URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion Monday 28th September 2020 Colossians - Christ alone is head

7 hours 32 min ago
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 28th September 2020

 Colossians - Christ alone is head

Colossians 2: 9 - 15

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority.  In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.  And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses,  erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

Reflection

This passage on first reading can be somewhat confusing and baffling!  It also seems very focused on physical things and the physicality of Christ and its spiritual parallels and one can get a little bogged down in it all.  Indeed C.F.D.Mould, in his commentary, suggests 5 different attempts at unravelling this. We also need to have an understanding of the ‘mindset’ of the Colossians Paul is writing to which is probably more Jewish in background than other communities. Therefore the discussion about circumcision is of more relevance than a more Gentile church. That is not to say the Gentiles are also not included in this passage ‘God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses’ - it depends where you put the emphasis ‘he forgave us all’ or ‘all our trespasses’.  Yet if we get too bogged down we may miss the three essentials: Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection.  It echoes the theme of the earlier chapter, ’through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’.  It is this great wonder of our faith that God has chosen to be us, love us so much to die for us and in the empty tomb promise us that peace and justice will prevail.  No ruler or authority can ever compete with the selfless love of God in Christ Jesus.  They think they have power and indeed many rulers have, do and will continue to do horrific things to their fellow human beings but that is not and never will be the final word. 

We are reconciled people and called to be people of reconciliation in our lives. We are in Christ and Christ is in us; may God continue to work in and through us to his glory.

Prayer

Generous God we thank you that in being reconciled to you we find our peace and our ‘home’.  May we strive to bring peace and reconciliation into our homes, communities and world.
 
We pray for all who, today, will be unjustly treated or killed.  May we dare to speak out against injustice.
 
Incarnate, crucified, and living God we ask these prayers through Jesus Christ. Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Hilary Collinson is one of the ministers serving the Tees and Swale 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.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 27th September

Sun, 27/09/2020 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 27th September 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 Devotion Worship
for
Sunday 27th September 2020
 
The Rev’d Branwen Rees
 



Introduction
 
Hello, my name is Branwen Rees and I am a United Reformed Church minister serving as East Wales Regional Minister.  This covers an area from Llanvaches to the east and Brynmawr in the west, and I have pastoral charge of 3 particular churches, Cwmbran URC, Ebenezer URC in Pontnewynydd and Sardis Chapel in Ynysddu which is a URC and Presbyterian Church in Wales ecumenical partnership. I am recording this in the study of my manse in Pontypool, looking out on a lovely view of my drive! So, let us worship God together.
 
Call To Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,
Many:       God says, “Come out.”
One:         To all who are living in darkness,
Many:       God says, “Show yourselves”
 
One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:       God gives food and springs of water.
 
One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us, we are inscribed
                on the palms of His hands.
 
Hymn:      At The Name of Jesus
                Caroline M Noel (1870)
 
At the name of Jesus
ev'ry knee shall bow,
ev'ry tongue confess Him
King of glory now.
'Tis the Father's pleasure
we should call him Lord,
who from the beginning
was the mighty Word.
 
2:  Humbled for a season
to receive a name
from the lips of sinners
unto whom he came,
faithfully he bore it
spotless to the last,
brought it back victorious,
when from death he passed.
 
3 Since then, this Lord Jesus
shall return again,
with his Father's glory,
with his angel train;
for all wreaths of empire
meet upon his brow,
and our hearts confess him
King of glory now.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Eternal God and Father, you are the source of all life, the fount of all wisdom, the wellspring of all grace.
 
Your days are without end, your loving mercies without number.
We depend on you: and we remember your goodness to us and to those who have gone before us.
 
We tell you story in every generation:
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
God of Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel,
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
God of a pilgrim people, your Church.
You are our God, ahead of us, leading us, guiding us and calling us:
you are the Lord God, the all-wise, the all-compassionate.
 
Yet Lord, despite all you have done for us
we confess that we have rebelled against you
and broken your law of love.
We have not loved our neighbours
nor heard the cry of the needy.
Forgive us, we pray,
and free us for joyful obedience;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen
 
And so let us share together in the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord’s Prayer, the family prayer …
 
Our Father...
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
As we hear words of Scripture, may our hearts and minds be open to new thoughts, new ideas and new feelings as the Spirit moves us.  Amen
 
Reading  Philippians 2:1-13
 
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
 who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
 but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
     he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.
 Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
 
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
 
Hymn:      Meekness and Majesty
                Graham Kendrick
 
Meekness and majesty
manhood and deity
in perfect harmony
the Man who is God;
Lord of eternity
dwells in humanity
kneels in humility
and washes our feet.

O what a mystery, meekness and majesty.
Bow down and worship for this is your God.
This is your God

2: Father's pure radiance
perfect in innocence
yet learns obedience
to death on a cross.
Suffering to give us life
conquering through sacrifice
and as they crucify
prays “Father forgive.”
 
3: Wisdom unsearchable,
God the invisible;
love indestructible
in frailty appears.
Lord of infinity,
stooping so tenderly,
lifts our humanity
to the heights of His throne.
 
Sermon
 
I’m sure anyone who has an older brother or sister knows what it is like to live in their shadow.  It may be constantly being compared to them or at the very least being called by their name!  When I was in my first year of Grammar School one of my teachers called me Bethan (my sister’s name, who is five years older than me).  I must have pulled a face or something and this teacher turned around and said I will just have to get used to being compared to Bethan.  When I told my mum what had happened, within a couple of weeks I had moved school.  You see, my sister and I, although close, are very different people and my Mum realised that even at a young age, I needed to find my own place in the world.

It is not easy to be considered a clone of someone else so I can’t imagine what it is like if you are an identical twin!  But is this what Paul is expecting of us, ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus’?
 
This passage of Scripture is perhaps one of the best known and best loved of Paul’s many letters; and it’s not just the words, there is something rhythmical about it.  There are different ideas about its origins including that Paul adapted a hymn from an earlier non-Christian composition.  Whatever its origins it has become an important passage but if I’m honest, I try to avoid preaching on it, why?  Quite simply because it is so wonderfully overwhelming that I fear I can never do it justice.
 
Yet when I think about it, it’s not the words I should worry about, I’m more concerned about not being able to do justice to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and let’s face it, I will never be able to do that with a mere few words of a sermon!
 
But still, it doesn’t matter if I can’t do justice, I just need to try and try and keep trying.  I won’t get it right all the time, I probably won’t get it right most of the time, but still I keep trying.  Because we are called to be imitators, to do our best in following the ways of Jesus.
And perhaps that is the key, we are called to be imitators, not clones or impersonators.  We are called to imitate the ways of Jesus.  In the same way we learn by copying others, whether it’s learning to write or drive, we learn by copying and so we learn to have the same mind that is in Christ Jesus by copying his ways.
 
But gosh, it’s hard.
 
After all what did Jesus do?  Jesus went to the places that we are generally loath to visit.  He went and partied with those society had rejected; he sat down to eat with collaborators and criminals he touched those who could contaminate him.  At a time of Covid 19 I’m sure if that doesn’t scare us then it certainly unnerves us.
 
You see we are respectable church communities, we may say we want to be like Jesus, but when it comes to it, it’s all a bit overwhelming so let’s just stick with what we know and what we are comfortable with.
Let the same mind be in us as was in Christ – that mind should be in all our relations – with God, with our neighbours and ourselves.  That mind is one of obedience, humility and service.  Three words which may be considered old fashioned.  When we think of these 3 words what spring to mind?  Someone who is a bit of a pushover, who you can walk all over.  That’s hardly something we should aim for, is it?  But then would you say Jesus was someone you could walk all over – it’s certainly not how the Scribes and Pharisees viewed him – if it was, would they have gone to all the bother of having him arrested, tried and crucified?
 
When we imitate Christ, church fellowships can be places of welcome and nourishment, of support and encouragement but such fellowships can also be places where people are hurt and damaged.  A few years ago, there was a falling out in the church I was attending.  It was over something very trivial, but things came to a head and a number of people left the fellowship.  When I was recounting this story to a non-church friend she was stunned.  ‘I thought people who go to church were supposed to be nice’ she said.  And it struck me then that churches often accept behaviour that would not be tolerated in any other organisation.  Why is that?  Are we so desperate to retain members that we let bullying and other such behaviour go unchallenged?  If so, then we are not imitating Christ.
 
Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians as so unlike your Christ’.  Admittedly he said this in the face of occupation and his struggle to free his people but still it should strike a chord with us.  How like Christ are we?
I wonder if Paul was using this hymn to condemn self-serving, individualistic behaviour.  But rather than tell them off he reminds them of what event created and defined their way of life.  Whatever the issues were in the church in Philippi, whether it was a major disagreement or the usual pettiness, he responds not with a big answer but with a creed, a hymn, a confession of faith.  We would do well to remember these words when the pettiness of church disputes raise their ugly heads.
 
You see Jesus is not about status, or power or ambition, or winning the argument.  No, Jesus is about being concerned with the interest of others, ‘having the same mind … the same love’.
 
Yet how many of us can honestly say we have taken on the self-giving mantle of Jesus Christ.  There are notable examples you could say Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Martin Niemoeller (although I’m sure they had their faults) and I’m sure others will come to mind but they may well be few and far between.  Perhaps too often as Christians we have skipped the self-emptying of Jesus, taking on the role of a servant part, and gone straight to the exaltation part.
 
As a community of Christians perhaps we need to go back to the basics of our faith and try to be more Christ like.  How about that age old, and perhaps overused, question, WWJD or what would Jesus do?  Are we afraid to ask the question because we know the answer lies in humility and service and vulnerability?  Jesus embodies the answer – love, compassion, encouragement, and fellowship.
 
John Wesley once described Christianity as a ‘social religion’ and so our response to the gospel should never simply be between us and God – we live our faith in community – the Trinity shows us that.  This year we’ve had to learn to practice our faith in a new way – in community, just not physically.  It’s not been easy, but we have found new and different ways to give expression to our faith, in fact anecdotal evidence suggests that people have engaged with online worship and prayer who would not normally enter our buildings.  There may be something to learn from that.
 
What we do know is that when Christians take Christ’s teaching seriously, they become light in the darkness.  And we now know how to do that for Paul is telling us, ‘this is the gospel, this is what God is like, this is what God has done for you and this is what God expects you to be like.  So go work out what that means for you.’  We have seen how that works in practice - we have seen how churches who minister to those on the margins have brought light and hope to many during desperate times.  Foodbanks, night-shelters, advice centres, so many examples.
 
Yes, we may fail in following Jesus’ footsteps but still, God’s grace is there to save us.  As we declare Jesus Christ as Lord and strive to follow in his footsteps, we can be assured that his way is God’s way and the final victory will be his.  Think of it, when Paul was writing, Christianity was a small sect in the ancient world and yet he confidently proclaimed that ‘every tongue’ would confess Jesus Christ as Lord.  We can take heart from these words as I’m sure the early church did, after all 2000 years on, ok, not every tongue may proclaim Jesus as Lord, but with an estimated 2 billion followers, almost a third of the world’s population, Paul’s prediction is doing quite well!
 
But what does it mean for us to acknowledge Jesus as Lord?  This one statement upends our assumptions of God, it is radical because when we confess Jesus as Lord we should not be looking for status or power – which I fear all too often happens in our churches (and has always happened).  Jesus certainly didn’t – washing the disciples’ feet, serving and not being served; born in weakness and vulnerability and accepting poverty and humility. 
 
We are being challenged to give up the trappings of material success, our striving after positions of prestige, and all those things by which we seek to build up our feelings of self-worth. Paul is encouraging us to put our faith in God and to live by the values and lifestyle of Jesus, to free us from the treadmill of reliance on what is in the end a false confidence.
 
For when we put aside self-interest and self-obsession and take on the needs and pains and hopes of others then we will begin to know what Paul meant by having the same mind as Christ.  We will know God is at work in us as we become imitators of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 
So, let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.  Amen
 
Hymn:      Jesus is Lord, Creation’s Voice Proclaims It
                David Mansell  ©1982 Springtide/Word Music
 
Jesus is Lord!
Creation’s voice proclaims it.
For by His power
each tree and flower
was planned and made.
Jesus is Lord!
The universe declares it;
sun, moon and stars in heaven
cry: Jesus is Lord!

Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord!
Praise Him with ‘Hallelujahs’, for Jesus is Lord!
     
2: Jesus is Lord!
Yet from His throne eternal
in flesh He came
to die in pain
on Calvary ’s tree.
Jesus is Lord!
From Him all life proceeding,
yet gave His life a ransom
thus setting us free.
 
3: Jesus is Lord!
O’er sin the mighty conqueror,
from death He rose
and all His foes
shall own His name.
Jesus is Lord!
God sends His Holy Spirit
to show by works of power
that Jesus is Lord.

Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history. God is our life.
 
We believe in God’s Son,
born amongst the poor, light in our night,
first-born from the dead. He is alive.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives birth to the new life of God,
who breathes life into the struggle for justice,
who leads us to hope. Who is a living force.
 
We believe in the holy universal Church,
herald of the Good News
which frees people and brings new life.
We believe in the coming of a new world
where Jesus Christ, our Lord, will be all in all. Amen.
 
Offertory
 
Although we may still be meeting separately, we remain the Church, the Body of Christ.  Part of our responsibility to the Body is our giving, whether through our time, our talents, or our money.  During months of lockdown you may have been giving through cheque, standing order or bank transfer.  Or you may have continued to give by putting money in your envelopes each week.  However you are giving, thank you and let us pray:
 
Generous God all we have has come from you and so we give just a little back: our money, but also our time, our talents, our very lives.  We ask you to bless both the gift and giver through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
We come together for our prayers of intercession, our prayers for the world and those with whom we share it.
 
Loving Lord, we are living in strange and uncertain times.  It feels as if everything we were sure of now fills us with fear and doubt.  Yet throughout it all you remain constant, the great unchangeable I AM.
 
Still there is much in our world that we would want to pray for.
We pray for those working on the frontline, especially in our NHS and those working towards a cure and a vaccine for Covid 19.
 
We remember all those people and professions who previously we may have taken for granted.  We pray that this new-found respect continues even as our lives return to some normality.  We think especially of our shopworkers, delivery drivers and refuse collectors and many, many more.
 
We bring before you those areas of the world which have largely disappeared from our screens, replaced by news closer to home: continued fighting in Syria and Yemen and Libya; refugees and asylum seekers who have been particularly affected by the pandemic; the proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank by Israel.
 
We think of the homeless in our own towns and cities.  We remember how accommodation has been found for them during the height of the virus and pray that this may be the beginning of the end of rough sleeping.
 
We pray for those who usually sit next to us, in front of us and behind us. Although distanced, may we feel each other’s presence in our lives.  
 
We spend a moment in silence, recalling those we know who particularly need our prayers at this time ...
 
Lord, we pray that the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus so we can go and be your agents of change in the world.  Amen
 
Hymn:      Bring Forth the Kingdom
                Marty Haugen © 1997 GIA Publications, Inc.
 
You are salt for the earth, O people:
salt for the Kingdom of God!
Share the flavour of life, O people:
life in the Kingdom of God!

Bring forth the Kingdom of mercy,
Bring forth the Kingdom of peace;
Bring forth the Kingdom of justice,
Bring forth the City of God!

2: You are a light on the hill, O people:
light for the City of God!
Shine so holy and bright, O people:
shine for the Kingdom of God!
 
3: You are a seed of the Word, O people:
bring forth the Kingdom of God!
Seeds of mercy and seeds of justice,
grow in the Kingdom of God!
 
4: We are a blest and a pilgrim people:
bound for the Kingdom of God!
Love our journey and love our homeland:
love is the Kingdom of God! 
 
Blessing
 
As this time of worship comes to an end and you return to the duties and responsibilities of the world: may the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus and may the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds as you serve God in the world.  Amen
 
 Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness taken from the Methodist Worship Book: Second Service.
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France.
All other liturgical material by Branwen Rees.
 
At the Name of Jesus – BBC’s Songs of Praise.
Meekness and Majesty Graham Kendrick © Thankyou Music, Thank You Music Ltd. Sung by the author and congregation on Songs of Praise.
Jesus is Lord sung by Gareth Moore, Isle of Man Methodist Church
Bring Forth the Kingdom, Marty Haugen, from the Album Anthology II
 
Organ Pieces Opening: Lobt Gott Ihr Christen (“Praise God ye Christians”) by Johann Gottfried Walther (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020). Closing: Toccata from Suite Gothique by Leon Boëllman (organ of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham – 2016).  Played by Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to John Wilcox, Marion Thomas, John Young, Lorriane Webb, and Anne Hewling for recording various parts of the service and to the choir of Barrhead URC for recording the Lord’s Prayer.  Thanks to  Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
  --> 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

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 27th September 2020 Psalm 16

Sun, 27/09/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Sunday 27th September 2020 Psalm 16 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 27th September Psalm 16 

1 Protect me, God, I trust in You
I tell You now, 'You are my Lord'.
On You my happiness depends.
Protect me, God, I trust in You.

2 Your people are a chosen race
And I delight in faithful friends,
But pagan ways I will not share.
Protect me, God, I trust in You.

3 Lord God, You are my food and drink
My work for You is joy indeed,
Glad is the heritage that's mine.
Protect me, God, I trust in You.

4 Thank You, my Lord, for warning me,
By night and day You guide my thoughts
With You before me, I stand firm.
Protect me, God, I trust in You.

5 So now I'm glad in heart and soul
For I have found security
Among the dead I shall not rot.
Protect me, God, I trust in You.

6 Not death, but life, shall be my path
Abundant joy Your presence grants
An honoured place, and happiness.
Protect me, God, I trust in You.

Paraphrase of Psalm 16, Michael Saward (born 1932)
© Michael Saward/Jubilate Hymns

you can hear v1 here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47_vlGH3OB0

Reflection

I have no defence but God. In the face of all that life throws at me, I place my trust in God. God is my protector, my sanctuary.
God’s ways tend towards goodness, so I strive to follow them. God has my devotion, allegiance and fidelity.

I ask for the strength, courage, and inspiration to truly be a beacon of God’s nature, blessing and joy.

I weep for the world, split by violence, fear and selfishness. I weep for myself as I struggle for unity, peace, comfort and equity.
I give thanks that my life is held within God. Whatever life brings, I will trust in God. There is always a silver lining, a lesson to look back on, an opportunity for goodness. A struggle can bring strength. A mistake can bring wisdom. The moment may be overwhelming but time can give perspective.

I give thanks for the still small voice, the urgings of my conscience, and the insights of dreams.

I strive to keep my focus upon God, to remember God’s presence beside me, to cheer my heart, lift my spirit, and quieten my fears.
In life, and in death, I am within God. The blessing of life is before me and God invites me to experience, share and celebrate its joy and delights.

Prayer

Protect me God, I trust in you.
When it is hard, and when it is easy - trust in God.
When I am safe, and when I am unsure - trust in God.
When life affirms, and when it denies - trust in God.
In life and in death - trust in God. Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d David Coaker serves with Grays URC in Essex. 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.


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URC Daily Devotion Services to Continue

Sat, 26/09/2020 - 11:29
96 URC Daily Devotion Services to Continue View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Services to Continue

Dear Friends,

Since lockdown began in March we have produced a service for every Sunday as well as for Good Friday and a Stations of the Cross service for Holy Week.  We have used a wide range of people as our preachers ensuring that a variety of places and perspectives are represented.

I had indicated that the services would continue over the Christmas period.  We will have a slightly different style of service for Advent, the Sunday after Christmas, and Epiphany using, in place of sermons, reflections written by Nick Fawcett, a Baptist minister, who writes his material from the perspectives of characters in the Biblical stories.  These will be mixed with music and prayers.  I am pleased that Karen Campbell, our Secretary for Global and Intercultural Ministries will preach at a Carol Service which is being prepared for the week before Christmas, the Rev'd Kirsty Thorpe of Wilmslow URC (and a former Moderator of General Assembly) will lead a Midnight Communion service on Christmas Eve and the Rev'd Wilbert Sayimani of Richmond St Andrew's URC in Bournemouth will lead Christmas Day morning worship for us.  We hope that whatever is happening in our local churches these resources will be helpful as we mark this holy season in a rather different way this year.

I can also now confirm that, thanks to some administrative and technical help from Dan Morrell,  the services will continue until Pentecost in May next year.  I am currently recruiting people to lead those services and have already had confirmation from The Rev'ds Memona Shabaz, Helen Everard, Clare Downing, Geoffrey Clarke, Ruth Whitehead, Susan Durber, Cath Atkinson, and Jan Adamson as well as Mr Peter Pay.  I'm waiting to hear back from several more who have been invited.  

We don't know what the Winter will bring, the number of Covid cases is increasing fast and it is expected hospital admissions will climb back up again alongside, of course, the winter flu problems.  We don't know if church services will be suspended again - we know in Scotland it is one option the First Minister has been considering as a last resort. 

We are aware that many of our churches have not returned to worship yet, those who have may be experiencing problems with pulpit supply, and many of our members have no desire to return to in person worship until they feel it is safe to do so.  For all these reasons we are continuing with the services which could be used in place of live services, as an addition to them to further enrich faith, for those who are housebound or shielding, or even used as a form of pulpit supply!  We wonder if some churches could plug a memory stick or CD player into a church sound system and play the service - pausing where needed - to offer good worship when there is no one to lead.  We do send the services out in advance, a month or so at a time, to a separate list for local church contacts to pass on either through paper, CD or memory pen.  We include a link to download the sound file too so it might be used on a local church website or telephone system.  If you would like to join that list please click here and send me an email so I can forward you the October services which were sent out to this "early bird" list last week.

Finally, I wonder if there may be a small number of you who might like to help with some admin stuff on the Daily Devotions.  After the writers submit their work I edit and then templates for the Mailchimp Email programme need to be created and the writers' work transferred over to those templates and queued up ready to be sent out each morning.  This admin work is rather dull and very repetitive.  I have two people who help already but if we could get a group of 5-6 people who feel comfortable using the email programme and could spare an hour or so a month it would be a great help.  If you think this might interest you please do drop me an email and say if you have any experience of Mailchimp (or similar) or if you think you'd be willing to learn.

with every good wish


Andy --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->
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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 26th September 2020 Colossians - Avoid False Teaching

Sat, 26/09/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 26th September 2020
 
Colossians - Avoid False Teaching
 
Colossians 2: 6-8

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.

Reflection

Competing philosophies and alternative spiritualities are ever-present in the cultural milieu. God is at work outside of the walls of the church and we would be wise to take notice. However, far-out yarns and ideologies do exist - be they overt or covert – which threaten the spiritual moorings of the Body of Christ.
 
History shows one such movement occurred when the political pendulum first swung in the favour of the church. In 380 CE Christianity was declared the state religion. Persecution ceased and the church grew dramatically over the following century. This growth was fuelled by many people wanting to be on the winning side. However, the discipling tradition of the previous centuries was undermined by an emerging nominal Christianity. (Shelley Weddell, Fruitful Discipleship.)
 
Today’s reading illustrates Christian faith received as a gift which should be nurtured and encouraged to grow. This is the everyday life of a Christian disciple, not just a vocation for the professional religious person. But that growth can be frustrated.
 
Space does not allow me to critique every narrative that is blowing through the church. I can only remind us that they do exist, and we need to be mindful of them. They may be captivating to the imagination, but they can lead us somewhere else entirely.
 
Prayer
May we be mindful of the winds that may blow us away from Jesus
But lean our sails into the tailwinds of the Holy Spirit.
May we be watchful of the words of Christ coming from unexpected sources
But cautious of voices that offer no allegiance to Christ.
In his name,
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Daniel Harris, Minister with the North Manchester Mission Partnership Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Friday 25th September 2020 Colossians - Paul’s Concern

Fri, 25/09/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 25th September 2020
 
Colossians - Paul’s Concern

Colossians 2: 1 - 5

For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself,  in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments.  For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, and I rejoice to see your morale and the firmness of your faith in Christ.

Reflection

As I read this passage, it made me wonder if Paul could have done with ‘Zoom’ or its equivalents to make contact with his churches, here he refers to those who he has not seen face to face. He could well have done with social media to see the people face to face. 

The Colossian Church was not one that he knew personally, neither did he know other churches in the Lycus valley, including Laodicea, but he wants to encourage them, and he writes to them with an attitude of affection. He is seeking to build links with this Christian community that he has not met. The church was made up of Christians converted by Paul’s friends and colleagues. 

They are to be bound together as a community showing mutual love, and it is in this loving community that they are to gain knowledge of the mystery that is above every mystery, this is God’s purpose disclosed in Christ.. 

Earlier the letter Paul indicated that he was praying and asking that they would be filled with God’s knowledge and all spiritual wisdom. Such treasures are hidden in Christ. To be hidden in Christ does not mean that they are hidden from all understanding, but that they are only known through understanding Christ. 

Paul remains anxious that they are not misled by those with plausible arguments. They are to be careful of those with rational arguments, which are plausible but unsound.  

Paul may not have seen the Colossian Christians face to face, he may not have lived in the generation of ‘Zoom’ but he is with them in spirit and he is confident in the strength of their faith. 

Paul wants to be involved with these Christians he has not met, he wants them to be open to the message that he teaches and which will only thrive in a community drawn together in love. 

Prayer 

Gracious God
We are part of the Church,
Existing throughout the world,
A few members we know,
But many millions we do not.

Though we have not seen each other face to face
Like Paul,
Let us be filled with concern for each other,

In our separate communities,
And as communities together
May we bound together in love,
And may we gain the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
Hidden in Christ,
In whose name we pray.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr David Whiting, Minister, Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 24th September 2020 Colossians - Paul’s Labours for the Gentiles

Thu, 24/09/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 24th September 2020
 
Colossians - Paul’s Labours for the Gentiles

Colossians 1: 24 - 29

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,  the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil and struggle with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me.

Reflection
Paul responds to his sufferings with “rejoicing”.   He speaks from the reality of enduring persecution – literally imprisonment – as a result of his commitment to Christ.   That may not, I suspect, be exactly how many of us feel!

I recall the words on a poster I saw many years ago:  “If you were accused of being a disciple of Jesus would there be sufficient evidence to convict you?”   In his exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad, 2018) Pope Francis said this:  “Jesus himself warns us that the path he proposes goes against the flow, even making us challenge society by the way we live and, as a result, becoming a nuisance.  He reminds us how many people have been, and still are, persecuted because they struggle for justice, because they take seriously their commitment to God and to others.  Unless we wish to sink into an obscure mediocrity, let us not long for an easy life, for “those who want to save their life will lose it” (Matthew 16: 25).”   He goes on to contrast the persecution we face as a result of steadfast faithfulness with suffering we bring on ourselves:  “… we are speaking about inevitable persecution, not the kind of persecution we might bring on ourselves by our mistreatment of others.  The saints are not odd and aloof, unbearable because of their vanity, negativity and bitterness.”   He concludes, “Accepting daily the path of the Gospel, even though it may cause us problems:  that is holiness”.

For Paul it is not all about himself but about Christ:  “It is he whom we proclaim”.  (Colossians 1: 28)  Elsewhere (2 Corinthians 12: 9) Paul acknowledges that it is not in his own strength that he can endure suffering but through God’s all-sufficient grace.   That grace has potential to reach and strengthen us – even in lockdown. 

Prayer

God of all grace,
enable us to live as those who are worthy of persecution:
may we not be odd and aloof
or unbearable because of our vanity, negativity and bitterness.
Enable our lives more and more to reflect the love of God seen in Jesus.
Bless all who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
May they know your strength and help in their suffering.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke is Moderator of East Midlands Synod and a member of St Andrew’s with Castle Gate, Nottingham Copyright
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Sunday's Coming

Wed, 23/09/2020 - 11:30
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service is led by the Rev'd Branwen Rees who serves as a minister in East Wales. Hymns include Caroline Noel’s At the Name of Jesus, Graham Kendrick’s Meekness and Majesty, David Mansell’s Jesus is Lord, Creation’s Voice Proclaims It, and Marty Haugen’s Bring Forth the Kingdom.

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 good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
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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 23rd September 2020 Colossians - Our Share in Salvation

Wed, 23/09/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 23rd September 2020

Colossians - Our Share in Salvation
 
Colossians 1: 21 - 23

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled  in his fleshly body  through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

Reflection

“Keep the faith, baby” was a catchphrase in the church group I attended at university in the late 70s, connecting with the Liberation Theology which inspired us.  The letter to the church at Colossae expresses it more formally, exhorting listeners to “continue securely established and steadfast in the faith.” A faith that sustained people living in a mixed place, famous for the wool from its sheep, on a trading route between towns, cities and countryside. People who had found in Christ a straightforward alternative to the mystery religions common in the area. Whatever they had been before, they were now won, reconciled and redeemed by his love for them. Their response was to show that love to others.

“Keep the faith, baby” is the title of a 1967 book of sermons by, and a 2002 film about,  Adam Clayton Powell Jr, a Baptist minister who became New York’s first African-American congressman in 1944. A charismatic campaigner and controversial politician, he spoke directly against the attitudes and legislation which disenfranchised Black Americans. Combining church and society made sense.

As I write this the UK is on the verge of taking steps out of the Covid-19 lockdown. For eight weeks and counting, millions of people have restricted themselves to their homes, motivated by a desire to shield the vulnerable, protect the NHS, and save lives. Churches have closed their buildings and carried on sharing the love of God in other ways. People of all faiths and ideologies have made sacrifices as much for the sake of others as for themselves. Perhaps it is not so far off the church at Colossae being told to persevere, motivated by the hope promised to them in the good news of God’s love for the whole world. Keep the faith, baby.

Prayer

God, 
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer
you have helped us to keep the faith.
When life has been cruel,
in times of desolation and heartbreak,
when we have been weary and resentful,
in places of threat and isolation,
when injustice has become routine.
 
Today, whatever we encounter
whether  joy or ecstasy or terror or boredom
help us to keep the faith.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Fiona Thomas is a freelance learning facilitator, and member of Christ Church in Bellingham.  Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 22nd September 2020 Colossians Christ is the Head of All Creation

Tue, 22/09/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 22nd September 2020
Colossians  Christ is the Head of All Creation

Colossians 1: 15-20

He is the image of the invisible God,
   the firstborn of all creation;
for in him all things were created
   in heaven and on earth,
things visible and invisible,
   whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers
all things have been created through him and for him.

   He himself is before all things,
       and in  him all things hold together.
   He is the head of the body,
       the church.

He is the beginning,
   the firstborn from the dead,so that he might come to have first place in everything.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
   and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
   by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Reflection

Many Bibles set this passage out as prose, but I’ve laid the words out as a poem to emphasise that is a poem, based on the different meanings of the Hebrew word for ‘head’.  As in English, so in Hebrew, the relevant word can carry several different ideas, and Paul is cleverly exploring and exploiting some of them.

Jesus Christ, he says, is the firstborn.  That’s the first meaning, which comes twice.  Jesus Christ is supreme.  Jesus Christ is the head of the body, which is the Church.  Jesus Christ is the beginning.  Paul uses this to remind the Colossians that the more they get to know, and know about, Jesus Christ, the more they will understand who the true God is and what he’s done; who they are as a result; and what it means to live in and for him.

There are three things in particular which the poem reminds us about Jesus:

It’s by looking at Jesus that we discover who God is.  Jesus is ‘the image of God, the invisible one’.  Nobody has ever seen God, but in
  1. Jesus he has come near to us and become one of us.
  2. Jesus holds together the ordinary world that we live in, and the new world that is to come.
  3. Jesus is the blueprint for the genuine humanness which is on offer through the gospel.
As the head of the body, the Church; as the first to rise again from the dead; as the one through whose cruel death God has dealt with our sins and brought us peace and reconciliation; and, above all, as the one through whom the new creation has now begun.  in all these ways, Jesus is himself the one in whom we are called to discover the fullness of what the best of being human means.

Prayer

Loving heavenly Father, we have not seen you.  We don’t even know what it might mean to see you, but you have shown us Jesus, and because we have seen him, we have seen you.
Help us grasp what it means that everything was created by him who was before all things, and that all these things hold together through him.
In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins, Minister of a group of Methodist and United Reformed Churches based around Farnham, Surrey, and Clerk of the URC General Assembly. Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Monday 21st September 2020 Colossians - Greetings

Mon, 21/09/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 21st September 2020 
Colossians - Greetings

Colossians 1: 1 - 14

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful  brothers and sisters  in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel  that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.  This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant.  He is a faithful minister of Christ on your  behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit. For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s  will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.  May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully  giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Reflection

This letter was written in the context of a different empire from that of today, in a time when Christianity was only just beginning to grow and develop and there were many challenges to faithful following and believing. Yet today, with the decline of Christianity in the west, some of the challenges remain the same – the challenge to find a distinctive Christian identity and to speak and live out the Christian faith with wisdom and understanding.

One of the challenges today is the contemporary emphasis on the ‘turn to the self’, where ‘what I think’ or ‘what I do’ is what matters most, rather than having a loving care for, or being in relation to, one another and God’s world.

This letter opens with words that remind us of our mutual belonging – both to God and to one another. This mutual belonging is embodied in our prayer, prayer that opens our lives to God and what God makes possible in our lives.

There were many ups and downs in the life of the early church, as the epistles often demonstrate. What’s interesting is that this letter starts not with criticism, but with thanksgiving, followed by a prayer for the people of Colossae, that they may be strengthened in their faith. It’s based on the understanding that the people are united in Christ, whatever their differences may be, and that God will lead each one to grow in the knowledge of God and the ability to live out this knowledge in service of others. People are not left on their own. Each one has a place and a purpose in God’s love.

In an increasingly polarized world, the possibility that the Christian faith offers for mutual belonging and affirmation, for thanksgiving and wisdom, is an ever more valuable gift.

 Prayer:

Wise and loving God,
fill me with your wisdom and understanding,
may I grow daily in my knowledge of you.
May my life be pleasing to you.
May I bear your fruit in the actions I take.
May I be strong with your strength.
May I be patient when faced with challenges and in times of difficulty.
Fill my heart with thanksgiving for the people with whom you call me to live and share together.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, retired from pastoral charge, active ecumenically and theologically, member of St Andrew’s Church, Ealing. Copyright
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Colossians

Sun, 20/09/2020 - 18:00
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Colossians
Dear <<First Name>>

I hope that the week thinking about Creation has been helpful and brings, again, to our minds the need to deal with the climate emergency through our own personal choices and those of our governments.  

We turn now, for the next few weeks, to the Epistle to the Colossians.  Colossae was a prosperous city in what is now modern Turkey and was wealthy from the wool trade.  It is one of the seven churches referred to in Revelation and close to Laodicea.  It was evangelised either by Paul or his co worker Epaphras.  The Letter shows Paul to be in prison but it’s not stated where.  There was a large Jewish population in Colossae which had tense relations with the fledgling church.  The city never recovered from an earthquake in the year 60.  There is doubt as to whether Paul wrote the letter and scholars debate whether it was written by Paul or by a follower of his.  The letter presents Christ as the first born of all creation, first born from the dead, the head of the Church and source of its authority, direction and nourishment.

It is a rich text for us to ponder over the next few weeks.

with every good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC
 
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Worship for Sunday 20th September 2020

Sun, 20/09/2020 - 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.
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for
Sunday 20th September 2020
 

 
The Rev’d Anne Sardeson
Introduction
 
Hello. I’m Anne Sardeson and I’m speaking to from my home in Leytonstone East London, where I have been living for 10 years while serving as Training Officer for Thames North Synod. However, when you hear this, I’ll have moved to Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex as I return to local pastorate there along with the URCs in Maldon and Southminster. Later in the service we will be sharing communion, so you might want to pause for a moment to prepare what is needed. You might also like to take a few moments to still yourself as you prepare for worship.
 
Call To Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,
Many:       God says, “Come out.”

One:         To all who are living in darkness,
Many:       God says, “Show yourselves”
 
One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:       God gives food and springs of water.
 
One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us,
                we are inscribed on the palms of His hands.
 
Hymn:      How Firm A Foundation
                Unknown, 1787
 
How firm a foundation,
ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith
in His excellent Word!
What more can He say
than to you He has said,
you who unto Jesus
for refuge have fled?
 
2 Fear not, He is with thee,
O be not dismayed;
for He is thy God,
and will still give thee aid;
He'll strengthen thee, help thee,
and cause thee to stand,
upheld by His righteous,
omnipotent hand.
 
3 When through the deep waters
He calls thee to go,
the rivers of grief
shall not thee overflow;
for He will be with thee,
in trouble to bless,
and sanctify to thee
thy deepest distress.
 
4 When through fiery trials
thy pathway shall lie,
His grace, all-sufficient,
shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee;
His only design
thy dross to consume
and thy gold to refine.
 
5 The soul that on Jesus
has leaned for repose,
He will not, He cannot
desert to His foes;
that soul, though all hell
should endeavour to shake,
He never will leave;
He will never forsake.
 
Prayers of approach, confession and forgiveness
 
Giver of Life, Maker of Truth, Way of Wisdom: all glory be to you,
here among us: light in our darkness, hope in our despair,  love in our fear. Grace for our failings, joy for our tears, strength for our weakness. Connection in our disunity, understanding in our confusion,  recognition in our ignorance.
 
Giver of Life, Maker of Truth, Way of Wisdom, we praise you for all that you are and all that you do! This day, let us not offer to you that which costs us nothing. Let us offer all that we have, all that we are. This day they us not be afraid that what we offer  will not be enough. Know that all we are is known to God. Let us offer all that we can carry no longer. The things we regret, the harsh words and thoughtless acts, the lack of trust and over dependence  on ourselves.  Let us offer all to God, giver of life, maker of truth, way of wisdom
 
God knows us and loves us.  In Christ Jesus God dwelt with us, full of grace and truth.  With patience and hope in Christ, God’s love was made known to us.  We are accepted and loved, forgiven and freed.  Let us live with this truth. All glory be to you, Giver of Life, Maker of Truth, Way of Wisdom, this day and evermore. Amen!
 
Prayer of illumination
 
Way of Wisdom, open us now to your living word; that we will know how wonderful you are and find you in your holy place.
 
Readings
 
Jonah 3:10-4:11
 
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. But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.  And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’  And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’  Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.  The Lord God appointed a bush,  and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush.  But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered.  When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’  But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’  Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night.  And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’
 
St Matthew 20:1-16
 
‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place;  and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went.  When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same.  And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?”  They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.”  When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.”   When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.”  But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”  So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’
 
Hymn:      Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
                John Newton (1779) 
                Tune: Jefferson from the Tennessee Harmony 1818
 
Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion city of our God!
He whose word can ne’er be broken
formed thee for His own abode.
 
On the Rock of Ages founded
who can shake Thy sure repose?
With salvation’s wall surrounded,
Thou mayst smile at all thy foes.
 
2: ‘Round her habitation hov’ring,
see the cloud and fire appear,
for a glory and a covering,
showing that the Lord is near.
 
Sermon
 
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, our strength and our salvation.
 
There is grumbling in our scripture today. One of the grumblers is Jonah, who is grumbling at God because of the treatment of the people of Nineveh. The story of Jonah is one that is pretty well-known and is always worth telling again. Jonah is called by God to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. Jonah, fearful of what a great task this is, perhaps because he has heard how terribly wicked the people of Nineveh are reported to be, goes in the opposite direction and takes to the sea. Finding their journey stormy, the ship’s crew discover Jonah is fleeing from his God and, surmising that he is the root of their misfortune, they throw him overboard, where he finds himself in the belly of a big fish. After spending 3 days and nights in the belly of the fish Jonah is spewed up on a beach. God sees him there and calls him again, and this time Jonah does as he is told and goes to preach in Nineveh. And then the most surprising thing happens, the thing any preacher might long for: the people of Nineveh listen and take notice. They do indeed repent of their wicked ways and pray for mercy. At which point God responds with mercy and, as we read, Jonah grumbles.
 
The other grumblers are the “all day” workers. They have been hired at a fair wage to work in the vineyard for the day and come the end of the day they go to get their wages. The story is told well and sets us up for the shock at the end, because along with the “all day” workers are the “slightly later” workers, the “half day” workers, the “late afternoon” workers and the “barely got an hour in before we finished” workers. And the workers are paid in reverse order, so that the ones who came last get paid first and the ones who came first get paid last, no doubt with the expectation that they will get a bonus above that which was agreed because they have worked longer than the later arrivals. But they don’t. They get paid what was agreed, which happens to be the same as the rest, regardless of how many hours they have worked. And the “all day” workers grumble because like Jonah they are really rather cross with how things have turned out.
 
And we may well understand the grumblers. We may well, with Jonah, think that the wicked people of Nineveh deserved to be punished. We might also think it only right that people who work for an hour get paid less than those who work for 3, 6, 9 or 12 hours. I am pretty sure that in each of us there is at least a little bit that gets the grumbling and that’s because it’s very natural to grumble when things don’t seem fair. This often happens for us when we read scripture and make it all about us. But what if it is all about God?
 
What if, instead of being the story of Jonah, we call it the story of God and Jonah, or God and Nineveh? Where do Jonah and Nineveh fit into God’s story?
 
It seems that Jonah may well fit into God’s story as someone who was good enough to do an important job, despite being a little bit flakey and rather grumbly. This is quite hopeful really, because Jonah is not alone in having these tendencies. I too have been known to be both. And where is Nineveh in God’s story? News had reached God of the wickedness of the people of the great city and God longs for change and when change comes, mercy is their gift. Because, as the scripture tells us, God has concern for all the people (and animals) of the city. Jonah then becomes a reminder to all of us that we can be quite shocked by God’s mercy and Nineveh becomes a reminder to all of us that we can be saved by God’s mercy. Shocked and saved, all in the one story. Perhaps this might be a good way to sum up something of how we can find ourselves in God’s story.
 
And if the parable of the workers is to be read as the parable of the landowner, what do we discover? We discover a landowner who keeps their word: they pay those who have worked a 12 hour shift the agreed rate for the time worked. We also discover a landowner who seems to subvert usual economics by paying some workers a little more than they are due and others a great deal more than they are due. If we ask where God is, then we might well say that God is this landowner who seems to have a very odd view of how things should play out. This is no way to run a business. But then of course, this is not a business, this is God’s story.
 
If this is a story about people like you and me becoming aware of God’s place in our lives and entering into some kind of relationship with God, we discover that when our story joins God’s story, strange things happen. What we think we deserve will not be what we receive. We may think we are worthy of more than others because we see our relationship with God as being deeper or older or more faithful. But no, we get what we are promised. We may think we are worthy of a lot less than we are offered because we see our relationship with God as fragile or new or struggling. But no, we get what God’s wants to give us.
 
What do we learn of God in our scripture today? We learn of concern, and love, and perseverance, and honour, and passion, and cost, and grace. We learn that in response to a question from Peter about how much he and his fellow disciples have given up and what they might get in return, Jesus reminds them that this isn’t about being given some place of great standing as the ones who were first. This is not about what’s in it for them, this is about where they are in God’s story. Peter, presumably speaking on behalf of the other disciples, has made it all about them. But that is not the case. This is all about God creating a new realm, a new way of seeing the world where it is not about status and reward but about welcome and grace and huge surprises. “Many of the first will be last and the last first” he says to Peter and anyone else who wants to listen, and goes on to tell the story of the landowner and some workers who come, bit by bit, to the vineyard and discover that the last are indeed the first and the first are last.
 
If we think that being a disciple is about getting some great reward for our longstanding faithfulness, then we are as mistaken as Peter and the other disciples. It is not. It is about joining our story with God’s story and finding our way into something that twists the ways of our world that have become our norm, not least that the ones who get up early and work hard get the best bits in the end. If we fear that we’ve come along a bit late, maybe only repented when Jonah reluctantly came and shouted at us about the error of our ways, and we suspect that we don’t know what others seem to take for granted, and worry that God won’t have noticed that we’ve joined our story with God’s story, then we can rejoice: there is no pecking order in God’s realm.
 
Because God is like a landowner who says it doesn’t matter when you join in, you are part of the whole story: my story.
 
So, we care for new ones. We value what is brought, we value what we are together. And we don’t fear if we are a newer one, for we are all precious. We are all part of a big story. A story that has Jonah in it, a big fish in it, the people and animals of Nineveh in it, 12 fumbling (and possible grumbling) disciples in it, lots of people through many ages in it and you and me. There is no first, there is no last, there is simply a story: God’s story, and we are in this story together.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history.
God is our life.
 
We believe in God’s Son,
born amongst the poor, light in our night,
first-born from the dead. He is alive.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives birth to the new life of God,
who breathes life into the struggle for justice,
who leads us to hope,
who is a living force.
 
We believe in the holy universal Church,
herald of the Good News
which frees people and brings new life.
We believe in the coming of a new world
where Jesus Christ, our Lord, will be all in all. Amen.
 
Hymn:      Amazing Grace
                John Newton
 
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind but now I see.
 
2: ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
and grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!
 
3: Through many dangers, toils and snares
we have already come
‘Twas grace that brought
us safe thus far
and grace will lead us home.
  
Prayers of Concern
 
O God we pray this day for the world that you care for….
For those who struggle this day with burdens that are beyond them.
For lives that are torn apart by war and greed and distrust.
For all we know and all we do not know.
For stories that are heard and stories that are hidden.
For names that are familiar and names that are lost
We pray O God, knowing that you love your world
and call us into love.
 
O God we pray this day for our local communities…..
For those who ask us to pray and those who do not.
For those we love and those we barely know.
For all that is a part of our everyday lives and all that we miss.
We pray O God, knowing that you love our communities
and call us into love.
 
O God we pray for ourselves,
For the fears and hopes that fill our lives.
For the prayers we struggle to utter
And the words that get stuck in our throats.
We pray knowing that you hear us better that we are able to pray,
asking that you will help us to seek, find and fully realise
the compassion that lives within us that they inspire and fill all we do.
 
These prayers we offer, words, silence, deep longings,
In the name of Jesus Christ,
Who taught us when we pray to say together
 
Our Father……
 
Communion
 
These are our tables in our homes, where we sit and eat and drink and chat and learn and play and pray and argue and so many other things……. These are our tables in our homes, and they are also God’s tables.
 
Let us look at our tables and give thanks to God:
For everything that happens round them…..
The food that is eaten, for the things that are shared,
For the people who come, for all that will be.
 
And here at our table let us remember our story, God’s story……
A story of long ago, of a supper, round a table, with dear friends…..
In a time of uncertainty and fear with questions in the air
and a deep sense of wondering.
 
The friends were together, and they didn’t know it would be their last time together.
 
For this was their last supper and soon some of them would run away
one of them would deny their friendship, another would betray their dear friend, and that dear friend was Jesus, there at that table.
 
While they were eating their supper together,
Jesus took some of the bread from the table,
lifting it high and he gave thanks to God:
“all glory be to you O God who made us,
Out of your goodness we have this bread to offer
it is the grain of your creation
it is the work of human hands,
it will be for us the bread of life.
All glory be to you O God for we have this bread.”
Jesus took the bread and broke it.
He offered it to those around the table saying
“this is my body, broken for you, eat and remember.”
After they had eaten
Jesus took a cup of wine, again he lifted it high and he gave thanks:
“all glory be to you O God who made us,
Out of your goodness we have this wine to offer
it is the fruit of your creation
it is the work of human hands,
it will be for us the cup of our salvation.
All glory be to you O God for we have this wine.”
Jesus took the cup and offered it to them all saying
“this is my blood, shed for you, drink and give thanks.”
 
Around our tables we have remembered,
with the words of Jesus we have given thanks.
So we join with your disciples around the world,
with those who have gone before us and those who are yet to come,
in a never-ending song of praise:
 
Holy, holy, holy God,
God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full  of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is the One who comes in the name of our God,
hosanna in the highest.
 
We take bread and we break it
and take the cup and we lift it high
and we pray that God’s spirit will be upon us and upon these gifts
that they will be for us the bread of life and the the cup of our salvation.
 
We take the bread and wine
 
Prayer after sharing
 
We have shared the gifts of God
May they be a blessing for us
May we be sustained in our living
May we reach out in our loving
May we know we are not alone
May we keep the promise of God within us.  Amen
 
Hymn:      God is Love, Let Heaven Adore Him
                Timothy Rees (1922)
 
God is Love: let heav'n adore Him;
God is Love: let earth rejoice;
let creation sing before Him,
and exalt Him with one voice.
He who laid the earth's foundation,
He who spread the heav'ns above,
He who breathes
through all creation,
He is Love, eternal Love.
 
2 God is Love: and he enfoldeth
all the world in one embrace;
with unfailing grasp he holdeth
every child of every race.
And when human
hearts are breaking
under sorrow's iron rod,
then they find that self-same aching
deep within the heart of God.

3 God is Love:
and though with blindness
sin afflicts the souls of all,
God's eternal loving-kindness
holds and guides us when we fall.
Sin and death and hell shall never
o'er us final triumph gain;
God is Love, so Love for ever
o'er the universe must reign.
 
Blessing
 
The blessing of God who speaks our name
The blessing of God who sits at our table
The blessing of God who knows us
Be with us this day, this week
And forever. Amen
 
 
 Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France.
All other material from Anne Sardeson.

How Firm a Foundation sung by Maddy Prior.
Amazing Grace sung by Celtic Women.
God is Love from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken sung at the Second Ireland Sacred Harp Convention 2012

Opening Music:  Fugue in F Major, Closing Music: Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach  (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)  both played by Brian Cotterill briancotterill.webs.com.
 
Thanks to Anne Hewling, David Shimmin, John Young, Myra Rose, andf the choir of Barrhead URC for recording various parts of the service and thanks to Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 
 
 
  --> 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

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 20th September 2020 Psalm 15

Sun, 20/09/2020 - 09:29
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 20th September Psalm 15 


1 Lord, who may dwell within your house
and on your holy hill?
All those who walk a blameless way,
who love the right, who win the day
with truthful words and, come what may,
will speak no word of ill:

2 All those who love their neighbour well,
who hate the way of sin,
who honour all that fear the Lord,
whose promise is a binding cord,
who help, and seek no rich reward
these, Lord, you welcome in.

After Psalm 15, Paul Wigmore (born 1925)
© Paul Wigmore/Jubilate Hymns

you can hear the tune here
https://www.jubilate.co.uk/songs/lord_who_may_dwell_within_your_house

Reflection

Who is worthy? Who can enter the hill, the temple or even the Holy of Holies? The answer back when the Psalm was written was that very few people were considered worthy, and they had to go through the ritual of dressing the right way, saying exactly the right words of the right prayer, and of course they had to adhere to the minutiae of law and be the right gender.

Who of us would have been worthy? But by grace, because of the Cross, through salvation we can all now dwell in the house of the Lord. The Temple curtain has been torn and there is now nothing that separates us from the love of God. All are welcome. 

But to dwell in God's home, to truly remain there we need to think, speak and act in ways that show that we belong. The Psalmist shows that there are expectations of us. We must love what is right and truthful, and be selfless. We don't act to gain acceptance, we are already accepted even with the flaws we have, unlike the temple in the time of Jesus where anything or anyone with blemishes was turned away.

Knowing and feeling this love and acceptance from God surely spurs us on to share this way of living that is so different from the way the world is. The invitation from Jesus to come and share what is prepared isn't just for a future in heaven, it's an invitation (in the words of Belinda Carlisle) to prove that heaven is a place on earth. God's house has its doors open. Our challenge is to demonstrate that there is room for everyone in the house of the Lord.

Prayer

Loving God
You welcome us into your home with open arms.
It is a welcome full of love rather than judgement.
It is an offer of hope instead of fear.
Help us to extend your invitation to dwell in your home
to a world that needs to know your love
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

Sam Goodman, Elder, Central URC, Derby 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.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 19th September 2020 Creation 6

Sat, 19/09/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 19th September 2020
Creation 6

Romans 8: 18 - 25

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes  for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Reflection

Lots of us love watching nature programmes on television. We revel in the flora and fauna of Planet Earth; we marvel at the penguins, the whales, and other marine life in Blue Planet; and all accompanied by the reassuring voice of (Saint?) David Attenborough. But where are the pictures of human creatures like you and me in all of those hours of viewing?

We live as though we can see nature (creation) from somewhere else. Consciously or unconsciously, we believe we’re outside (or above) it all. In truth, though, we’re players, not spectators, in the game of life; actors, not the audience, in this planetary part of the “theatre of God’s glory”.

Paul was a practical theologian, not an ecologist. Writing of humankind sharing the groanings of creation, and creation awaiting the freedom of the glory of the children of God, he’s not describing scientifically how we humans can only flourish as part of healthy planetary ecosystems, though that’s true as well. Paul’s point is that God’s intention for human freedom is caught up with God’s intentions for the flourishing of all of God’s creation, and vice versa. We are not outside or above it all, although we may be an important part of it.

First century Christians were not  confronted by catastrophic changes to the planet brought about by humanly induced climate change. Had they been, Paul might have had more to say.  He might have said that we who subject the rest of creation to ecological bondage and decay are living as though we think we can frustrate God’s desire for its flourishing. And being Paul, he would have said that forcefully.

Ecologically and theologically we are all in this together. Better then, to live our lives in ways that anticipate the ‘freedom of the glory of the children in God’, both for ourselves and for everything else as well.

 Prayer

God of all creation,
give me a lively sense of your intentions;
give me desire and the means to journey in those ways;
that the whole world (including me),
obtains your glorious freedom.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Trevor Jamison is minister of St Columba’s URC in 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.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 18th September 2020 Creation 5

Fri, 18/09/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 18th September 2020
Creation 5


Isaiah 24: 4-6

The earth dries up and withers,
    the world languishes and withers;
    the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
    under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
    violated the statutes,
    broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
    and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
    and few people are left.

Reflection

This passage is in stark contrast to that of yesterday, where one could at least glean some hope from the reality of God’s holding the life of every living thing in his hand. It seems that humanity has moved so far from respecting the covenant that the apocalypse has well and truly come to devastating effect. As a later verse puts it, the gladness of the earth is banished.

Some will discern a picture of what might happen if we do not take urgent action to mitigate the effects of climate change, or globalisation, or the attitude of “because you’re worth it”. Covid-19 has focussed our attention on how rapidly events move in a connected world, upsetting complacency and engendering distress. Even deeply entrenched norms can be swiftly superseded, some for the good, others less so.

But therein lies hope. People can change when they are convinced that change is for the better, not necessarily just for themselves, but for the good of others – those at a distance as well as those close to them. People have put much of their own ordered and comfortable lives on hold to reach out to help those in greater need. People are indeed reflecting on what is truly important and what is merely convenient or enjoyable. We are told that an increasing number are discovering something of value in connecting to the various forms of on-line worship which have sprung up, presented by faith groups across the spectrum. Perhaps that too may have a lasting effect.

Expressing all this more theologically – repentance leads to fullness of life.

Maybe these words may seem utterly futile or wildly gloomy depending on what has happened in the interval between my writing this and your reading it. Only one thing is certain. Our God cares for his creation.

Prayer

Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief.
 
-->

Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 17th September 2020 Creation 4

Thu, 17/09/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 17th September 2020
Creation 4

Job 12: 7 - 10

‘But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of every human being.

Reflection

Such are the vagaries of composing Devotions that as I write this, England seems to be on the cusp of either slithering tentatively towards something which might possibly resemble life as it was before the pandemic or, alternatively, sliding back to more lonely and mind-bending social isolation. Hopefully when you read this, the sun will be shining again.

Things were not clarifying for Job nearing the end of the first cycle of debate with his three friends. Why had God visited such trials upon him, a righteous man? Why was he a laughing stock while those who provoked God were secure? Seeking an answer, he turns to the world of nature which seems to suggest that the animals, birds, plants and fish know the answer: “’twas ever thus”. In God’s Creation, it’s just the way of things.

The debaters chew this over for the next thirty chapters.
In the problems facing us in the year of our Lord 2020, some suggest that we should indeed listen to the teaching of the animals, birds, plants and fish. With the enforced reduction in human activity, is not the birdsong louder? Have fish not returned to the canals of Venice and other places? Is the air not cleaner? Are we not able to enjoy more exercise, more time for reading, for music?

All true. But others point out that humans are social animals and without societal interaction, without human touch, without intimacy, mental ill-health increases. In any case such improvements might be merely ephemeral.

Our God is a relational God interacting with our lives in a two-way social and covenantal process. If we pull the balance towards ourselves, the relationship suffers and we suffer. Job perceived the balance to be wrong, so he suffered. For us, the balance between humanity and nature has swung. Resilience is reduced and we suffer.

Prayer

Covenantal God, help us to repair the balance, to listen to what nature and the world is telling us.

Lead us to work for a better world which reflects more nearly our relationship with you. -->

Today's writer

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

Wed, 16/09/2020 - 11:30
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service of Holy Communion is led by the Rev'd Anne Sardeson who ministers in Essex. Hymn’s include Maddy Prior’s rendition of How Firm a Foundation, Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken and Amazing Grace both by John Newton and Timothy Rees’ God is Love, Let Heaven Adore Him.

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 good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC -->

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 16th September 2020 Creation 3

Wed, 16/09/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 16th September 2020
Creation 3

Psalm 96: 10 - 13

Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king!
    The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
    He will judge the peoples with equity.’
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
 let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
 before the Lord; for he is coming,
    for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
    and the peoples with his truth.

Reflection

I was brought up in a liberal Christianity which shied away from judgement and what appeared to us to be a vindictive God.  The climate crisis has made me reassess this tradition.  This Psalm should make us all reassess it.

The Psalmist weaves together the joyful song of the created order with God’s judgement on the peoples. They are not two different aspects of God’s nature, they are one and the same. This may seem odd to those of us who have lived comfortably through this recent, very short, period of human history, in which our minority of the world’s human population has lived a luxurious life with only the occasional reminder of our creatureliness. The vast majority of the human population through history, the majority of the world in 2021, and perhaps all of us in the light of COVID-19, we can no longer forget that we also are mere creatures of our Creator.

To cope with that change we need to hear this Psalm and the judgement on humanity in it. David Attenborough’s series ‘A Life on our Planet’ on Netflix concludes that the havoc wreaked by us comfortable people, in our excessive consumption of the earth’s resources, does not imperil the planet itself. But it certainly imperils humanity.

The Psalmist is right – the forests shall go on singing with joy, the seas will roar, the fields exult and the planet will spin for millions more years. But humanity is bringing God’s judgement on itself by disregarding our place in creation and trying to be like God (rather like Adam and Eve in Genesis 3).

We need to hear this truth – our desire to be gods is a vain pretence. If we don’t realise that very soon indeed, then we will surely reap the whirlwind of God’s judgement.

Prayer

Loving Creator God,
we are sorry that we have tried to keep for ourselves
the song of the trees, the roaring of the sea,
the exaltation of the fields and the rejoicing of the earth
without seeking also your judgement in equity on the peoples.

Turn our hearts,
that like the Psalmist we may rejoice in your righteous judgement
and turn from our evil ways
so that creation’s song may continue as you intended.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Revd Gethin Rhys is Policy Officer for Cytun (Churches together in Wales) and a member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff. 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 Tuesday 15th September 2020 Creation 2

Tue, 15/09/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 15th September 2020

Creation 2

Isaiah 42: 1 - 7

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
    I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
    a light to the nations,
  to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Reflection

This is the first of four passages in Isaiah which are known as The Servant Songs.  We exist only because God created us.  We breath because we have been given air by God.  As we have read of tens of thousands dying unable to breath because of Covid-19 we must appreciate our breath even more. More than just air to breath we are told by Isaiah that we have the Spirit as well.  

Matthew quotes the first few verses and makes it clear that the servant is Jesus.  It is Jesus who came as a light to the nations.  Writing this during the lockdown when many people feel like prisoners in their own homes it is interesting that many churches have noticed a marked increase in the number attending online during this time.  Are these people looking to be rescued from the dungeon of despair that they are in?  How should we react as Christians as things return to some sort of normality?  We should make sure that Jesus is seen as the light who can brighten the darkness of those who ask for help.  

This light is not just for those who are new to the Church, but it is also for those who have been members for many years.  We all need the same spirit to open our eyes and free us from whatever prison we feel we are in. 

Times will still be different when you read this and the new normal may not be fully clear but what is clear is that the spirit Isaiah wrote about is timeless and unchanging.  No matter what the situation is we should continue to live inhaling God’s grace and exhaling God’s love. 

Prayer

Loving God 
I thank you for all that you are
I thank you for the air I breathe
for the ground beneath my feet
Thank you for your Spirit who is with me today
Thank you for opening my eyes
Thank you for setting me free
Help me to enjoy the life you have given me
Help me to tell others how great You are
Let me praise and thank you in the name of Jesus
Amen
 
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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.


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