URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 18th May 2019

Sat, 18/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

...in Heaven...

St John 14:1-4

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’
Reflection There’s an episode of Open All Hours, where Arkwright looks up to the sky, and remarks in a philosophical tone, “93 million miles from here to the sun”, and Granville, sweeping with a worn out brush, replies, “aye, and that’s about how many miles this brush has done”.  My mind starts to boggle when I think about that things that I can see so brightly in the sky, but are billions of miles away. When we pray, “Our Father in heaven”, we’re praying to the one who rules the whole cosmos, but when so much that’s wrong in the world around us, perhaps it’s good that God is so much, in the face of how much we need God.  

If our prayer is more than self-therapy, then it makes a difference where we think God is when we’re praying to God.  If God resides safely tucked up in our hearts, if God is only a projection of our wish for the very best of human aspiration and experience, then there’s not much hope.  

When we pray to God “in heaven” we’re not suggesting that God has a postal address, but we are locating God more specifically than just everywhere.  God can be present anywhere, and there is something of God in many places, but there is more than that God is always and fully everywhere. Perhaps you’ve sensed those “thin places” with a glimpse of heaven?

God’s being in heaven also means that we cannot domesticate God, or turn God into our own image.  We can have a personal relationship with God, through Jesus, but we can’t turn God into a reflection of ourselves because God is always so much more than we are.  Our hope is that if we share in God's kingdom now, here on earth, we shall be ready fully to dwell forever in the house of the Lord, a dwelling we have prepared for in our prayer here on earth to “our Father in heaven”.
 

Prayer

God of heaven, infinite in wisdom and understanding;
God of all creation, without boundary or border;
God of tenderness, full of compassion and mercy;
God of love, drawing us close as neighbours
with love for each other;
draw us close,
for you are the life we have,
the breath we draw,
and the love we have to give.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.

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 17th May 2019

Fri, 17/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

...Father... 

St Matthew 23:1-9

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven.
Reflection “Our” comes with “Father”.  In calling God Father we are speaking first and foremost about Jesus’ relationship to God, not our own.  The important thing isn’t that this is a male word, Christians have always believed that God is greater than any human conceptions of gender, but that Father attempts to describe the family relationship that is part of God's own life.  We can't say "Father" without remembering the Son; we can never know the Father unless the Son reveals Him to us.

God is not some great basket we can fill with any warm fuzzy thoughts we choose, nor some amorphous something that is the mystery left over after we have explained everything else in life.  God has a face and name. We see that face in Jesus, and so we can call God, Abba, Father; not as a literal description, but a metaphor to refer to our relationship to God, a relationship that can also be explored with other metaphors like “mother” or “friend.”  

We don’t call God "Father" because we have had certain positive experiences with our biological fathers and, therefore, project those upon God.  Rather, all human fathers are measured, judged, and fall short on the basis of our experiences of God as Father. When we pray “Our Father”, we’re challenging the status quo of human relationships, just as calling the church our family challenges the limitations of the human family; our first family is not our biological family, but those with whom we pray "Our Father."

Praying “Our Father” teaches us to look beyond our families and see our home in God’s family, a family that comes from all nations, races, and cultures, and which we call the Church, people with whom we ought, by the world's standards, to be strangers, and yet we are all part of God’s family the body of Christ.  When we pray “Father”, we’re asking God to help us to demonstrate this relationship to God in our daily life.
 

Prayer

Mother us, our Father,
that we may step unbowed
from safe within your haven
to face a hostile crowd.

Mother us, our Father,
and help to ease the pain
of taunts and tears and teasing
and make us love again.

Mother us, our Father,
with hands so deeply scarred,
that we may touch some other
whose suffering is hard.

Mother us, our Father,
that all our life be styled
on loving like a mother
and trusting like a child.  Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.

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 16th May 2019

Thu, 16/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Our...

Romans 12:3–5

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.
Reflection It has been said that the Lord’s Prayer begins controversially, because some are offended by addressing God as “Father”.  I suggest that there’s far more offence caused by “our”.

When we say "our," it’s not because we are claiming God to be our property, as if anyone could do that, but because of the astounding recognition that God has willed to become our God.  Before we reached out to God, God reached out and claimed us, promised to be our God, promised to make us God's people. We can say that God is ours not because of who we are or what we have done, but because of what God in Jesus has done.

“Our” also reminds us that we have a relationship with other Christians as well as with God.  By praying “our” we cannot claim we can be Christians in isolation, nor that our faith is private.  We’re all in this together, and we aren’t the first to do this. We are the current manifestation of a two thousand year inheritance, which none of us paid for or earned, and regardless of whether we feel we deserve it or not.  

There may be religions that come to you through quiet walks in the woods, or by sitting quietly in the library with a book, or rummaging around in the recesses of your psyche.  Christianity is not one of them. Christianity is inherently communal, a matter of life in the Body, the church. Jesus did not call isolated individuals to follow him. He called a group of disciples.  How did you begin the journey of following Jesus? Is this something you thought of yourself? Was it revealed to you by staring up into the sun, or walking in a field of clover? Or did you encounter other Christians, who told you the story, who lived their faith in such a way that we wanted to know more?  This is why “our” is both important, and a significant challenge.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, as part of a community of hope,
we want to hear your words of encouragement.
As a part of a community in need, we want to receive your healing.
As a part of a community, we want to receive your word.
As your community, make us willing to share all we have, in your name.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.

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 15th May 2019

Wed, 15/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

The Lord’s Prayer 

St Matthew 6:9-13

Jesus said, ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
Reflection The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, but teaching someone to pray isn’t like teaching someone how to change a wheel, or how to bake a cake.  For many the Lord’s Prayer can easily become a habit. We may say the words without thinking about them sometimes, but a habit is good. Most of the really important things we do in life, we do out of habit: eating, sleeping, shaking hands, hugging our children.  Some things in life are too important to be left to chance, and too difficult to be left to spontaneous desire, and one of those things is praying. So, we do them out of habit. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he didn’t tell them to go off and sit quietly until something spiritual came to their minds.  He didn’t ask them, "well, how do you feel about God?" He said, "Pray like this. ‘Our Father…‘

One of the most difficult aspects of meeting new people is not knowing what to say at first.  How should we address them? What subject should we bring up first? In giving us this prayer, Jesus has not left us to our own devices in our relationship to God.  We need not struggle to think of something to say to God. All we have to do is to pray these words out of habit, by heart.

The Lord’s Prayer is not for getting what we want, but rather for bending our wants towards God’s, because it is distinctively related to the one who teaches us to pray.  It is the enactment of the story of a God who called a people into existence through Jesus. The Lord’s prayer makes us closer to the people that God has called us to be in Jesus.  It is the fount from which all Christian belief and action flows, the daily bending of our lives towards a God who has, in Jesus, so graciously leaned toward us.

Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.

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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Next Devotion Series - the Lord's Prayer

Tue, 14/05/2019 - 18:30
96 Next Devotion Series - the Lord's Prayer View this email in your browser

The Lord's Prayer

Dear <<First Name>>

I hope you found the last few days' worth of reflections on Vocation interesting - and helpful for you to consider the various vocations you already have and, maybe, to reflect on how God might be calling you to serve next.  

Our next series, covering the next three weeks, looks at the Lord's Prayer and has been written by the Rev'd Michael Hopkins, minister of the Spire Church in Farnham - a URC & Methodist ecumenical partnership - and Elstead URC in Surrey.  Michael also serves as the Clerk to General Assembly.  He writes:

Many, perhaps most, Christians say the Lord’s Prayer fairly frequently. We may pray the Lord’s Prayer in a variety of forms, but we generally recognise most of them, even if it is not always our most familiar form. Perhaps all of us say it with deep and sincere meaning on every occasion, but I wonder if there might be someone who has allowed the words to come out of their mouth without full and deep attention on every single occasion?

I read a book by the theologian Stanley Hauerwas, which inspired these short reflections. I also found inspiration for the prayers in a volume edited by the late Donald Hilton. I am grateful to these writers, and I hope that you will be too.

It is my hope that this series of Daily Devotions might encourage some readers to think a little more deeply about this very special prayer.


with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 14th May 2019

Tue, 14/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Acts 13: 1-3

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Reflection Knowing your vocation sounds very positive; and it is. That confidence enhances the times of celebration and carries you through the barren times. You feel in the right place. However, we hear rather less about what happens when it ends.

We are not told whether Saul and Barnabas wanted to give up whatever they were doing and be sent off to Cyprus. Evidently the Spirit spoke clearly and they left. If it is our project, it is hard to leave it for someone else to lead and change. If at least some people appreciate our contribution, even more so. Fewer women nowadays have to abandon completely a stimulating career if a baby comes along, but plenty of our ministers had to leave a deeply valued job in order to train for the uncertain, low paid vulnerabilities of stipendiary ministry. When a minister or lay leader feels compelled to move on from a congregation, it does not always feel the perfect time.

Feeling instructed to leave a life we love is even more difficult if what is coming next is unknown. Those around us greet the idea with anxious incomprehension: why are you leaving us? Only later do we see that if we had not been willing to let go and wait, we could never have taken on the next calling that God had in mind. Once experience has taught us that, trusting the Spirit may even become a little easier.

The task in Cyprus proved immensely tough. The next calling is not often an easy reward for good behaviour in the last one. We may wistfully look back on what we agreed to leave behind. Yet in God’s Providence we were being equipped. As a hymn that we have forgotten used to say:
Father, I know that all my life
is portioned out for me….
In service which Thy will appoints
there are no bonds for me.
 

Prayer

God of mystery and surprises
help me to serve gladly
where you have called me.
In achievement and in despair,
assure me that you have a purpose.
And when the time is right
to leave current tasks behind:
speak to me clearly
give me peace to help me find courage
and teach me that the sun will rise again.
Amen

Today's Writer

John Ellis is a past Moderator of the General Assembly and Secretary of Capel United Church in Kent.

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 13th May 2019

Mon, 13/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Matthew 8: 18 - 22

Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. A scribe then approached and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ Another of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’ Reflection Jesus doesn’t make it easy to follow him. One over enthusiastic scribe offers to go anywhere, any time, but instead of saying ‘Great!’ Jesus says that it’s not that simple, that there is a restlessness about his journey that will stretch the most committed follower. And then when someone else wants to wait before actually setting out, he is told to get on with it and leave everything else behind.

It’s not entirely clear what the second of these would-be disciples is saying. Has his father just died? Or is it that he has ageing parents and wants to look after them before committing himself to Jesus? Is Jesus really saying that following him means turning our backs on the responsibilities, even the vocations, that we already have – as those who are in relationships or in jobs that matter to us? Have we really to ‘leave everything behind’ for the sake of our calling to be disciples?

Many wrestle hard with competing calls on their time and energy. And many of these competing voices can readily be thought of as vocations. Being in a covenant relationship (like marriage), having a job, volunteering in the community, being an artist – are all things that might be understood as vocations. One person might have several such vocations. The model of the celibate priest is one simple model of vocation, but for most people, vocations are multiple.

In this same Gospel, Joseph of Arimathaea is celebrated as one who ‘buries the dead’, so perhaps this hard saying in chapter 8 is not urging us to set aside all other vocations in favour of following Jesus, but inviting us to see them all as part of that following. We will have decisions to make about how we follow the restless Jesus. But the decision to live all our roles in the light of his calling to us can’t and needn’t be put off.

Prayer

O God,
who has honoured me
with many calls on my life,
and has given me gifts and graces
with which to bless the world,
may I fulfil every task
and love every person
as you give me means.
May my work and my ministry,
my loving and my being,
be shaped and blessed
by my following of Jesus,
and be strengthened
by your Holy Spirit,
today and always, Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is Minister of Taunton 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 12th May 2019

Sun, 12/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 96

1 Sing to the LORD, sing praise in a new song;
Sing to him all who to the earth belong!
2 Sing to the LORD and praise his holy name;
From day to day his saving work proclaim.
3 His glory to the nations now declare;
His mighty deeds to people everywhere.

4 Great is the LORD, most worthy of all praise;
Above all gods he’s to be feared always.
5 For all the nations’ gods are of no worth,
Whereas the LORD set heav’n above the earth.
6 Majestic splendour is before his face—
Both strength and glory in his holy place.

7 O praise the LORD, you nations, every tribe,
Both strength and glory to the LORD ascribe.
8 Give to the LORD the glory that is due;
Come to his courts and bring a gift with you.
9 Worship the LORD in his great holiness;
Tremble with fear, all earth, before his face.

10 Throughout the nations say, “The LORD God reigns!”
The world stands firm, for ever it remains;
The LORD will judge the peoples righteously.
11 Let heav’n and earth rejoice exceedingly;
Let seas and all their life with praise resound;
12 Let fields and all in them with joy abound.

Then all the trees will give a joyful cry,
The forest sing before the LORD Most High.
The whole creation will break out in mirth
13 Because he comes, the judge of all the earth.
He’ll judge the world in perfect righteousness,
And all the peoples in his faithfulness.


This can be sung to the tune Yorkshire-Stockport (Christians Awake, Salute the Happy Morn) which can be heard here or to Orlando Gibbon's Song I which can be heard here.
 
Reflection New song? New song? You’ve got to be joking. As the resident minister with a hymn-writing and musical background it was hard enough to introduce new songs but as an itinerant worship leader it’s even more difficult.

“Oh, we don’t know that one”. (Intake of breath) “Oh, they won’t like that one”
“ Not another Scottish, Tongan, New Zealand, American (etc) song”

As congregations we can be very resistant to new songs and hymns as their words and their music take us out of our comfort zone and into frightening new territory. We often soften the blow by using an old tune to new words but some hymn writers like Shirley Murray and Brian Wren go the whole hog and commission new tunes too. In for a penny... If we see new song as a metaphor for new ideas, new ways of being, new ways of relating to others and new ways of being what God has called us to be then the challenge is clear.

Once we pluck up the courage to sing a new song this Psalm shows us that the whole earth can open up to our senses. The focus of our worship is a Strong Glorious God and keywords are joy, praise and rejoicing; not scepticism, fear and uncertainty. It is not about how well we can sing or follow a tune or even how quickly we can read words it’s about recognising that all creation will laugh out loud with joy because God is in and over all. And that includes us!

God’s saving work is a new song.
Heaven and earth rejoicing is a new song.
The fields, forests and fishes sing a new song.
So let’s try some new songs for ourselves. Our new voices may yet surprise us.

Prayer

As we travel
we do like our familiar things around us.
The old songs keep us
feeling safe and reassured.
Give us courage
to sing the new songs you want us to learn.
Sing to us each the song of creation
and redemption that will lift us from mediocrity into the vaults of heaven.
Help us to hum along, keep time
and stay in tune
for yours is the glory
and the power for ever.Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Carole Elphick is a retired minister and member of Muswell HIll URC.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 11th May 2019

Sat, 11/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Acts 15: 1 - 6

Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders.  So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.’ The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. Reflection As a youngster I explored a vocation to be a Catholic priest.  My bishop said men in his diocese didn’t have a vocation until he said they did!  Even though my sense of call has been somewhat refined over the years I felt the bishop understood something - one’s sense of call is tested and discerned by the Church.  Each denomination does this in various ways - most often through assessment conferences where teams of people look at candidates’ written and verbal submissions, psychological profiles, and the way they work with others.  This enables a decision to be formed about whether candidates have the potential to be trained for lifelong ministry.

In the URC we test and discern through the Councils of the Church for any type of ordered ministry - the Elders’ and Church Meeting will test and discern a sense of Call to be an Elder and those who wish to explore training for the ordered ministry find their call is further tested through the Synod and through the selection process of General Assembly - the final sense of discernment coming with an initial call to serve a congregation.  Sometimes we can criticise ourselves for the length of time our discernment processes take but we have something valuable which is very much embedded in the practice of the early Church.

Paul’s successful missionary work amongst gentiles meant they were becoming Christian without first becoming Jewish - challenging the Church’s self definition; was it a Jewish sect or something more?  Paul, being something of a loose cannon, pushed ahead with his Gentile mission whilst others were more cautious. There was no established decision making process and so it was decided to hold a Council in Jerusalem to iron out the issues - with the result that the Gentile mission continued.

Conciliar government may be a time consuming and cumbersome process but is a rather better way of discerning together than my old bishop doing it by himself.

Prayer

O God,
you call all people to yourself,
and are heard in myriad ways,
help us to trust in you
as we discern together,
to have confidence
that you speak to us through our Councils,
that we discern and test
so that your mission to our world
is strengthened. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is a minister in the Southside Cluster in Scotland working with 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 10th May 2019

Fri, 10/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Timothy 3:1-13

The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. Reflection In preparing this devotion I refreshed my memory around some of the descriptions in the New Testament about how the early Church was organised.  There is plenty about relationships within the community, and about how the early Christians were expected to behave, but relatively little about how it might be led.  Peter clearly has a leading role in the opening chapter of Acts, but as the Church grew it must have developed new models of leadership with some being called to lead, not just follow.  These verses from 1 Timothy (which probably wasn’t written by Paul) set out some of the qualities that such people should have - though, depressingly, the prominent role of women in the Gospels and other parts of the New Testament seems to have been airbrushed out.

These verses refer to Bishops (or ‘overseers’ in some translations) and Deacons (or ‘servants’). Frustratingly, there are no job descriptions attached for us to check whether the duties the URC Manual assigns to Elders are aligned to either role!  But most of the characteristics seem to work well for us.

Having been a serving Elder for the last 18 years, I am struck by the contrasts with leadership roles in my life as  a civil servant; there is more listening in being an Elder, for example - listening for God, listening to each other, listening to the wider congregation.  Unlike a leadership position at work, being an Elder isn’t a promotion, it is simply another form of service. And unlike any promotion exercise I’ve ever run, potential candidates tend to reflect long and hard before allowing their names to go forward!

Let us pray for those we call to be Elders that they may feel able to accept this call to serve God and their local churches in this ministry.

Prayer

We give thanks for our Elders;
faithful women and men
who answer the call to serve.
May they be kind
and constructive in challenge;
concerned and supportive in care;
bold and inventive in mission.
We pray that they may know
the value of their service,
feel able to lay their responsibilities down at the right time,
and unlock the gifts and service of others,
so that together we may build the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Today's Writer

Gordon Woods is an Elder of 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 9th May 2019

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 16:1-2 

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. Reflection
Supporting the local church
 
‘Some are called to the Ministry of Word and Sacraments’ and some to ‘the ministry of church related community work’. So says the URC’s Basis of Union (paras 21 and 22). The first of those roles helps the local church to shape its worship, its pastoral life and its outreach. The second role enables congregation and local community to work together for justice and the common good.

Phoebe might have done well in either of those roles. She had a key position in the local church as a ‘deacon’. That word suggests both humble service – someone who’s not afraid to roll their sleeves up – and also a position of trust and respect.

She appears to have been the carrier of the Letter to the Romans. So she might have been asked to talk about its message with Christians who received it. ‘What’s Paul getting at? Does he tell other churches about these things? What difference have these ideas made to your life?’ I wonder if Phoebe was an off-the-cuff theologian, who could talk with others about God in unrehearsed yet serious and searching ways. That’s quite a gift, but we continue to need people who can do it well.

She was generous too, as a ‘benefactor’. Phoebe found ways of supporting others, and providing for them, whether with her goods or with her deeds. She may have been one of those early Christians who opened their home for the church to meet, who shared food with those who had too little, who noticed the sick and struggling.

Phoebe could navigate the complex waters of human relationships and leave other people feeling encouraged and helped. She had the confidence of church members at Cenchreae (a port in Greece). She had the nerve to travel and connect with a different set of people in a new place. As she went, she carried a message, to make people think deeply and help them to trust in Jesus. I thank God for Phoebe – and for you, if you do any of these things today.
 

Prayer

Generous God, help me to be like Phoebe:
 open and kind, when others are in need;
 practical, when there’s a task to be done;
 confident, in finding my feet
 somewhere new;
 respectful and helpful,
 among people of all kinds.

And help me to notice
the Phoebes around me,
 to honour them, help them
 and learn from them.

In the name of Jesus Christ
the servant King. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd John Proctor is a member of Downing Place URC, Cambridge, and General Secretary of the 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 8th May 2019

Wed, 08/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Isaiah 6: 1-9

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ And he said, ‘Go and say to this people: “Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.”
Reflection The call of Isaiah is a favourite of many of those who recognise that they are called by God to service in any capacity. In the context of wonderful, pivot-shaking worship in the Temple, the Lord himself appears and asks ‘Who will go for us?’. Often we end our reading with Isaiah’s response “Here am I, send me”.

The word “I” appears, meaning Isaiah, eight times in this passage and it is easy to be blinded by this personal account into thinking that any call from God is all about ‘me’. “Here am I. Send me.” It could be all about ‘me’.

But in fact the really amazing parts of this account are all about God – his robe, his seraphs, his glory. Only once God has got the attention of Isaiah is he able to cleanse and commission him. And then the work of ministry begins – to go to the people and tell them the message God is giving them. It’s a rather odd message, that points to the destruction of the land and the punishment of the people. Only after all that will there be a time of hope. Yet however discouraging at first sight, this is God’s message to God’s people voiced by God’s prophet.

A Methodist colleague of mine is very fond of asking the question, ‘For whose benefit is this ministry?’  If when we are considering the purpose of our lives we cannot truly answer ‘For the service of God and the benefit of God’s people’ then perhaps we need to read the sixth chapter of Isaiah again – and get past the part which is all about ‘me’.
 

Prayer

Dearest Lord,
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for reward
save that of knowing I am doing Your Will.
Amen.

St Ignatius Loyola

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead is currently serving as South Western Synod Moderator.

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 May 2019

Tue, 07/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 10.1

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. Reflection It’s odd, isn’t it? The Lord didn’t appoint seventy rabbis and send them to synagogues. No, he appointed ‘others’ and sent them to every town and place where he himself intended to go. It’s almost as though he knew that there were people living their lives, getting on with day-to-day things, that needed ministering to. Of course, He didn’t explicitly say DON’T go to the synagogues, and I’m sure that was often their first port of call, but also the workplaces, homes, shops, street corners. He didn’t ask His disciples to limit their ministry to designated places of worship, He asked them to go to where people were.

I wonder how those seventy felt as they got to their town or place? Nervous? Excited? Scared? They weren’t lone operators, they had someone else on their team but, still...sent out into the world. What was their mission? Was it entirely practical - you know: arrange accommodation, maybe put up a few posters? Or was it about beginning ministry, doing the groundwork, sharing the Gospel?

Did He send out complementary teams? A great preacher with a healer? A fantastic teacher working alongside a miracle worker? A wise old head with an energetic young firebrand?

Or did He just pair folk up randomly and ask them to use whatever skills they had to do the best they could in meeting the needs they found in the places they went to?
It’s almost as though Jesus trusted them. Just like He trusts us. To make a positive difference in whatever way they could, in whatever way we can, to people that were there. To people that are here. Wherever that may be. Not just in our churches.

Prayer

Lord, it sometimes feels as though
we are the lone voice
crying out in the wilderness.
We know that you are with us
yet sometimes the task, our mission,
feels overwhelming.
Help us to feel your presence. 
Help us to use our gifts. 
Help us to be strong in our faith
So that the work we do in Your name
may help Your kingdom come,
Your will be done.  Amen.

Today's Writer

Leo Roberts is the Children and Young People’s Officer for the North Western 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
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URC Daily Devotion 6th May 2019 Vocations 1

Mon, 06/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th May 2019 Vocations 1 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Reflection For many years, people have argued about the wearing of school uniform, and one of the most potent arguments in favour is the fact that school uniforms cause all children to appear equal.

Paul begins this chapter of his letter by rebuking the Galatian church, but ends, as so often happens, with some good news - we are now one in Christ Jesus.  One of the major causes of this is Baptism, something which hopefully links us all. Even a denomination such as ours, with strands coming from various traditions, contains a dispersed leadership often with confusing titles, but we are all one. We all believe the same thing, and we all are one in Christ.  The Sacrament of Baptism has given us a uniform, which despite our differences in background, upbringing, and race, make us equal, not only sharing the joy of that equality, but making us as one with the persecuted Church.

I remember many years ago having access to a dressing up box at school. I found a jumper I liked, and wore it constantly for a few weeks. The fact that it was far too large for me and I kept tripping over didn’t matter.

The miracle of our baptism is that Jesus gives us a uniform that is neither too big nor too small. His intention is not to trip us up, nor indeed, to restrict our movement. It is something we should wear with pride, not only among our Christian friends, but among those who aren’t yet believers.

Prayer

Father God, help us to wear our uniform with pride. You have made it to fit each and all of us, and as we go about our daily business, teach us to use what we’ve been given through Baptism for the benefit of our church, and indeed, all people with who we come into contact. Amen.

Today's Writer

David Reynolds is a serving Elder at Cores End URC in Buckinghamshire.

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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Vocations

Sun, 05/05/2019 - 18:30
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Vocations

Dear <<First Name>>

In the URC we observe Vocations Sunday on the 4th Sunday of Easter - this year that falls on next Sunday, 12th May.  In order to help us reflect on this we have prepared 7 devotions on the broad theme of vocations - recognising we are all called.

One of our new writers, David Reynolds who serves as an Elder at Corrs End in Buckinghamshire, reflects on baptism as the starting point for all Christians.  Leo Roberts, the Children and Youth Development Officer for our North Western Synod reflects on our call to serve in the world whilst the Moderator of the South Western Synod, Ruth Whitehead, reflects on servanthood - as our basic approach in the world.  Some are called to specific tasks of leadership and John Proctor, our General Secretary, reflects on this whilst Gordon Woods, an Elder at St Columba’s in Oxford, reflects on Eldership, I reflect on the conciliar decision making process that is used, particularly, in the calling of ministers and CRCWs.  Susan Durber, Minister of Taunton URC and Convenor of the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Committee, helps us reflect on the sense that we all have multiple vocations. Finally, John Ellis, an Elder and former Moderator of General Assembly, reflects on the universal theme that time, and roles, come to an end.  
 
We hope that these reflections help you focus on your calling - maybe you are exploring a call to join a church, become an Elder or candidate for ministry; maybe you are already in a role and wonder about about how it may develop or if it’s time to let it go - and we hope that you pray that all of us discern and follow the callings we have.  



with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 5th May 2019

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

Psalm 95

1 O come, let us joyfully sing to the LORD;
To the Rock of salvation let us raise our voice.
2 Let us come before him expressing our thanks;
Let us with loud singing praise him and rejoice.

3 The LORD is the great God, King over all gods.
4 The earth’s deepest places he holds in his hand;
The heights of the mountains belong to the LORD.
5 The oceans are his, and he formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow humbly and worship the LORD;
Let us kneel before him, our Maker, in prayer.
7 For we are his people and he is our God;
He shepherds and feeds us in his loving care.

Today if you hear and attend to his voice,
8 Don’t harden your hearts as you did on the way;
In Meribah’s desert you quarrelled with me,
You tested my patience at Massah that day.

9 Your fathers provoked me and tested me there,
Although they had witnessed the works I had done.
10 With that generation for forty long years
My deep indignation continued to burn.

I said, “They’re a people whose hearts go astray;
They do not acknowledge that my ways are best.”
11 And so, in my anger, I stated on oath,
“I swear that they never shall enter my rest.”

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Walther here.
 
Reflection In ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ Jim Hacker is told that on his orders the nuclear button will be pressed. Asking if anyone will argue, and assured they won’t, he gulps and says, ‘Blimey!’ Sir Humphrey replies, ‘It's your job and you wanted it, Prime Minister.’ It’s a sort of ‘be careful what you ask for’ moment.

And such is Psalm 95. It begins with praise that’s more exuberant than our translation suggests. The opening ‘come’ is more like ‘let’s get going!’; its ‘sing’ is really ‘shout’, and ‘come before him’ suggests life-shaping encounter. As Beth Tanner has it, ‘This is praise using all the force and power that the human body has.’ Perhaps there’s an allusion to that phrase Jesus borrows from the Hebrew writings, that we are to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength. And why? Because God is creator and shepherd; God makes and God saves. So much is this God ‘the King over all gods’ that the devout worshipper is led to bow down, to kneel and to pray.

However, in the best traditions of ‘be careful what you ask for’, this whole-hearted praise invites consequences; such an ‘encounter’ with God doesn’t leave us where it found us. The worship we offer is meant to be reflected in the way we live. And the Psalm suggests God’s disappointment that that is not always so: ‘You tested my patience’, ‘your fathers provoked me’. Moreover, the Psalm closes with that divine disappointment: ‘they shall never enter my rest’. When we tell God of our worship, God longs for our service. It’s a chicken and egg thing.

I first sang this Psalm at Matins; it’s the Venite. Perhaps the so-called Chorister’s Prayer, offered Sunday by Sunday in the vestry, echoes exactly what Venite urges.
 

Prayer

Bless, O Lord, us thy servants who minister in thy Temple;
grant that what we sing with our lips
we may believe in our hearts
and what we believe in our hearts we may show forth in our lives,
to the honour and glory of thy holy Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen

Today's Writer

The Revd Nigel Uden is minister of Downing Place, of Fulbourn & of Stetchworth & Cheveley URCs in Cambridgeshire and is a 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 4th May 2019

Sat, 04/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 21 7 - 37

They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’  And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them. ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’  Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.  So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.  Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly,  like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called.  And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.
Reflection Passages like this make us uncomfortable with this emphasis on signs of the end of time.  The types of Christians who focus on passages like this also make us uncomfortable with an emphasis on redemption coming after suffering.  We might just cope with readings like these in Advent when we try and think about the Second Coming but it is a topic we like to push out of our heads.

The Early Church didn’t have that luxury.  They lived with persecution in a hostile culture.  The peace of Rome was really military oppression - as the Jewish people found out when Jerusalem (was) surrounded by armies and then they knew that its desolation had come near.    In this, the Early Church looked to Jesus for their hope, believing he’d come again and set all things right.

We still live with wars - not rumours of them as our 24/7 news cycle mean we don’t rely on rumours but on striking images of devastation from around the world.  We still live with persecution - not in the West where the worse that happens to the Church is a pernicious indifference - but in Asia one in three Christians experience persecution.  

I hope those who are persecuted now find hope in Jesus’ promise to be with them, to help them witness and the promise they will not perish but gain their souls.  I hope passages like this make us work harder for political change in our world where no one is persecuted for what they believe, how they live, or who they love.
 

Prayer

O God,
whose words do not pass away,
but give life and endurance,
free us from the traps of life,
help us to see what passes in our society
and give us the grace to change the world,
through Jesus Christ,
in the power of the Holy Spirit,
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
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URC Daily Devotion 3rd May 2019

Fri, 03/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 21:1 - 6 

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury;  he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them;  for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’ When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said,  ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’ Reflection
Almost as a tag on line to this intriguing story, Jesus mentions the unimaginable; one day, the Temple - the permanent and literal house of God will be no more. The beautiful work of artisans, the innumerable sacrifices and dedications to God, the holy atmosphere, the historical community focal point, God's presence, all gone. It's an unthinkable situation.
What would the destruction of the Temple have meant to the woman who gave all that she had to the collection box? Deep sorrow and loss? Bitterness? Relief? Freedom?
We don’t know why the woman put in all that she had. Was it because: she loved God;  she loved the Temple; she was able to place her well being in God's hands; or because, whilst being watched by those with plenty, she felt ashamed not to?
Can you imagine a time when your church is no more? For many out there this will already be a painful reality, or one close enough to touch. What does church mean for you? Is God’s presence limited to those 4 walls, the beauty in the building, that group of people, the rituals you share together, the weekly meetings and activities, the history of prayers made in that space?
In this story we see the frailty of our need for religious security. Whatever reason the woman gave all that she had to the Temple, the resulting vulnerability surely meant that her very life was in God’s hands; perhaps, in her poverty, she already knew strength in that reality. Perhaps the destruction of the Temple would be easier for her to comprehend than for those who measured their very worth by their relation to it.
The Temple was eventually destroyed, but around about the same time, word of God’s love in Jesus was spreading to the ends of the earth. God goes before us, each day, into every place. Go out and seek God, seek resurrection in the darkest of places – and maybe even in the Church.
 

Prayer

Omnipotent God,
was the woman in this story,
brave, or foolish, or faithful
when she gave all that she had
to the Temple?
God can you make me all three for you?
Brave enough
to let go of those physical things I cling to,
foolish enough
to trust your strength in my vulnerability
faithful enough
to work out your love in all that I do,
Amen

Today's Writer

Liz Kam, Church Related Community Worker, Levenshulme Inspire.

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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 2nd May 2019

Thu, 02/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 20: 27 - 47

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless;  then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him another question. Then he said to them, ‘How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son?  For David himself says in the book of Psalms, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’ Reflection Set alongside the challenges from the Chief Priests and Scribes in the text comes this discourse with some Sadducees.

According to Josephus they were a small but influential group many being placed in prominent positions within the Temple structure. Their existence was dependent on Temple life and no trace can be found of them following its destruction when Jerusalem was conquered.

One of the Sadducees’ defining strands was that they only considered the Torah to be scripture and this led to their doctrinal view that there could be no resurrection as they found no such reference within the Books of the Law.

This group asked Jesus a loaded question based on the Leverite Law which was intended to protect inheritance and property.

Jesus dismisses the conundrum simply by refocussing the need for marriage in God’s realm then quoting from the Torah offers the Sadducees new insights  - God the God of the living Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The question of resurrection asked and answered.

I come back frequently to the vehicle for the teaching.  Like a terrier I can’t let go of the widow’s experience in this story, however hypothetical, the notion of multiple bereavements, the loss of seven husbands, whatever the basis of those relationships, and the cumulative nature of grief overwhelms me.

Whilst seven life partners may be unusual the experience of multiple bereavements is not. This is the experience of older people and indeed many congregations made up of predominantly older members.  It is the experience where people share a life limiting illness or indeed are experiencing some form of disaster or war.

We also know that there is a risk with suicide that it may appear in clusters including within familial groups. A fact that calls for evermore sensitive postvention.

Whilst we have become increasingly more sensitive to the needs of people experiencing grief I feel we have much to learn in order to offer support to those whose experiences of loss are cumulative.
 

Prayer

Loving God there is simply nothing that we can do which allows us to step outside that circle of love you have for us.

Be with us today, whatever our experience, whatever our expectations for the day

Bring us integrity and growth
through learning
Bring us solace and healing when we struggle with loss and despair
God of life bring us hope.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Helen M Mee, Synod of 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
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 1st May 2019

Wed, 01/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 20: 20 - 26

So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor.  So they asked him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’  But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, ‘Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?’ They said, ‘The emperor’s.’ He said to them, ‘Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’  And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent. Reflection They watched him – the “they” being the scribes and chief priests - whilst they sent spies, first to flatter and then to ask questions. Jesus, of course, had another audience, for the people were following this rabbi who promised new ways of living and an end to the misery of occupation and oppression.

The spies had been carefully chosen, people able to seem plausible, to ask questions which looked as though they had confidence in Jesus’ teaching whilst at the same time having the intention of turning the adoring crowds against him.
The question seemed simple enough, we might say deceptively simple and the answer was quite clear even if not the one the spies expected. In both the question and the answer are layers of possibilities. There were issues here of political and religious power struggles and like many questions then and now, the important thing was to determine which were the central issues.

In our Statement of Nature Faith and Order we declare “In the things which affect obedience to God the Church is not subordinate to the state but must serve the Lord Jesus Christ …… “. But it isn’t as easy as two tick lists headed, loyalty to God and loyalty to Caesar.

There are decisions, priorities and loyalties in there which require us to examine our response to any of the complex issues of our day, homelessness, Universal Credit, violence, to name but a few. If we observe what Jesus did in these circumstances, we find he understood the hidden agenda, and identified the central issue.

In the complex world in which we live, our prayer must be for wisdom to spot the “spies” who will flatter and then undermine us, and for discernment to judge what is at stake in any given situation.
 

Prayer

Compassionate God,
in a world in which it seems
as though nothing is simple
we pray for wisdom to recognise
the messages we can trust
for discernment
to understand the situation
and for commitment
to act in accordance with the values
of justice and peace
demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen

Today's Writer

Val Morrison, Hall Gate, Doncaster. Former Moderator 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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