URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion  18th February 2020

16 hours 19 min ago
96 URC Daily Devotion  18th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Tuesday 18th February

1 Corinthians 12: 12 - 26

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect;  whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.


Reflection

You would be forgiven for thinking that this passage is all about team work. Using the image of the body, Paul tells us how important each part of it is and how no part of it can function without the other. It is a way of saying that all Christians have gifts to bring and all strengthen the life of the Church. And that is true, as far as it goes.

But what Paul is saying goes much deeper than that. Note the beginning of the passage: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ”. It does not say, “so it is with the church”. Paul is not talking about the Church as a sociological entity, he is talking about the new community of Christ. He is painting a picture of what a community that truly lives in Christ’s way looks like.

Orators in Paul’s day often used the image of the body as a metaphor for society, to denote the different roles its members played.  It was particularly used to preserve the social order and to urge people considered inferior to stay in their place. Paul takes the same image but turns it on its head. In the body of Christ the weaker members are indispensable, clothed with greater honour, treated with greater respect.  In the body of Christ new ways of relating are practised that challenge the power relationships of society. All members belong and stand equally before God. In the body of Christ God’s future is lived today.

It is a place where the vision of the heavenly banquet becomes reality: everyone is welcome and diversity is celebrated and valued and seen as a source of strength. The church in Corinth struggled to live out that vision, as do we. But it is only when living like this, that the church is true to its nature and calling.

Prayer

Loving God,
we thank you that you give us every day images
to teach us how we should live.
Help us to be the body of Christ today:
bringing light in darkness,
sharing hope in despair,
being love in deed.
May we use all our gifts to live today in faith
and to walk Christ’s way in peace.
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

Francis Brienen, Deputy General Secretary (Mission), 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion  17th February 2020

Mon, 17/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  17th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Monday 17th February 

I Corinthians 12: 1 - 11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.  You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak.  Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Reflection

I will never forget when during my ordination training many years ago, I had a visit from a very devout Christian I knew from the USA.  At that time, I had experiences of Holy Spirit who Paul details here, but I hadn’t yet had the experience of ‘various kinds of tongues’.  My visitor was convinced that if I didn’t speak in tongues, I wasn’t a Christian. We had a very interesting conversation where I managed to convince him that not only was I a committed Christian but that a woman could be a minister.  Imagine my annoyance when in a communion service in Chapel the next term, I started praying in tongues. Still do, every communion. It was a fun irony that having convinced both of us that it wasn’t a required activity of Holy Spirit, no more necessary than any other gift, I then received it. 

We can twist ourselves in knots about how to be a ‘proper’ Christian or what signs we think we need to see to be convinced of someone else’s legitimacy as a believer.  In this part of the letter to his beloved Corinthian community, Paul is confirming an enormous variety of faith expression, yet with a single common thread. The commonality is Holy Spirit, the internal presence of God, giving us wisdom to recognise the reality of Jesus.  Spirit gives us wisdom to recognise the power of our community of faith, and passion for the common good. Holy Spirit, the physical God energy moving amongst us, literally links us. But Spirit doesn’t always show up the same way! Thankfully, Spirit is bespoke for the occasion and for the common good. There are hundreds of millions of ways of being a Jesus person in the world, not just a few.  Thank God. 
 
Prayer

God of all time, known to us in Jesus, real in this time by Holy Spirit, thank you.  Difference is your gift to us and our gift to each other. Give us grace to welcome, to honour, and to notice deeply your grace in the differences of others.  Live in us with restless energy, making us courageous to love well.
In the name of Jesus and the power and presence of Holy Spirit, Amen. 

Editor’s Note:  The author requested the omission of the definite article as she feels this makes the language about the Holy Spirit more personal
-->

Today's writer

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


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion  16th February 2020

Sun, 16/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  16th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Sunday 16th February 
Psalm 136

1 O thank the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures for ever.
2 O thank the God of gods always;
his love will fail us never.

3 Give glory to the Lord of lords;
his love endures for ever.
4 Great wonders he alone performs;
his love will fail us never.

5 In wisdom he has made the heavens;
his love endures for ever.
6 He set the earth above the seas;
his love will fail us never.

7-8 He made the sun to rule the day—
his love endures for ever—
9 The moon and stars to rule the night;
his love will fail us never.

10 He struck down Egypt’s firstborn sons;
his love endures for ever.
11-12 By might he brought out Israel;
his love will fail us never.

13 He made a pathway through the Sea;
his love endures for ever.
14 And through it he brought Israel;
his love will fail us never.

15 King Pharaoh and his mighty host—
God’s love endures for ever—
He swept into the raging sea;
his love will fail us never.

16 He led his people on their way;
his love endures for ever.
He brought them through the wilderness;
his love will fail us never.

17 Thank him who struck down mighty kings—
his love endures for ever—
18 And slaughtered kings of great renown—
his love will fail us never—

19 King Sihon of the Amorites—
God’s love endures for ever—
20 And Og, the king of Bashan, too;
God’s love will fail us never.

21 He made their lands a heritage—
his love endures for ever—
22 For his own servant Israel;
his love will fail us never.

23 He thought upon us in our need;
his love endures for ever.
24 And freed us from our enemies;
his love will fail us never.

25 To every creature he gives food;
his love endures for ever.
26 Give thanks to God, the God of heaven;
his love will fail us never.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the lovely tune Dominus Regit Me here.

Reflection

Repeats are often a subject of discussion in our household.  That annoying person who walks into the room and says: ‘I know who did it’.  You sit watching thinking, ‘I haven’t seen this one,’ and an hour in, you have seen it and remember the ending.
 
My son occasionally prepares the church audio visual for a Sunday morning.  There is an assumption that he knows where the repeats are or even worse - somebody spontaneously repeats the last chorus: ‘How dare they!’  I’m not sure the congregation I serve think too much of responses in worship. They certainly would not say ‘Please sir, can we have more!’ 
 
It may seem a bit much to repeat ‘His love endures forever’ twenty six times, but the truth enshrined in these words is the explanation for everything else that can be said about the work of God: ‘For his steadfast love endures forever’ [RSV], ‘For his faithful love endures forever’[NJB].  Robert Alter in his ‘The Hebrew Bible Translation with Commentary’ changes the refrain to ‘For his kindness is forever’. He goes on to comment on verse 6 - Stamps firm on the earth. ‘There is then, a solid slab or firmament that is the sky, and another one below that is the earth. Beneath the earth is the deep- hence the earth is ‘On the Waters’.  As is evident in the flood story, there are waters above the heavens and waters below the earth.’
 
To quote Alter again: verse 25 Who gives bread to all flesh. ‘Bread indicates all kinds of food. In an apt gesture of closure, the celebration of God’s enduring kindness, having begun with his acts as creator, concludes by moving beyond the national perspective to God’s providence to all living creatures.’
 
As we repeat the Psalmist’s words over and over again, may they stick in our thoughts as we share God’s love with all we encounter today.
 
I’m all for repeats if they become for us part of the story in telling of God’s love.
 
Prayer
 
Gracious God
Your steadfast love endures forever.
Your faithful love endures forever.
Your kindness is forever.
 
As we repeat those ancient words from the Psalmist,
may we hold them and share them,
as we bring others into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
 
You remind us in amazing ways that we, too, are
‘Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love’.
 
Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Andrew Royal Minister Maidstone & Staplehurst URCs  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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion  15th February 2020

Sat, 15/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  15th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Saturday 15th February
 
1 Corinthians 11: 27 - 34
 
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves.  For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.
 
Reflection
 
We can no longer be innocent about eating in our global village.  What I choose to eat, how much, how often, and where and how it is produced affects the daily lives and possibilities of people in the poorest sectors of our world.  It even determines whether they live or die. Eating itself – not just food banks – poses moral and theological questions.
 
That is what Paul wants the Corinthians to know about their Communion services.  Rich members are celebrating the Lord’s Supper privately instead of sharing, so that they could gorge on rich food and fine wine while the poorer members went hungry because they did not have enough to eat (11:21).  Paul told them that they were making a mockery of all that the Supper signifies.
 
Note his stress on the body of Jesus.  At the Last Supper, Jesus offers his own body and lifeblood as a sacrifice.  “It is for you,” he tells them. “Do it to remember me!” How do we “remember” Jesus in this way?  Firstly, it is an occasion to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”. It’s Gospel time!
 
Secondly, it’s about the Church – the kind of community it is, and the relationships among the members.  Paul calls the Church “the Body of Christ”. What happens to the Church and within it is “done” to Jesus, whose body it is.  If we inflict suffering or hunger on one another, we do it to Jesus. We wound and re-crucify his body. Instead of it being the means of healing for our brokenness and inequality, it becomes the whipping post for our greed and living at the expense of others.
 
Do we examine our own part in our Church’s relationships at Communion? Do we use it as a space to put things right? We need to!
 
Prayer
 
Lord,
Do your transforming work
until every aspect of our lives speak of you –
your salvation, your healing, your forgiveness!
Make that true of our relationships within our community,
our world,
our Church,
for Christ’s sake!
Amen.
-->

Today's writer

Lawrence Moore, Mission & Discipleship consultant, Worsley Road 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 14th February 2020

Fri, 14/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Friday 14th February 

1 Corinthians 11: 17 - 26

Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it.  Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you! For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Reflection

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you …’

These words spoken by Paul the Apostle are amongst the most well known words in the New Testament, as the oldest account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Many Christians could probably finish the whole narrative by heart it is so often heard in our Communion services. 

Yet, how familiar are the half dozen verses which precede it?

Paul shares these words in the context of responding to reports of division in the Church at Corinth. Not only does Paul speak of factions, (as he does earlier in the letter), but he goes further to highlight the practice of the shared meal being anything but, as those without the means to bring their own food are in effect excluded from Communion, whilst others with greater means are over indulging, oblivious to the exclusion of some of their sisters and brothers in Christ. 

Paul’s rebuke is clear, ‘In this matter I do not commend you’. You can feel the thinly veiled anger in his writing. How dare the church behave this way, and at the Lord’s Table! 

In our neatly organised Communion services of individual portions of bread and wine, we cannot be accused of the same. That is unless we understand God’s invitation as reaching far wider than those who ordinarily come to ‘our’ table?


Prayer

And so, we prayerfully ask ourselves;
who in our community is living in food poverty?
What are we doing, or what could we be doing in our communities to address the scandal of food poverty? 
Paul’s challenge to us is just as double edged, to feed the hungry both physically and spiritually? Would he feel able to commend us? -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Mike Walsh, Pioneer minister, Chorlton, south 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 13th February 2020

Thu, 13/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
David Reynolds is a serving elder at Cores End URC, Bucks

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Thursday 13th February 

1 Corinthians 11: 1 - 16

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you.  But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with something on his head disgraces his head, but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head—it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil.  For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. For this reason a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God.  Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. But if anyone is disposed to be contentious—we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

Reflection

When at school, we expended a great deal of time imitating our teachers.  Most of our impressions were vocal, but at times, we imitated their mannerisms and behaviours.  Having left school, I happened to meet one of my teachers who said that he didn’t mind being imitated provided some of the good bits rubbed off. Paul is appealing to those who represented the hard core of the Corinthian church to imitate him as he imitates Christ.
 
This is no less true today when free speech, even in our own country is under attack. Life for believers is becoming and will become more difficult as the media seek to undermine the Church.  We must continue to show: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal-5:22-23).

If any of these rub off on us, we’re in a good place. Paul talks about the role of men and women in the Church, and over the years, these borders have softened not specifically because of progress, but because through the fruits, we have progressed. He also uses this passage to symbolize God’s relationship with the Church paralleling it with the relationship between man and woman.
 
I’m writing this at Christmas, one of our most important Christian festivals. We’ll sing carols, celebrate, spend quality time with friends and family, express our joy at the might changes wrought by Christ’s birth.  If we’re in for the long haul, striving to imitate Christ in all things will ensure that we can celebrate throughout the year.
 
Prayer
 
Father God, by the power of your love, help us to become imitators of you by expressing our love for you and for others through the fruits of the Spirit. Encourage us that when we grow closer to you, the good things will rub off. Amen.

-->

Today's writer

David Reynolds is a serving elder at Cores End URC, Bucks 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 12th February 2020

Wed, 12/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Wednesday 12th February

I Corinthians 10: 23 - 33
‘All things are lawful’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful’, but not all things build up.  Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience,  for ‘the earth and its fullness are the Lord’s.’ If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, ‘This has been offered in sacrifice’, then do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience —  I mean the other’s conscience, not your own. For why should my liberty be subject to the judgement of someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why should I be denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offence to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.

Reflection

This passage appears fairly straight forward – don’t go around telling people you can’t do (x) because it’s against your religion if it is going to cause offense or make you morally superior because that takes away from the not doing it, but how often do we do or say things that do cause offense or make us feel morally superior? 
 
I have a friend who is vegan and a very proactive activist when it comes to issues around the use of fur or the treatment of animals for food, and another friend who is not vegan or a big activist, yet when the two go out for lunch they both eat vegan because my non-vegan friend does not want to make my vegan friend uncomfortable over lunch and recognises that vegan meals can actually be the tastiest thing on the menu. My non-vegan friend also takes a coffee to my vegan friend if they are on a picket line or information table in the city centre and will stay and chat, because she is not ashamed of my vegan friend or what they are doing. My vegan friend can be very blunt about the effect of eating meat, and how animals are treated and this winds some folk up, but I look at their writings on Facebook and think “do people think I sound like that about LGBT*+ rights, or Jesus, or Jesus and LGBT*+ rights?”  The truth is we all have things that fire us, yet we hear from Paul here that there are times we need to temper what or how we say something because otherwise the message of Jesus and the glorification of God is lost.
 
This isn’t about us, it’s about the world and God and if we aren’t honouring God then we might need to consider who we are honouring.  

Prayer

Gracious God, we remember that all the glory and honour are yours, when we forget this, remind us gently and help us remember we remain in your love and grace. Amen -->

Today's writer

Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, Church Related Community Worker, Ansty Road & St Columba’s URCs, Coventry 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 11th February 2020

Tue, 11/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Tuesday 11th February 

I Corinthians 10: 14 - 22

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols.  I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.  The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?  Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Reflection

The Corinthian Christians must have found it a complete culture shock to worship just one God – as most of them were Gentiles, they would have been accustomed to worship many.  So it’s no real surprise that some of them continued to worship other gods and attend temple activities.  

Paul makes it clear that this is not possible. 

By joining in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, by breaking the bread and sharing in the body of Christ, they are part of the one body of Christ.

By attending a temple, they were taking part in the worship of an idol, and becoming one with the other worshippers.  Paul goes as far as to call them demon worshippers.

Just as Jesus had said that no one could serve two masters because we would love one and hate the other, (Matt 6:24), Paul explains that no one could sit at two tables – the table of the Lord and the table of demons.  They had to choose who to follow, as do we today.

Who are the demons that we could be accused of worshipping today?  We may not follow the gods of Canaan like the people of Israel in the Old Testament, or the gods of Greece and Rome as did many in Paul’s time, but there are plenty of idols vying for our attention today.  Paul writing to the Colossians (Col 3:5) particularly picks out greed as being idolatry. Greed, the pursuit of self-interest above others, the desire for consumer goods, valuing human approval rather than God’s love – these are all ways in which we can become distracted from walking the way of Jesus today.

As we continue our journey along that way, let us heed the dangers of today’s idols, and choose to follow the one true master.

Prayer

Help us Lord to follow you and walk in your way – not to be diverted onto other roads that may look superficially easier or more attractive. 
Keep us from the distraction of idols such as greed, wealth and self-interest, so that we serve you and spread the good news of your love for us.  Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Sue Cossey, NSM and Synod Pastoral Adviser, Bristol 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 10th February 2020

Mon, 10/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

 

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Monday 10th February 

1 Corinthians 10: 1 - 13

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,  and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.  We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Reflection

“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud…”  Ah! The good old days! Onward Hebrew soldiers, marching to the Promised Land, nourished with the bread of heaven, baptised by the celestial cloud and refreshed by the crystal fountain springing from the eternal rock! Moses at the front, Aaron bringing up the rear. Moses constantly urging them on, or telling them to pull their socks up (presumably to hide their golden calves). Those were the days!  But not for 23,000 of them (1 Cor 10.8), or was it 24,000 (Num 25.9)? They were the backsliders and they all perished. Like the rest, they had tasted water from the rock, eaten the heavenly manna, which Paul likened to the Sacraments, but they had gone wrong and they perished as a consequence. Paul warns his readers in Corinth, where they knew a thing or two about immorality, that the same could happen to them.  He uses the typology of Baptism and Communion to compare the experience of the desert to celebration of the Sacraments in order to show that mere observance of the forms is not enough. You have to be a true believer, with deeds that match the symbols, to be a valiant pilgrim. As Dodd puts it “No sacramental act achieves anything unless it is an outward symbol of what really happens inwardly in experience.” Bad news for the naughty Corinthians. But good news for the faithful, for there is an accompanying promise: “God is faithful. And he will not let you be tested beyond your strength”. When the testing hour comes, he is at our side. What more can we ask? 

Prayer:  

“Do not look forward to what might happen tomorrow;
the same Everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day.
Either He will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”              

St Francis de Sales -->

Today's writer

The Rev'd Peter Moth, retired minister, St Andrew’s URC Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 9th February 2020

Sun, 09/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th February 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Sunday 9th February
Psalm 135 


1 Praise the LORD, all you his servants!
Praise his name with glad accord,
2 You who serve God in his temple,
in the dwelling of the LORD.

3 Praise the LORD, for this is fitting.
He is good; his praise proclaim.
Praise the LORD, for it is pleasant
to sing praises to his name.

4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob
to belong to him alone,
Israèl to be his treasure,
set apart to be his own.

5 For I know the LORD is mighty;
greater than all gods is he.
6 He is sovereign in the heavens,
on the earth and in the sea.

7 He makes thunder-clouds to gather
from the earth’s remotest shores;
With the rain he sends forth lightning,
brings the wind out from his stores.

8 He struck down all Egypt’s firstborn;
man and beast alike were slain.
9 Mighty signs he showed in Egypt,
routing Pharaoh and his men.

10 Many nations he defeated;
kings he slew with mighty hand—
11 Og of Bashan and king Sihon,
all the kings of Canaan’s land.

12 All their lands he gave to Jacob,
to his people Israèl;
As a heritage he gave them
lands where they might safely dwell.

13 LORD, your name endures for ever;
your renown is ever great.
14 For the LORD sustains his servants
and his folk will vindicate.

15 But the idols of the nations,
made of silver and of gold,
Are by human hands created
with a hammer or a mould.

16 Mouths they have, but speak they cannot;
eyes they have, but cannot see.
17 Ears they have, but hear they cannot;
in their mouths no breath can be.

18 Those who make them will be like them;
those who trust them are the same.
19 Praise the LORD, O house of Israel,
Aaron’s house, exalt his name.

20 Praise the LORD, O house of Levi;
you who fear him, praise the LORD!
21 Praise the LORD who dwells in Zion

You can hear this sung, from v15, by a Free Church of Scotland congregation to the tune Stuttgart here.

Reflection

I wonder how many of our churches would recite this Psalm in its entirety? For brevity of time and for wanting to get straight to the point, we might be tempted to select only a few verses. Actually 135 and 136 belong together, and is known as the “Great Hallel”. These words are a regular feature of Jewish worship and holiday observances as well as Orthodox vigils. It’s one big praise that would disturb our one hour time limit for worship.
 
I find it interesting that the longest poetry in the ancient worship tradition are the songs of praise and the songs of lament.  Worship takes time and involves memory and energy.

It takes time to remind ourselves we didn’t arrive here by ourselves. When was the last time we were able to reflect jubilantly about the truth of our collective history?

It takes time to recognise our interconnectedness to all of nature. God “makes thunder-clouds to gather from the earth’s remotest shores; With the rain he sends forth lightning, brings the wind out from his stores.”

It takes time and space and energy to call out idolatry in every age for what it is: “Those who make them will be like them; those who trust them are the same.”

Today in Scotland is Racial Justice Sunday, during what is also Black History Month in the USA. As with the UK’s counterpart commemoration people are tempted to think it is an observance only for people of colour. To recognise blackness for a moment, if at all.  However, whenever it falls on our calendar, racial justice and the historical presence of black people are of crucial importance to our churches and our nations as we seek direction in the kind of human beings God is compelling us to become.

Martin Luther King challenged us to be maladjusted to injustice. “the SALVATION of our world lies in the hands of the maladjusted!” It remains as urgent and necessary to hear today as we call out the forms of idolatry of our time.

Prayer

As we meet you in the busyness of our lives,
let us take our time. The busyness isn’t going anywhere.
You are ever living, ever moving, ever changing our minds.
As we worship, let us welcome the space, the pause.
Beyond self, beyond anxiety and hate.
May the pause extract Love and Grace from us, to the world. Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d William Young, Minister, Essenside URC Glasgow and Morison Memorial Clydebank  Copyright
Sing Psalms!  The Worship and Psalmody Committee of the Free Church of Scotland
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 8th February 2020

Sat, 08/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Saturday 8th February

I Corinthians 9: 24 - 27

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Reflection

It’s not only athletes and boxers who need to practise. As a child I learnt the piano – and making me practise each day must have been the bane of my parents’ lives!  And mine. When I retired, I thought I’d take up the saxophone – a long held aspiration. However, I’d forgotten that after the first year or so of quick returns, it got harder and I would need to put in more effort and hours if I was to improve at all.  It is the same with fell-walking. I loved to get out into the hills, but often it was too arduous and often painful and my misery and mood could spoil the day. However, with perseverance, determination and a change of attitude my fitness and everyone’s enjoyment improved!  There are no shortcuts to improving at anything we may want to do and sometimes it may seem particularly difficult and uncomfortable. It takes time, effort and self-discipline and the same is true if I want to become more Christ-like. It challenges me to realise that if I want to become as prayerful, compassionate, just, forgiving and unselfish as Jesus, then I need to train myself and practise.  When it gets more difficult, I need to give time to exercise more self-control and willpower. It’s a real challenge but the prize is worth it.

What is your challenge?
 
Prayer

Patient and loving God,
be with us as we just give up when the going gets tough….
be with us as we struggle with lack of confidence and self-discipline….
be with us as we find challenge and change difficult and uncomfortable….
be with us as we seek to be more and more like Jesus….
Amen -->

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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 7th February 2020

Fri, 07/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Friday 7th February 

I Corinthians 9: 19-23

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Reflection

“I have become all things to all people” could be the slogan of certain spin doctors and politicians, prepared to turn their arguments on a sixpence in order to win support.

Paul, however, makes it clear that his sole aim was to fulfil his calling to bring Jesus to people whose customs and religions were far from those of his own homeland, To even enter into discussion, it was necessary to find common ground through flexibility on things that did not matter while adhering to those that did.

The Pharisee Saul would have balked at a warm relationship with an uncircumcised man or eating non-kosher food with a couple who cooked a meal on the Sabbath. But now Paul was a missionary for Jesus who ate with tax collectors, protected a woman caught in adultery from the obligatory stoning and joined his disciples picking corn for a snack on the Sabbath.

Paul had come to realise that it was necessary to forego strict and unforgiving tradition. He could behave “properly” in a Jewish gathering while talking about Jesus who had been crucified and eat meals he would never have imagined in a gentile household. He reached out to everyone while retaining the integrity of his Christian message.

We Christians now live where a host of faiths abide side by side. We share our daily lives with many who have no faith at all, and may treat with us with scorn and even abuse. Yet we too have a calling to share the message of love with our neighbours.

In doing so, we need to seek the common ground, listen respectfully before speaking, be kind to everyone we encounter, and avoid prejudice and judgement which can form a barrier to fruitful conversation – in other words “become all things to all people”.

Prayer

Lord of all,
Help us to reach out to everyone we encounter day by day. Teach us the value of friendly humility. Enable us to share our faith in ways we have never considered before.
Amen  -->

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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 6th February 2020

Thu, 06/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Thursday 6th February 

I Corinthians 9: 1 - 18

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?  If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

This is my defence to those who would examine me.  Do we not have the right to our food and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?  Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk?

Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same?  For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ Is it for oxen that God is concerned?  Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever ploughs should plough in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop.  If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more?

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is sacrificed on the altar?  In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this so that they may be applied in my case. Indeed, I would rather die than that—no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting!  If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

Reflection

In 2017, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, reported that ‘recent research found people with a greater sense of entitlement are less likely to follow instructions than less entitled people are, because they view the instructions as an unfair imposition on them’.

It was once argued that when we are saved, we are sent. All of us, members of the body of Christ have a calling in the world and in the Church. It can be unrewarded, hard work, as Paul has sadly discovered.

Many Christian workers are unsung heroes, who get no credit and respect in their living.  A Baptist friend of mine, argued that there is too much reward/credit, given to God’s workers in many parts of Africa; and not enough credit given the UK. He then argued that this lower credit given in the West, can cause workers to be discouraged, disheartened, depressed, less holy, and ultimately less sacrificial in their service.

As a pioneer, Paul certainly did not get enough human credit for his hard work and sacrifices. People took his self-denials for granted, thus taking him for granted. Actually, churches he planted often mocked him and even rejected his authority. Yet Paul did not focus much on what he deserved: his rights. He rather emphasized his duties to people and to the Lord. In a countercultural move, he took pride in working without reward. Paul found it the greatest reward, to fulfil the trust and duties committed to him by the Lord.

Maybe today we feel that we have not always been treated well and rewarded well by those we serve. God is our main ‘employer’ and as long as God is happy with what we do, we ought to be encouraged.  May God’s grace help us being more committed and self-giving than entitled.
 
Prayer:

God of mission,
thank you for calling us to work with you and for you.
May your amazing love quicken us to serve without counting the cost.
Keep us focused on the proclamation of the Good News.
May our service be more and more enjoyable and fulfilling.
Give us oil in our lamps,
 that we may keep loving, serving and praising you with joy, passion and thanksgiving.
Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d  Bachelard Kaze Yemtsa is a minster in the East Midlands Synod. 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 5th February 2020

Wed, 05/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Wednesday 5th February  
 
I Corinthians 8 

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge;  but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’  Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.  ‘Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.  But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Reflection

This is a ’go to’ passage when confronting divisive issues.  We might have wrestled over a thorny matter and finally reached a conclusion after prayerful reflection.  But some of our brothers and sisters have a different view. It seems that our perspective threatens their peace of mind, that their faith is in danger of wavering.  How do we express our view without disturbing them further?

The life of faith isn’t static.  Our views will change as we grow as Jesus’s disciples.  Some of the early believers at Corinth were confused about what they should and shouldn’t be eating: having been used to eating food sacrificed to idols before converting, they thought this was now off limits, and were puzzled when they saw other believers eating it.  These others were secure in their knowledge that idols didn’t exist. They knew that they worshipped the only God (vs. 4-6). So it was irrelevant to them whether the food they ate had been offered to an idol or not. But for those with ‘weak’ consciences, the food was tainted by its association with idol worship.  The fragile foundations of their faith were shaken.

‘Knowledge puffs up but love builds up,’ Paul tells us bluntly.  Whenever we think we have reached a mature view on an issue, we must tread carefully.  Loving our sisters and brothers in Christ means that patience, listening and understanding will underpin our sharing of new knowledge and insights.

Prayer

Gracious God, 
thank you for opening to us new vistas of understanding and insight.
Help us to respond with humility,
and never to assume that our knowledge is superior.
May we listen to one another with patience and understanding,
seeking always to build on your foundation of love
in Christ, the cornerstone of our faith.  Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Gillian Poucher, Minister, Gainsborough 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 4th February 2020

Tue, 04/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Tuesday 4th February 
 
I Corinthians 7: 36 - 40

If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly towards his fiancée,  if his passions are strong, and so it has to be, let him marry as he wishes; it is no sin. Let them marry.  But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, he will do well.  So then, he who marries his fiancée does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

A wife is bound as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, only in the Lord.  But in my judgement she is more blessed if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

Reflection

Eric C. Smith is an old Divinity School chum, now a Pauline scholar,  based in Denver. He warns us that “The Bible is troublesome, to say the least, when viewed as a handbook for modern living.”  

Indeed this text has been the source of debate in meaning for centuries. Much of the scrutiny involves the meaning of “fiancée”. The Greek word is parthenos (unmarried daughter), which has taken differing meanings in English interpretations, including “virgin” and “betrothed”, which is a different word in the New Testament (mnesteuo), specifically dealing with the Gospel accounts of Mary and Joseph’s relationship.
 
This all has a bearing on how the text is read and understood. It also makes it difficult for us to use this text as some sort of moral guideline for life. 

I would like to argue that Eugene Peterson’s The Message translation possesses a version worth meditating on. What sticks out in that translation is not an ethical query about marriage, but the mutual importance of singleness and marriage in the church. Peterson reveals not a dogmatist, but a pastor: “Marriage is spiritually and morally right and not inferior to singleness in any way, although… because of the times we live in, I do have pastoral reasons for encouraging singleness”.(verse 38)

In the ancient world it was a matter of economics, and singleness/childlessness was considered as much a curse as being widowed. If your genealogical line ended, your property would go to another and you would not be remembered.  Paul’s acceptance of single people represents his commitment to Christ’s Kingdom centred on love and equity.

Paul’s words about wives staying married to their husbands as long as he lives and the freedom to marry whomever they wish thereafter (v.39) represents a progressiveness in Paul that our interpretations have not appreciated.
If there is anything to take away from this apostolic advice, it is how surprisingly counter-cultural the Early Church and her leaders were. May we be of the same spirit for our time.

Prayer 

God, Your way of love is not always our greatest hope, but it is the only value that works. It changes minds, revolutionises relationships, sets individuals free to be and become. May we have courage for broadening minds and hearts for this new Kin-dom You are building. Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d William Young, Minister Essenside URC Glasgow and Morison Memorial URC Clydebank  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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 3rd February 2020

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 09:17
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Monday 3rd February  

I Corinthians 7: 25 - 35

Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.  I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none,  and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord;  but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.  I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.

Reflection

Last summer I attended an event where the keynote speaker spoke of ‘those who are not married yet’.  As a lifelong single person who has mostly seen marriage as something that might, rather than certainly will, be part of my life story, I found this assertion shocking! 

In the Reformed tradition marriage is seen as ‘an honourable estate’ but that does not mean that it is the only possible lifestyle that is available to the Christian disciple.  There is a view in some quarters that the fully adult person is a person who is (or has been) married. It is not unusual to hear the parents of an adult child marrying their partner describe their progeny as being ‘off their hands’.  Maturity and marriage are seen to belong together like the proverbial horse and carriage. On the other hand, one of the fastest growing demographics in Britain today is the rise in single person households. Some of these will be formed of divorced or widowed people but a very significant number also consist of the never-married.  

There is evidence that some churches discriminate negatively against the unmarried.  In some cases this is direct and blatant. But this can occur in other ways too. If most ministers and preachers are (or have been) married, many of their sermon illustrations will come from a partnered perspective.  Naturally all anyone can do is to speak out of their own experience. What about asking someone whose life experience is different to comment on how they might apply a particular text or idea in their life that isn’t grounded in romantic partnership?   

When we read texts like this one, we might wonder how the Church has got to the place it has in respect of amplifying the experience of the partnered?  How might the Good News of the Gospel be presented or heard differently depending on preacher’s or disciple’s relational experience?  

Prayer 

Holy One, 
we pray today for the single people among us;
in our churches, 
in our families, 
in our workplaces, 
in our social spaces.  
Singleness comes in many forms:
never partnered, 
separated or divorced, 
widowed.  
Help us to let go 
of our assumptions about singleness, 
and about partnership and marriage.  
Show us how you call us 
to build up your Body, 
and to be your people.  -->

Today's writer

The Rev'd Sarah Moore, serving as Transitional Champion for the National Synod of Scotland, and member of Carver Uniting Church, Windermere  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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 2nd February 2020

Sun, 02/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd February 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Sunday 2nd February 

Psalm 134 

1 Praise the LORD, all you his servants,
as you serve with one accord;
Praise the LORD in your night watches
in the temple of the LORD.

2 Raise your hands within his temple;
to the LORD your God give praise.
3 He who made the earth and heavens
bless you from his holy place!

Reflection

How often do you get tired of waiting for something? We appear to be living in a world where anything short of instant seems unacceptable to many. But how realistic is such an attitude? Our reading today would suggest otherwise. Today’s Psalm draws to a close a series of Psalms that are collectively described as ‘Psalms of Ascent’.  This is not about ascending the hill to the temple in Jerusalem, but rather the ascent of the sun (sunrise). These Psalms were a wake up call in the second Temple in Jerusalem, built following the exile in Babylon. They were a call to prayer before the start of the day’s work. Work for what might be regarded as the basic grade of priests. It was their task to prepare the Temple for the first time of prayer of each day at about 9am to us. Sacrifices had to be slaughtered and the whole Temple cleaned and made ready for worship.

The Psalm begins with a call to worship. Hebrew does not have a word that translates into English as “come”, but uses the word hinneh that usually translates as “Behold”. It instils the idea of laying on of hands in blessing. In verse two the attendants were asked to pray (lift up their arms). If we were to follow their example then each day would begin by praying before we start our work for that day.

Verse three is a benediction that emphasises that out of both learning and experiences within the church enables us to regard turning to God in prayer as natural as breathing. But do we? Even when we meet for worship, is our first consideration a prayerful relationship with God; or are we more interested in conversations with other members of the congregation, even if our conversations disturb others who prefer and are at prayer?

Prayer

Lord, prepare us to single mindedness to worship You, whether at home, work or in the worshipping fellowship of your gathered church. Cast aside distractions, so that our whole focus is worshipping You from the start of the day until it’s ending. Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Colin Hunt, retired minister, worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex Copyright
Sing Psalms! (C) The Psalmody and Worship Committee of the Free Church of Scotland
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 1st February 2020

Sat, 01/02/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st February 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Saturday 1st February  
 
1 Corinthians 7: 17 - 24

However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches.  Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything.  Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.

Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.  For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.  In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.

Reflection

Where were we and what were we ‘at the time of our call’? 

This is a challenging passage in many ways.  Firstly do we have a time and date for our call to follow Christ, or does the experience of many of us resonate more with a gradual growing into or up through faith?  This letter was to predominantly first generation Christians, whereas many of us have been raised in families and communities of faith.
Then circumcision is no longer a live issue within most churches (having been resolved by the Early Church as not necessary for Gentiles, rather replaced by Baptism as the outward sign of joining the people of God).  So remaining circumcised or uncircumcised seems a given.

Finally slavery is discussed.  We live in the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade, the ongoing distorted distribution of wealth, people, resources, status.  We inhabit a place of privilege and prejudice, as beneficiaries or victims. Does God really ask us to remain there and not challenge and change the structures and culture through respectful listening, humble apology and restorative action?

Any yet there is treasure in the idea that God calls us where we are.  We do not have to wait until we grow up, have a recognised role in society, or a formal church position, before we can start walking the way.  Wherever we find ourselves God is with us and in the opportunities to serve and witness.

Today many children and young people, along with women and men, are affected by FGM and modern day slavery, or suffer in abusive relationships.  We must ensure that the church is a place of sanctuary and liberation – that we never give the message implicitly or explicitly that anyone is rightly the slave of another – for we were ‘bought at a price’ of love beyond measure.

Prayer

Jesus, you were circumcised that we might be made whole:
help us be a loving community of healing for body, mind and spirit.
Jesus, you became a slave that we might be free:
help us work for the liberation of all your children.
Jesus, you embraced human life in a particular place at a particular time:
help us respond to our particular present opportunities to serve and witness to your ongoing life and love.
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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 31st January 2020

Fri, 31/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 31st January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Friday 31st January

I Corinthians 7: 12-16
To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.  But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.

Reflection
Whenever Paul is talking about relationships, I must be honest, I want to run for the hills! Especially in Corinthians, where he puts women in a particular place and hates sex… Or so our traditional Pauline interpretations would make us believe.

Sosthenes is quick to let us know that these not direct commands from Jesus.  “I speak, not Christ”. Paul is not stepping into Jesus’ shoes to offer his own opinion about relationships. He is thinking theologically: responding to practical moral issues that the people of Corinth have with living out the Way of Jesus whilst remaining faithful to the radical message of Jesus. This is the exercise of prophetic pastoral care.

The issue is far deeper than believers married to nonbelievers. Paul is addressing Christians who are learning to live with ethnic others considered culturally impure. They are also being taught that their past lives are nothing compared to the glory of following Jesus. Now they have to deal with how being a follower of Jesus affects their family life? Do I give up my partner because of my faith? 

But here, Paul is surprisingly and spectacularly radical. In a compassionate way, Paul affirms love relationships over law and order. The charge to “hold on” to each other, the call to keep the love, is a holy, sacred act. Holiness is at play even in relationships.  

Rather than a cringing moment, this is a beautiful moment in Corinthians. Paul reclaims families grounded in genuine love as holy unto God.

One of the interesting cultural discoveries in the west of Scotland has been the language of mixed marriages, and how that means different things depending on the dominant cultural prejudices. In American culture, mixed marriages is primarily associated with interracial marriage, which was banned and punishable in most U.S. states until 1967. Speak of mixed marriages in the west of Scotland, and you will hear of unions between Protestants and Catholics and the impropriety of it in the days when sectarianism was most vicious. Prejudice damaged lives and families. Few churches supported mixed marriages in Scotland, including the Congregationalists. How proud we can feel that we are leading the way in the 21st century as we celebrate love amongst same sex couples. 

So I don’t have to run away from Paul’s advice, to be delivered from prejudice and focus on the holiness of love.

Prayer
God of Radical Love,

Help us to hold on to love,
but not so tightly that we suffocate life.
May all our relationships be sacred,
and may we see the sacred in all relationships.
May we learn the art of letting go when it is necessary,
and see the holiness in making due when love moves on.
Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d William Young, Minister, Essenside URC Glasgow and Morison Memorial Clydebank  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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 30th January 2020

Thu, 30/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Thursday 30th January

I Corinthians 7: 8 - 11
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practising self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband  (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

Reflection
How to balance the pastoral and the prophetic or the personal and the political? In the song “Red and Black” from the musical Les Misérables the student revolutionary Enjolras chides his lovesick friend Marius and points to a higher call:  “Who cares about your lonely soul? We strive toward a larger goal. Our little lives don't count at all!” Paul was living in what he believed to be the end times, when Christ would come again and all of existence would be transformed. Yet here was the church in Corinth getting distracted by how to live from day to day. Focused on the imperative to spread the good news, he wanted them to keep their eyes on the prize of life with Jesus, so whatever marital state they found themselves in, they should stay as they were, as far as possible. There seem to be few grey areas or shades of ambiguity in Paul’s advice, with little recognition that marriage could turn into a cold and heartless place trapping two people by circumstances. And yet his letters to the churches are full of references to individuals who were clearly of deep importance to him personally – he wanted them to flourish. The church down the ages and across the world bears too many memories of women who have been advised by religious leaders to stay in abusive marriages, based on a selective reading of Paul’s letters. The hard won personal freedoms that we have today would be astounding to Paul, just as the social and economic expectations of a mixed community at the crossroads of the Roman empire are impenetrable to us. What perhaps is similar is the challenge to find compassion and humanity in the midst of striving for deep change.
 
Prayer
God who is the teacher of humility,
remind me to pause when I would pass judgement on the lives of others.
Give me willingness to listen,
 wisdom in my words if asked for advice,
and love in pursuit of a higher cause.
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Fiona Thomas is the United Reformed Church’s Secretary for Education & Learning, and a member of Christ Church, Bellingham 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.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

Pages