URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 23rd March 2019

12 hours 55 min ago
96 URC Daily Devotion 23rd March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 13: 1 - 5

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.’ Reflection This reading highlights two common thought patterns.  1. “ What happened to those people won’t happen to me, because I am not as sinful as they must have been.” (story of Galileans)  2. “Accidents happen to bad people.” (story of tower)
These were the implied responses to the “trending news”.  Is it any different today? We still look for comfort in thinking that there must be something different about me or us.  “They must have done something to deserve that.”

Jesus challenges this thinking.  “Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.”  That word “repent” in the Greek is from the Greek word metanoeo, comprised of meta meaning ‘changed after’ and noeo meaning ‘to think’.  To repent here is quite literally ‘to think differently afterwards’.  Jesus is calling them to rethink their thinking.

It’s easy to point to extremes of belief here.  Prosperity gospel or extreme forms of conservative or liberal/progressive theologies contain some easy pickings.  “Look at them being all judgemental!” we might be tempted to say. But that’s exactly what Jesus is telling folks NOT to do.  He challenges us to rethink our thinking – mine and yours – about others and about ourselves.

About others? When bad things happen, our first instinct should be to respond in love and mercy, not judgement or ridicule.  That could happen to us.  How would we want people to respond?

About ourselves?  God deals graciously with us, so simply live in thanks for that.  For some of us, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I’m not good enough.”  No, we aren’t good enough. That is why Jesus came.

To both the finger-pointing and the self-blaming, Christ calls “Repent!  Think again! Come see things the way God does.”
 
 

Prayer

Holy God,
I know I see only ‘in part’ and you see everything.  God, check my heart and mind. If there are any thought patterns that I have that don’t please you, make me aware of them.  By your spirit, help me to change them. Help me to repent and to rethink my thinking.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen  

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Angela Rigby is minister at Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 22nd March 2019

Fri, 22/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 22nd March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 12: 58-59

‘And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?  Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison.  I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.’ Reflection In many Bibles, this short section carries the heading “Settling With An Opponent”; however, sectioning it off can detract from the larger context of Jesus’ teaching about the coming Kingdom, which we have read though in recent days.

Jesus’ words here recognise that there are disagreements between people, and He exhorts us to resolve matters before they become too serious. One way I have always found helpful to understand this passage is that we should keep ‘short accounts’ with one another.

If we allow our disagreements with others to fester within us, they will begin to consume us; and, in the context of the greater theme of Luke’s discourse here, we will lose sight of the coming Kingdom.

As the winter ends, we may have had the experience of building a snow-person. We roll a ball of snow, and as it rolls it picks up more snow and grows, but it also picks up bits of stone, twigs and leaves. Those bits are like our small disagreements which we need to stop and deal with as they arise.

Jesus’ advice to resolve matters sooner is sound. His warning to avoid going to court is wise! As a magistrate, I have had the experience of hearing many cases where a dispute has gone badly wrong. Neighbours or (ex-)friends/lovers, where a small matter – usually, possessions or bad parking – has ‘snowballed’ and ended in harassment, damage and even physical violence.

Trying to keep ‘short accounts’ and stop things ‘snowballing’ does require both sides’ co-operation. Yet, Christ’s call to us is: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

The late Brother Roger of Taizé wrote: “Reconciliation is a springtime of the heart. Yes, to become reconciled without delay leads to an amazing discovery that our own hearts are changed by it.”
 

Prayer

Christ, Saviour of every life,
You come to us always.
Welcoming You in the peace of our nights,
In the silence of our days,
In the beauty of creation,
In the hours of intense inner struggle,
Welcoming You means
knowing that You will be with us
in every situation, always. Amen.

(Prayer by Brother Roger of Taizé)
 

Today's Writer

Walt Johnson, Elder; Wilbraham St Ninian’s, Chorlton, Manchester.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 21st March 2019

Thu, 21/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, Reformation Martyr
 

Information

Born in Aslockton in Nottinghamshire in 1489, Thomas Cranmer, from an unspectacular Cambridge academic career, was recruited for diplomatic service in 1527. Two years later he joined the team working to annul Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533 and duly pronounced the Aragon marriage annulled. By now a convinced Church reformer, he married in 1532 while clerical marriage was still illegal in England. He worked closely with Thomas Cromwell to further reformation, but survived Henry's final, unpredictable years to become a chief architect of Edward VI’s  religious change, constructing two editions of The Book of Common Prayer, in 1549 and 1552, the Ordinal in 1550 and the original version of the later Thirty-Nine Articles.

Cranmer acquiesced in the unsuccessful attempt to make Lady Jane Grey Queen of England. Queen Mary's regime convicted him of treason in 1553 and of heresy in 1554. Demoralised by imprisonment, he signed six recantations, but was still condemned to the stake at Oxford. Struggling with his conscience, he made a final, bold statement of Protestant faith. Perhaps too fair-minded and cautious to be a ready-made hero in Reformation disputes, he was an impressively learnèd scholar, and his genius for formal prose has left a lasting mark on Anglican liturgy. He was burnt at the stake on this day in the year 1556.

2 Timothy 2. 8-15

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;  if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
 
Reflection This passage reflects the opening themes of the letter - not to be ashamed of the Gospel and to share with Paul whatever suffering such faith brings. The anchor for such faithfulness is the reality of the resurrection and the salvation that Christ makes possible for those who believe. Paul is writing from prison and living daily with the brutal realities of discipleship. He reaches into the traditions already forming within the Church to find a creedal saying that makes his point; our obedience, even in suffering, binds us to Christ and to the promise of new life. Our denying of him means he will deny us even as he continues his ministry in and through others.

All of this is hard and echoes Cranmer’s story.  It might feel remote from us until we let its words sink in. This very day Christians in many parts of the world are suffering deeply for their faith. At the start of 2018, the charity Open Doors identified the 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan top the list.  The report suggested that 215,000,000 Christians face persecution. The recent case of Asia Bibi brought these stark facts to wider attention.

Such risk is far from most of us. This passage, however, still speaks. It highlights the demands of discipleship. It challenges us, as Paul challenges Timothy, to let Jesus be Lord come what may. As the letter says, we are each to be: “…a worker who does not need to be ashamed…” Which begs some vital questions, doesn’t it? As today unfolds, what sort of witness am I to the good news revealed through Jesus Christ? Are my words worthy and are my decisions suitable as a follower of Jesus? Can people see, in my living today, God’s worker?

Prayer

Living God,
hear our prayers for those suffering for their faith.
Give courage to all who risk much in following Christ.
Give hope to all who fear their faith will bring them harm.
Give wisdom to communities and leaders facing hostility.
Grant to us,
as pressures come our way,
the courage, hope and wisdom we might need.
Help us to witness well,
in the name of our risen Lord
and in your Spirit’s power.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Neil Thorogood, Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 20th March 2019

Wed, 20/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 12: 54 - 56 

He also said to the crowds, ‘When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain”; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat”; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Reflection Britons, it is said, are obsessed by weather. It has been suggested that this is because the British weather is inherently unpredictable, making forecasting a risky activity. Recent advances in observational capability and especially in computer power, together with a strong dash of understanding of how chaotic systems behave, have led to greater certainty in weather forecasts. Yet we are still caught out with no umbrella when it rains.

Two hallmarks of a good scientific theory are that it should be falsifiable and that it should make predictions which are verifiable. When Lord Kelvin calculated the age of the earth as 100 million years, like his Victorian scientific colleagues, he assumed that basic mechanics and thermodynamics were all that was needed to describe the past and future behaviour of the universe. Indeed, they thought the future of physics was reduced to boring, more detailed, calculations. It was just a few years later that radioactivity was discovered and quantum theory was developed, blowing away their assumptions and opening up a whole new, exciting world. The signs had been there, but they did not understand them.

When we seek to make predictions and read the signs of the times, we do so through the lens of our current understanding and blinkered by the assumptions behind that understanding. Thus Jesus repudiates, to the disciples and the crowds, their assumption that what they see in him, and in his message of the supremacy of love, is inconsistent with the notion of a Messiah. Confining their observation to the most obvious and trivial blinkers their view of the troubled times to come. Yet the signs were there to be seen and when (as in Matthew and Mark) clearer signs were asked for, they were refused.

How clearly do we read the signs of these times?

Prayer

God,
when clarity of vision
not just through eye
but also with brain
eludes us:
enlighten us.

When the obvious,
clouds massing and winds blowing,
evokes simplistic conclusions
misdirecting us:
restrain us.

When our favourite theories
no longer hold water
or when incorrect deductions
confuse us:
correct us.
 

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 19th March 2019

Tue, 19/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 12: 49 - 53 

‘I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!  Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!  From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ Reflection This is, no doubt, a tricky passage and there are many commentaries which cover what people think Jesus was saying here. Jesus is speaking to his disciples and he is in full prophet mode. He is speaking about how he would bring people to make a choice. The Pharisees had made their choice not to follow, even some of Jesus’ own family had chosen not to follow him (Mark 3:21). Jesus was saying a time is coming when all people will need to make a choice, for him or against. We know that even the disciples, when faced with possible persecution or crucifixion, found this choice a hard one (John 6:60-66).

Making a choice to follow Jesus may result in being at odds with the rest of your family, friends or even nation. We see this most acutely when people in countries where Christianity is banned become followers of Christ. This often brings the threat of being imprisoned or worse. Sometimes it is even family members who betray their Christian family members. Closer to home, Jesus calls us to make a choice, do we follow him and bear the consequences from our family, friends and work colleagues or do we hide our faith to keep us safe? Jesus, in this passage, makes it clear that “fence-sitting” and neutrality are not an option when it comes to following him.
 

Prayer

Lord God,
We pray today for our persecuted sisters and brothers across the world,
surround them with your love, protection and give them courage to stand for you.
As we see their faithful example,
help us to make the right choices for you and your Kingdom
for Jesus sake we pray.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Stuart Nixon, SCM Pioneer minister, MediaCityUK Church

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 18th March

Mon, 18/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 12: 41 - 48

Peter said, ‘Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?’  And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and prudent manager whom his master will put in charge of his slaves, to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.  Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says to himself, “My master is delayed in coming”, and if he begins to beat the other slaves, men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and put him with the unfaithful.  That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. Reflection One of the problems in our world is that justice doesn’t come.  The legal maxim justice delayed is justice denied reminds us of the consequences of kicking things into the long grass.  Dictators, in the words of the hymn by Michael Forster, stay in a guarded palace-tomb, condemned to live and die alone abusing the wealth of their people.  Foreign policy is dictated by who we can sell arms to rather than what is right.  Day by day men abuse women and children assuming they won’t be called to account.

Jesus’ words in today’s passage remind us that we are stewards who, one day, will have to give account.  One day we will either be praised or found wanting. It’s a salutary warning that justice is coming, that judgment is real.

Often we don’t like to think about these themes of justice and judgement preferring to think of a softer, kinder more gentle God; one made in our own image and bourne out of an understandable rejection of previous generations’ obsession with Hellfire.  Yet there has to be justice; the world’s poor and downtrodden demand it, the Bible promises it, we need to work for it.
 

Prayer

O God of justice,
do not wait whilst your people suffer.
O God of justice,
bring to repentance the dictator,
torturer and abuser.
O God of justice,
be merciful to me,
a sinner.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is a Minister in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster serving Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion

Sun, 17/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 90

1 Lord, you have ever been our dwelling place.
2 Before you made the world of time and space,
Before you made the mountains and the earth,
You are eternal God; you gave them birth.

3 You turn all people back to dust and say,
“O human race, to dust again decay.”
4 Because a thousand years are in your sight
Like yesterday or like a watch by night.

5 Into death’s sleep you sweep them all away,
For they are like the grass at break of day—
6 Although it springs up new with morning light,
It dries and perishes before the night.

7 Your wrath consumes us; we are terrified.
8 Before your gaze our sins we cannot hide.
9 Under your anger all our days pass by;
Our years come to their finish with a sigh.

10 Our years amount to seventy in length,
Or even eighty if we have the strength.
And yet our days in grief and pain are passed;
They quickly end; away we fly at last.

11 The powèr of your anger who can know?
Your wrath’s as great as is the fear we owe.
12 Teach us to number all our days aright;
So will our hearts be filled with wisdom’s light.

13 Return, O LORD! How long will you delay?
Have mercy on your servants, LORD, we pray.
14 O satisfy us with your love always,
That we may sing, rejoicing all our days.

15 In place of our affliction, make us glad;
Give joy for all the years you made us sad.
16 To all your servants may your deeds be shown,
And to their children make your glory known.

17 Now may the favour of Almighty God
Abide on us—rich blessings of our Lord.
Establish every work our hands have done;
Yes, Lord, for us establish them each one.
 
This works well when sung to Eventide - the tune most often used for Abide with Me. Reflection Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses. That association ought to alert us to its importance for the worshipping community.

This poem, a meditative prayer or a song of lament, contrasts the enduring life of God with our transient existence. Two themes, the greatness of God, steadfast in love and justice; and the pathos of human pretensions, fickle and feuding, are laid beside each other in devastating clarity.

Faced with this great gulf, what hope is there for the human race? ‘Lord you have ever been our dwelling place’ begins the Psalmist in an impassioned plea. The God who gave birth to all, our creator, our beginning and our end, is our only hope.  Turning to God in penitence and humility may yet temper the divine wrath against us.

This is an uncomfortable psalm for those of us more accustomed to hear about the love, rather than the anger of God, but it may be a necessary corrective. To the view that it’s impossible for love and anger to coexist, P.T. Forsyth responded “True love is quite capable of being angry, and must be angry and even sharp with its beloved children.” “For He can be really angry only with those He loves.”

Despite the chasm that exists between God and us, God portrayed in this Psalm is not remote, but very much in our world. Our lives are an open book to God, and God cares deeply about us. This poem is not so much about the brevity of life, as the way we conduct our lives in God’s sight. That is wisdom. The ‘sigh’ with which we end life can be one of frustration and regret, or one of gratitude and of fulfilment. That it can be so is the gift of God’s loving favour towards us.
 

Prayer

Gracious God
thank you for the Psalmist’s words
reminding us that you care so deeply
that our willfulness
moves you to anger.
Help us never to lose heart
but place our trust in you,
for your loving has extended
to the giving of your Son
for our salvation. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John A Young, retired minister of the Scottish Synod, member of Giffnock URC

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! The Psalter of the Free Church of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 16th March

Sat, 16/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 12: 36-40

‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;  be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.  If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. ‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ Reflection I admit to days when my home office is cluttered, there’s no milk in the fridge, and there isn’t a tidy room for receiving friends, yet alone someone in authority.
So, when Jesus paints this picture of servants or slaves who have done all their chores, and now, with everything in order wait quietly for their master to come home, I feel a twinge of guilt. How might this insight into first century domesticity speak to disciples 2,000 years later?

Perhaps it’s not about housework! Perhaps there have been fewer changes than we think…

Today if we are going away, we often ask someone reliable to pick up the post and check all is well – we don’t expect to return to chaos, and the master of this first Century house was just the same - as was Jesus. As lord and master, Jesus asked his friends to look after the place when he’d gone.

Cast your mind back to yesterday’s reading, Jesus urged his friends to “strive for [God’s] kingdom”; a message that hasn’t changed over the centuries. Jesus still calls us in the twenty first Century to strive for God’s kingdom; building a world of caring, hospitality, inclusivity, justice, compassion, forgiveness, serving and celebrating diversity.

Right now, God’s kingdom feels a long way away, and the news as I write is filled with chaos and greed, division and hurt, yet as disciples, we are still called to share those kingdom values. It’s up to us to keep trying – Jesus didn’t say it was going to be easy.

Eventually the world will be turned upside down; the master turned servant in this passage reminds us of Jesus washing the feet of his friends. Thieves will be foiled because we’re alert and awake.

Today, Jesus trusts us, his disciples to look after the world, to strive for the kingdom, loving, serving and ready for the unexpected.

Are we ready?
 

Prayer

Lord,
We pray that you will
help us to live or lives in such a way
that we are always ready to receive you.
Be with us as we strive to bring
your kingdom values
to a world that has largely forgotten
to care for each other.
Amen

Today's Writer

Linda Rayner is an elder at Bramhall URC and also the URC Coordinator for fresh expressions of Church

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 15th March

Fri, 15/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 12: 22 - 34

He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying.  For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Reflection Allegedly there are 365 commands not to worry or ‘fear not’ in the Bible - one for each day of the year (random sermon fact - not verified by this author!)  This is perhaps the closest God comes to nagging – which, as I always tell my family, is positive reinforcement through reminder and repetition.

We may feel we have much more to worry about today that in Biblical times - social media, climate change, homelessness, environmental destruction, Brexit, exam pressure, refugee crises, nuclear threat, food poverty, cyber attack, mental health issues - I could go on.  Indeed Jesus’ suggestion that we consider the wild birds and wild flowers might not bring much comfort as we record declining numbers in church and struggles to survive intensive farming and habitat destruction.

But of course Jesus is not telling us not to worry in the sense of “keep calm and carry on”.  He is challenging us to a radical change of focus. Seek first the kingdom - not our own needs.  Trust that God already knows what we need (note - not what we think we need). And it turns out that what we need, which it is God’s good pleasure to give us, is the kingdom of God.

Time to put our money where our mouth is, our time and energy where our heart is - to do all we can in partnership with the Spirit to usher in the kingdom.  Your calling or vocation "is where your greatest passion meets the world's greatest needs" (Frederick Buechner). So far from keeping calm, we are called to get passionate, and discover our place as co-workers and co-creators with God.  Jesus showed us the Way of Passion - now we need to walk in it.
 

Prayer

Jesus -
help us be seekers of everlasting treasure:
strivers for the kingdom,
people of passion,
dispellers of worry,
workers for justice,
co-creators of peace,
bearers of hope,
those who daily choose to
walk the way in love.
Amen

Today's Writer

Dr Sam Richards, Head of URC Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe community - a fresh expression of Church in Oxford.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 14th March 2019

Thu, 14/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 12: 13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’  But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’  Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.  And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’ Reflection
Blessings are not earned. Nothing we can do can make God love us more, and we cannot force a blessing out of God however amazing our actions or attitudes. The same with forgiveness – we do not earn it, but receive it because God is good and the divine nature is always to show kindness. When Jesus said 'a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God' he was pointing our thinking in the same direction. Life in all its fullness (John 10.10) is not about being wealthy – albeit that poverty robs life of its abundance. An abundant life is one in which we know we are loved, and know that God cares what we do. It is an awareness of our dependence upon God and how blessed we are to be able to depend on God. That is the treasure in heaven (Matt 6.19-21) which Jesus introduced in his sermon on the mount. The thing it would be worth selling everything you have to own (Matt 13.45-46).

This rich man probably believed that his great wealth and the power it conferred were signs that God was pleased in him. But, as Spiderman, Churchill, and Roosevelt would have it: with great power comes great responsibility. The rich fool tries to hoard his money and power; to be able to manipulate the market by selling his grain only when the price is high. He plans to kick back and retire happy, living off the profits. But as God kindly points out, he cannot bring his wealth into heaven, and what good is it to him when see from eternity? How we spend or hoard money affects our spirit, and changes our relationship to God. Better, then, to think of earthly wealth not as a treasure or a blessing, but as a responsibility, a stewardship task. Jesus cares what we do with our money, and what our money gets up to as it travels around the world.
 

Prayer

Generous God,
as I put my hand in my pocket today
may I be conscious
that everything I have comes from you.
Let me test my spending
against your words
and my saving against your intentions.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is minister to the URCs in Darwen and Tockholes

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 13th March 2019

Wed, 13/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 12: 4 - 12

‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more.  But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.  Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.  But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

‘And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say;  for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’
Reflection “Even the hairs of your head are all counted.”  I’ve reached an age when I’ve made it relatively easy for God to count the hairs on my almost bald head.  This statement both amazes and encourages me. It tells me that God knows every detail about me and cares enough to bother about every detail.  To me it means that the God who created everything does not ignore insignificant me.

What is significant in this world that can sometimes seem to be dominated and controlled by social media?  One person’s thoughts can be passed on and shared time and time again until the reasons it was said are no longer clear and it can easily become false news.

It is good to remind ourselves that God knows us and knows what matters.  When we wonder what is true or what is false, we can be sure that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us.

“Do not be afraid.”  Those words must reassure us.  You will be reading this in mid-March and I am writing it in November, so I can only guess that Brexit will still be a big issue as you read.  As I write many people are afraid of losing their jobs or losing power, afraid of the uncertainty that looms. No matter what is decided in Westminster and Europe we need to hang onto the certainty that we should not be afraid if we put our whole trust in God.  The one certainty is God who says, “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6) and the writer to the Hebrews confirms that Jesus is unchanging in 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

We can rejoice that no matter what is happening, our God knows us and cares about us and will never change.

Prayer

Loving God
Take away my fears and uncertainties;
give me the peace  of knowing you.
Remind me of your power
and unchanging love.
Remind me that you know
and care about me.
When I worry or fear,
help me to rely on, and trust in, you,
the unchanging God.
Thank you for sending your Jesus,
your son, who was willing to come;
I pray in His name. Amen

Today's Writer

John Collings is a Lay Preacher and member of Rutherglen URC in Scotland.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 12th March 2019

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 12: 1 - 3

Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered in thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops. Reflection There was a time when people in the public eye, on being caught out as having lied, deceived, cheated or having done something disastrous, were instantly pilloried, often losing their post in the process.  Some, subsequently, made their way back up the political or celebrity greasy pole, but it was usually a struggle and their reputations tended to remain somewhat tarnished.

However, it seems less of a given these days, where instead of denying or explaining, they cry ‘Fake News!’ and hope it will just go away.  An alternative approach seems to simply ignore the hoo-ha on the grounds that your supporters actually don’t care if you are a racist (perhaps they are too?) or if you slept with a porn actor (perhaps they wish they had?)  

Nevertheless there is a general first reaction to such accusations of people and institutions to ‘cover-up’ or at least to seek damage limitation.  Which at least indicates a recognition that the actions were in some way wrong in the first place? Then again, maybe the instinct to ‘go defensive’ is so strong that, regardless of whether they believe themselves wrong, they will seek to hide any evidence, simply because the consequences of being found out are so severe?
I do wonder how Jesus, so critical of the Pharisees, would describe the hypocrisy of those in positions of authority, influence and power today?  Then I wonder what he’d say about all mistakes that I have made that nobody ever found out about? Then I wonder if you wonder likewise?
 

Prayer

God of light, who sees all, even in the dark,
Lead us to acknowledge our faults, fears and, yes, our own hypocrisies.
Shine that cleansing light upon us and upon all those whose actions, errors and inactions that have led to pain, hurt and damage.
Heal those hurts, we pray and leave us cleansed, renewed and ready to try again.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark is a Minister in the Bridport & Dorchester Joint Pastorate (Methodist & URC)

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 11th March 2019

Mon, 11/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 11: 37 - 54

While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table.  The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. ‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places.  Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’

One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’ And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed.  So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute”, so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world,  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’ When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile towards him and to cross-examine him about many things,  lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
Reflection Luke is like/loathe with Pharisees.   In this scene, Luke paints Jesus in the way Luke might want; anything but meek and mild.  This is a critical Jesus, no kindliness on show, an angry Jesus. This is the kind of Jesus we don't see in Victorian blue-eyed blond images.

Then the lawyers - the scribes - have a go.  Jesus comes right back even stronger. "…this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world" is a bit harsh to say the least. For those who want to see Jesus as the critical prophet, naming what is wrong and detailing the consequences, it feels like a breath of fresh air to read this passage.  To those who want to interpret a loving Jesus as a nice Jesus, this is a very difficult read.

Jesus was a Jew.  He was speaking to his own as a critical insider, not an outsider.  It's not unusual for rabbis to be blunt, and those gathered at this table, who called Jesus teacher, might very well have expected no less.  What Jesus the critic is saying to us all is simply to match our actions with our words. If we say we love God, what does that look like in our lives?  The Pharisee who asked Jesus over for a meal had been listening to Jesus talk about being a light – about not hiding the light which floods our bodies. This hearty dinner conversation is a significantly more blunt and graphic version of the same.  How can we say we love God if there is faint sign of it in our lives? We may as well be that unmarked grave (v44) in early Jewish tradition, whitewashed to keep the corpse clean, but noticed by no-one.
 

Prayer

Dear God,
how many times do we hear the message to join our faith with our lived lives?  That everything we do should show your love?
But I do!  Or do I?
Give us deep grace
to know our lives and motivations.
Forgive us again for hiding your light
for our own reasons.
Allow us to hear clearly:  
what I do is who I am.
Give me courage to see if it shares you.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Elizabeth Gray-King, URC Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba’s URC (Oxford).

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 10th March 2019

Sun, 10/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 89 : 1-19

1 I will extol the LORD’s great love for ever;
your faithfulness to all I will proclaim.
2 I will declare your love stands firm for ever;
your faithfulness in heaven you maintain.

3 You said, “I made a cov’nant with my chosen,
and to my servant David I have sworn:
4 ‘I will ensure your line shall last for ever,
your throne to generations yet unborn’.”

5 O LORD, the heavens praise your mighty wonders
and to your saints your faithfulness declare.
6 For who is like the LORD among the angels,
or who in heaven can with him compare?

7 For God is feared within his holy council,
more awesome than the angels all around.
8 O God, the LORD Almighty, who is like you
whom such great might and faithfulness surround?

9 O LORD, your rule controls the surging ocean;
you still the raging waves upon the seas.
10 You crushed to death the great sea monster Rahab;
with your strong arm you rout your enemies.

11 The earth is yours, to you belong the heavens;
you made the world and everything therein.
12 By you the north and south were both created;
Tabor and Hermon praise your name and sing.

13 Your arm, O LORD, is filled with mighty power;
your hand is strong, exalted high above.
14 Your throne is built on righteousness and justice;
in front of you go faithfulness and love.

15 How blessed are those who learn to sing your praises,
who walk before you in your light, O LORD!
16 All day in your great name they are rejoicing;
they praise your righteousness with one accord.

17 For you, LORD, are your people’s strength and glory,
and honour to our sovereign you bring.
18 Indeed, from God the LORD comes our protection;
to Israel’s Holy One belongs our king.

19 There was a time you told us in a vision;
this to your faithful people you made known:
“I have bestowed my strength upon a warrior,
a young man whom I raised up to the throne.


This Psalm works rather well to the tune normally used for Lord for the Years.
 
Reflection Nations pass through political upheaval. Even well-ordered countries know periods of flux and uncertainty – leaders die, other nations’ crises have knock-on effects, the electorate votes for a change which some long for and others abhor. ‘Twas ever thus, and certainly for Israel and Judah. When King David ruled, all was relatively well. But then he died, and, in due course, the people were taken off into exile, robbed of religious and political identity.

At such a time perhaps Psalm 89 speaks for more than its authors. Might it even say something pertinent in this ‘Brexit month’?

In its opening verses, two of the key words of all Jewish and Christian theology appear: God’s ‘great love’ (chesed) and ‘covenant’ (berit). Chesed tells us about God’s inward nature, God’s disposition towards us, and berit speaks of God’s outward actions, keeping faith with the promises God makes.

For Israel, these qualities of God were given particular expression in King David, whom no enemy will outwit (89.22). When David dies, therefore, their national equilibrium feels vulnerable. Later in the Psalm we would even hear them wonder if God had repudiated the covenant: ‘what [now] of those pledges of faithful love?’ (89.49)

The Psalm doesn’t really hold out an answer. It’s a frank expression of the paradox of faith and doubt so many of us know. Yet we live within the new covenant. For us, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s chesed and berit and the resurrection represents the reliability of God’s pledges of faithful love. So as 29th March beckons, we are invited to complement our political opinion with our religious faith; to trust God’s covenant, of which the Psalmist enables us to sing: ‘your throne is built on righteousness and justice; in front of you go faithfulness and love.’ (89.14)

That being so, maybe we should meet Brexit with berit, saying with Psalmist ‘Blessed be God for ever, Amen, amen.’ (89.52)   
 

Prayer

Eternal God,
whose covenant love
is resilient and trustworthy,
we pray for the qualities of your Kingdom
to be the hallmarks of our nations,
that all may live in peace,
prosperity and hope,
because of Jesus Christ, Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Nigel Uden, Fulbourn and Downing Place United Reformed Churches, Cambridge; Moderator of  the General Assembly

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
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URC Daily Devotion 9th March 2019

Sat, 09/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 11: 33 - 36

‘No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar,[h] but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness. Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness.  If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.’ Reflection There are in South Wales disused coal mines that have become museums. Visitors are kitted out with overalls and hard hats fitted with a light. In one such mine visitors are taken in 'the cage' below ground and after walking along the tramways away from the shaft they have just descended they are asked to turn their lamps off. The experience of that total darkness has been described as velvet black. Most visitors are relieved when they are told to turn their lights back on, even though the darkness was only for less than a minute.

Luke uses the domestic scene of lighting the home of his day. The oil lamps used at that time were not known for the brilliance of the light they provided. In this respect, Luke's recording of Jesus' teaching would probably be dismissed as common sense. Yet the message is still relevant today despite the wonders of modern technology. For the believer needs to ask him/herself what is it that darkens their heart, what extinguishes the light of Jesus, the Light of the World? There are some elements of our lives that we know are wrong, yet we continue to be attracted to them. This hardening of our hearts and minds is similar to turning the light off. In that condition the distraction from the light, if it becomes frequent, normalises the situation. The conscience takes a back seat or is even confined to the refuse bin. We know that our nature is to be rebellious, and that is at the heart of the problem. We may know the right way to live but still choose the exact opposite. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves, 'Why?' Many years ago the Children's Special Service Mission published a hymnal called “Golden Bells”. In it Susan Warner wrote a hymn for younger children the first verse of which is our prayer.

 
 

Prayer

Jesus bids us shine With a pure clear light;
Like a little candle burning in the night,
In this world of darkness,
So we must shine -
You in your small corner, And I in mine.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Colin Hunt, worshiping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church. Essex.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 8th March 2019

Fri, 08/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 11: 29-32

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgement with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! Reflection Why it is ‘evil’ to ask for a sign? The Gospels show us Jesus responding to pleas for a miracle: Have mercy!  Make me clean! and so on. There’s something more here. Scholars haven’t agreed what ‘the sign of Jonah’ is; many say it’s his miraculous escape from death which might be compared with Jesus’ resurrection; others add that Jonah was in the ‘tomb’ of the body of the fish before that escape just as Jesus’ was in the tomb. But then comparing Jonah to the queen doesn’t make sense. What those stories DO have in common is the people (Ninevites, the queen) who are open to hearing and seeing the things of God.

Is the problem with sign-seeking then, the refusal to be open to what God is already offering through Jesus and demanding proof ON OUR TERMS? Questioners came from John the Baptist asking, ‘ARE YOU the Messiah?’ and Jesus replies ‘go and tell John what you see and hear …’. God is already working around us, in our communities and in the world; do we make the same efforts as the queen to go and find out what that is?

I don’t doubt prayer is hugely important, but I sometimes wonder if we use ‘taking time for prayer’ as an excuse for not joining in where God is already acting. Let’s pay attention outside our normal expectations and not, as Jonah did, have expectations of how others should engage with God. Maybe we shouldn’t fall into the trap of ignoring the good things of the Kingdom happening NOW outside the Church’s influence.
 

Prayer

Surprising God,
open our eyes
to see where you are
already present and active,
and humble us
if we need to acknowledge
the Church does not have
all the answers. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Rosalind Selby is Principal of Northern College and a member of Didsbury URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 7th March 2019

Thu, 07/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 11: 27 - 28

While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’ Reflection ‘While he was saying this’ refers to a rebuke Jesus is giving to people who try to spin and twist the story of his healing a man (who could not speak), by suggesting that Jesus casts out demons by the power of stronger demons. At the end of this rebuke, a woman tries to offer Jesus and his family praise by blessing his mother. Jesus’ response is that it would be a greater blessing all round, if folk simply got on with obeying God’s word.

I hear his words as frustration spoken through gritted teeth to everyone present. Frustration that through him God has just freely transformed the life of a man who could not speak, (they should be glorifying God!)…yet some take this as an opportunity to twist and pervert Jesus’ intention and ability, while another focuses honour on Jesus’ family. Jesus is not interested in the spins of shame or glory about himself, he just wants folk to get on with obeying the word of God; in this instance to get on with healing and setting people free.

I am reminded of the story of the temptation in the wilderness where Jesus is offered all authority and glory of the Kingdoms of the earth if only he will bow down and worship the devil, but Jesus recognises that his life is not about glorifying his own image and prestige, it is about glorifying God. God is glorified and the earth is blessed when humans are less concerned with how they are perceived and more active in obeying God’s word and enabling God’s freedom and wholeness for all life.
 

Prayer

Holy One,
in each encounter and action I face today
may I hear and obey your Word
to find freedom and wholeness for all life.
Help me not to be persuaded or distracted by notions of shame or self glory
but to focus on, and celebrate,
the abundant life you bring. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Fiona Bennett minister at Augustine United Church Edinburgh

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 6th March 2019

Wed, 06/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 11: 24 - 26

‘When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting-place, but not finding any, it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” When it comes, it finds it swept and put in order.  Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.’ Reflection Today marks the start of Lent, the season of penitential fasting which leads through a time of self-denial and self-discipline as we walk on our way towards the Cross. Some mark today with a ritual of ‘Ashing’, when the sign of the Cross is marked on our foreheads with ash, representing that which is burnt out and wasted. This ancient emblem of grief and mourning has been adopted by the Church as both a symbol of sin and to warn of the coming dark days for Jesus.

Whilst I love the ritual and symbolism of Ashing, I am rather conflicted about some of the self-debasement and self-advertisement that goes with it. I don’t think penitence is really about that, hence the mark of the ashes is easily hidden or rubbed off. But what is it about?

Lent has become a time to adopt some ‘penitent fasting’. We can, for example, ‘sweep ourselves clean’ of the impurities of sugar or alcohol. If we effectively cleanse our bodies, does this mean it is just a temporary state of ‘putting in order’?  Many of us welcome the end of our deprivation on Easter Sunday with a return to our old ways of over-indulgence; it has merely been a 6 week exercise to lose weight and give our livers a rest!

Perhaps this is a flippant interpretation of Jesus’ words but maybe it gives us notice that unless we fast in a way that will help us act permanently in a state of repentance of greed, repentance of injustice and the unfairness of having too much when so many have too little, repentance for not living simply so that others might simply live - then are we leaving ourselves vulnerable to returning to our ‘old ways’ and more?

Penitence is about sweeping our own house clean but surely it shouldn’t be temporary and must include the world too?

Lent is as good a time as any to begin, but it doesn’t end at Easter.
 

Prayer

As we walk with Jesus,
we remember all those in our world who are crucified today…….
As we deny ourselves,
we remember those who go without all the time…..
As we repent our wrongdoing,
we remember those who are unable to forgive….
As we walk towards the Cross
on the path of discipleship through Lent,
we pray for ourselves, and others...
 Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen is a retired Minister and member of Kendal URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 5th March 2019

Tue, 05/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 11: 14 - 23-26 

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’ Others, to test him, kept demanding from him a sign from heaven. But he knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself becomes a desert, and house falls on house. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? —for you say that I cast out the demons by Beelzebul. Now if I cast out the demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his castle, his property is safe.  But when one stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted and divides his plunder. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Reflection Demons come in all shapes and sizes. Most of us assign the word ‘demon’ to those things, or those parts of our lives, over which we have no control.  The same might be said of what we see in this passage with opposition to Jesus at its best. As some respond in faithful discipleship, others challenge Jesus pointing towards his final rejection.

The event that leads to the discussion is an exorcism of a demon that had caused a man to be struck dumb. The man is able to speak again. The crowd is amazed and start speculating about what kind of power Jesus possesses.  But they don’t understand. Some call Jesus out for being controlled by Beelzebub, others suggest waiting for a sign from heaven.

Jesus, knowing their thoughts, responds. He argues that it is foolish to think that Satan has sent one of his minions to undo his own work of destruction. So, he offers them an alternative thought: If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you." In other words, this miracle is evidence of the arrival of God's promised, redemptive rule.   He goes on to teach them a parable about a strong man being defeated by an even stronger man. Here is the ultimate cosmic civil war, then, and we must decide: do we follow Jesus or follow Satan?  One will be the agent of God’s deliverance, the other will not.

Jesus gives us a clue as to what we should do. The exorcised man is compared to a house that is swept clean and is ready to be inhabited, this time by seven other spirits so that the man’s situation is now worse than it was before. Jesus' point is simple: do not leave your inner "house" empty but take control of the things of the kingdom.

Prayer

When I lack control over my demons
and all around me rages, O God,
let me trust in your protecting love
and strengthening power,
that I may be wholly filled
with the things of the kingdom:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, gentleness, self-control
and faithfulness,
giving thanks that your grace is sufficient
for all I need. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Nicola Furley-Smith, Moderator of Southern Synod.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 4th March 2019

Mon, 04/03/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th March 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 11: 5 - 13

And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;  for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.”  I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ Reflection In Luke’s telling this passage follows on from Jesus teaching the disciples how to pray by offering them the words we call the Lord’s prayer. In this way we have a contrast between how God relates to us, and how we relate to each other. We are reminded that God provides ‘our daily bread’ but it takes real persistence for us to share our bread with each other. We are blessed by God’s willingness to forgive but we need to be challenged to forgive others.

God’s relationship to us is paralleled with that of good parents who respond to the simple and reasonable request for a fish and an egg by doing so, and not giving a snake and a scorpion. The basic needs are fulfilled, not arbitrary punishment. A good parent strives for the wholeness of their child and requests that build towards that are affirmed. We are reminded that this is even more true when it comes to God.

Ask, search and knock – be open to Christ in the world around you.
Give, find, and open – be open to Christ acting through you.
In all things, place yourself before God in prayer.

Prayer

Living God,
we live pressured with demands
on our time, energy, resources,
and attention.
We try to prioritise,
but are pressed by the loudest voices,
the strongest obligations;
often all we can do is deal
with what is before us.
We crave an all-embracing vision
to inspire, direct, and empower us,
yet your ‘still small voice’
is often heard in the request for help,
the search for meaning,
and the knock at the door.
Amen

Today's Writer

TThe Rev’d David Coaker, Minister of Grays URC and a chaplain to the Moderators of General Assembly

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
You can update your email address by clicking here.

 

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