holy Week.  I will email you about this nearer the time.

I hope you are keeping well and your spirits are good in the midst of the difficult times we are living through.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Sunday Service from the URC for 29th March

URC Devotions - Sun, 29/03/2020 - 09:45
96 Sunday Service from the URC for 29th March View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

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worship for challenging times
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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, you will see a large red arrow above the track simply press that to start or again to pause it.  This should open in a new window allowing you to click back to this window to read the transcript.  
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
Sunday 29th March – The Rev’d Phil Nevard
 
Today’s service was developed by the Rev'd Phil Nevard minster of Kingsteignton URC in South Devon
 
Introduction
 
Welcome.  My name is the Rev’d Phil Nevard and today’s service comes to you from my (tidier) half of the study that I share with Lythan.  In my heart I will be leading this worship with my lovely congregation at Kingsteignton URC in South Devon.  We are delighted that you are joining us today. One advantage of a recorded service is that you can pause the service at any point.  If you haven’t already done so, I’d suggest pausing me now and making sure there is nothing immediate you have to attend to that will take you away from this time of worship.  You might want to settle yourself with a moment of quiet before hitting play again.  There! 
 
Call to Worship   please join in with the words in bold
 
People of God, on this wilderness journey, what will you eat?
The word of the Lord is our daily bread.
People of God, in this time of temptation, how will you live?
Our faith is in the faithfulness of God.
People of God, at this kingdom crossroad, whom will you serve?
We worship the Lord our God alone.
 
Hymn:              Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
                        (Reginald Heber 1783 – 1826)
 
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
 
2 Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
 
3 Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful folk thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee
perfect in pow'r, in love, and purity.
 
4 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession & assurance of pardon
 
Holy, Holy Holy! Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee
 
The confident song of a well-known hymn
The slightly hesitant song of a chorus we haven’t heard before
The triumphant song of the organ with power and depth
The song that makes our spirit dance at the sharing of good news
The silent song in a minor key as we hear of those who grieve
The song of hearts being lifted as we offer our lives to God in worship

Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore thee
Casting down their golden crowns…


A tide of worship reaching back through the ages
and sweeping ahead to the future
A sea of witnesses gone before – we add our voices to theirs
Casting down our golden crowns…
laying before God what belongs to God
Our time, our wealth, our energy, our life
Our hospitality, our devotion, our generosity
The choices we face, the opportunities that come our way

Holy, Holy, Holy Though the sinful human eye
thy glory cannot see


You do not hide from us – our sin clouds our vision
You do not hide from us – our sin deafens our ears
you do not hide from us – our sin deadens our hearts
We are blind to your glory, deaf to your voice and cold in your presence
Change us through our worship, warm our hearts, enliven our spirits
make us one in worship and service one with you, one with each other

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty
All thy works shall praise thy name


Take us beyond an hour of worship to a life of worship
Take us beyond a hymn of praise to a life of praise
Take us beyond a prayer of dedication to a life of dedication
Take us beyond these walls to be your people in the world
Joining all your creation – in earth and sea and sky –
In one great song of Praise!
 
Loving God, the words of our hymns and our prayers
bring us face to face with an uncomfortable truth:
our daily living and our hourly choices
do not match what we sing or pray.
Too often the words feel like vague and hopeful aspirations
which we will never quite live up to.
We KNOW we have fallen short
and we are fairly sure we will CONTINUE to fall short.
 
Loving God, forgive us.
 
(moment of silence)
 
Yet, here are words you may trust;
here are words you may cling onto;
here are words which can free you from the paralysis of guilt;
here are words that offer you a way forward;
here are words that send you unburdened back out into the world:
 
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
To all who turn to him, he says: “Your sins are forgiven.”
He also says: “Follow me.”
 
Prayer for illumination
 
We are about to listen for God’s Word.  Notice I said “listen for” and not “listen to”.  God’s Word is not simply words, not even words written in a special book or read in a Sunday voice.  God’s Word is not simply text to be read and studied.  God’s Word isn’t a thing to be looked at even listened to.  God’s Word is something that HAPPENS.  One of the ways God’s Word happens is when the words we are about to hear connect with our minds and our hearts and change our living through the power of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why we pray before we read, and that’s why listening for God’s Word can be a risky business!
 
So we pray:
 
Calm us now, O Lord, into a quietness that heals and listens.
Unlock the doors of our hearts;
open the shutters of our minds;
that we might hear Your voice
and be bathed anew in your Light.   Amen.
 
Readings
 
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NRSV)   
 
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.   He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.  I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’
 
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:  Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,  and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’  I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
 
Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”  Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’
 
 St John 11:1-45  (NRSV)
 
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[d] 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!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’
 
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
 
Sermon
 
Before I begin the sermon, I am very keenly aware that there are many of you sitting there feeling a bit unsettled because we haven’t had the notices yet (or if you’re listening in Northern parts – the intimations!)  So here they are:
 
  • The Guild is cancelled
  • All our services are cancelled
  • the Games Afternoon is cancelled
  • Messy Church is cancelled
  • The monthly how to secure the china-cupboard steering group meeting is cancelled
  • all the Easter events and services are cancelled
  • We don’t need any volunteers for the flower rota because flowers are cancelled
 
Life feels a bit like that now, doesn’t it – everything is cancelled because everything is falling apart around us.  It feels like we’re in the middle of some uncontrollable and totally unpredictable whirlwind that is picking up the interconnected bits of our lives and flinging them around randomly!  Today we heard Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones and then John’s account of the raising of Lazarus.  Both of those readings have memorable phrases that might easily find ourselves repeating today:
 
From Ezekiel, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”
 
and from John, on the lips of both Martha and Mary: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 
Psalm 130 is also set for today, and we will return to that in our prayers later, but Psalm 130 also speaks words that we might be tempted to repeat sometime in this coming week:
 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
 
In the midst of this whirlwind, what might God be saying to us?  I want to open up two possibilities for you to consider today and through this week.  I will offer some brief thoughts and reflections and then a question to encourage you to connect what I have said to your own particular circumstances.  Some music will play to mark some initial thinking and praying time, but I hope you will carry the questions through the week.  Maybe you could phone someone in your church who you would normally have this kind of a conversation with and discuss your thoughts together.  Or maybe, if you are an internet-savvy person, you could find a way to connect to others who are also using these recorded services and share your ideas about what God might be saying to you.
 
So, here’s the first one. 
 
Ezekiel goes out of his way in describing his vision to tell us just how dry those bones were.  It wasn’t JUST a valley of bones, it was a valley of DRY bones.  It was like those compulsory scenes from the old cowboy films where the camera pans across the horns of a bleached, dry, skull separated from a long-dead cow – the idea is to create a sense of arid lifelessness.  These bones that Ezekiel described are LONG dead – they are SO dead that they are brittle and crumbling – there is no chance at all of life within them.
 
In the early church this passage was at the centre of a serious disagreement about life beyond death and whether this would include what we experience as our bodies or not.  Christians argued strongly that we would need our bodies, whilst the Gnostics longed for the day when the “soul” could be set free from its bodily prison.  It was a fierce argument and probably not one that you or I are having today very often.  It became particularly sharp as Christians were martyred in amphitheatres.  How (literally) chewed up and digested could a human body become before God could not reconstitute it for a bodily resurrection?  Tertullian suggested that the more hard-wearing bits, the bones and the teeth, would sprout a whole new body and it would be fine, but the Romans got hold of this idea and would decapitate martyrs, burn the bodies and then float anything left down the Rhine in order to “rob the dead of their rebirth” and kill off the idea that martyrs would be rewarded with resurrection.  Not even God could resurrect a body after all that!
 
I appreciate this is perhaps a little bit more grisly than you might have been expecting, but the great truth of Ezekiel’s vision and the arguments in the early church community is that God’s answer is clear.  Can God bring new life EVEN when this happens – when bones are totally dried, when bodies are totally destroyed – when life as we know it has stopped happening – can God bring new life EVEN THEN??
 
God’s answer is emphatically YES!  YES!  YES!
 
You have probably guessed my first question! 
 
Complete the sentence as creatively as you can: “My own spiritual life is as dry as a _____________.”    How might I use this unexpected gift of time as an opportunity to nourish my spiritual life and bring new life to my discipleship?”
 
(music for reflection)
 
And here’s the second.
 
I always find it difficult to focus the mind with John’s Gospel.  He writes in a way that prompts questions at every point, his is a very different style to Mark where Jesus suddenly does this then immediately goes over there and does that and before you know it the story is over!  In John’s gospel there is no shortage of meat to chew.

You might want to revisit the text during the week and dwell on some of the puzzles.  You might want to reassess your ideas about Thomas who, in this passage, sounds more like Brave Thomas, or Reckless Thomas than he sounds like “Doubting Thomas”.  Or you might like to dwell on the quite disturbing idea that Jesus deliberately delays his visit to a dying friend.
 
For now, though, I’d draw your attention to the powerful emotional content of this story – summed up in what quizmasters know as the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.”  Jesus weeps because Jesus loved Lazarus.  Not the “agape” love that John is so fond of using, “selfless, self-giving love”, but “philia” love, the common Greek word for ordinary friendship between people.
 
At one of the Prime Minister’s early press conferences (which seems like a long time ago now), Mr Johnson told us, “...many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time. “  There will be lots of Marthas and Marys weeping over the death of their Lazaruses.  There will be lots of Marthas and Marys trying to make sense of their loss and maybe asking, “if Jesus had been here, this would not have happened.”  It’s not a new question to ask, but it is still a very powerful one, how can stuff like this happen if Jesus is alive in the world, or if God really cares about us?
 
Romans 12:15 famously calls us to “weep with those who weep”.  Here, Jesus does just that – he weeps with those who weep.  He weeps genuine, real, gut-wrenching tears as he feels the grief as sharply as they do.
 
I have to confess that I still retain a little bit of disappointment at what happens next.  It has always niggled me that this was an opportunity for Jesus to show how to be around those who grieve, how to respond, what to say or not to say, how to bring comfort.  He makes a good start by weeping with them, sharing their grief, but then he goes and raises Lazarus from the dead.  In my less spiritual moments, and I have to be honest here, I think “There’s a typical bloke.  He can’t sustain being alongside a grieving person for long before he has to go and do something practical to fix the situation.  Only in his case it’s something practical that the rest of us cannot expect to do often – he fixes the situation by raising Lazarus from the dead!  Thanks for the tip, Jesus!
 
Of course, my hang-up here is simply because I am stubbornly not grasping the full complexity with which John writes.  John is trying to show us BOTH the solid, touchable humanity of Jesus, the Jesus who cries real tears – AND the mind-bending truth that Jesus is truly ONE with God.  John is trying to tell us that in this weeping human Jesus lives the Christ, a living sign that the promises of God about life conquering death are not to be fulfilled long in the future, but are here and now and seen in this story.
 
Ultimately, the message is not that different to the message of Ezekiel’s vision, and we should not be surprised because the same God is at work.  The life-giving breath of God is already at work conquering death with new life.
 
These are all big questions, and maybe, like mine, your head is now hurting with the sheer scale of this story!  So, my question looks like a smaller question, but it really isn’t, not if you give the question the chance to take root and bear fruit in the ways you respond to a grieving world.
 
Who was the last person over whose death you truly wept?  Can you remember the things that those around you said/didn’t say or did/didn’t do that brought you moments of peace, comfort or joy?  Can you imagine how you might begin to offer those moments to someone else who grieves, even with the restrictions we may face at this time?
 
(music for reflection)
 
And now, as Paul very nearly wrote to the Philippians, “to all the saints in Christ Jesus in homes of United Reformed Church members and beyond: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”   Amen
 
Hymn:      As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams
                Nahum Tate (1652-1715)
 
As pants the hart for cooling streams
when heated in the chase,
so longs my soul, O God, for Thee,
and Thy refreshing grace.
 
2 For Thee, my God, the living God,
my thirsty soul doth pine;
oh, when shall I behold Thy face,
Thou Majesty Divine?
 
4 God of my strength, how long shall I,
like one forgotten, mourn,
forlorn, forsaken, and exposed
to my oppressor’s scorn?
 
5 Why restless, why cast down, my soul?
Hope still, and thou shalt sing
the praise of Him who is thy God,
thy health’s eternal spring.
 
Affirmation of Faith  please join in with the words in bold
 
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—
which some seek to control, but which others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust: our world belongs to God!
 
From the beginning, through all the crises of our times,
until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever.
our world belongs to God!
 
We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness,
and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for our world belongs to God!
 
As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise, we offer our hearts and lives to do God's work in his world, for our world belongs to God!
 
With tempered impatience,  eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the earth when Christ appears for our world belongs to God!
 
Prayers of Intercession  (drawing on Psalm 130)
 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of those who are anxious and fearful,
those who cannot shake that feeling of dread
that has fallen across their lives.
Hear the voice of those who have seen long-prepared plans fall apart,
those who are now finding it hard to see what their next step should be,
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of those who are working day and night
to bring relief to those affected,
those who don’t know when opportunity for rest will come.
Hear the voice of those who now have no work and no income,
those who worry how the bills will be paid
or whether their business will survive.
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of politicians who are expected to provide answers,
those who are bewildered by events and dealing with issues
they have never imagined.
Hear the voice of service managers
trying to keep stretched systems running,
those trying to respond to needs that far outstrip supplies.
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of teenagers who have worked so hard
for exams they may never sit,
those who are afraid that their future prospects will be damaged.
Hear the voice of children who watch the adults around them,
those who may seem unaware but who are deeply affected by the stress of those around them.
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of those
who were only recently flooded out of their homes,
those who had everything taken from them
and have nothing to fall back on.
Hear the voice of those who live from doorway to bench,
who have no protection,
those who cannot find a safe and warm place to self-isolate and be fed.
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
And when we have watched and waited,
and our list of petitions has exhausted us,
may your voice be very clear to us.
Speak to us with your voice of hope and grace;
speak to us with you voice of wisdom and truth;
speak to us with your voice of love and compassion;
speak to us with your voice of challenge and calling;
And, having heard your voice, we will find new ways to follow you.  Amen
 
Our Father….
 
Offertory
 
If you look outside your window you will see that we have used the latest satellite and digital tracking technology to deliver a drone carrying an offertory bag to your front door, this will then be diverted back to your home church.
 
Actually, we haven’t!  But the offertory is an important part of our tradition of worship – it’s one of the few places where we all agree we should stand up suddenly and confuse the visitors! 
 
It might be that your church has already thought about this, in which case you might want to take this moment to put some cash into your freewill offering envelope and put it somewhere safe until it can be collected.  You might also want to remember any local charities that are special to you.  All of the events where they raise money or collect donations have been cancelled.  Many of them find themselves with less money, more work and fewer workers to do that work.  You might want to think about how you might reach out to them with some support.
 
A prayer:
 
Loving God, you give to us beyond measure, you give to us without counting the cost.
 
Accept whatever giving I can offer and use it that life may flourish and your Kingdom come.  Amen.
 
Hymn:               Through all the changing scenes of life
                          Nahum Tate (1652-1715) after Psalm 34: 1-4, 7-9
 
 
Through all the changing scenes of life,
in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
my heart and tongue employ.
 
2 Of his deliv'rance I will boast,
till all that are distressed
from my example comfort take,
and charm their griefs to rest.
 
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me;
with me exalt his name;
when in distress to him I called,
he to my rescue came.
 
4 Fear him, ye saints,
and you will then
have nothing else to fear;
make you his service your delight,
your wants shall be his care.

Blessing: 
 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)
 
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
in the name of Christ. Amen.
 
 
 Sources, Copyright and Thanks
 
Hymns are public domain. 
 
For All the Changing Scenes of Life was recorded for Songs of Praise, Maddy Prior sang As the Hart and Holy, Holy, Holy was recorded by the Hymns Project/Parkway Worship Ministry.
 
The reflective music for the sermon came from the Perfect Light Reflective Meditations for Piano (CD) Austin Kershaw & Kevin Mayhew Ltd.
 
Music reproduced under the terms of the URC’s various licences.
 
Thanks to members of Barrhead URC, John Wilcox, Liane Todd, and Kathleen Haynes for recording spoken parts of the service. --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  29th March 2020

URC Devotions - Sun, 29/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  29th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
The Rev'd Dr Rosalind Selby is principal of Northern College in Manchester and a member of Didsbury URC

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 29th March
Psalm 142

1 I cry for mercy to the LORD;
To him I lift my voice in prayer.
2 Before the LORD I bring my plea;
To him my trouble I declare.

3 Each time my spirit faints in me,
You are the one who knows my way;
For in the path on which I walk
A hidden snare for me they lay.

4 Look to my right hand and take note:
There is not one concerned for me.
I have no refuge; no one cares
For me in my adversity.

5 I cry aloud to you, O LORD:
“You are my hiding place in strife.
You are the one sustaining me;
You keep me in the land of life.”

6 LORD, listen to my cry for help,
For I am in extremity.
Save me from those who seek my life,
Because they are too strong for me.

7 So that I may give thanks to you,
From prison’s darkness set me free.
The righteous then will gather round,
Because you’ve shown your love to me.

Reflection

I’m touched by the trust implicit in this prayer. Clearly the Psalmist has experienced God’s sustaining and the life-giving ‘hiding place’ in which she has been upheld in the past.  This prayer is offered in expectation that God will hear her cry now.

I’m also moved by the metaphor of the prison.  Prison, I have learned, is not a place where hope is often experienced, or trust is easily built. Our national life uses the prison system to punish, remove ‘dangerous’ people from society, keep others safe, and to rehabilitate.  True rehabilitation is rare and there is little care for younger offenders. Suicide rates for those suffering mental ill health in prison are appalling.

Is this Psalmist in the sort of despair that a young, mentally ill lad might be, who is just old enough to be in an adult prison? or feeling imprisoned?  We hear of arrests and imprisonments that make us reflect: green protesters by their hundreds; Hong Kong democracy demonstrators; British citizens in Guantanamo; and, not so very long ago, in Northern Ireland where nearly 2,000 people were interned for their political beliefs without a trial.

I DO NOT suggest who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in ANY case, I merely reflect on an absence of a Psalmist-like hope in the prison system. If there is no hope for either release, or newness of life through rehabilitation, does a ‘system’ dehumanise? and who do we expect to act? and who is crying out and making voices heard?

This Psalmist has both hope and experience of God’s justice. Jesus’ ‘Manifesto’ (Luke 4:18- 19) promises “release to the captives”.  Do we say that both Psalm and manifesto are ‘only’ metaphors for an experience of moving to ‘quality of life’ in Christ? Let us also raise prayers and voices on behalf of just, decent and hope-filled attitudes and behaviours towards those for whom our government is responsible.

Prayer

O God! 
Hear your children when they cry out,
when their despair feels like imprisonment.

O God! 
Hear the prayers of those unjustly imprisoned, 
and bring your justice to liberate them.

O God! 
hear the cries of those in prison because of their crimes,
bring new hope, 
and challenge us all to
speak out on behalf of humanity.
In the name of the one who brings release to the captives we ask it. Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev'd Dr Rosalind Selby is principal of Northern College in Manchester and a member of Didsbury URC. Copyright
Sing Psalms! (C) The Psalmody and Worship Committee, the Free Church of Scotland
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 28th March 2020

URC Devotions - Sat, 28/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
The Rev’d Branwen Rees, East Wales Regional Minister

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 28th March
 
O Sacred Head Sore Wounded (Passion Chorale) RS 220
Paul Gerhardt (1607-76)

O sacred Head, sore wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down;
O royal head surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown;
O Lord of life and glory,
what bliss 'til now was thine!
I read the wondrous story,
I joy to call thee mine.

2 What thou, my Lord, hast suffered
was all for sinners' gain:
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
By this thy bitter Passion
Good Shepherd think on me;
vouchsafe to me compassion,
unworthy though I be.

3 For this thy dying sorrow,
O Jesus, dearest Friend,
what language shall I borrow
to thank thee without end?
O make me thine forever;
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to thee.

4: Be near when I am dying,
and show thy cross to me
that I, for succour flying,
may rest my eyes on thee.
My Lord, thy grace receiving,
let faith my fears dispel,
that I may die believing,
and in thee Lord, die well.

You can hear this hymn here.

St Mark 15: 17

And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him.

Reflection

I have always wanted to preach on a hymn but never had the courage. Yet hymns can contain wonderful words and images – words and images we may find easier to understand than some Scripture and for me, this hymn is one of them.  It speaks to what scares us most as humans, death. We are mortal; we have a finite time on earth and yet we don’t like to think about it, let alone talk about it. We almost pretend that we will live forever, but despite medical advances - we won’t!

We know we are not worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus yet still, Jesus died for me, he died for you; he died your annoying neighbour, he even died for that person in church you really don’t like.  But it’s not just that Jesus died, it’s what went with the dying – the torture, the mocking, the ridicule and the abandonment by his friends and by God too.

To an extent. Jesus death was a result of power politics and the Romans, well, they may mock his Messiahship - dress him as a pretend king in purple with a crown; they may even hail him as if he were Caesar, but still Jesus goes to his death as God’s anointed.

Jesus’ death provides a ‘permanent covenant between God and humanity that can never be broken’ (The New Interpreter’s Bible) because of that, we can sing, ‘My Lord, thy grace receiving, let faith my fears dispel, that I may die believing, and in thee, Lord, die well’.  With faith and hope we can die well knowing that there is a far better life ahead of us than we have already experienced, a life lived in the presence of our Creator God and our Risen Saviour.

Prayer

Lord of life and glory,
It is hard to think of our own death,
yet we know that we can live life now thanks to your death.
As we approach this Eastertide, 
let us not be too hasty to avoid Good Friday, 
instead let us sit with your death Lord Jesus, 
meditating on the reality of its horror and pain, 
but still knowing that death will lead to new life.  Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Branwen Rees, East Wales Regional Minister. 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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