URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion Monday 25th January 2021

8 hours 12 min ago
96 URC Daily Devotion Monday 25th January 2021 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 25th January 

St Mark 5: 1 - 20

They came to the other side of the lake, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him.  He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain;  for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones.  When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him;  and he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’  For he had said to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!’  Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He replied, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’  He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.  Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding;  and the unclean spirits begged him, ‘Send us into the swine; let us enter them.’ So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and were drowned in the lake.

The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid.  Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him.  But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

Reflection

Mark’s story of Jesus is that he has come in God’s name to call time on Rome (Empire’s rule) and announce its replacement the Kingdom of God - the rule of God over creation.  Satan (Beelzebul) and the demons play a key role in this.  In Jesus’ worldview, Satan is the Strong Man (see 3:19-30) - the “power behind the throne” of Empire.  The demons, like the Roman legions, are occupying forces that are too powerful to be resisted.  His mission is to liberate Empire’s victims from all the ways in which they are enslaved by a system that binds, uses and ultimately destroys them.

Mark recounts the story of the Gerasene demoniac in this light.  Look at the following points:
  • Jesus has just exorcised the storm.  The word he uses is “Be muzzled!” - the same exorcist term for silencing the demons.
  • “The wind and waves obey him” recalls the story of the crossing of the Red Sea, where Moses commands them.
  • The Gerasene is a Gentile, whose life among the tombs is a living death.
  • The chains and leg-irons which bind him are those used by the Romans to bind captured revolutionaries (terrorists, in their book) and parade them through the streets before publicly crucifying them.
  • The demons name themselves as Legion, “because they are many”.  There is no way Mark’s audience could hear this in any other way than a reference to the Roman occupying forces.
  • There were “about two thousand” demons - the size of a regional Roman occupation force.
  • The pigs “charge” down the hill.  The term describes a charge by soldiers in military formation.
  • Like the pursuing Egyptian army of Exodus, they are “drowned in the sea”.

Jesus has come to liberate the world from everything that stops it becoming the Kingdom! From what powers do we need liberating?

Prayer

May your Kingdom come SOON, O Lord!
To the poor,
The sick,
The despised,
The forgotten,
The oppressed,
The broken,
The addicted,
The hopeless,
The Little People.
Give us souls to yearn for it,
Eyes to see it,
Ears to hear it,
And hearts to rejoice in its coming and presence!
Amen.
 
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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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship - The Revd. Mike Walsh

Sun, 24/01/2021 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship - The Revd. Mike Walsh View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship for 24th January 2021

“Come, and follow”

The Rev’d Mike Walsh

Introduction
 
Welcome to worship with the United Reformed Church. I’m Mike Walsh, serving as a Pioneer Minister in Manchester, working with young adults in the local community.
 
Call To Worship
 
Come and see the grace of God,
Christ our teacher and our friend.
Come and see the son of God,
Christ our healer and salvation.
God is moving in this place.
Come and see! Come and see.
 
Hymn                The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy
Bryn A Rees (1911-1983)
 
The Kingdom of God
is justice and joy;
for Jesus restores
what sin would destroy.
God's power and glory
in Jesus we know
and here and hereafter
the kingdom shall grow.
 
2 The kingdom of God
is mercy and grace;
the captives are freed,
the sinners find place,
the outcast are welcomed
God's banquet to share;
and hope is awakened
in place of despair.
 
3 The kingdom of God
is challenge and choice:
believe the good news,
repent and rejoice!
His love for us sinners
brought Christ to his cross:
our crisis of judgement
for gain or for loss.
 
4 God's kingdom is come,
the gift and the goal;
in Jesus begun,
in heaven made whole.
The heirs of the kingdom
shall answer his call
and all things cry 'Glory!'
to God all in all.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Assurance of Forgiveness
 
God who made us and loves us,
we approach our time in prayer with you
in response to your call on our lives,
as people who yearn for your purposes to be made real in this world.
 
God, in Jesus,
as we share in familiar words again today,
may we hear them afresh
and hear You call each one of us by name
to be your disciples in the world.
In Jesus you call to us
'Will you come and follow me?'
Me we have the courage to respond.

In Jesus you call to us
'Will you come and follow me?'
To bring only the skills which we have. 
 
In Jesus you call to us
'Will you come and follow me?'
May we have the strength of faith when the task is hard.
 
For the times we shy away
in fear of the response, and close ourselves of from your Word,
we seek your acceptance, and assurance
that You call us as we are.
 
So forgive us we pray, and help us to be gentle with ourselves
for the excuses we come up with,
for the things that we cling onto,
for the opportunities we shy away from.
 
Open our ears to hear your call afresh.
Open our eyes so we may follow anew.
Open our lips so we may share your good news.
Open our hands to put faith into practice.
Open our hearts in love for the world
 
Christ Jesus came into the world to make disciples
and says to all in compassion and love, ‘Come, follow me.’ Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
So we gather as disciples of Jesus,
to remember again the stories of our faith.
In these words may we here your Word and your call,
that Jesus says to us all,  Come, follow me’.
 
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
 
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you."
 
So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.
 
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
 
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
 
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.
 
St Mark 1:14-20
 
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news." As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea - for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
 
Hymn          Lord You Have Come to the Seashore
                     Fr. Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991)
 
Lord, you have come
to the seashore,
neither searching for
the rich nor the wise,
desiring only that I should follow.
 
O, Lord, with your eyes
set upon me,
gently smiling,
you have spoken my name;
all I longed for
I have found by the water,
at your side,
I will seek other shores.

2: Lord, see my goods,
my possessions;
in my boat you find no power,
no wealth.
Will you accept, then,
my nets and labour?
 
3: Lord, take my hands
and direct them.
Help me spend myself
in seeking the lost,
returning love
for the love you gave me.
 
4: Lord, as I drift
on the waters,
be the resting place
of my restless heart,
my life’s companion,
my friend and refuge.
 
Sermon
 
What an explosion of interlocking themes the readings for this Sunday gift to us! A smorgasbord of the delights and demands, of daring to claim to follow Christ Jesus.
 
We focus our attention on the explosive introduction to the Good News of the Gospel of Mark, brimming with political tension, unsettling immediacy, and startling revelations of the kingdom of God. Hidden in the disarmingly familiar allegory of fishing for people - is the irresistible promise of change, of restoration and justice, and a transformative invitation to those first disciples and to us as disciples today, to join in Walking the Way of Jesus.
And the even gooder of the good news, is we are told, that it has already taken place. The time is fulfilled, so turn your life around, by trusting in the God of all that is just, and true, and life giving.
 
As if all that wasn’t enough, our Gospel is playfully embedded between two accounts of the many ways human beings can react to what is essentially good news, as the church of Corinth struggles to accept what it cannot see, and poor old Jonah struggles to see what he cannot accept.
 
Our Gospel story begins with Jesus, picking up where John has so abruptly left off, proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”’
 
The unsettling immediacy in Marks storytelling, transporting us from John’s arrest, to Jesus seamlessly continuing John’s mission and message.
It’s as if our story teller can’t wait to get John out of the picture, to put Jesus centre stage. Jesus is the one who is to come. And if he is the one, then this is the time. And if this is the time, no response is immediate enough! For the kingdom of God is close at hand.
 
For all Mark’s excitement and urgency, Jesus seems practically chill at this point, and makes his appearance wandering by the sea, talking with labourers and fisher-folk, asking them to accompany him on his mission. Calling people to repentance, as John did.
 
Metanoia, a word dripping with meaning - not just a change of heart, or a change of mind, but a setting out in a new direction. Repentance means an about turn, not merely in the negative, turning away from what is wrong, or ‘sin’, but in the positive, turning towards what is good and from God. Repentance isn’t only an acknowledgement of our frailties or an admission of guilt which requires God’s forgiveness. It’s an ongoing commitment, that this is a point of change in our lives, a continuing striving to become more like the one who says follow me.
 
In Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis, he explores in the chapter called Dust what on earth is going on in Jesus encounter with these fishing families. He paints a fascinating picture of those training to be rabbi’s, the rigour of the process which makes preparation for URC ministry look a walk in the park. That at each stage of the process, candidates will be sent home, told they are not good enough, that their future lies in learning the family trade, that they will never make the grade where a Rabbi invites them to be their disciple.
 
But this Rabbi, Jesus, cuts through all this, and says to the ones who were told they didn’t make the grade; those who’s skills included casting and fixing nets - come on, I could use a few people like you. Follow me, and I’ll teach you how to fish for people. The power of Jesus words are not only in what’s to come, but what they sweep aside. This Rabbi turns no one away.
 
Maybe the Markan immediacy tells us something of the power of Jesus words after all, as these men immediately leave their nets and respond to his call?
 
But these words of call, of fishing for people, are not just calling individuals to faith or service. Once again the words spoken by Jesus carry much more meaning than that which is plain to see.
Jesus invitation to ‘fish for people’ are first found in Jeremiah Chapter 16, verse 16 where it is used to indicate Yahweh’s intentions to restore Israel by removing those from within who have played a part in its demise, those who have steered Israel away from The Way. Elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures, in Ezekiel, Amos, and Habakuk the concept of ‘hooking a fish’ is used as a metaphor calling out the oppressors, for taking judgement on the corrupt and powerful. For catching those who are doing harm to God’s people.
 
So is this what Jesus meant? He’s planning to pick off the rich and powerful, the greedy and the corrupt, one by one? No. Nothing so unambitious as that. Have you noticed the change in imagery? Jesus call first those who know how to fish, but he calls people who fish with a net, not a hook.
 
A net doesn’t use bait, it doesn’t target or trick. A net catches more, it vastly increases the scope and scale of Jesus ambition. It holds whole systems and communities to account. But it doesn’t catch everything. The smaller fish are not caught up in it.
 
A net needs to be maintained if it is to continue to be effective. There are different nets for different conditions, requiring knowledge and skill to achieve a good catch.
 
So God calls people who know how to cast, and where to cast. How to mend and maintaining, adapt and learn.
 
Jesus call is to cast the nets that will challenge the corruption at all levels of our society. From discrimination within our church, to oppression and violence to people, Gods people the world over; exposing inhuman systems, not individuals, for their arrogance, selfishness and disregard for Gods people.
 
Jesus asks the common fisher folk to join him in this struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege. To overturn the order of power which wasn’t just financial oppression from Rome, but was the religious, racial, sexist, political and economic oppression that theirs and every society suffers from.
 
Much more attractive than the ambiguous call to save souls!
 
When we cast out lines loaded with bate driving hooks into the oppressors of society to hold them to account; that offers no chance for heeling, nor does it show that the God who calls us all to a continuing repentance, is a God of compassion and love.
 
When we cast nets fairly, with justice and joy, people have the chance to humble themselves - to truly repent. To make ourselves small enough to slip through the net. Not to evade punishment, but as real change and ongoing repentance.
 
How can people change if they are not offered forgiveness and a place in our lives afterwards? The thing that poor old Jonah got so wrong.
 
The kingdom has dawned, and the call to the oppressor is the same as the call to the oppressed.   Come, follow me.

Hymn          Help Us Accept Each Other
                     Fred Kaan
 
Help us accept each other
as Christ accepted us;
teach us as sister, brother,
each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us
and bring us to believe:
we are ourselves accepted
and meant to love and live.
 
2: Teach us, O Lord, your lessons,
as in our daily life
we struggle to be human
and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people,
for all - not just for some,
to love them as we find them
or as they may become.
 
3: Let your acceptance change us so that we may be moved
in living situations
to do the truth in love;
to practice your acceptance
until we know by heart
the table of forgiveness
and laughter's healing art.
 
4: Lord, for today's encounters
with all who are in need,
who hunger for acceptance,
for justice and for bread,
we need new eyes for seeing,
new hands for holding on:
renew us with your Spirit;
Lord, free us, make us one.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
In Jesus of Nazareth, true humanity was realized once for all.
Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, lived among his own people and shared their needs, temptations, joys, and sorrows.
He expressed the love of God in word and deed
and became a brother to all kinds of sinful men and women.
But his complete obedience led him into conflict with his people.
His life and teaching judged their goodness,
religious aspirations, and national hopes.
Many rejected him and demanded his death.
In giving himself freely for them, he took upon himself the judgment
under which everyone stands convicted.
God raised him from the dead,
vindicating him as Messiah and Lord.
The victim of sin became victor, and won the victory
over sin and death for all.
 
Intercessions
 
God, who we see in Jesus,
who lived a life of compassion and love.
We pray now for others,
and for much that is broken and hurting in our world.
We pray for planet and people, the whole of you creation,
that all may learn to live in interdependence.
Till the day your kingdom comes, as it is in heaven,
may we respond to your call on our lives,
to be your love and compassion in this world,
for all those least able to protect themselves.
 
May your call on our lives, make us ready to challenge injustice and greed, exploitation and abuse, thoughtlessness and neglect.
To stand with those who feel powerless against inhuman structures
and the vested interests in our world.
May we be sensitive too, to those when in positions of power the Gospel brings more challenge than comfort that challenge and choice are never easy.
So in a moment of quiet we offer our prayers for our fragmented world,
for unjust structures and broken relationships. (silence)
 
In our relationships with others, we pray, help us to imitate your love and compassion for all, as shown in Jesus. Amen.

Offertory
 
Loving God,
out of the fullness of your gifts
we bring all we have to offer,
in response to your call. Amen.
 
Hymn          Will you come and follow me / The Summons
   John L. Bell and Graham Maule sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise
 
Will you come and follow me 
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?
 
2: Will you leave yourself behind
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
should your life attract or scare,
will you let me answer prayer
in you and you in me?

3: Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around
through my sight & touch
& sound in you and you in me?
 
4: Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love & footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

Blessing
 
The blessing of God be upon us,
the One who loves us,
the Christ who calls us,
the Spirit who sends us into the world,
today and always. Amen.
 
Thanks and sources
 
The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy - Bryn A Rees (1911-1983) Sung by the choir of St Barnabas Church Dulwich
Lord You Have Come to the Seashore - Fr. Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991) Sung by the Orchard Group Choir
Help Us Accept Each Other - Fred Kaan  © 1975 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188  sung by Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church, Singapore.
Will you come and follow me / The Summons - John L. Bell and Graham Maule sung on BBC’s Songs of Praise
 
Organ Pieces
Prelude in E Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (Organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Toccata in Seven by John Rutter (Organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)
 
Both pieces played by, and received with thanks from, Brian Cotterill: www.briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to Alison Jiggins, Marion Thomas, Christopher Whitehead, Christine and David Shimmins, Kath Haynes, Ray Fraser, Phil, Carys and Lythan Nevard, Dan Morrell, Sarah Wilmott, Mandy Hibbert, George Faris, Jill Stidson, Steve Lee and Graham Handscomb for reading spoken parts in the service.
 
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

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Sunday 24th January Jo Patel, local leader, Wattisfield URC, Norfolk.

Sun, 24/01/2021 - 06:00
96 Sunday 24th January Jo Patel, local leader, Wattisfield URC, Norfolk. View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 24th January

Psalm 28

O Lord my Rock, to you I cry aloud
to hear my plea;
I shall be lost, if you stay silent now
and deaf to me.
I lift my hands to your most holy place;
do not withhold your mercy, love and grace!

2 Do not, I pray, drag me off with the vile,
with souls perverse;
smooth is their speech, but hidden in their hearts
a silent curse.
For all the Lord has done, they show disdain,
but once torn down, they shall not rise again.

3 Praise to the Lord, who is my strength and shield;
he hears my cry!
God is my help; my heart will give him thanks
and leap for joy.
Strength of his people, fortress for his king;
our Shepherd, save us! All your praise we sing.

Christopher Idle from Psalm 28
© Christopher Idle/Jubilate Hymns Ltd

This is sung to the tune Lead Kindly Light which you can hear here


Reflection

This Psalm was probably written when David was in exile because of the rebellion of his son Absalom. But David isn’t pleading with God to restore his physical throne, instead he is crying out to God in a personal way, pleading for help from his Heavenly Father. I am writing this at the start of the second national lockdown and I expect many of us over 2020 have pleaded with God for His help. David is asking God to hear his cry and respond, and that is a significant part of our relationship with God. We need to know that we are heard and that God is a god who answers. Right at the start of this Psalm David states how he will be completely lost if God remains silent. In a different translation David says ‘I might as well give up and die’. This is a very serious cry for help. 

Then later in the Psalm something shifts in David’s thinking and his cries turn to praise. David suddenly sees that God has already answered. God IS his strength and his shield, his ever present help in times of trouble and fear. David enters a time of expressive worship, creating a song of jubilant joy and passionate praise. David’s heart is nudged and the penny drops. The revelation of his real and unchanging relationship with God, suddenly comes into view and transforms his outlook. He sees clearly how God has always been interacting with him and His hand has been at work already. 

So, how is our faith at this time and what has the crisis in our world done to our focus and our view of God?

We should be encouraged as we read this Psalm. We should let the emotions of David and the expression of his despair speak to us, invigorate our faith and encourage our trust in God’s unchanging nature and love for us. Let these words re-energise our relationship with a Father who never leaves us and who is fully engaged in every area and detail of our life. There is power in ecstatic joy and unhindered praise and that is a far better place to dwell than a place of despair and despondency. We must remain faithful and focused because despite everything He is God and our lives are safe in His hands. 

Prayer

Lord, our strength and our shield, our defender and our comforter. Go with us today, walk alongside us as we enter another day serving you. Let your name be on our lips, your Spirit be in our hearts and your works be done through our hands. We praise you, bless you and worship you with our lives, lived through your Son, our Saviour, Jesus. Amen

 

 
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Today's writer

Jo Patel, local leader, Wattisfield URC, Norfolk.

 

 

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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 23rd January 2021

Sat, 23/01/2021 - 06:00
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Saturday 23rd January

St Mark 4: 35 - 41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’  He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’  And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

Reflection

The disciples and Jesus are in the middle of a storm, wind howling, the rain pouring down and the waves crashing against the side of the boat. The disciples must have been petrified. However here we have Jesus, being woken up from a sleep by the disciples, at a time of need for them.

Many of us will be experiencing different storms in our lives whether they be around our work situations, exam stress or family conflicts. We have all experienced one of the biggest storms we will probably ever experience with Covid-19. It, at times, must be so hard to know where God is when the going gets tough. This reading is so comforting to me, and I am sure it is to you, to know that God is always going to be there for us. 

We then hear how after this storm, there was then a dead calm. Even Jesus, the king of kings, the Lord of Lords needed to take time out of his hectic schedule to be alone and away from the crowds. At these times he could listen to his Father in heaven and pray to be able to refuel himself.

Just like Jesus, over the course of the next 24 hours take time out of your busy day to find somewhere quiet to spend time with God and hear what he wants to tell you.

Prayer

Lord, throughout today give us the time and the space to be able to take time out, give us the knowledge and the wisdom to know what to say to you during these times, although we may be in a storm, comfort us and guide us.
Amen

 
 
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Today's writer

Reuben Watt, URC Youth Assembly Moderator

 

 

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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Resending Friday 22nd January 2020

Fri, 22/01/2021 - 10:10
96 URC Daily Devotion Resending Friday 22nd January 2020 View this email in your browser

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Friday 22nd January 

St Mark 4: 30 - 34

He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’ With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Reflection

Most people have only seen mustard in a jar. My grandmother was a farmer; she used to grow mustard in her herb patch. I still remember her explaining to me how to care for each different type of plant.

You don’t expect a mustard seed to grow into a tree, or even a shrub – it is normally a small herb, a straight stalk one or two feet tall. A bunch of flowers, turning into seed pods, at the top. You plant a tiny seed and you get small results – it’s not just farming, this is what life is like.

Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is different – even tiny investments may produce overwhelmingly great returns.

A few kind words, an act of love, a few minutes of listening – and a life may take a completely different path as a result. It doesn’t take big, heroic efforts to change our world. It is true, at times heroic acts are called for – but most of the change is made by an unseen and unheard army of people, doing everyday acts of kindness. One word, one act, one thought, one intention, one life touched at a time. You don’t need to go looking for opportunities to make a difference, you are surrounded by opportunities every day; at home, at work, in your daily commute or while doing your grocery shopping.

You plant one tiny seed, and before you know it, it grows into a mighty tree. An army of hidden heroes, planting small seeds of love, can grow an entire forest.

Prayer

God of mustard seeds and mighty oaks,
give us faithfulness to keep planting seeds of grace,
give us a love that continually spills over on those we meet and touch,
help us take over the world, one act of kindness at a time.
Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

Marius Mazuru, pastor, Pilgrim URC Church, Plymouth 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Some Confusion

Fri, 22/01/2021 - 10:07
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A Little Local Confusion

Dear Friends,

we've had two errors with the Devotions this week - first, on Tuesday the Rev'd Sue Chapman, minister of Hove and Portslade URCs wasn't credited with writing her Devotion here.  I've already apologised to Sue.

Today's Devotion had two in for the price of one and had the wrong date on it!  I will resend it in just a moment.

best wishes

Andy --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Friday 22nd January 2021

Fri, 22/01/2021 - 06:00
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Wednesday 20th January

St Mark 4: 21 - 25

He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand?  For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’  And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.  For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’

Reflection

 “For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Reading these words from Mark’s gospel towards the end of 2020, we are reading against a background of a government refusing to release money to feed school children, the Black Lives Matter campaign, and the desperation of asylum seekers and refugees.

In the light of this background these are shocking words and we might be forgiven for questioning whether Jesus really meant them, for they seem to deny the picture of justice and mercy which has been our understanding of what Jesus demonstrated as a way to live. So how did these words slip into Mark’s gospel?

The first thing to say is that they didn’t slip in at all. They follow Jesus telling a parable and explaining something of how parables work. In parable fashion these few verses begin with the image of a lamp - a reminder that this is about the teachings of Jesus and an encouragement to understand that within those teachings are hidden depths which are there to be plundered. Everything is available to be disclosed. But nothing is disclosed without careful listening and paying attention to what we hear for the more carefully we give attention to the word of God the more we shall hear.

As with any reading we do, the way we hear the words is informed by the way we have heard them previously, if we actively listen we are able to build on our previous awareness, examine our interpretation and turn our understanding into action. The fact that there are two possible ways to understand these words is demonstration enough of the need to heed Jesus’ command to Listen.

Prayer

God of words and actions,
we give thanks that you offer us
the possibility of understanding more from your word,
that you offer the possibility of openness
and light in our relationship with you.


We pray that we may hear and act upon
your command given through the words of your Son to
‘Listen and pay attention to what we hear’.
Amen
 
Thursday 22nd January

St Mark 4: 30 - 34

He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?  It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’ With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Reflection

Most people have only seen mustard in a jar. My grandmother was a farmer; she used to grow mustard in her herb patch. I still remember her explaining to me how to care for each different type of plant.

You don’t expect a mustard seed to grow into a tree, or even a shrub – it is normally a small herb, a straight stalk one or two feet tall. A bunch of flowers, turning into seed pods, at the top. You plant a tiny seed and you get small results – it’s not just farming, this is what life is like.

Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is different – even tiny investments may produce overwhelmingly great returns.

A few kind words, an act of love, a few minutes of listening – and a life may take a completely different path as a result. It doesn’t take big, heroic efforts to change our world. It is true, at times heroic acts are called for – but most of the change is made by an unseen and unheard army of people, doing everyday acts of kindness. One word, one act, one thought, one intention, one life touched at a time. You don’t need to go looking for opportunities to make a difference, you are surrounded by opportunities every day; at home, at work, in your daily commute or while doing your grocery shopping.

You plant one tiny seed, and before you know it, it grows into a mighty tree. An army of hidden heroes, planting small seeds of love, can grow an entire forest.

Prayer

God of mustard seeds and mighty oaks,
give us faithfulness to keep planting seeds of grace,
give us a love that continually spills over on those we meet and touch,
help us take over the world, one act of kindness at a time.
Amen.
 
 
-->

Today's writer

Marius Mazuru, pastor, Pilgrim URC Church, Plymouth 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 21st January 2021

Thu, 21/01/2021 - 06:00
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Thursday 21st January 

St Mark 4: 26 - 30

He also said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.  The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’

Reflection

The people of the first country grew rice intensively, working hard to produce three and four crops from the same piece of land each year by organising irrigation systems. The second country was blessed with many rivers so was usually able to generate two crops of rice each year. In the third the people scattered the rice on the land and listened to it grow. This story of the three countries was told and retold by the colonial power of the time – the versions that the people tell may be different.

In Mark’s gospel the author marshalls words carefully, stringing pearls of parables together without much explanation. This has challenged commentators across the centuries to interpret what was meant by the original sayings of Jesus, in the gospel writer’s use of them for the early Christian audience, and for the commentator’s own time.

We cannot force seeds to grow, although we can sometimes shape conditions to encourage them. So it is with the good news of God’s kin-dom which develops of its own accord. Is it us who scatter the seed through our words and actions and attend to it with varying levels of intensity, without knowing how it develops in the lives and hearts of the people around us? Or is it the stories of Jesus’ ministry which is the seed, going underground and growing in secret?

What we know is that our mission plans and programmes, systems and strategies sometimes produce fruit. At other times it is our simple acts of neighbourliness over many years which flower in ways we had not anticipated. We are called to sow seeds and be ready to join in with God’s harvest, whenever it comes.

Prayer

God of infinite patience,
inspire us to carry on sowing seeds of hospitality and kindness,
reassure us when the ground seems hard and stony,
surprise us with harvests of goodness in unexpected places,
and remind us that we are apprentices to you, the sower, grower and reaper.
Amen
 
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Fiona Thomas, freelance facilitator, 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's coming

Wed, 20/01/2021 - 15:45
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service will be led by Revd. Mike Walsh. Mike is a Pioneer Minister in South Manchester, with a particular focus around ministry with young adults in the sub-urban area of Chorlton. He will be leading our service with the theme 'Come and follow me'. Hymns include The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy, Lord you have come to the seashore written by Spanish Priest Fr. Cesáreo Gabaráin. Fred Kaan's Help us accept each other, finishing with John Bell's Will you come and follow me?

The service will be sent out, as normal, at 9.45 on Sunday morning for a 10am start.  If you have any problems receiving it please read on for advice.

with every blessing


Dan


Dan Morrell
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If, however, the email isn't in your Spam/Junk folder please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read it there.  

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 20th January 2021

Wed, 20/01/2021 - 06:00
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Wednesday 20th January

St Mark 4: 21 - 25

He said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand?  For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’  And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.  For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’

Reflection

 “For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” Reading these words from Mark’s gospel towards the end of 2020, we are reading against a background of a government refusing to release money to feed school children, the Black Lives Matter campaign, and the desperation of asylum seekers and refugees.

In the light of this background these are shocking words and we might be forgiven for questioning whether Jesus really meant them, for they seem to deny the picture of justice and mercy which has been our understanding of what Jesus demonstrated as a way to live. So how did these words slip into Mark’s gospel?

The first thing to say is that they didn’t slip in at all. They follow Jesus telling a parable and explaining something of how parables work. In parable fashion these few verses begin with the image of a lamp - a reminder that this is about the teachings of Jesus and an encouragement to understand that within those teachings are hidden depths which are there to be plundered. Everything is available to be disclosed. But nothing is disclosed without careful listening and paying attention to what we hear for the more carefully we give attention to the word of God the more we shall hear.

As with any reading we do, the way we hear the words is informed by the way we have heard them previously, if we actively listen we are able to build on our previous awareness, examine our interpretation and turn our understanding into action. The fact that there are two possible ways to understand these words is demonstration enough of the need to heed Jesus’ command to Listen.

Prayer

God of words and actions,
we give thanks that you offer us
the possibility of understanding more from your word,
that you offer the possibility of openness
and light in our relationship with you.


We pray that we may hear and act upon
your command given through the words of your Son to
‘Listen and pay attention to what we hear’.
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

Val Morrison, The URC in Doncaster 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Tue, 19/01/2021 - 06:15
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Tuesday 19th January 2021

St Mark 4: 1- 20

Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land.  He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:  ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil.  And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.  Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.  Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’  And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’

When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables.  And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

“they may indeed look, but not perceive,
    and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.”’

And he said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables?  The sower sows the word.  These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy.  But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.  And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word,  but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing.  And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’

Reflection
We know what this parable means, because Jesus explains the meaning.  The key, for me, is understanding what God expects from us; to keep alert and ever watchful for all God is doing among us. Jesus is the word and example, to reveal God’s love lavished on humanity.  We engage in God’s transformation to reveal the marvellous works of salvation for everyone. No type of ground is a barrier to the work of God’s love.
Jesus encourages us; our faith is honed through obedience to God. The seed that God sows has 100% potential, it is only in our limited faith, that the potential diminishes, as we struggle to grasp the importance of God’s mission. Listen to the disappointing tone that Jesus speaks, in verse twelve, almost in exasperation! “When will you listen and understand how God works? I have told you how to grow and bear fruit, by taking God at God’s word.  Believe it!  Play your part!”  God’s love must create the energy of faith, released to reach full potential.  Our life in God needs us to create rich environments in obedience to God’s request to be love, so that our potential is at the maximum. 
Jesus reminds us to pay attention, even to small seeds, caring about what happens to them, nurturing them, because they hold the potential of God for the world. Listen, be aware of God, and the desire of people for life to have more meaning, in God’s love.  That is what Jesus wants us to understand and to work with. Nothing or no-one is too small for God’s love to permeate. God chooses you, because you have love to share.  Have renewed faith that you, too, are important to God’s kingdom! Our faith needs nurturing; this releases the kingdom of God’s abundant love.
 Prayer
Loving God, fill us with the love seeds of your kingdom.
Encourage us to spread them liberally
and give us the faith we need to nurture them,
so that people find Jesus
Help them to find hope and forgiveness in you.
And be blessed through your words and love. Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

Val Morrison, The URC in Doncaster 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 18th January 2021

Mon, 18/01/2021 - 06:00
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Monday 18th January 
St Mark 3: 31 - 35

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.  A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters  are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’  And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

Reflection

I have always told my children that part of my job description as a parent is to embarrass them.  And no doubt I have fulfilled that role on more than one occasion.  It is a role carried out by parents everywhere for generations.  Indeed, my mum came down to school to look for me as I was a little late coming home – being in the 6th form at the time, I did not really appreciate her concern!

Mary clearly had concerns about Jesus and the crowds he was attracting and the attention he was getting so wanted him to come home and be a “normal” obedient son.  But Jesus had other plans, as his Father’s work took precedent on anything a “normal” son would be expected to do.

While family is important, the role of family is changing all the time.  No longer are we two parents, and 2.4 children (I was the 0.4!) but our families are a combination of partners and siblings and half siblings and step-families and often we spend more time with our work families than we do with our blood relatives.

We are joined to our families by blood; genetics; marriage; we have something in common in that we often came from the same source.  How much more so are we joined by our faith family in that we all share the love of God and our willingness to serve in whatever way we can.  Our family immediately grows and can be found all around the world.

So, whether we are only children or one of many, we all have a vast family of love through our faith in God.  They are and will always be our extended family and we will always find a welcome among them.
 
Prayer

Lord help me to love my family in whatever form it takes.  No longer is there a “normal” family, just the bonds of love joining members together.  May we see all those who share our faith as part of our family that we may grow in that love together.  Amen  
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Watson, Bolton and Salford Missional Partnership Minister Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship - The Revd. Dr John McNeil Scott

Sun, 17/01/2021 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
United Reformed Church Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 17th January 2021
 
The Rev’d Dr John McNeil Scott
 
Introduction
 
Hello. My name is John McNeil Scott and I am delighted to be able to share today’s service with you. I hope that you will feel that we are bound together in a common love – those whose voices you will hear (if you are listening) as well as all who listen or read these words in a spirit of worship. My parts of this act of worship are prepared in Glasgow, where I am Principal of the Scottish United Reformed and Congregational College.

Call To Worship
 
Come and see the grace of God,
Christ our teacher and our friend.
Come and see the son of God,
Christ our healer and salvation.
God is moving in this place.
Come and see! Come and see.
 
Hymn       As A Fire Is Meant for Burning
Ruth Duck
 
As a fire is meant for burning
with a bright and warming flame,
so the Church is meant for mission,
giving glory to God’s name.
Not to preach our
creeds or customs,
but to build a bridge of care,
we join hands across the nations,
finding neighbours everywhere.

2: We are learners;
we are teachers;
we are pilgrims on the way.
We are seekers; we are givers;
we are vessels made of clay.
By our gentle, loving actions,
we would show that Christ is light.
In a humble, listening Spirit,
we would live to God’s delight.
 
3: As a green bud in the springtime
is the sign of life renewed,
so may we be signs of oneness
’mid earth’s peoples, many hued.
As a rainbow lights the heavens
when a storm is past and gone,
may our lives reflect the radiance
of God’s new and glorious dawn.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Assurance of Forgiveness
 
O God of Life and Hope
In these still early weeks of this year we gather in our different places,
and yet mysteriously together, not for a ritual of dead tradition
nor for a routine that is mere habit nor for a rite that holds no surprise.
 
We are here to renew ourselves, to be renewed by you, O God,
so that we may be able to renew others
to hear in the quiet places of our beings
that word of love and divine friendship
to gain fresh vision so that we may help draw others
into that circle of truth, life and service that is your Kingdom.
 
Our longings after you are deeply true, O God
but they are not wholly pure.
We are dusty with sin
we have compromised when we ought not to have
and in those things where love said “give way”
we have instead held fast.
 
Forgive us, and restore us in the many dimensions of our lives.
Make our longings for you and for the life of your Kingdom,
the truth of our lives.
Make the words of our hearts and mouths,
the actions of our hands,
more nearly match our true hearts.
 
The God of mercy who forgives all sin forgives us.
May this God also strengthen in us all goodness,
by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Lord, may ancient words speak to the lives we are living.
May the testimony of those who saw you in those days
fit us for discipleship in these times. Amen.
 
Reading   St John 1:43-51
 
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
 
Hymn:      For Your Generous Providing
The Revd. Leith Fisher
For your generous providing
which sustain us all our days,
for your Spirit here residing,
we proclaim our heartfelt praise.
Through the depths
of joy and sorrow,
though the road
be smooth or rough,
fearless, we can face tomorrow
for your grace will be enough.
 
2: Hush our world’s
seductive noises
tempting us to stand alone;
save us from the siren voices
calling us to trust our own.
For those snared by earthly treasure,
lured by false security,
Jesus, true and only measure,
spring the trap to set folk free.
 
3: Round your table, through your giving,
show us how to live and pray
till your kingdom’s way of living
is the bread we share each day:
bread for us and for our neighbour,
bread for body, mind, and soul,
bread of heav’n and human labour –
broken bread that makes us whole.
 
Sermon
 
More than once in John’s gospel an episode begins “The next day…” And almost every time there is a scene of personal drama. There is, sometimes, a breathlessness about John’s telling of the story of Jesus. The words almost seem to tumble over themselves in their rush to pour out the experience of Jesus.
 
And sure enough, that’s just how it is here right at the beginning of the gospel. The witness of John the Baptist narrated and dispensed with. A small gaggle of disciples called. Simon’s name is swapped for Peter. 
 
In every sentence there is drama. As John narrates it, wherever Jesus went in those days the ones who would follow him immediately recognised the God that was in him, the significance that he carried, and could not stop themselves from speaking it and sharing it - “Come and see.” Encounters, one after another in time compressed into days.
 
And… the next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. I wonder how many times in the last half of 2020 you have longed for that kind of easy spontaneous travel, with no restrictions to consider. Longed to just go somewhere – a conference, a holiday, perhaps even a meeting! Or just a day out! To decide and go. The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he just went.
 
He went to a fishing village on the northern shore of the lake. And there he encountered, John tells us, two friends in quick succession. First Philip. And then Philip’s acquaintance Nathaniel.
 
The way that John tells the story Jesus went looking for Philip. And at his invitation Nathaniel went looking for Jesus, just to see if what Philip said about the Nazarene was really true.
 
‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’
 
Can you hear Nathaniel snort? It seemed such a ridiculous thing to say. The one for whom history waited? Some Joe Bloggs from the back-end-of-nowhere. And that’s putting it politely! Unlikely wasn’t the word for it.
“Come and see”.
 
I picture them walking together towards Jesus, they crowds gathered around him. He spots them from the corner of his eye and with the smile of an “Aha!” he says “Here comes the plain-talker, a blunt and straightforward fellow-countryman” As a name, Nathaniel was characteristically local. “Nathaniel the Israelite” reads rather like Hamish the Scotsman, or Paddy the Irishman. Is Jesus getting his own back on one who though poorly of his home town? Or hinting that Nathaniel stands for a type of person.
 
“How do you know who or what I am?” “Where did you come to know me?”
 
“From under the fig tree.” Had Jesus spotted him on the way into town, or on some other day? Or, as some think, was this knowledge supernatural?
 
One way or another Nathaniel’s response was immediate, dramatic and unequivocal: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”.
 
And Jesus’ reply. This insight of yours is just the beginning of the wonders and the fulfilments and the turnings upside down that you will see.
 
Here at the beginning of John’s gospel - still in the first chapter, a few days before the wedding and the water and the wine – and Jesus is saying “Oh, hold onto your hat.” (The metaphor is mine and not the Lord’s.) “Oh, hold onto your hat! This is just the beginning.”
 
In imagination can you travel to that moment. The encounter with Nathaniel. Two Galileans, from Bethsaida and Nazareth. A conversation a bit spiky and wary at first from Nathaniel’s side. Playful and, as I picture, affectionate from Jesus’ end of things.
 
The hint of miraculous knowledge, and Jesus’ apocalyptically-framed promises of what Nathaniel would yet see. The promise of a story that is renewed a few weeks, so it seems into Jesus ministry.
 
And for us? Well, of course, the invitation to “Come and see”. And the model to follow… that we can say to others too “Come and see, come and see we have found him… and he is Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
 
But there is more too, I think. Here we are, a few weeks into a new year. With times of waiting and sadness and difficulty beginning – we hope – to give way to days of broader experience, freedom. The end of this year’s beginning and a new, continuing, epiphany… a showing forth again of promise for our lives and for this world in this unfolding year.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
In Jesus of Nazareth, true humanity was realized once for all.
Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, lived among his own people and shared their needs, temptations, joys, and sorrows.
He expressed the love of God in word and deed
and became a brother to all kinds of sinful men and women.
But his complete obedience led him into conflict with his people.
His life and teaching judged their goodness,
religious aspirations, and national hopes.
Many rejected him and demanded his death.
In giving himself freely for them, he took upon himself the judgment
under which everyone stands convicted.
God raised him from the dead,
vindicating him as Messiah and Lord.
The victim of sin became victor, and won the victory
over sin and death for all.

Intercessions
 
For all who seek, may their path may be lit by the light of Christ.
 
For the homeless, for refugees and asylum seekers,
may they find shelter and places of safety.
 
For those who find themselves lost and confused,
may they find courage and the energy to change direction.
 
For those who have difficult decisions to make
may they be graced with clarity:

For those who are unwell in body, mind or spirit,
may they know your love through the warmth of others:

For those in all the governments of these lands,
for our neighbours and friends,
may they and we be servants of peace and the common good.
 
For healthcare workers and medical staff,
may they find strength when needed and blessing in the care they give.
 
For those whose journey on earth has reached its end
may they be filled with your welcoming light:

For ourselves,
may we resolve to follow more closely your way of light and peace.
 
In quietness of heart we make our individual prayers…
 
In all things, O God, may your Kingdom’s purpose of love and justice be served. Amen.
 
Offertory
 
Our response to the good news of God’s love is expressed first in the deep places of our hearts, but also in the sharing of our service and of our resources. You are invited to lay aside your offering,
and to dedicate it with all others who are likewise listening.
 
Loving God we set aside our gifts.
Let them be symbols of love returned,
make them effective in your service. Amen.
 
Hymn       Jesus Calls Us Here to Meet Him
                  John L Bell & Graham Maule
 
Jesus calls us here to meet him
as, through word & song & prayer,
we affirm God’s promised presence
where his people live and care.
Praise the God
who keeps his promise;
praise the Son who calls us friends;
praise the Spirit who, among us,
to our hopes and fears attends.
 
2 Jesus calls us to confess him
Word of life and Lord of all,
sharer of our flesh and frailness,
saving all who fail or fall.
Tell his holy human story;
tell his tales that all may hear;
tell the world that Christ in glory
came to earth to meet us here.
 
3 Jesus calls us to each other,
vastly different though we are;
creed and colour, class and gender
neither limit nor debar.
Join the hand
of friend and stranger;
join the hands of age and youth;
join the faithful and the doubter
in their common search for truth.
 
4: Jesus calls us to His table
rooted firm in time and space
where the Church
in earth and heaven
finds a common meeting place.
Share the bread and wine His body
share the love of which we sing.
Share the feasts for saints & sinners
hosted by our Lord and King
 
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
 
In Christian tradition over many generations, people have responded to God’s drawing near, to God’s speaking, by sharing bread and wine in sacramental action.  I invite you, if you wish, to prepare bread and wine, which we will break and share together.
 
Out of the richness of the world and from its poverty we bring gifts to God, the Creator.  We bring bread – thank you our God for bread, for a harvest that did not fail, for hands that worked it and money to buy it.
 
We bring wine – thank you our God for wine; for vines that grew and bore fruit, for hands which made it, and money to buy it.
 
We bring ourselves – thank you God for life; for the work of creation carried through human generations, for ancestors and successors, grandparents and grandchildren, for the communion of saints, and of all humanity, for the hope of Kingdom banquet.
 
Send your Spirit on us and on these gifts
 
Hear our prayers, O God, as we pray together after the pattern of Jesus…
 
Our Father, who art in Heaven…
 
Here, now, as we gather in the places where we are, God with us all,
we remember another table long ago and far away.  At that table Jesus gathered with friends to speak of hope in difficult days.  And then at the end of the meal the Lord took bread, blessed it, broke it,  and passed it among his friends saying:
 
Take, eat, this is my body, broken, for you.  Do this remembering me.
 
Then the Lord took a cup of wine,  blessed it and passed it to them saying:
 
This is the seal of the new covenant.  Take and drink and remember.
 
These are the gifts of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
 
Music for sharing the Sanctus from Missa Luba performed by the Tim Keys Consort

After Communion:
 
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all God’s benefits: who forgives all thine iniquities; who heals all diseases; who redeems your life from destruction;  who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Bless the Lord, bless the Lord, O my soul.
 
Hymn       Love is the boat for the journey
Ian Callanan
 
You are the way
to heaven’s yielding fold.
You are the truth bringing freedom.
You are the life burning deep within our hearts,
for you are the boat for the journey.
 
2: You are the stream
where flows the path of life,
guiding the way for disciples.
Though storms may arise
you calm the fear inside,
for you are the boat for the journey.
 
3: You are our God, the living, saving Word,
You are the banquet of justice,
you know our pain, you lift us from our shame,
for you are the boat for the journey.
 
4: We’ll sing this song of never ending joy,
filled with the truth of your gospel.
With faith, hope, and love, we claim your living Word,
for you are the boat for the journey.
Love is the boat for the journey.

Blessing
 
May you know God’s peace in your heart and in your home.
May you find God’s strength in the moments of your need.
May you be moved by God’s love for you and for the world
to “Come and See”, and in turn so to invite others.

May the love of the Father, the grace of the Son,
the friendship of the Spirit be yours today,
and for every day to come. Amen.
 
Sources and thanks
As a Fire is meant for burning – Ruth Duck © 1992, GIA Publications (Ruth Duck). Administered in the UK by Calamus, 30 North Terrace, Mildenhall, Suffolk
For your generous providing © The Rev’d Leith Fisher performed by the Scottish Festival Singers.
Jesus calls us here to meet Him - John L Bell & Graham Maule © WGRWG - Performed by Matt Beckingham
Love is the boat for the journey - Written and performed by Ian Callanan © 2009 GIA Publications, Inc Tune: Loch Lomond
 
Organ Pieces
Ach Gott Von Himmel Sieh Darein (“O God from heaven see this”) by Johann Pachelbel
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Wir Glauben all’ an Einen Gott (“We all believe in one God”) by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham – 2001)
 
Both pieces played by, and received with thanks from, Brian Cotterill: www.briancotterill.webs.com
 
Communion Prayer loosely adapted from
Jonny Baker and Doug Gay, with Jenny Brown “Alternative Worship” (SPCK, 2003)
 
Thanks to Alison Jiggins, Marion Thomas, Christopher Whitehead, Christine and David Shimmins, Kath Haynes, Ray Fraser, Phil, Carys and Lythan Nevard, Mandy Hibbert, John Marsh, Sarah Wilmott and Kirsty Knott for reading spoken parts of the service. --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 17th January 2020

Sun, 17/01/2021 - 06:00
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Sunday 17th January   Psalm 27 


The Lord is my light
The Community of Taize 1991 Ateliers et Presses de Taize

The Lord is my light,
my light and salvation:
in Him I trust.
The Lord is my light,
my light and salvation:
in Him I trust, in Him I trust.

You can hear this sung here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r64gcGMNhDE

Reflection

It is a rare experience now, for many of us, to find ourselves in darkness - at least the kind of complete darkness from which you cannot see your hand in front of your face. With street lamps, illuminated clocks and mobile phones usually so close we are rarely without light of some kind. This makes the occasional experience of darkness all the more striking. If we do find ourselves suddenly in the dark (perhaps on a walk when we have miscalculated the time of our return, or in the midst of a power cut), we are returned to an experience we have forgotten. We grope for a source of light, or we hold on to another person, or we feel our way tentatively along the fence. 
 
For the people who first crafted, spoke or sang this Psalm, the experience of deep darkness was much more common and familiar. In such a setting they knew, as we sometimes discover, that light is so precious and so necessary; that it can be the difference between stepping on the path or off the cliff, or that it can transform terror into reassurance. 
 
Sometimes life feels like a walk in the dark. There are perils and dangers, and not only in the night. We are fearful and anxious, sometimes even in broad daylight. At such times, these wonderful and powerful words speak to us. ‘The Lord is my light, my light and salvation; in Him I trust.’ When we are in any kind of dark we have to trust those who can see ahead. When the path is uncertain we search for a light for our steps. When the darkness deepens, we reach out for a hand to hold. And God is there. 
 

Prayer
 
God,
let it be your light
that shines on my path,
illumines my spirit,
and sends the darkness packing.
I reach for your hand
that we may walk together
into the day.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber, Minister, Taunton United Reformed Church Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 16th January 2021

Sat, 16/01/2021 - 06:00
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Saturday 16th January St Mark 3: 13 - 30

St Mark 3: 13 - 30

He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message,  and to have authority to cast out demons.  So he appointed the twelve:  Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);  James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder);  and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean,  and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.  When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’  And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’  And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.  And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’—  for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

Reflection

Growing up I always thought that there were just three political parties in the UK: Conservatives, Labour and Liberal.
The first time I became aware that these parties were not particularly united within themselves was when the Liberal Party became the Liberal Democrats. Of course, as I have grown older, and considerably less wise, I have realised that political parties are themselves full of factions… the European Research Group, Momentum and so on. I’m sure that the Liberal Democrats probably have factions too – but there are so few of them that it seems likely that each individual MP is their own faction.
And they fight amongst themselves instead of working together, united as one party, to try and reform whatever unfair policies the other parties are suggesting.
“A kingdom that fights against itself will not survive.  And a family that is divided will not survive.  If Satan is against himself and is fighting against his own people, he will not survive. That would be the end of Satan”
So, that’s political parties warned, then, eh? Thank goodness we Christian denominations aren’t like that.

Prayer

Loving God,
You have told us what is good. You have told us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with you. We promise to try better.
Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

Leo Roberts, Children and Youth Development Officer, North Western 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 15th January 2021

Fri, 15/01/2021 - 06:00
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Friday 15th January St Mark 3: 1 - 12

St Mark 3: 1 - 12

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’  Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent.  He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Jesus departed with his disciples to the lake, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him;  hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon.  He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him;  for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’  But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

Reflection

Jesus is stirring things up again.  He’s cured a paralysed man, controversially telling him his sins were forgiven in the process, adding to controversy by then mixing with and, horror of horror, sharing meal fellowship with ‘sinners’ - folk considered to be beyond the pale!

Will he never learn to stop courting the displeasure of the powerful?  Well, obviously not, as he deliberately not only heals another person with a disability, but does so on a Sabbath.  Worse still, he rubs their faces in it by first challenging them with the ethical question of whether it is lawful to save life on the day of rest?  Their silent answer is a negative and Jesus’ ire is raised.

No ‘gentle, meek and mild’ Jesus here - his anger is evident at their lack of compassion and, instantly, and with passion, restores the man to full fitness, further offending his opponents and setting them on the road to put and end to this trouble-maker!  Meanwhile he sets off to continue his healing and teaching ministry elsewhere.
I write this still in the grip of a global pandemic restrictions, when there has been criticism of Church Leaders who have dared to enter the world of political controversy by questioning the government’s approach and the effectiveness of its Covid policies.

One Tweet suggested that the ‘Bishops’ [sic] should keep their noses out and stick to spiritual matters.  In the face of deaths and suffering that might be made worse by national policy, today’s reading would answer the question of WWJD?  After all as the URC Basis of Union says, ‘In the things that affect obedience to God, the Church is not subordinate to the state, but must serve the Lord Jesus Christ, its only Ruler and Head.’

Will we Christians never stop stirring things up?  I do hope not!

Prayer

Radical God who calls us to passion for life and the living, guide us and encourage us;
to speak up for those without a voice;
to stand alongside those who stand alone;
to share energy with those too weary or ground down to fight any longer;
and to have the wisdom to know when, where and how to stir things up when circumstances demand.  Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark, URC Minister in the Bridport & Dorchester Joint Pastorate Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 14th January 2021

Thu, 14/01/2021 - 06:00
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Thursday 14th January St Mark 2: 18 - 27

St Mark 2: 18 - 27

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’  Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. ‘No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’ One sabbath he was going through the cornfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’  And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?  He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’  Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’

Reflection

People compared Jesus and his disciples to John the Baptist, the Pharisees and their followers, and they noticed big differences.  Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast, and they had no qualms about plucking the heads of grain on the Sabbath.
When people asked about fasting, Jesus responded with an apocalyptic image that runs throughout scripture - the heavenly wedding banquet that awaits God and God’s people.  However the way Jesus told it foreshadowed his death.  Jesus also pointed to God doing something new here – that’s what the talk about wineskins was about.  Today we might talk about mobile phones and software.  Jesus might have said, “You can’t download the new NHS app on a phone that has out of date software.  You need a new phone with the latest software, so the new app will download and work.”  Basically, Jesus’ operating system was love and grace, and it was incompatible with strict piety of the Pharisees. Throughout Mark’s gospel, we see that Jesus was not afraid to be unashamedly gracious towards the so-called unrighteous.
When people asked about Jesus and his followers plucking the heads of grain, Jesus told them a story of David.  Not only did David eat the bread for the priests, but so did the men travelling with him.  Jesus reminded them that the Sabbath was for our benefit as people.  The day of rest was to help us, not harm us.
Jesus put faith in context.  Traditions and religious practices should make sense in the context that we are in.  If they don’t, then we should take it back to scripture and find out why.  There is a good chance we humans have missed something.  And for Jesus, whatever scripture we read is to be read through the lens of God’s grace and abundant love for both the “righteous” and “unrighteous”.
 
Prayer

God, help us to be aware of how we practice our faith.  Do we love others?  Are we quick to condemn or quick to encourage and inspire?  Help us to follow the ways and teachings of Jesus.  Amen.
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister at St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks and Christ Church URC Tonbridge 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's coming

Wed, 13/01/2021 - 15:45
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service is being led by The Revd. Dr John McNeil Scott. John is a member at   URC and Principal of The Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College, based in Glasgow. This service will include the sacrament of Holy Communion. If you wish to partake, please have some bread and wine/juice with you when the service begins. Hymns take a particularly highland theme, Ruth Duck's As a fire is meant for burning, Leith Fisher's For your generous providing, Maule & Bell's Jesus calls us here to meet him, and Love is the boat for the journey to the tune Loch Lomond.

As usual, the service will be sent out at 9:45am for a 10am start. Please read further on this email if you have any technical difficulties.

with every blessing,

Dan

Dan Morrell
Near-coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC -->

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URC Daily Devotion 13th January 2021

Wed, 13/01/2021 - 06:00
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Wednesday 13th January

St Mark 2: 13 - 17

Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them.  As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of  the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’  When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

Reflection

The Pharisees assumed that if a person ate with sinners, they were a sinner, too. Levi worked for the Roman government and was a tax collector. Tax collectors were renowned for their dishonesty. Naturally, since Jesus and his disciples ate with such people, they were classed as sinners too.

Assumptions prevented people from seeing what was really going on. God was not interested in appearances but hearts. Jesus was coming into contact with sinners. But instead of the sinners making him unclean, he made them clean. The grace of God ministered through Jesus Christ isn’t limited to righteous people. It extends to sinners, even to the kind of sinners that disturb righteous people.
Jesus found out what the Pharisees were asking and answered the question himself. He told them that healthy people have no need of a physician, but rather those who have an illness. Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Pharisees made a foolish assumption. They assumed that they were “healthy people,” having no need of a physician. They assumed that they were righteous so Jesus’ call to sinners did not apply to them. They had found righteousness in their diligent faithfulness to do everything they believed God had required of his people.

Jesus said  “Follow me,” and Levi got up and followed him. Levi found righteousness in the Son of God. He saw with his own eyes what the accusing Pharisees also saw but could not recognize. He saw what Paul described in his letter to the Romans: “In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17).

Levi made no assumptions. He saw, he listened, and he believed. He trusted the One sent from God because he trusted God. May we, too, listen and believe and then live by faith, and not by assumptions?
 
Prayer

Dear God, create in us an awareness of our need matched only by an awareness of your acceptance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Sue Knight, Local Church Leader, Reigate Park URC & Lay Preaching Commissioner, Southern 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.
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URC Daily Devotion 12th January 2021

Tue, 12/01/2021 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th January 2021 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Tuesday 12th January

St Mark 2: 1 - 12

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them.  And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,  ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”?   But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic—  ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’  And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

Reflection: 

When I was a child I always thought it was easier to say “your sins are forgiven” because no one could see.  If you said “Stand up and walk” and the person didn’t - how embarrassing!   Since then, knowing as we do that much is in the mind I find the next questions don’t go away quite as easily: what did those at the back of the crowd think was happening and what did the occupier think of having the roof destroyed?  
Assuming those at the back could hear, but without seeing what had happened, they would have heard a debate about authority.  Imagine the whispers running round:  “what did he say?  No!  That’s blasphemy”  - only in a loose sense - but who will stand on the letter of the law when things get heated in a debate with no negotiation?
  
Mark ends this account saying everyone was amazed, and therein lies the problem.  Some would be amazed and full of wonder, eager to tell the story.  Others would be amazed and horrified, but rather than reflect and begin to understand, try to solve the problem of Jesus’  claim to authority by destroying what is not understood. 
We have seen this problem time and again in the last months of 2020: what to do about the second wave of Covid19; the apparently intractable Brexit negotiations; fake news; state sponsored cyber attacks and disputed elections?  Answer: attack the person not the problem.   I do get frustrated with the WWJD, (What would Jesus do) question.  Did he set to work repairing the roof of the house?  A good means to clear the mind while working.  Go for a walk along the shore.  A good way to find a different perspective.   Whatever happened, as we read on, we discover that Jesus found a way to balance the discord over forgiving of sins with human and godly conversation, while some of the scribes built an internal edifice of anger that could only be resolved with retribution. 

Prayer

Lord, when I am faced with opposing views help me to find balance and a way to understand.  Then, when I have understood, help me to decide on the value, for right or wrong, of this new viewpoint.  
Amen
 
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Today's writer

Rev’d Ruth Browning, retired minister, worshipping at Thornbury URC.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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