URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 22nd September

13 hours 38 min ago
96 URC Daily Devotion 22nd September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Psalm 115

1 Not unto us, LORD, not to us,
but do thou glory take
Unto thy name, ev'n for thy truth,
and for thy mercy's sake.

2 O wherefore should the heathen say,
Where is their God now gone?
3 But our God in the heavens is,
what pleased him he hath done.

4 Their idols silver are and gold,
work of men's hands they be.
5 Mouths have they, but they do not speak;
and eyes, but do not see;

6 Ears have they, but they do not hear;
noses, but savour not;
7 Hands, feet, but handle not, nor walk;
nor speak they through their throat.

8 Like them their makers are, and all
on them their trust that build.
9 O Isr'el, trust thou in the LORD,
he is their help and shield.

10 O Aaron's house, trust in the LORD,
their help and shield is he.
11 Ye that fear God, trust in the LORD,
their help and shield he'll be.

12 The LORD of us hath mindful been,
and he will bless us still:
He will the house of Isr'el bless,
bless Aaron's house he will.

13 Both small and great, that fear the LORD,
he will them surely bless.
14 The LORD will you, you and your seed,
aye more and more increase.

15 O blessèd are ye of the LORD,
who made the earth and heav'n.
16 The heav'n, ev'n heav'ns, are GOD's, but he
earth to men's sons hath giv'n.

17 The dead, nor who to silence go,
GOD's praise do not record.
18 But henceforth we for ever will
bless GOD. Praise ye the LORD.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland Congregation some of this to the lovely tune Land of Rest here.
 
Reflection
Psalm 115 invites us to consider in whom we put our trust: ourselves, human constructs, or God?
 
There are many reasons to trust ourselves. Driving, for example. What right have we to get on the public highway if we do not trust our own ability to do so? Or if we are nurses, how can we presume to care for others if we don't trust our abilities? Similarly, there are all sorts of human constructs in which we can trust. The manufacturers of our cars, for instance, are to be trusted for the vehicles’ safety. And what of our hospitals? They are amongst the most sophisticated of human constructs. There are countless reasons to trust them, and to be grateful for them.
 
In verse 8, though, the Psalmist suggests we risk becoming like what we trust. So, if we put our trust in the powerful, we might hunger to be in control If we put our trust in the rich, then we might lust after wealth.
 
So it is that this Psalm urges us to put our trust in the Lord, ‘our help and shield’ (verse 9). Moreover, if Christian people put their trust in God as God is in Jesus Christ, then they increase the possibility that they will grow in Christlikeness. That way, in the words of a URC Prayer after Communion, our love is God’s love ‘reaching out into the life of the world’. Striving to make that sort of difference in this era of polarised politics is more than worthwhile. We should, though, make sure that we don’t take the credit, but keep singing the beginning of the Psalm, ‘Not unto us, Lord, not to us, but do thou glory take.’ 
 

Prayer

Lord,
we trust you as you are in Jesus -
that you regard us
not according to our failure,
but according to your forgiveness;
not according to how we went astray,
but according to how you save us.
 
And may that love define our love for each other.
 
We seek no credit, no glory for ourselves,
but rather for you and for you alone,
through that same Jesus Christ, Amen
 

Today's Writer

The Revd Nigel Uden, of Downing Place URC, Fulbourn URC and Stetchworth & Cheveley URC in Cambridgeshire and a Moderator of the General Assembly.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 21st September

Sat, 21/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 12: 1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,  by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual  worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Reflection
Sacrificial living and non-conformist outlook.  Both are counter-cultural, costly, demanding, and do not necessarily come easily or naturally to us. 
 
The word “sacrifice” can all too readily be used when, in fact, at best we are referring to “inconvenience” rather than any significant costly gift.   Being challenged to present our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” underlines the fact that in every decision and choice we make we are willing to place our commitment to Christ and neighbour before our own comfort or desire.   Inevitably we may want to place limits on our generosity and to negotiate deals that leave us with some measure of comfort but those who respond to the call to sacrificial living must be ready – inspired and energised by the One who gave his all – to forget limits and conditions.   In the words of Horatius Bonar: Fill thou my life, O Lord my God, in every part with praise, that my whole being may proclaim thy being and thy ways.  Praise in the common things of life, its goings out and in; praise in each duty and each deed, however small and mean.  (Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889)  
 
Non-conformity – being wise and strong enough to risk standing out from the crowd and against the tide as and when we discern that it is right to do so.   We risk making ourselves unpopular. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one example of faithful non-conformity – standing up against the sinister forces of Nazism (and paying the ultimate price for doing so).   In his book, Costly Discipleship, he writes, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate …  Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a [person] will gladly go and sell all that [they have].”  
 

Prayer

Fill every part of me with praise;
let all my being speak
of thee and of thy love, O Lord,
poor though I be and weak.
 
So shall no part of day or night
from sacredness be free;
but all my life, in every step,
be fellowship with thee.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke, Minister, The Crossing (Methodist & United Reformed Church), Worksop & Wales Kiveton Methodist Church.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 20th September 2019

Fri, 20/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 11: 25 - 36

So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

‘Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’
 ‘And this is my covenant with them,
    when I take away their sins.’

As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors;  for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.  For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!

‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counsellor?’
 ‘Or who has given a gift to him,
    to receive a gift in return?’

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
 
Reflection
This present age is preoccupied with ‘fake news’ and an approach to truth which proclaims ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’, without worrying, in any depth, about what the basis of truth might be.

The passage from Romans continues with Paul’s struggles with the complexities of faith and the issues of his day. Can the Israelites just be condemned for their hardness of heart? No, for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. As God has been with their ancestors, so God is with the Jewish people of Paul’s day.

It’s not just a matter of Gentiles being saved and Jews being condemned. Rather, the conclusion that Paul comes to is that, in fact, all have shared in disobedience, so all may share in God’s mercy. In Luther’s classic expression we are all ‘both sinners and righteous’.

Paul concludes his wrestling with the question of what the truth is about Jews and Gentiles with a doxology. In doing this, he points to the way in which truth contains a mystery beyond human comprehension.  At the heart of God lies a mysterious ‘otherness’, in the presence of which the only response is humility in the face of God and praise to the glory of God.

And yet, God is also the one who is revealed in the incarnation, and who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is daily present in each part of human life.

Truth is a gift, into which I can grow, not a commodity which I can own. The truth of God is based on the mercy of God, revealed in love in Jesus Christ. Paul’s writing in Romans is an attempt to interpret the Gospel for the Church. 

But at the end of the day he points, not to himself, but to the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God.
 

Prayer

O God, I give thanks for Your mystery and Your presence.
You are other than me, yet You are close to me.
Forgive me when I claim to hold the truth on my own.
Grant me day by day the humility to see that truth lies with You.
May I grow in your love and grace
As I grow, may I give you the glory.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, retired URC minister, Chair of the Society for Ecumenical Studies.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 19th September 2019

Thu, 19/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 11: 11-14 

So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry  in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!  If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree,  do not vaunt yourselves over the branches. If you do vaunt yourselves, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you.  You will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity towards those who have fallen, but God’s kindness towards you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.  And even those of Israel, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.
Reflection
Have you ever watched a tree grow?  Apart from the fact you would need a very long time, it is fascinating to see how trees develop from a fragile sapling into mighty trees.  They provide shelter from the elements, food for animals, oxygen for the planet. They protect properties, provide a playground for children and playthings with conkers, yet still stand with a certain elegance – made more pronounced when viewed in winter in silhouette.  But they can move with the wind so they do not break.
Yet trees remember every year (the deciduous ones anyway) to shed their leaves and grow new ones.  Dying branches are discarded and new shoots grow. Roots spread out in all directions and break through the human-made restrictions around them in roads and pathways.
How much of this is true of our faith?  Do we provide shelter to those who feel exposed?  Do we provide food for those who are hungry? Do we provide a safe place for people to pray (and play) and learn?  Do we conduct ourselves with a certain elegance while being flexible enough to allow ourselves to be accessible? And all of this while discarding old ideas and being open to new ones?  We can learn a lot from trees – take a moment to just look and see…
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, help me to be a tree in my faith:
with firm roots, spreading out to my community;
with strong branches to provide help for others
and take away my pride that I might allow the wind to blow through me to inspire me to movement.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Watson, minister of Patricroft and Worsley Road URCs in Salford.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 18th September 2019

Wed, 18/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 11: 1 - 10

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?  ‘Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.’ But what is the divine reply to him? ‘I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.’ So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.  But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,

‘God gave them a sluggish spirit,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.’

And David says,

‘Let their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling-block and a retribution for them;
let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
    and keep their backs for ever bent.’
Reflection
In this passage Paul struggled with two ideas.  As a faithful Jew he believed that God hadn’t rejected the Jewish people - the Covenant still stands.  As a Christian, who had come to realise that trust in Jesus’ faithfulness is what mattered, Paul realised that simply being part of a chosen people wasn’t enough for salvation.  Paul asserted that the Jewish people are still the people of God but, at the same time, held that simply being part of the Chosen People wasn’t enough. 

Paul used the idea of the Remnant;  after commiting genocide against pagan priests, Elijah had to flee the wrath of Queen Jezebel.  Believing he was the only one left who truly worshipped God, Elijah had to be reminded that there were 7,000 others who had also held firm.  From this a remnant theology grew as the prophets realised there would never be a time when the whole nation was faithful to God. Paul used this dividing the wheat from the chaff to differentiate between those, in God’s chosen people, who held firm and those who succumbed to a sluggish spirit.

Of course Paul’s insight applies to us too.  Christians can have a sluggish spirit believing that church membership, even regular attendance is enough for salvation.  We can serve as members, elders or ministers and believe that all will be well - but if we fail to trust in Jesus’ own faithfulness we can act as if we are, what a friend of mine calls, functional atheists.  When I did my theology degree, back in the 1980s, the Church growth people forecast that the URC would die by the year 2,000 simply by plotting our decline on a graph and extrapolating. Sociologists will tell us that increased longevity has saved the URC, I hope it’s a radical trust in Jesus believing he hasn’t finished with us yet!
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you were faithful,
travelling to the Cross and beyond,
waiting for vindication, exultation and glorification.
Help us to be full of faith,
faith that you haven’t finished with us,
faith that our lives, words, and actions touch others with your love,
that we may continue to be part of your  chosen and faithful people. Amen. 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston ministers in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster and co-ordinates the Daily Devotions project.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 17th September 2019

Tue, 17/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 10: 14 - 21

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for

‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
    and their words to the ends of the world.’

Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
    with a foolish nation I will make you angry.’

Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

‘I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.’

But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’ Reflection
We all know them: the people who have their doors slammed shut to anything that smacks of Church or religion. And we know the people who grieve over them: their parents, agonising over where they went wrong. ‘We took them to Sunday School, church…’

We don’t want to acknowledge that some ground just might be stony ground for the Gospel. We better understand the folk who in their twenties and thirties are ‘too busy’ with carving out careers, building families, creating homes, dealing with the overwhelm of modern life…

But still our churches miss them. The younger generation. We can hope they will one day come back. An elderly friend said of her grandchildren, ‘Wait till the troubles come, the sorrows. See where they’ll turn.’ And I knew she hoped they would turn back to the church they’d been brought up in.

But will they? We can load ourselves with responsibility and reproach: are we keeping up with the times? Are we offering the kind of services they might be attracted to? And even, how can they turn back if we don’t keep the doors open for them? That is the reason behind the anguish of many a congregation forced to close their doors. What if Dad had sold up and moved just before the prodigal son set off for home?

Maybe we take too much upon ourselves. It is God who lights the flame of faith in our hearts and keeps the flicker going. We may see no harvest for our thousands of words and endless pleas. We may regretfully give up and close the doors.

But a God who can raise up a people that was no people, who can continue loving a disobedient and contrary people, won’t give up on any of the folk we care about. Just as He hasn’t given up on the children of Israel.
 

Prayer

When we hear the cry that we need young families and children in our congregations, remind us that You know who You want to send. You know who You want us to minister to, and how. Remind us that Your ideas are different from ours, and that our role is obedience and trust.
 

Today's Writer

Dorothy Stewart Courtis, Lay Preacher and member, Thurso URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 16th September 2019

Mon, 16/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 10: 5 - 13

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that ‘the person who does these things will live by them.’ But the righteousness that comes from faith says, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down)  ‘or “Who will descend into the abyss?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

‘The word is near you,  on your lips and in your heart’

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, ‘No one who believes in him will be put to shame.’  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Reflection
What was I thinking? I know there will be many of you who will relish a theological challenge on a Monday morning, but I think it was, to me, a simple statement that drew me to this reading. “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

I am not sure it is that simple. Aren’t there pages of Terms and Conditions that have to be read and agreed to? And, surely  there are huge differences between Jew and Greek, and many other groups of people today? We don’t have to look far beyond the places we inhabit to find those who are marginalized and excluded. Even if, and when, they call on the name of the Lord!!

Maybe it is only God who can bridge the huge divides that surround us.

On a Monday morning it may seem an insurmountable task, but maybe calling on the name of the Lord is a good place to start.

Prayer

Hear us, when we call on your name, Lord.
Save us,
Save us. 
And let us be a bridge over the chasms of division and exclusion in our world.
Do not let us fall.
Amen

Today's Writer

Fredwyn Hosier. Synod pastoral Consultant, Thames North and Elder at Palmers Green URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 15th September 2019

Sun, 15/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 114

1 When Isr'el out of Egypt went,
and did his dwelling change,
When Jacob's house went out from those
that were of language strange,

2 He Judah did his sanctuary,
his kingdom Isr'el make:
3 The sea it saw, and quickly fled,
Jordan was driven back.

4 Like rams the mountains, and like lambs
the hills skipped to and fro.
5 O sea, why fledd'st thou? Jordan, back
why wast thou driven so?

6 Ye mountains great, wherefore was it
that ye did skip like rams?
And wherefore was it, little hills,
that ye did leap like lambs?

7 O at the presence of the Lord,
earth, tremble thou for fear,
While as the presence of the God
of Jacob doth appear:

8 Who from the hard and stony rock
did standing water bring;
And by his pow'r did turn the flint
into a water-spring.
 
This can be sung to any Long Metre tune.
 
Reflection This Psalm is probably my favourite of all 150. When I was younger, it was the Psalm we used to sing in the school choir to the Anglican Chant ‘Tonus Peregrinus’, and the ancient words of the Book of Common Prayer still spring to mind whenever I read it - ‘When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob from among a strange people’.

Psalm 114 is a Psalm that, since the 6th Century, has been used at Christian burial services and while ministering to those who are dying. It also has an association with Easter Day, and is often read during Easter services - the deliverance of Israel seen as a metaphor for our deliverance from sin.

First and foremost, though, this Psalm is a song of God’s strength, power, and glory. It is a Psalm that tells of God’s glories in times of old, when God led the people of Israel out of slavery, and prepares us for the wonders and glories to come.

It is around this time that the Church enters a season known as ‘Creationtide’. Described by its organisers as ‘a period… dedicated to God as the Creator and Sustainer of all life’, it is during this season that we are called to give thanks for the world in which we live.  Many churches will hold their Harvest Services around this time - they will give thanks to God for the blessings of this life, our food, our homes, our families and friends.

But it is also at this time that we are called to remember those who go without, those for whom the harvest is not a time of celebration. It is our duty to provide for them, just as the Lord provides for us.

Let us pray that we may never forget ‘the presence of the Lord’, and pray that He may continue to provide to those who need it.
 
 

Prayer


…Living Lord, prepare us now
Your willing helplessness to share;
To give ourselves to sacrifice,
To overcome the world’s despair;
In love to give our lives away,
And claim Your victory today.

(Alan Gaunt, b.1935, R&S 611 v4)

Today's Writer

Michael RJ Topple is a Lay Preacher in Training, Lay Pastoral Assistant of Long Melford URC and member of Chappel URC, Essex.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 14th September 2019

Sat, 14/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 10: 1-4 

Brothers and sisters,  my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.  I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.  For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Reflection
Have you ever broken the law? You might well reply “Yes, but not intentionally.” Law can be very exacting and complicated, I know this from the experience of working in a Crown Court for some years. Often laws are amended but the new slant on any particular law is not always adequately publicized resulting in people being caught out. When you consider that the vast majority of people in Paul’s era were illiterate, it raises the question what chance did they have in understanding the Law. The Jewish Law, the Torah, was very precise but its interpretation had been complicated by the Scribes with their own interpretation of what the Law meant. Paul, like Jesus, had no problems with what was written in the Law, but on the other hand did have issues with the way in which it was being interpreted and applied by the scribes and Pharisees. In Jesus’ time, it would seem that its application was as much about social control by the Sanhedrin, thus keeping the Roman authorities happy, than being aware of the nature of a meaningful relationship with God.

Paul reminds the Church that it was Jesus’ death and resurrection that brought about a new relationship between God and the believer rather than adherence to a set of rules in order to have a closer relationship with God. That description ‘believer’ is the key to that different kind of relationship with God. No matter how much we have struggled to find a meaningful relationship with God, He always welcomes us back home just as the father did with his prodigal son. Our salvation from the power of sin was brought about by Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection rather than adherence to a set of rules – Hallelujah.
 
 

Prayer

Redeeming God, so often we feel that we can only function by following a set of rules, forgetting that it is through faith in your redeeming love that we receive forgiveness for our weakness and sins. Open our minds to the truth and magnitude of Your love for all, through Jesus our Risen Lord. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Colin Hunt, retired minister, worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex 
 

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 13th September 2019

Fri, 13/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 9: 19 - 32

You will say to me then, ‘Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’  But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is moulded say to the one who moulds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?  What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—  including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,

‘Those who were not my people I will call “my people”,
   and her who was not beloved I will call “beloved”. ’
‘And in the very place where it was said to them, “You are not my people”,
   there they shall be called children of the living God.’

And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved;  for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.’ And as Isaiah predicted,

‘If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us,
   we would have fared like Sodom
   and been made like Gomorrah.’

What then are we to say? Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling-stone,  as it is written,

‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will make them fall, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ Reflection “…who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God?” (v.20)

Now there’s a sentence to ponder!

The original sin in the Garden of Eden was Adam and Eve thinking they knew better than God. They wanted God’s position, God’s authority to decide what was right and what was wrong. In this regard, very little has changed.  Still, we have ideas well above our station. Still, we think we know best. Still, we argue with God and God’s word. Still, we make pronouncements as to what God does and doesn’t allow or approve of.

The hard truth is that God is the potter and we are the clay. Not the other way round. We need to let God be God, rather than creating a god in our own image. We need to hear God’s word and let it challenge our twenty-first century Western notions of what’s right and wrong. We need to let God shape and mould us into the people God longs for us to be... however uncomfortable that may be.

There is an apocryphal tale told about the brilliant Renaissance artist Michelangelo. Michelangelo was asked about the difficulties that he must have encountered in sculpting his huge masterpiece David. But he replied with an unassuming description of his creative process: “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.”

Are we prepared to let God chip away at us: at our sin, our self-righteousness, and our desire to be in charge? Are we prepared to be shaped into humble lovers of God?

When we do, it’s liberating. I don’t have to be in control. I don’t have to ‘save’ myself or anyone else through my good works. I don’t have to be God, for that position is already taken

Prayer

Great and glorious God,
You are the Potter - we are the clay:
we often forget that.
We confess our sin, self-righteousness, and hard-heartedness,
bowing before you seeking forgiveness,
trusting in your love and mercy,
looking to all that you have done in Jesus.
Shape us into your people,
fill us afresh with your Holy Spirit,
help us to love you with all that we are,
faithfully walking the way of Jesus
today and every day.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Matt Stone, Minister, Herringthorpe United Reformed Church, Rotherham.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 12th September 2019

Thu, 12/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 9: 1-18

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit—  I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.  They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel,  and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’  This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants.  For this is what the promise said, ‘About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.’ Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac.  Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’ As it is written,

‘I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.’

What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!  For he says to Moses,

‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’

So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.  For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses.
Reflection
After the mountain top confidence of Chapter 8, Paul suddenly seems consumed by anguish. You probably did not wake up this morning worrying about Abraham’s family politics and might even be tempted to join those who suggest Romans would be a better read if Chapters 9-11 were quietly removed.
Or you might have seen enough of Church life to be struck by how pertinent the question of who is being steered by God remains. Full of Chapter 8 confidence, we rejoice in God leading his people forward, only to find the Elders’ Meeting cannot agree amongst themselves. If we are all within God’s Covenant should Esau expect to defer to Jacob, and Ellie expect to defer to Jane? Has God chosen to use Ellie or Jane to explain the divine will? If “them at Synod” do not share our enthusiasm for our building project, who is being inspired by God?
Then Paul disturbingly lobs in the even more tricky idea that God might choose to use Pharaoh, who never darkens the door of the synagogue and is the epitome of everything about the powerful that the United Reformed Church likes to condemn. Paul thinks God has to be allowed to work as God wills.
That may not be how we would play God, especially if we have the task of chairing that Elders’ Meeting. However, Paul’s conclusion is not that we beat down those who think God has steered them in a different way from us. Rather he will develop an argument that is around obedience. As the theologian Karl Barth put it, the real risk is “disobedient exclusion from the benefit of the Gospel”. When my energy goes into wondering why God did not make everybody else like me, I can easily miss that it is me God really wants to remould. For the Gospel to give me life in all its fulness, it may need change starting with me.
And more of that in tomorrow’s reflection.   
 
 

Prayer

Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
forgive me when I expect you to privilege me over others,
give me the humility to see you at work even in those I find hard to trust,
help me to celebrate all those you have given me as companions on the Way,
change me into the person you want me to be,
and do it all with mercy
Amen  
 

Today's Writer

John Ellis, Past Moderator of the URC General Assembly and Secretary of Capel United Church in Kent.

Bible Version

 
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URC Daily Devotion 11th September 2019

Wed, 11/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 8: 31 - 39

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Reflection One afternoon long ago, helping me push the baby in the buggy, my daughter said in a thoughtful sort of voice, “You know God, Mummy?” “Yes dear” I said cautiously … “Well I think, I think it's all about love really, cos I love you and you love me – so God is here and ... and if I ran away all the way up there (pointing) and you stayed here – I would still love you, and you would still love me – so God would still be here!” and off she skipped, leaving Mummy astonished at the wisdom of someone not yet four!

It is beyond us. What can we say, Paul asks, that will truly convey the nature of God as we know God in Jesus? God who is for us, who embraces us with a father's love; Jesus, God's Son, our brother who knows what it is to be human, sharing our path from the manger to the cross – living still to represent humanity to God and God's love to humankind. Nothing in all creation we are assured, can separate us from this love that we know in Christ. All that life or death can throw at us is powerless against it.

Do we really believe it, though, and act on it? Most of us rarely experience hardship, distress, famine, persecution, and the rest, and we are grateful for that. But in many places at home and abroad people of faith (or no faith) suffer in many of these ways. So many that it seems impossible that anything we can do will make a difference, so, often, we feel powerless and do nothing. Yet it is only in sharing the unconquerable love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord that we will know in our hearts and in our lives the reality of that love. Love must be embodied, to be real. My four-year-old had it right: where there is love is where God is found.
 
 

Prayer

All-embracing God, 
Your love is beyond measure.
It surrounds us and supports us and never fails
even when nailed to a cross.
Our love is uneasy and often falters at
the first obstacle, or fades as time passes.
Forgive us when we are afraid to love
for it is when we find love for others
that we find you, Lover of All. Amen
 

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Heather Pencavel, Retired Minister, Thornbury URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 10th September 2019

Tue, 10/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 8.26-30

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit  intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. Reflection In our weakness we often don’t know how to pray.  We look at the world and are tempted to despair. As I write I hear news stories of President Trump both pandering to racists and saying the most racist things I have ever heard a democratically elected leader say.  The newly elected president of the European Commission has highlighted that 17,000 people have died on the Mediteranean Sea over the last five years as they fled oppression; she promises to make Europe’s asylum systems more humane so that our borders don’t remain places of despair and execution.  In the UK, again as I write, the press is speculating who will be appointed to the cabinet as the Conservative leader changes letting someone else have a go at trying to simultaneously have and eat cake. In all this it’s hard to know how to pray. We may pray that Mr Trump comes to his senses, that those who hear his words will use their anger to effect change; that (of course other) governments change their asylum policies; and that the great British public comes to it senses (but might have differing ideas about what that might look like).  

In our own lives it’s hard to know how to pray as we don’t have the full picture. In a difficult personal context Paul wrote that we need not worry because, in our weakness God’s Holy Spirit takes our prayers and makes them articulate.  Our incoherent cries of rage and our impotent despair are transformed by the Holy Spirit (God within us) and made coherent and powerful before the throne of God above us.
 
 

Prayer

O God,
before you we sigh, moan and rage,
hear our inarticulate prayers,
and transform them into words of power
that we may be transformed 
into powerful agents of change.
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Viv Henderson, Minister, Minehead URC
 

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 9th September 2019

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

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 I would need to have greater experience of suffering before stating so confidently to others, ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.’

Of course, it’s Paul who says it, and he knew more about suffering than I do. Beaten, rejected and imprisoned on more than one occasion, he was, most likely, executed on account of his faith in Jesus. And Jesus certainly knew what it was to suffer.

Yet Paul has the vision to connect his personal suffering, and Jesus’s sufferings, with the big picture. Yes, currently, everything is caught up in futility and decay, but (and it’s a big ‘but’) this is with Creation’s glorious freedom always in view and always intended.

Believing that current suffering will give way to glorious freedom does not arise from a careful calculation of our current circumstances. Whether we’re pondering experiences of personal suffering or the prospects for a planet ravaged by humanly caused climate change, matters in themselves are too complex, and often the details too depressing, for us to foresee the future with clarity or with sunny optimism.

Instead, along with Paul, we hope for what we do not see. We work towards that for which we hope – individual joy, renewed relationships, a flourishing planet. We continue to do so, even when we struggle and ‘groan’, sometimes wondering if we will ever achieve these things.

What will keep us going in such unpromising circumstances? It’s recognising that our best actions are actually a joining-in with God’s firm intention for the glorious freedom of all things. In such realisation we find hope, and in and by such divinely inspired hope we are saved.
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
even amidst futility and decay,
give us a vision of your glorious freedom;
for ourselves,
for others,
for your world.
And give us hope
so that we may continue to work towards it.
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Trevor Jamison, Minister, St Columba’s United Reformed Church, North Shields.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 8th September 2019

Sun, 08/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 113

1 Praise GOD: ye servants of the LORD,
O praise, the LORD's name praise.
2 Yea, blessèd be the name of GOD
from this time forth always.

3 From rising sun to where it sets,
GOD's name is to be praised.
4 Above all nations GOD is high,
'bove heav'ns his glory raised.

5 Unto the LORD our God that dwells
on high, who can compare?
6 Himself that humbleth things to see
in heav'n and earth that are.

7 He from the dust doth raise the poor,
that very low doth lie;
And from the dunghill lifts the man
oppressed with poverty;

8 That he may highly him advance,
and with the princes set;
With those that of his people are
the chief, ev'n princes great.

9 The barren woman house to keep
he maketh, and to be
Of sons a mother full of joy.
Praise to the LORD give ye.


This Psalm can be sung to the tune St Ethelreda which you can hear here.
 
Reflection Psalm 113 is one of the Hallelujah Psalms (Psalms 111-118).  It is also the first of a collection of six psalms (Psalms 113-118) that are known as the Egyptian Hallel and are used in the celebration of Passover.  This Psalm is a call to praise. A call made to all God’s people or indeed all creation to praise God.
 
The Psalm pivots on the central question (metaphorically and physically) Who can compare unto the LORD our God? It is a rhetorical question needing no answer other than the given description of God transcendent yet fully involved with God’s creation. We see an outline of God’s care for God’s suffering people (hence its use within the Passover liturgy.)

The Psalm goes on to underline why we are called to praise. Called to praise because of the Kingship of God, a king with a preferential option for the poor.
 
In other words, explains the Psalm, we are called to praise God, because God not only has an equalities manifesto but is active in lifting the poor giving them a position amongst respected citizens.
 
“7 He from the dust doth raise the poor,
that very low doth lie;
And from the dunghill lifts the man
oppressed with poverty;
 
8 That he may highly him advance,
and with the princes set;
With those that of his people are
the chief, ev'n princes great.”

 
Of all potentially marginalised people barren women are also identified. The security of women was predicated on their roles in relation to men – daughters, wives, mothers.  To be barren led to being outcast within the Israelite society.
 
The manifesto promises belonging and citizenship, a discipleship of equals, in God’s basileia community and thus the call to praise.   Hallelujah!
 
 

Prayer

Hallelujah
Steadfast God, 
God in Community holy in One, 
you hold together glory with compassion for your peoples. 
You model a passion for justice and love.
You are our God, there is none like you.  
We are your kingdom people.
 Early in the morning all creation wakes and is compelled to sing.
The blackbird joined by the robin and Jenny wren and then the finch
Praising you in a fourfold dawn chorus. Hallelujah
 

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Helen M Mee, Synod of Scotland

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 7th September 2019

Sat, 07/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 8: 9-17

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit[i] is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—  for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’  it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Reflection These are powerful, life changing verses. What does it mean to be in the Spirit? 

Verse 9 tells us we are no longer in the flesh but because of righteousness (being made right with God through Christ’s death), we are ‘life’, we are alive in the Spirit. It has nothing to do with who we are or what we have done, but it is everything to do with Jesus and His sacrifice. The Spirit was in Jesus and raised him from death. It is exactly the same Spirit who now has taken up residence in our lives, because we believe. It is so simple to believe. It is not supposed to be hard. It is the easiest, least complicated mindset that we can choose to live. Choose to live these verses.  Then, by the Holy Spirit within you, your body will move away from things that are not good for you and you will be led forwards into righteousness, holiness, healing, power, faith, trust and an unfathomable knowledge of who God is for you. 

‘Abba’  is so much more than a substitute for the word father. In Aramaic it means it conveys a depth of devotion, endearment, longing-to-be-with cherishing that our English word cannot convey. To be a child of God is about belonging, a deep closeness, enfolding and being enveloped by God’s never ending love. I heard recently that understanding God’s love is like falling backwards into a great big pile of soft laundry that has just come out of the drier. Burying into the warm, comforting folds of soft sheets, which fill every inch of space around you, is like burying our lives into the heart of God. It’s a great way to teach children to pray and physically feel how much they are loved. Maybe we should try it too?  In childlike abandon, to dwell deeply on and fathom the mystery of what it means to live life in the Spirit. 
 
 

Prayer

Abba! Right now I let myself fall into the comfort of your heart feeling the warmth and softness of your hold; the joy of knowing I am loved.  There is no need to understand you, I just embrace the mystery of your love. I cherish you, Holy Spirit, your presence within me. Nurture, guide, sustain and energise me for the day ahead.   Amen.
 

Today's Writer

Jo Patel, Wattisfield URC, Suffolk.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 6th September 2019

Fri, 06/09/2019 - 09:12
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 8: 1 - 8

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit[a] of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Reflection Although these verses are full of release they may cause us inner conflict, perhaps even feeling like a bit of a damper at times; bringing us into the sense of condemnation, which we are told we are no longer subject to. They can come across as being very different to a lot of things that are commonplace in the places of worship of which we are a part, and where we seek to serve our Lord. It does however reflect in clear terms the immensity of just HOW greatly Jesus has set us free in a way in which nobody else has been able to.

We no longer live under the Law with its restrictions, dictates and stranglehold sense of needing to adhere to the “straight and narrow.” The difference is that we are meant to live the life of the Spirit, and not be shackled to those things from the past which may well have dogged our steps. Very clearly we are told to walk in the Spirit, and not according to the flesh.

There needs to be a full realisation of the extent of such freedom into which Jesus has so wonderfully released us. Perhaps something that only the Holy Spirit can truly liberate us into, in His way and timing ridding us of the sense of condemnation. Jesus Himself reminds us that if we know the truth in Him we shall be free (John 8), and that is freedom with great emphasis, and eternal effect. However, such is only as good as the amount of freedom which we allow ourselves to enter into, and appropriate. It is not holding back, but embracing the fullness and the releasing effect of the life of the Spirit which Jesus, in His love for each one of us, longs for us to lay hold of and enjoy.
 
 

Prayer

Gracious Father!
What a gift you have given us!
Freedom from the confines of the law,
and all of its heaviness.
Freedom from the condemnation which at times
was too unwieldy to bear.
Freedom to walk according to the way
which Jesus has prepared for us.
Freedom to set us free to be truly
the people you ask us to be.

Freedom to be walking day by day,
in your life and peace.
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

Verena Walder, Lay Preacher and Elder, Tabernacle URC, Mumbles

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 5th September 2019

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 7: 14 - 25

For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin.  I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
Reflection It can be a little unnerving to hear Paul talking in terms of not being able to do the good that he wants to do. It’s usually others that he is taking to task for getting things wrong – whether it’s the ‘foolish Galatians’ or the Corinthians that he ‘does not commend’. Not only that, but he quite openly commands the Corinthians to ‘be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’.

This is the man who said that if anyone had reason to be confident in the flesh, he had more. Yet, here Paul is saying that nothing good dwells in his flesh. This is clearly a heartfelt experience. The man who spends his whole life trying to live out his faith still struggles at times. He finds it impossible to practice what he preaches.

I, for one, am very glad to hear it, because that is the lived experience of anyone who preaches; indeed, of anyone who has the temerity to try to lead another in the ways of Christ, or even simply to walk the way for themselves. We keep getting things wrong.

Paul has two things to say to us, when we are struggling to walk the way. The first is that the reason that we find it so difficult is that ‘sin dwells within’ us. In other words, we’re never going to get it right all the time, so we should not despair. It’s ultimately not entirely our fault. (We could add: so long as we do our best!)

Secondly, Paul says, ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord’. That’s because (as we’ll hear tomorrow) Jesus has dealt with sin and we will not ultimately be condemned.

So let’s carry on doing our best to walk the way, in the full knowledge that we are asking the impossible of ourselves, but that God has it covered, when we get things wrong.

Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
 

Prayer

Living God,
You know each of us, better than we know ourselves.
You know when we struggle to walk your way
and you know when we are not trying as hard as we could.
Thank you that you have dealt with our failure;
that we are not condemned.
Help us to walk each day a little closer to your path.
For you are the way,
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jacky Embrey, Moderator of the Mersey Synod

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 4th September 2019

Wed, 04/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 7: 7 - 13 

What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead.  I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. Reflection Here we are in the liminal state between sin and law. Where boundaries which seem clear dissolve the closer one tries to define them. Where thresholds which seem to delineate transitions shift like the sands of the sea. Where the more one tries to pin things down, the further apart they seem to move.
 
Although Barth might claim “the law is quite obviously the point at which sin becomes an observable fact of experience” and “law brings all human possibility into the clear light of an all-embracing [contest]”, everyday life is much more messy. It does not matter whether we are contemplating the Old Testament statement of the Law or statute law in England (or elsewhere), behaviour that might be considered sinful may not be illegal and things which are lawful could be regarded as sinful.
 
It is clear that matters of behaviour, personal conduct and attitude which the “standard” Christian of 1919 would have considered as “obviously” sinful are for many Christians of 2019 matters of personal choice. And vice versa.
 
It depends on the way one interprets the Bible as being the Word of God. In the URC we believe that “The highest authority for what we believe and do is God’s Word in the Bible alive for his people today through the help of the Spirit”. The help of the Spirit is vital in guiding us through liminal regions.
 
I have recently been working through a book of poems* in which a black man and a white woman respond to borders and boundaries experienced by refugees. One poem reminds us that
 
if what culture is
is different ways of seeing things
and what language is
is different ways of saying things
then the challenge is
to gather these
different ways to fight challenges.
 
For “culture” substitute “sin” and for “language” substitute “law” and then define the contest.

*The warriors who do not fight, Alison Phipps and Tawona Sitholé, Wild Goose Publications, 2018
 
 

Prayer

God
you give us life
you give us discernment
you give us freedom
you give us courage
you forgive our sinfulness.
 
Give us strength
to navigate liminality
to plough through the messiness
to face the challenges
of sin and law.
 
Amen
 

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.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 3rd September 2019

Tue, 03/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 7: 1-6

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime?  Thus a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law concerning the husband.  Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.  But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
Reflection Paul reflects on the way life changes as circumstances change.  He is writing to knowledgeable people who understand the Law. They had been bound by the Law and he wants them to understand how their lives had changed.  The biggest change in our relationship with God was the life on earth of His son Jesus.

We have been freed from the old Law so we may bear fruit for God.  What sort of fruit do we bear? As I look out of my window, I can now see apples, pears and plums growing in my garden, it is perfectly clear which is which.  A few months ago as I looked at the blossom it was impossible for me to tell what would come from the trees. If I was an expert gardener, I’d been able to tell the difference, but I am not an expert.

Is it clear to those around what fruit you bear for God?  We can look at Christians labouring worldwide with organisations such as Christian Aid and know that they bear the fruit of loving service.  We see many of our churches supporting Christian Aid through their links with Commitment for Life. What a wonderful name for a movement, we should all be committed to living our lives for Jesus.

We do our service not because we are forced to do it by laws and fear of retribution, but because we are freed from the captivity of the law and able to flourish as we enjoy our new life in the Spirit.

We are walking the way, living the life of Jesus today as we allow God to flourish in our lives, not as slaves but as free people who can rejoice as we know that we have freedom that Jesus earned for us.
 
 

Prayer

Loving God
I thank you for Jesus,
I thank you that through His sacrifice I am freed from the old laws.
You loved me before I knew you.
You gave the gift of Your Son while we were separated by my sin.
Help me to enjoy my life in Jesus
Help me to bear fruit and share this wonderful life with others.
Enable me to be a fruitful Christian in the world today
 
Amen
 

Today's Writer

John Collings, Lay Preacher, Rutherglen URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
You can update your email address by clicking here.

 

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