URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 21st January 2020

2 hours 50 min ago
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Tuesday 21st January 

1 Corinthians 4: 1 - 7
 
Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.  Moreover, it is required of stewards that they should be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself.  I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.

I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters,  so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, ‘Nothing beyond what is written’, so that none of you will be puffed up in favour of one against another.  For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?
 
Reflection
 
I do enjoy a good mystery: from intriguing crime-scene to intricate resolution, I marvel at the intellect of the detective – and the imagination of the writer. I don't have a great track-record in spotting all the clues and predicting the outcome; but just occasionally I manage successfully to identify “whodunnit”. Because when it comes to contemporary fiction, that's how mystery works: we're invited not just to be entertained, but to join in the sleuthing – to prove our prowess and hope thereby to win the satisfaction of having worked it all out ourselves.

So when we come across the term “mystery” in the Bible, perhaps our instinct is to imagine it's this same kind of exercise in testing our detective talent – seeing if we've got what it takes to grasp the hidden, complex principles that would baffle lesser mortals.

But that's really not what Paul means when he writes of “God's mysteries”. Against a 1st-century backdrop in which various cults claimed to offer initiation into the still-secret ways of spiritual beings, the Apostle emphasises that in Christ, God's purposes are now made plain to all upon whom God's Spirit is graciously poured. And so for disciples, the essential point about a mystery is not that it's arcane and difficult, but on the contrary, that it's been revealed. 

As he here wraps up his encouragement to the Corinthians to lay aside partisan divisions over particular apostolic heroes, Paul makes the point that because the unfolding of mysteries is God's initiative, not human achievement, it's not to be used as a pretext for pride or judgement. For judgement, again, is God's prerogative; and because God has a habit of revealing mysteries, in due time it'll be the things we ourselves have kept hidden – the purposes of the human heart - that God shall uncover.

In the meantime, we too can be “stewards of God's mysteries” – not by claiming mastery of secrets, but by sharing what God has revealed.

Prayer

God of grace and truth,
you summon us to proclaim
what has been revealed among us,
the mystery of faith:
that “Christ has died,
Christ is risen,
Christ will come again.”
In our Walking the Way,
empower us by your Spirit
to be bold in witness,
faithful in hope,
and generous in love,
to the glory of your name. Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dominic Grant, minister, Trinity URC Wimbledon Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 20th January 2020

Mon, 20/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th January 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Monday 20th January 

I Corinthians 3: 16 - 23
 
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,

‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’,
and again,
‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,  that they are futile.’

So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you,  and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
 
Reflection
 
In his book Imagine Church, Neil Hudson writes: “The goal of a whole-life disciple-making church arises from the Biblical conviction that Jesus is Lord of all and that the core vocation of the Church is to make whole-life missionary disciples” (2012, p. 84).  Hudson makes the case for Christian communities to be supportive and nurturing in such a way as to encourage each other to be disciples in their daily lives, when they are scattered, at work, school, Aldi, wherever. This is Church as a community that puts Christ at its centre – on Sunday when together and throughout the week, when apart.  Gathered and scattered - still Church, still ‘God at work’ in the world through and within human beings. 

In this part of his letter, Paul continues his case for how the Corinthians should be Church together.  The question in verse 16 should have brought a lightbulb moment for the hearers. Paul encourages them to look beyond their little community.  To consider how they gather together and for what purpose. Paul encourages them not to overthink this. Might sound foolish to the wise folk of this world, but God’s foolishness is wiser than the wisest of wise guys.  Paul reminds them that the apostles and teachers that have taught them are not leaders to create some kind of earthly hierarchy. No – the order is this. Apostles serve the students. The students become the church. The Church is Christ’s body.  Christ belongs to God. It would be unwisely foolish to think otherwise. We can get wrapped up in our own structural wisdom that we completely forget Christ. 

“Don’t you all know that you are God’s holy structure and that God’s Spirit lives within and dwells among all of you?”  As we consider how we ‘do church’ together, Paul would encourage us not to lose sight of the fact that we ARE Church together and God’s spirit dwells there.  That alone should bring us to our knees in awe.  
   
Prayer
 
God, we thank you that we don’t have to be the wisest people.
You choose us anyway.  Sometimes more than once as we wander away and you call us back.
Remind us who we are.  Remind us of your Spirit at work within and among us.
Wherever we go, remind us of your presence with us and your love for the people we meet there.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
 
--> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister, Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks 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.
I Corinthians 3: 16 - 23 

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,

‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’,

and again,

‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,  that they are futile.’

So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you,  and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Reflection
In his book Imagine Church, Neil Hudson writes: “The goal of a whole-life disciple-making church arises from the Biblical conviction that Jesus is Lord of all and that the core vocation of the Church is to make whole-life missionary disciples” (2012, p. 84).  Hudson makes the case for Christian communities to be supportive and nurturing in such a way as to encourage each other to be disciples in their daily lives, when they are scattered, at work, school, Aldi, wherever. This is Church as a community that puts Christ at its centre – on Sunday when together and throughout the week, when apart.  Gathered and scattered - still Church, still ‘God at work’ in the world through and within human beings. 
In this part of his letter, Paul continues his case for how the Corinthians should be Church together.  The question in verse 16 should have brought a lightbulb moment for the hearers. Paul encourages them to look beyond their little community.  To consider how they gather together and for what purpose. Paul encourages them not to overthink this. Might sound foolish to the wise folk of this world, but God’s foolishness is wiser than the wisest of wise guys.  Paul reminds them that the apostles and teachers that have taught them are not leaders to create some kind of earthly hierarchy. No – the order is this. Apostles serve the students. The students become the church. The Church is Christ’s body.  Christ belongs to God. It would be unwisely foolish to think otherwise. We can get wrapped up in our own structural wisdom that we completely forget Christ. 
“Don’t you all know that you are God’s holy structure and that God’s Spirit lives within and dwells among all of you?”  As we consider how we ‘do church’ together, Paul would encourage us not to lose sight of the fact that we ARE Church together and God’s spirit dwells there.  That alone should bring us to our knees in awe.     

Prayer
God, we thank you that we don’t have to be the wisest people.
You choose us anyway.  Sometimes more than once as we wander away and you call us back.
Remind us who we are.  Remind us of your Spirit at work within and among us.
Wherever we go, remind us of your presence with us and your love for the people we meet there.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
 
Reflection Copyright Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 19th January 2020

Sun, 19/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Sunday 19th January Psalm 132

1 LORD our God, remember David
and the hardships which he bore.
2 To the Mighty One of Jacob,
to the LORD, this oath he swore:
3 “My house I will never enter;
4 rest and slumber I will shun,
5 Till I find the LORD a dwelling
fit for Jacob’s Mighty One.”

6 This we heard of in Ephrathah,
found it in the fields of Jaar:
7 “Let us hasten to his dwelling,
worship at his footstool there.
8 Rise, O LORD, and dwell among us,
resting with your ark of might!
9 May your priests be clothed with honour;
may your saints sing with delight.”

10 For the sake of your own servant,
David, your appointed one,
Do not turn away your favour
from his own anointed son.
11 God has sworn an oath to David
and he will not turn from it:
“I will choose from your descendants
one who on your throne will sit.

12 “If your sons will keep my covenant
and the statutes I make known,
Surely then shall their descendants
sit for ever on your throne.”
13 For the LORD has chosen Zion—
there he wishes to remain:
14 “Here’s my resting place for ever,
here it pleases me to reign.

15 “I will bless her with abundance;
for her poor much food I’ll bring.
16 I will grant her priests salvation,
and with joy her saints will sing.
17 I will raise a horn for David,
for my chosen one a light.
18 With disgrace his foes I’ll cover;
he’ll be crowned with glory bright.”

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this Psalm to the tune Blaenwern here.



Reflection

Psalm 132 is the longest of the Psalms of Ascent. Many scholars think the Psalms of Ascent were used by Israel especially for the pilgrimage feasts for which large numbers of pilgrims would make their way to Jerusalem for the celebrations.
It may have been used as a kind of liturgical re-enactment in Israel while still under a monarchy.  It first celebrated David’s capture of Jerusalem and then the carrying of the Ark into the city, followed by the rehearsal of God’s promise that one of David’s sons would sit on his throne forever.

The national story of Israel begins with Abram building a primitive altar in Canaan before which to worship God. Israel’s first steps are enstoried as a people who worship the One True God. Later on, as they journey through the wilderness, we are given that Moses erected a portable Tabernacle or “Tent of Meeting”, within which was kept the Ark of the Covenant. Yet King David desperately wanted to build God a “proper home”, though he was not to see it come to pass.

All good religion, I believe, strains towards the future. It is written in hopeful voice and tenses of anticipation. Tales of hardship endured, and overcome, in company with the Lord of Love become the nourishment from which confident hope emerges. 
Sundays bring rest and the occasion to look back at the paths we have followed, recently and in the more distant past. As we gather in our Tents of Meeting today. May we dream and pray and long for a society that is a worthy habitation for the Master of all our hopes - where abundance truly belongs to the poor.

Prayer
 
Journeying God of all nations:
faithful pilgrims on the way to worship at the temple
came from different regions and with
different faith experiences.
In all our worshipping today
may we each have a sturdy sense of anticipation
and an enlivened hope for our world.
 
Master of our best dreams
may your longing be found in us and seen through us in holy action.
Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr John McNeil Scott, Principal of the Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College Copyright
Sing Psalms, (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 18th January 2020

Sat, 18/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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

1 Corinthians 3: 10 - 15

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw —  the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If the work is burned, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.

Reflection

We all hope our churches are based on the foundation of Jesus Christ but what we build on the foundations, Paul warns, will not necessarily be equally wholesome. Each generation chooses to build with gold, silver and precious stones or with wood, hay and straw. The latter will obviously be quicker, cheaper and easier. When the refiner’s fire - to use an Old Testament image for God’s judgement - sweeps through the building it will destroy the cheap combustible materials. The building will crumble back to its foundations. The picture of using gold, silver and precious stones instead introduces an echo of the Temple, the place where the worship of God was central.

Paul is not of course arguing that the church taps should be gold-plated. Those responsible for the taps and much more are challenged about how they are building the church. Our generation likes to look back on past ones and highlight their blind spots, perhaps even pulling down the statues of former heroes. Are we equally humble about the possibility that what we claim is gold will be seen to be straw?

One of the most stimulating and challenging aspects of regular contact with the World Church is to encounter different perspectives on what is of lasting value. Some British Christians seem very quick to decide any advice from another continent can be discounted as merely a result of their misguided culture; such friends do not always recognise how much of what is claimed as important in European churches is seen by a Pacific Islander as a terrible corruption of the Gospel, a result of our culture of individualism and consumerism.  

For Paul, the judgment is for God to make, so we can spend energy not on criticising others’ false gold as much as on examining our own handiwork. We may need to dig down into our foundations rather than assume the fashionable is always golden.

Prayer

Lord God
We want to honour Jesus Christ, the foundation that has already been laid.
We thank you for those who built more good foundations for us.
Give us wisdom to build well on the best of them, resisting the allure of the easy and the quick.
Give us discernment to recognise false gold, however seductively packaged.
And when you come to judge our imperfect efforts, please do it with mercy.
Amen
-->

Today's writer

John Ellis, former Moderator of General Assembly and Secretary of Capel United Church in Kent Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 17th January 2020

Fri, 17/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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

1 Corinthians 3: 1-9

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?  For when one says, ‘I belong to Paul’, and another, ‘I belong to Apollos’, are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labour of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Reflection

Any public speaker knows that there is nothing like a good metaphor to change the way we see the world, and even, some would say, to change the world itself. We all like to hear facts, opinions and stories, but most of us, if we are really to develop our thinking and our being,  are truly shaped by metaphors.

I wonder if we can even begin to estimate how much of our faith world is shaped by the metaphors Paul uses. There are countless ones in his writings even just to describe the church; living stones, a family, betrothed to Christ… These are so familiar to us. And even within these few verses in this letter he has us as infants, milk fed not ready yet for solid food, as seedlings in need of watering, as God’s field, and as God’s building.
 
These particular metaphors show how Paul sees our belonging to Christ as something that will always involve growth and development. Just as babies grow into adults, as seedlings grow and flower, as fields move from seedtime to harvest, and as buildings emerge from their foundations, so following Christ is like an organic process of growth and change. It’s much more like that, you might say, than signing once for all on a dotted line, or being converted from one state to another.

So, on this day, perhaps we might reflect on what growth the Holy Spirit is nurturing in us right now (the word ‘growth’, in this context is of course already a metaphor, if a deeply buried one). If prayer is like sunbathing, then how can we turn our faces towards the energy that will help us to grow in Christ, to grow as human beings?
 
Prayer

O God,
nurturer of my humanity
and tender carer of my flesh and spirit,
give me courage this day
to let myself be grown in you,
that I may become
more fully your creation
and more completely myself,
in the name of Jesus,
on whose path I long to walk.
Amen.
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is Minister of 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.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 16th January 2020

Thu, 16/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Thursday 16th January

1 Corinthians 2: 14 - 16

Those who are unspiritual[e] do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are discerned spiritually.  Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
 ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?’
But we have the mind of Christ.

Reflection

Nicky Gumble shares the story of a South-American au-pair taking the Alpha Course. She got a bit exacerbated by children, running riot in the house. She exclaimed quite passionately: ‘what are you doing, on earth?’ She rather meant: ‘what on earth, are you doing?’ Christians, immersed in the Spirit’s culture, should not be surprised and disheartened that the world around does not understand their beliefs and actions.  Paul makes the challenging point that people who do not have the Spirit of Christ, are alien to Kingdom culture and thus unable to grasp Kingdom realities. Similarly, a blind person cannot fully appreciate a beautiful outfit, and a deaf person cannot give credit to the best symphony.

The church of Corinth was largely made up of gentiles. As their church planter, Paul wanted to equip them to live for Christ and by Christ’s Spirit in a secular and polytheistic society. The previous verses suggest that there are divisions in the congregation because of disagreements over issues such as the message of the Cross. I am also convinced that sharing in the Spirit of Christ increases harmony and unity in relationships.

God’s will can be challenging, demanding and even controversial.  As we seek to honour Christ in all we do, the Spirit can give us the grace to accept God’s will and leading, even when they sound like foolishness to the world around us. To people who struggle to understand the Bible and its relevance for their lives, my advice is to always seek the Spirit’s assistance through prayer before, during and after they read.

When we go through rough seasons of life, when things around us are bewildering, the Spirit of Christ can share God’s wisdom and heart with us, so that we can persevere when others would give up.
 
Prayer

Christ, our way, our truth and our life,
thank you for sharing your heart and mind with us.
In confusion, may your Spirit bring clarity and peace.
In division, bind us together through unity in diversity.
When ridiculed for being faithful to you,
grant us the grace to keep our eyes fixed on you.
When we feel lost and shaken,
may your Spirit be our anchor and compass.
Amen. 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze Yemtsa is a minster in the East Midlands Synod Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 15th January 2020

Wed, 15/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Wednesday 15th January

1 Corinthians 2: 6 - 13

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But, as it is written,
‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him’—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

Reflection

One of the interesting things that sociologists of religion tell us is that people in our society are spiritual but not religious.  Folk are interested in a range of spiritual things but don’t see themselves as religious. All those folk who like mindfulness don’t realise that it’s a form of meditation.  A friend of mine once told me of the Buddhist meditation group he attends (in a former Methodist chapel) where they meditate each week, have a box for donations and a rota for the tea and coffee.  He went on to tell me he wasn’t religious....

Paul talks long and hard about the spiritual realities of life, comparing and contrasting them to the wisdom of the world.  Spiritual truths counter the wisdom of our age - the first don’t want to be last after all. The Lord of Life was put to death as a threat to the status quo.  And yet our people long for spirituality; they don’t dream they will find it in a church.

Maybe that’s because we spend longer talking about pulpit supply, rotas, the building or the budget than we do about the spiritual.  My born again Buddist friend was longing for a spiritual practice, having found it he then mucked in with all the normal stuff.

Perhaps my church might have attracted him if we’d talked more about the things of the Spirit.


Prayer

In you O God
do our hearts find their rest,
in your are our longings stilled,
our hunger sated
and our thirst quenched.
Help us to speak of the truth we live,
that our people might be saved.
Amen.
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston ministers with four churches south of Glasgow in the Synod of Scotland. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 14th January 2020

Tue, 14/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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

1 Corinthians 2: 1 - 5

When I came to you, brothers and sisters,  I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Reflection

Some years ago in, I think, Australia, a group of church-going young people were asked to define some of the Christian jargon that is commonplace in churches. According to them, ‘Redemption’ is what you do with a voucher, ‘salvation’ is an ointment you put on a graze and ‘grace’ is what you say before a meal if you’re having the vicar over for tea.

One of the questions I am often asked as a Children and Youth Development Officer  is “Have you any tips on how to do a children’s address?” to which my answer is always “Keep it simple and avoid jargon”.

You see, whilst WE might think we know what a word or phrase means, we can’t be sure that the listener shares that same understanding. And this is true not just of children in the church but also the adults who are there, too. And the adults who maybe aren’t at church with whom we are tasked to share the Good News.

We can make our faith as difficult and wordy as we want, we can use jargon which actively excludes others, we can be a little clique with in-jokes and our own language… but how does that help us to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

How refreshing that Paul in his letter to the emerging church in Corinth recognised this.

How disappointing that, some two thousand years later, we seem to have forgotten.

Jesus knew what to do – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Prayer

Loving God,
Help us to use language that builds bridges rather than walls
Help us to use language that opens You up, rather than closes You off
Help us to remember to keep it simple.
Amen
-->

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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 13th January 2020

Mon, 13/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Monday 13th January
1 Corinthians 1: 26 - 31

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters:  not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one  might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,  in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’

Reflection

This is the first time I am writing a Devotion; therefore I feel no pressure to write something clever !?!

As I reflect on the words of this passage, I consider first how others see me (the reference to human standards) and how they may not see me as anything special or unique or powerful….as I don’t shout the loudest or strut! But how God uses us time and time again to show or demonstrate something to others.. It may be he that he enables us to be positive in dark times, or to smile and say nothing when we are tempted to say something negative or that he just encourages us to just ‘BE STILL’ (Psalm 46:10) and in that shows others what real patience looks like.  Whatever it is, God chose us; he CHOSE us…..How great is that we are called and chosen to be children of God…. This is a gift that keeps giving, as time and time again, God shows us that he is on our side, bringing us through challenges and difficulties; sometimes in a more triumphant way than we could ever have imagined.

However, the passage also reminds us to be humble and to recognize that we must not become boastful; not easy when things are going well or when you are being held up by others or when you get that job or that partner or win that prize. 

We are reminded that God is our centre and we are reminded that IF we are to boast, we must boast recognising who chose us; who made us whole; who continues to be faithful, who is  always kind, who works through us.. As the passage says ‘we must boast in the Lord’.

Prayer 

Father God, how awesome you are, and 
How Humble we should be; 
But sometimes that isn’t easy when things are going very well.
Lord, please remind us to focus on you; to keep you at the centre; to boast IN you;
Always remembering the gift of life and love that you have given us as HIS children; making us whole, joyful and secure.
And in this way we are able to bring more people to your Kingdom planting seeds of joy and goodness across the world.
-->

Today's writer

Alexandra Priddy (nee Bediako), Elder and Children's Church Leader, Trinity Mill Hill URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 12th January 2020

Sun, 12/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Sunday 12th January Psalm 131
 

1 My heart’s not proud, O LORD,
nor haughty is my eye;
I do not occupy myself
with things too great or high.

2 My spirit I have calmed;
my heart is pacified.
My soul is like a little child
close to its mother’s side.

Just like a little child
my soul is calmed in me.
3 O Isr’el, hope in God the LORD
now and eternally.

Reflection

This short Psalm, thought to have been written by David, has a wealth of meaning for all of us who lead busy full, lives. There is humility and gentleness of spirit, and a true sense of being at peace and rest in the one who is our hope, the Lord God Almighty.

There is a beautiful sense of simplicity and childlike trust rather than always trying to make life more complicated than it really is. Our society does seem to dictate the opposite and these observations consequently appear so refreshing and life-giving. Such is not taking on too many things that might cause confusion, or in fact make our faith in the Lord more complex than it should be. Rather than deepening our theological intensity, it is more importantly developing our own awareness of God himself. Perhaps it sounds too simplistic in this day and age?

But how is it that David, whose life was not what one could call uncomplicated, can write such words which convey such peace and rest? The secret seems to be in the calmed and quiet spirit to which he testifies, something which he has had to cultivate through his relationship with his God which brings such a wonderful contentment in life. There is a striving not to be tearing around like the proverbial, but instead being like the cosily, comfortably contented, peaceful and replete child, nestling in his Mother’s arms after a satisfying and adequate feed, not having a care in the world.

The question to us is how do we indeed achieve a similar close, restful feeling in our spirits, when life is anything but calm and collected? Maybe the secret is found in other psalms of inspiration from David, such as “He leads me beside still waters” (23:2) and “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him?” (37:7)

Prayer

Drop Thy still dews of quietness
till all our strivings cease.
Take from our lives the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess,
the beauty of Thy peace.
Lord, warm ours hearts to yours,
that resting in you,
peace, calm and contentment
may become the hallmarks of our lives in you.
 
-->

Today's writer

Verena  Walder Lay Preacher and Local Church Leader at Tabernacle URC,  Mumbles. Copyright
Sing Psalms, (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh. EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 11th January 2020

Sat, 11/01/2020 - 08:41
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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

I Corinthians 1: 18 - 25

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Reflection

They liked playing mind games, those ancient Greeks – they called it philosophy, the love of wisdom: well, at any rate, the men in the leisured classes did as Paul had found on his visit to Athens. Paul seems to have tried to share their approach, offering them something new. It was quite interesting for an hour or two, but not life-changing. But it was life-changing that was Paul’s mission and his letter to the Christians in Corinth suggests that he had taken a very different approach when he had moved on to their city, seemingly targeting a very different set of people – “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.”

In our tradition we have valued a “learned ministry” and understandably so because to grow in our Christian faith we need to move beyond bland baby food. But Paul’s experience, and the experience of Christian leaders of every generation, shows us that playing mind games may entertain and develop interest for a while, but will not change lives. Dr John Short (a former minister of Richmond Hill Church, Bournemouth) wrote, “True eloquence is not of the schools: it is the offspring of a spirit that is impassioned by some great message that has laid hold of it, possessed it, and made it the instrument through which the message is uttered …. Paul learned that it was hopeless to attempt to get in touch with the reality of God by philosophy as the Greeks of his day understood it.”

So, Paul could write, “we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles … For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”

Is this the Gospel we preach?
 
Prayer

When I survey the wondrous Cross,
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
 
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

Isaac Watts
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood United Reformed Church Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 10th January 2020

Fri, 10/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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

I Corinthians 1: 10 - 17

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose.  For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’  Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

Reflection

We are all different, we are individuals and often see things differently.  As Christians we need to be united in what really matters. As a lay preacher I go to many different churches and each has its own traditions and characteristics.  What matters is that they all should be following the truth in Scripture and worship the one true God. 

A new minister was surprised when during the first part of every service the congregation all sat on the left side of the church and during the second hymn, they all moved to the other side.  He asked a few elders about this and eventually it was explained that the only heating used to be a fire on the left side, so they sat near it but as it burned brighter it became too hot so they moved away.  Despite having a new central heating the tradition continued. 

This might be a slightly ridiculous story but sometimes we can cling to ideas that have no relevance today and no foundation in the truth in Scripture.  How many churches and members do things because it has always been done that way, rather than because It is the right way? By following such ideas we run the risk of following the modern equivalents of Apollos or Cephas rather than the simple truth from Jesus.

Paul was warning against anything becoming more important than the truth that the power lies in the cross of Christ.  We can follow the example of the early Scottish Congregationalists who held that every congregation is united in their faith, hope, and obedience to the gospel.  As the United Reformed Church we should all strive to be united in Jesus and to follow His teachings, as individuals and as a church.

Prayer

Loving God,
We thank you for the truth that we can find in scripture,
We thank you that we have your Holy Spirit with us to help us understand as we read your word.
We ask you to help us see what matters and lead us to the paths of truth,
Protect us from false ideas and doctrines but keep us on the path that Jesus shows us

Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

John Collings, Lay Preacher, member of Rutherglen URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 9th January 2020

Thu, 09/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Thursday 9th January
1 Corinthians 1: 4 - 9

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus,  for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


Reflection

Who am I? How do I know who I am? The question of how we understand ourselves and our identity is hugely complex. Tomes of sociological and psychological theory have been written addressing this topic. Most basically, identity is tied up with what we believe about ourselves and about the world around us. 

Paul’s opening remarks to the Corinthians are interesting, because he is writing to a community wrought with division and in crisis about what they believed and as a result who they understood themselves to be. Anyone who’s ever experienced a crisis of identity will know it can be a pretty destabilising experience.

Rather than open with criticism and condemnation, Paul affirms the Corinthians’ worth by thanking God for them. But he does this by thanking God for who they find themselves to be in the light of God’s grace and in Christ Jesus, which sounds a bit like a backhanded compliment. In fact, what Paul seems to be doing is reminding them that their identity is rooted in God and in God’s provision to them. 

I’m reminded of some words attributed to Archbishop Justin Welby, when in 2016 he made the shock discovery that the man who he believed to be his father was not in fact his biological father. He said, “I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes”. 

In contemporary life, there are umpteen voices that will seek to tell us who we are – advertisers, public policy decision makers, political propagandists dare I say it (as I write we are in the midst of the general election campaign). We also see the impact of social media on shaping our young peoples’ identities. 

Sometimes, we too face destabilising crises of identity just like the Corinthians. But I take comfort in Justin Welby’s words which seem to echo Paul’s 2,000-year-old sentiments, “I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ… and my identity in him never changes.'' 

Prayer

Loving God,
Thank you for your love. 
A love that is rock-solid and unchanging. 
In times when we struggle with our beliefs,
Or knowing who we are,
Help us to remember the firm foundation
That you have offered us, 
In the love of Christ Jesus, our Lord and our brother. 
Amen.  -->

Today's writer

Jonnie Hill, Ordinand at Northern College and member of Chorlton Central Church in Manchester Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 8th January 2020

Wed, 08/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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

1 Corinthians 1: 1 - 3

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection

‘… and our brother Sosthenes.’

In my Bible they have given this letter a title. Apparently, it’s The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, but what about Sosthenes? His name is right there with Paul’s, at the letter’s beginning. Was he just the scribe, writing whatever Paul dictated? (At the end of the letter Paul announces that the last few words are in his own handwriting.) If so, it’s strange to give Sosthenes such a prominent mention.

Maybe he’s there to provide visible support for Paul, to validate his message. After all, Sosthenes is “one of their own”. He’s someone who knew from painful personal experience the challenges facing followers of Jesus in this bustling Greek city-port (Acts 18:17).

Just imagine being part of that group of Corinthian Christians, listening to the newly arrived letter.

“What do Sosthenes and Paul want to say to us? You know, I’ve never been entirely sure about Paul but if Sosthenes thinks he’s ok …”

“They say we’re the ‘Church of God’ in this place. This local group is God’s Church. We belong to God.”

“They say, we’re ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.’ Jesus has made / is making us into a holy people.”

“They say, we’re not the only saints. There are ‘saints in every place [who] call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.’ There’s little church and big Church, and we’re a part of all that.”

“Well, we seem to be on the same page there, so let’s hear what else they have to say. Yes, grace and peace to you too, Sosthenes (and to you, Paul), from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Prayer

Gracious God, I thank you,
For my local church which is your Church;
For the impact of Jesus Christ upon me and others;
For all your saints, past and present,
Not forgetting Sosthenes, Paul, and the Corinthian Christians,
Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Trevor Jamison, Minister, St Columba’s URC, North Shields Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 7th January 2020

Tue, 07/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Tuesday 7th January The Holy Family As Refugees 

St Matthew 2: 13 - 15

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

Reflection

In recent years it has become customary to state that if the 3 wise men had been 3 wise women they would have: arrived on time, brought a casserole and cleaned the stable.  This was in reaction to the old fashioned understanding of the gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold as grave goods.  

In fact these are gifts as practical as the casserole.  Frankincense is, among other uses, an air freshener. When our older daughter was a teething baby an active ingredient in the gel we rubbed on was myrrh.  (By the time our younger daughter arrived it was known that myrrh can cause liver disease.) Frankincense and myrrh are both practical gifts in the circumstances and maybe any surplus can be used for bargaining.  And gold?  

Something had to be used to pay the bills for a long term stay in Bethlehem.  Somehow this poor carpenter was having to work his socks off to afford it all.  

Then, the worrying news brought by the visitors, confirmed in a dream, of Herod’s interest.  Not much time to consider what to do, only a reason to go. Familiar images of terrified people walking dry, dusty roads surely form in our mind’s eye.  A gift of gold turned out to be better than a lottery win for it was an acceptable medium of exchange for displaced people about to be thrust across countries as refugees.  A gift at the right time, it turned out.  

Matthew simply states their refugee status as fulfilling a prophecy.  We recognise so many modern situations, for individuals, families and nations within it, the suffering, loss of place and livelihood.  There is a short prose poem, though too long to quote here, about the judgement at the end of world. You can search for “The Long Silence” here.

Prayer

Lord, when we wonder what gifts to give, give us understanding,
when we wonder about unexpected interest, give us insight,
when we are undecided about a course of action, give us direction.
Amen 
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Browning, retired minister, member of Thornbury URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 6th January 2020

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Monday 6th January  The Visit of the Magi 


St Matthew 2: 1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.”’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Reflection

Charles Causley’s poem ‘Innocents song’ ends with this warning:

 ‘Watch where he comes walking
out of the Christmas flame,
dancing, double-talking:
Herod is his name’.

I do not come as an innocent, or wise man to this story. My familiarity with it has a dream like quality, infused with long memories of presentations of the story dressed up for children in church.

But this is not a story for my entertainment. King Herod is a homicidal despot whose reign, sustained by violence, enforced compliance to his will. Perhaps he was a psychopath - by turns charming and threatening – depending on what was advantageous. Such leaders are still to be found today.

Nor are the diligent searchers from the east a vehicle for gorgeous costumes to be admired. They are travellers exhausted from a long search, which might, or might not, have a successful conclusion. They travel in faith, which is not the same as certainty. T.S. Eliot well captures this: “A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year for a journey, and such a journey…”

A report of foreign astrologers passing through Herod’s territory would be more than ordinarily interesting to the King. Gaining their confidence, he extracts their mission from them. Meantime, Herod’s further research fuels his mounting paranoia. He makes his visitors promise to tell him of their mission’s success. Herod too wants to pay his respects.

The royal court of the baby, very different from that of Herod’s palace; brings the magi ‘overwhelming joy’, and the giving of their symbolic gifts to the child. Reflecting on their promise to Herod – the magi decide not to keep it – discreetly making their way home.

May this Epiphany bring you joy and wisdom, gifts the Christ child gives us for our living.

Prayer

Gracious God
we have read and heard
the story of your Son’s coming
amongst us so often that
it is easy not to pause in
wonder and adoration.
Open our hearts and minds
to accept your gift to us:
the one whose coming
brings fresh hope and life
to our tired world,
and refreshment to our souls.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d John A Young, retired minister of the Synod of Scotland and member of Giffnock URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 5th January 2020

Sun, 05/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Sunday 5th January Psalm 130 

1 LORD, from the depths I call to you;
2 Lord, hear me from on high
And give attention to my voice
when I for mercy cry.

3 LORD, in your presence who can stand,
if you our sins record?
4 But yet forgiveness is with you,
that we may fear you, LORD.

5 I wait—my soul waits—for the LORD;
my hope is in his word.
6 More than the watchman waits for dawn
my soul waits for the Lord.

7 O Isr’el, put your hope in God,
for mercy is with him
8 And full redemption. From their sins
his people he’ll redeem.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the tune Martyrdom here.

Reflection

This is one of the Psalms of Ascent.  Having just returned from the URC’s visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I have a new understanding of ascent – who knew Jerusalem was so hilly!?

It speaks to the (mistaken) idea that God is waiting for us to trip up, to get things wrong and so to judge us.  Let’s face it, if that were the case, we’d probably all be in trouble. But that is not God; God’s default position is to forgive and to respond to our sin with grace.  Thank God!

In this Psalm we meet, not a God who imposes his will by force, but one who makes himself vulnerable by being in relationship with us imperfect humans.  For despite all our faults and failings, we wait on the Lord in the steadfast hope of his redeeming forgiveness and in that forgiveness, we receive freedom to live as children of God.

This Psalm could have been written for the Palestinian Christians living and working in the West Bank who are crying out for justice.  It speaks to their condition as humans who are ‘in the depths’, they are in distress and drowning in a situation not of their making, and over which they have no control; armed checkpoints and a 26ft wall dominate their lives.  They are in need of a liberating, rescuing, redemption – they are in need of God’s saving love. 

Yet despite their situation, many of those we met remain hopeful, they were welcoming, showed generous hospitality and all they asked in return was, ‘tell our story’.  Their stories need to be heard so if you’ve not already, please speak to your synod rep who went on the trip. And remember the psalmist’s words, ‘from the depths I call to you; Lord, hear me’.

Prayer:

Creator God,
You call to us in our dark places and invite us to new life.
When we feel lost and hopeless you surprise us with your saving love.
May we be signs of your love and life for all those we meet as we walk the way and live the life of Jesus today.  Amen  -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Branwen Rees, East Wales Regional Minister Copyright
Sing Psalms! Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 4th January 2020

Sat, 04/01/2020 - 06:15
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Saturday 4th January  Arise and Shine

Isaiah 60: 1 - 6

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and look around;
    they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
    and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
    your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
    the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
    the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
    all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
    and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

Reflection

The liturgical season that Isaiah 60 inaugurates is a season of revelation.  Epiphany, in the Early Church, was not about the arrival of the Magi but the revelation of Jesus Christ at his baptism, to the whole world as God’s only and beloved child. Epiphany is God’s self-revelation to the world, the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. It was one of the three major feasts of the liturgical calendar around which faith communities organized the rhythms of their life: Easter, Epiphany, Pentecost (not Christmas or a Nativity scene or Magi!).

Current thinking is that this passage is situated in the sixth century BCE as the exiles returned to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, a major conflict had arisen between those who remained and those who returned. Living conditions were extremely difficult. Jerusalem was in ruins. The people were now divided again - not against some outside threat or enemy, but among themselves.

Chapters 58 and 59 are characterized by gloom, by despair, by a call to repentance.  They are also marked by a yearning for light and glory to come.

The opening line of Isaiah 60 is like a thunderbolt of glory.  What surprises is the abruptness of the shift from doom and gloom to light and glory. God erupts!  He arises and shines forth in glory! God’s glory in the Hebrew Scripture is always God’s presence. God’s presence, His very own face, is designated by glory. God does not possess glory -- God is glory.

Now this glory and light arises among the people.  It is the Lord who arises among them, giving what the Lord gives: life and salvation.  But this giving is not just for the remnant of Israel, it is not just for those who have returned from exile, but for all the nations.  Now, all the nations will come to the Lord. Just as in Isaiah 6, the Temple could not contain the glory now also here, the people of Israel cannot contain it.   The presence of God expands outwards toward the whole cosmos. Thanks be to God.

Prayer

Brilliant God, we frequently wander around in deep, dull darkness.  
Lord, we ask that we may be illuminated by your grace and love.  
Let us radiate and reflect the brilliance of your light.  
Shine through us, so that we may share you with others.   
In Jesus name we pray, Amen -->

Today's writer

Ann Barton, member at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod) Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 3rd January 2020

Fri, 03/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Friday 3rd January  Our real homeland
 
Hebrews 11: 13 - 22

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’  He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, ‘bowing in worship over the top of his staff.’  By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial.

Reflection

If there is one hymn we are bound to sing at least once during the coming year, it is ‘Who would true valour see’ (Rejoice and Sing 557), or a translation on the theme. It is a hymn dear to many, and is frequently sung at funerals, or at Remembrance-tide. It affects our psyche as we think of our forebears who were also travelling on a journey, on a pilgrimage of their own. Written by an imprisoned John Bunyan, the poem/hymn forms part of Part II of Pilgrim’s Progress.

The inspiration for the hymn came from Hebrews 11:13, our reading today. In the Epistle, the writer gives examples of the faith of certain historical Biblical figures: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Moses. It is within Abraham’s section that we hear the immortal words of the Authorised Version ‘and they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth’.

This is important, because we must remember and give thanks that this world is not all there is. At the heart of Christianity is the beating belief that, regardless of the apparent finality of death, there is something beyond, something still to come. For us pilgrims to understand fully would be impossible: as with so much of theology, it is trying to put into human terms things understood only by God. 

However, we can take comfort from these lines of Scripture. It is these fellow pilgrims who built churches of which we are a part, it is they who inspired our forebears, and who inspired us. 

We, in turn, will one day become the saintly building blocks on which others can build their faith. 

In years and decades to come, when others look back on our lives, I hope and pray they will say:

They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth… they desired a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. 

Prayer

Put thou thy trust in God,
so safe shalt thou go on,
walk in His strength with faith and hope,
so shall thy work be done.
Give to the winds thy fears,
hope, and be undismayed,
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head. 

Paul Gerhardt (1607 - 1676) tr. John Wesley (1703 - 1791) Rejoice and Sing #550 -->

Today's writer

Michael RJ Topple, Lay Pastoral Assistant of Long Melford URC, Lay Preacher and member of Chappel URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 2nd January 2020

Thu, 02/01/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd January 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Thursday 2nd January  The Meaning of Faith 

Hebrews 11: 1-12

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable] sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and ‘he was not found, because God had taken him.’ For it was attested before he was taken away that ‘he had pleased God.’  And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, ‘as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.’

Reflection

Another New Year begins. The past year with its yearnings, hopes, and fears is at an end. A new day is about to dawn. Or is it? Anticipation of what is to come still brings with it anxiety about some of the difficult things that have happened and might yet be repeated.

The passage from Hebrews brings with it a significant reminder of the role of faith in life’s journey. Faith is not a generalized or abstract concept but is embodied by reference to particular people for whom faith has been key to their life’s journey.

The start of a New Year is a helpful time to reflect back on all that has happened over the previous year and to make resolutions for what lies ahead in the coming year. But resolutions can be of the moment, lamented over in a week or two as being too difficult to implement, or forgotten in a month or two.

The stories of people of faith come as an encouraging reminder of the God who is with us for the long term, however much we might fail and falter on the way. This God sustains us through good times and bad.

When I’m tempted to look to the future and think that all is lost, that I can’t see where new light will come from, I remember the stories of the faithful people of God, from scriptural times to the present. These people have persevered against the odds, including Abraham and Sarah, who didn’t know what lay in front of them, but trusted in the one who called them, and in this trust bore fruit.

As I start this New Year, I pray for this kind of trust to be fruitful in my life in the year that lies ahead.
 
Prayer

Gracious God
as I start this New Year,
open my eyes to see you in all things.
Grant me the trust to live day by day in your way.
Gift me with the hope to see hidden possibilities that you hold in store.
When I feel I don’t know where I’m going,
remind me of those who have travelled faithfully in your way,
not knowing where you would lead them.
Thank you for the gift of faith.
Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, past Moderator of URC General Assembly, member of St Andrews URC Ealing. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

Pages