URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 3rd February 2020

Mon, 03/02/2020 - 09:17
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Monday 3rd February  

I Corinthians 7: 25 - 35

Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.  I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none,  and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord;  but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.  I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.

Reflection

Last summer I attended an event where the keynote speaker spoke of ‘those who are not married yet’.  As a lifelong single person who has mostly seen marriage as something that might, rather than certainly will, be part of my life story, I found this assertion shocking! 

In the Reformed tradition marriage is seen as ‘an honourable estate’ but that does not mean that it is the only possible lifestyle that is available to the Christian disciple.  There is a view in some quarters that the fully adult person is a person who is (or has been) married. It is not unusual to hear the parents of an adult child marrying their partner describe their progeny as being ‘off their hands’.  Maturity and marriage are seen to belong together like the proverbial horse and carriage. On the other hand, one of the fastest growing demographics in Britain today is the rise in single person households. Some of these will be formed of divorced or widowed people but a very significant number also consist of the never-married.  

There is evidence that some churches discriminate negatively against the unmarried.  In some cases this is direct and blatant. But this can occur in other ways too. If most ministers and preachers are (or have been) married, many of their sermon illustrations will come from a partnered perspective.  Naturally all anyone can do is to speak out of their own experience. What about asking someone whose life experience is different to comment on how they might apply a particular text or idea in their life that isn’t grounded in romantic partnership?   

When we read texts like this one, we might wonder how the Church has got to the place it has in respect of amplifying the experience of the partnered?  How might the Good News of the Gospel be presented or heard differently depending on preacher’s or disciple’s relational experience?  

Prayer 

Holy One, 
we pray today for the single people among us;
in our churches, 
in our families, 
in our workplaces, 
in our social spaces.  
Singleness comes in many forms:
never partnered, 
separated or divorced, 
widowed.  
Help us to let go 
of our assumptions about singleness, 
and about partnership and marriage.  
Show us how you call us 
to build up your Body, 
and to be your people.  -->

Today's writer

The Rev'd Sarah Moore, serving as Transitional Champion for the National Synod of Scotland, and member of Carver Uniting Church, Windermere  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 2nd February 2020

Sun, 02/02/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 2nd February 

Psalm 134 

1 Praise the LORD, all you his servants,
as you serve with one accord;
Praise the LORD in your night watches
in the temple of the LORD.

2 Raise your hands within his temple;
to the LORD your God give praise.
3 He who made the earth and heavens
bless you from his holy place!

Reflection

How often do you get tired of waiting for something? We appear to be living in a world where anything short of instant seems unacceptable to many. But how realistic is such an attitude? Our reading today would suggest otherwise. Today’s Psalm draws to a close a series of Psalms that are collectively described as ‘Psalms of Ascent’.  This is not about ascending the hill to the temple in Jerusalem, but rather the ascent of the sun (sunrise). These Psalms were a wake up call in the second Temple in Jerusalem, built following the exile in Babylon. They were a call to prayer before the start of the day’s work. Work for what might be regarded as the basic grade of priests. It was their task to prepare the Temple for the first time of prayer of each day at about 9am to us. Sacrifices had to be slaughtered and the whole Temple cleaned and made ready for worship.

The Psalm begins with a call to worship. Hebrew does not have a word that translates into English as “come”, but uses the word hinneh that usually translates as “Behold”. It instils the idea of laying on of hands in blessing. In verse two the attendants were asked to pray (lift up their arms). If we were to follow their example then each day would begin by praying before we start our work for that day.

Verse three is a benediction that emphasises that out of both learning and experiences within the church enables us to regard turning to God in prayer as natural as breathing. But do we? Even when we meet for worship, is our first consideration a prayerful relationship with God; or are we more interested in conversations with other members of the congregation, even if our conversations disturb others who prefer and are at prayer?

Prayer

Lord, prepare us to single mindedness to worship You, whether at home, work or in the worshipping fellowship of your gathered church. Cast aside distractions, so that our whole focus is worshipping You from the start of the day until it’s ending. Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Colin Hunt, retired minister, worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex Copyright
Sing Psalms! (C) The Psalmody and Worship Committee of the Free Church of Scotland
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 1st February 2020

Sat, 01/02/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 1st February  
 
1 Corinthians 7: 17 - 24

However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you. This is my rule in all the churches.  Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing; but obeying the commandments of God is everything.  Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.

Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever.  For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.  In whatever condition you were called, brothers and sisters, there remain with God.

Reflection

Where were we and what were we ‘at the time of our call’? 

This is a challenging passage in many ways.  Firstly do we have a time and date for our call to follow Christ, or does the experience of many of us resonate more with a gradual growing into or up through faith?  This letter was to predominantly first generation Christians, whereas many of us have been raised in families and communities of faith.
Then circumcision is no longer a live issue within most churches (having been resolved by the Early Church as not necessary for Gentiles, rather replaced by Baptism as the outward sign of joining the people of God).  So remaining circumcised or uncircumcised seems a given.

Finally slavery is discussed.  We live in the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade, the ongoing distorted distribution of wealth, people, resources, status.  We inhabit a place of privilege and prejudice, as beneficiaries or victims. Does God really ask us to remain there and not challenge and change the structures and culture through respectful listening, humble apology and restorative action?

Any yet there is treasure in the idea that God calls us where we are.  We do not have to wait until we grow up, have a recognised role in society, or a formal church position, before we can start walking the way.  Wherever we find ourselves God is with us and in the opportunities to serve and witness.

Today many children and young people, along with women and men, are affected by FGM and modern day slavery, or suffer in abusive relationships.  We must ensure that the church is a place of sanctuary and liberation – that we never give the message implicitly or explicitly that anyone is rightly the slave of another – for we were ‘bought at a price’ of love beyond measure.

Prayer

Jesus, you were circumcised that we might be made whole:
help us be a loving community of healing for body, mind and spirit.
Jesus, you became a slave that we might be free:
help us work for the liberation of all your children.
Jesus, you embraced human life in a particular place at a particular time:
help us respond to our particular present opportunities to serve and witness to your ongoing life and love.
Amen.
 

 

 

 


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Today's writer

Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe Community, Oxford.   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 31st January 2020

Fri, 31/01/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 31st January

I Corinthians 7: 12-16
To the rest I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.  But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.

Reflection
Whenever Paul is talking about relationships, I must be honest, I want to run for the hills! Especially in Corinthians, where he puts women in a particular place and hates sex… Or so our traditional Pauline interpretations would make us believe.

Sosthenes is quick to let us know that these not direct commands from Jesus.  “I speak, not Christ”. Paul is not stepping into Jesus’ shoes to offer his own opinion about relationships. He is thinking theologically: responding to practical moral issues that the people of Corinth have with living out the Way of Jesus whilst remaining faithful to the radical message of Jesus. This is the exercise of prophetic pastoral care.

The issue is far deeper than believers married to nonbelievers. Paul is addressing Christians who are learning to live with ethnic others considered culturally impure. They are also being taught that their past lives are nothing compared to the glory of following Jesus. Now they have to deal with how being a follower of Jesus affects their family life? Do I give up my partner because of my faith? 

But here, Paul is surprisingly and spectacularly radical. In a compassionate way, Paul affirms love relationships over law and order. The charge to “hold on” to each other, the call to keep the love, is a holy, sacred act. Holiness is at play even in relationships.  

Rather than a cringing moment, this is a beautiful moment in Corinthians. Paul reclaims families grounded in genuine love as holy unto God.

One of the interesting cultural discoveries in the west of Scotland has been the language of mixed marriages, and how that means different things depending on the dominant cultural prejudices. In American culture, mixed marriages is primarily associated with interracial marriage, which was banned and punishable in most U.S. states until 1967. Speak of mixed marriages in the west of Scotland, and you will hear of unions between Protestants and Catholics and the impropriety of it in the days when sectarianism was most vicious. Prejudice damaged lives and families. Few churches supported mixed marriages in Scotland, including the Congregationalists. How proud we can feel that we are leading the way in the 21st century as we celebrate love amongst same sex couples. 

So I don’t have to run away from Paul’s advice, to be delivered from prejudice and focus on the holiness of love.

Prayer
God of Radical Love,

Help us to hold on to love,
but not so tightly that we suffocate life.
May all our relationships be sacred,
and may we see the sacred in all relationships.
May we learn the art of letting go when it is necessary,
and see the holiness in making due when love moves on.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d William Young, Minister, Essenside URC Glasgow and Morison Memorial Clydebank  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 30th January 2020

Thu, 30/01/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 30th January

I Corinthians 7: 8 - 11
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practising self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband  (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

Reflection
How to balance the pastoral and the prophetic or the personal and the political? In the song “Red and Black” from the musical Les Misérables the student revolutionary Enjolras chides his lovesick friend Marius and points to a higher call:  “Who cares about your lonely soul? We strive toward a larger goal. Our little lives don't count at all!” Paul was living in what he believed to be the end times, when Christ would come again and all of existence would be transformed. Yet here was the church in Corinth getting distracted by how to live from day to day. Focused on the imperative to spread the good news, he wanted them to keep their eyes on the prize of life with Jesus, so whatever marital state they found themselves in, they should stay as they were, as far as possible. There seem to be few grey areas or shades of ambiguity in Paul’s advice, with little recognition that marriage could turn into a cold and heartless place trapping two people by circumstances. And yet his letters to the churches are full of references to individuals who were clearly of deep importance to him personally – he wanted them to flourish. The church down the ages and across the world bears too many memories of women who have been advised by religious leaders to stay in abusive marriages, based on a selective reading of Paul’s letters. The hard won personal freedoms that we have today would be astounding to Paul, just as the social and economic expectations of a mixed community at the crossroads of the Roman empire are impenetrable to us. What perhaps is similar is the challenge to find compassion and humanity in the midst of striving for deep change.
 
Prayer
God who is the teacher of humility,
remind me to pause when I would pass judgement on the lives of others.
Give me willingness to listen,
 wisdom in my words if asked for advice,
and love in pursuit of a higher cause.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Fiona Thomas is the United Reformed Church’s Secretary for Education & Learning, and a member of Christ Church, Bellingham Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 29th January 2020

Wed, 29/01/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 29th January  

I Corinthians 7: 1-7
Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman.’  But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.  The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, not of command.  I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

Reflection
What a difference quotation marks make to the way we understand Paul’s letters. The troublesome church at Corinth seems to express the full breadth of sexual behaviour from exploitative relationships right through to a hint of misogyny in suggesting that somehow being close to a woman will undermine male purity. In his response Paul, the single man, offers a picture of Christian marriage which is based on equality and intimacy within the context of a shared reliance on God. The “likewise” clause transforms the power balance from subjugation to mutuality. Perhaps as he wrote his letter he had in mind the marriage of his friends Prisca/Priscilla and Aquila, tentmakers like himself with whom he lodged in his early days in Corinth (Acts 18. 1-3). Later they sailed together to Ephesus, where the couple settled and hosted a church in their house (1 Corinthians 16.19). They provided companionship to Paul, and are frequently mentioned together.

In its release of statistics in September 2019, the Office of National Statistics (England and Wales) reported that the number of people aged 16 years and over who are single and have never married has continued to increase, making up 35.0% of the population in 2018. When completing a module of an interfaith course on the family recently I was struck that a single person living on their own counts as a household but is not defined as a family, however  many extended family members they may have and be contacting regularly. Our lives do not fit into neat categories, even less than they did in Paul’s time, and yet the challenge is still to develop relationships of trust which create safe and hospitable space for other people.

Prayer
Loving God
thank you for honest friendships.
Thank you for households of all shapes and sizes,
with open doors and open hearts.
Thank you when relationships show us hints of your grace.
May the hope of getting it right carry us through when we mess up.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Fiona Thomas is the United Reformed Church’s Secretary for Education & Learning, and a member of Christ Church, Bellingham.   Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 28th January 2020

Tue, 28/01/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 28th January

I Corinthians 6: 12 - 20
 ‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything.  ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’, and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is meant not for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!  Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, ‘The two shall be one flesh.’ But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

Reflection
‘You were bought with a price’. Anyone who’s done sex work will understand that phrase. People sell time, expertise and labour and some people sell their body or the services their body can provide. They are bought with a price. Women, and men, find their options narrowing and, with bills and debts to pay, a few months on Babestation or a web cam at home or nights on the streets are ways out. I don’t suppose that the Roman temple prostitutes of Paul’s time were driven by anything different from those who are sold for a price today. There are some things in this world that do not change very much.
 
So, Paul writes to tell the Corinthians that they have been ‘bought with a price’ too – by Christ himself, but always from love. Perhaps Paul is reminding them how loved by God they are and what dignity they have, but by using these words he might also give them a kind of empathy with those some of them have been ‘buying’ for a price. The Roman world had a very different view of sex from that of Victorian, or even contemporary, Britain, and we should not be surprised to know that the lonely or the exploitative, even in church communities, might do this.  
 
It can never be right for anyone to treat another person as a commodity to be bought. But, anyone who follows the Christ who proclaimed that tax-collectors and prostitutes would be first into the Kingdom of God knows that sex workers have full human dignity and grace. Christ welcomes all his people as part of his body. Like Saint Aidan, who bought Saxon children out of slavery, Christ pays the price to set us all free, those who do sex work included.
 
Prayer:
Loving God, who made my body
to be a holy temple,
save me from exploitation and pain,
deliver me from any who would hurt me,
and give me freedom and courage
to let my body be a sign of your love
a place where joy is found
and where you are glorified,
this day and always, Amen.
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is Minister of Taunton 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 27th January 2020

Mon, 27/01/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 27th January

1 Corinthians 6: 9 - 11
Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.  And this is what some of you used to be. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Reflection
These, startling, verses have caused pain for those of us who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Modern Bibles have struggled with translating the words rendered, in our version today, as “male prostitutes” and “sodomites.”  The Greek words here, arsenokoitai and malakos are difficult to translate; the King James version has “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” whilst the Good News version translates both words as as “homosexual perverts.”  
 
Malakos - which the King James translates as “effeminate” means “morally soft.”  A Roman man could be accused of this if he was deemed to take an excessive interest in clothes, a fine life, the company of women or possessions.  Similarly a man might have been seen as malakos if he touched his head too often with his finger or wore a goatee beard!  Taking the “wrong” sexual position with another man would also render a man as malakos.  Romans weren’t bothered by men having sex with other men but were very concerned about the social, and physical roles taken.  

Arsenekoitai is now thought to mean “temple prostitutes.”   In pagan society worshippers could go to a temple, have sex with a shrine prostitute and see this as a form of worship.  

Paul’s words reflect his concerns for purity in a very different social context to our own.  Roman sexual mores were concerned with rôles rather than relationships and Paul seems not to understand the concept of two people of the same gender  forming a life long loving relationship. Paul was appalled by the sexual excess and abandon - often linked to pagan worship - in the new Corinthian church; and later criticises those who use prostitutes.  

Translating these attitudes into a modern idiom is difficult.  Perhaps Paul would condemn those who use others simply for lust, who treat the other as a piece of meat as they coast through dating apps and one night stands.  Perhaps Paul would recognise the validity and worth of committed costly love no matter where it is found.

Prayer
Lord Jesus,
you found love in strange places,
let prostitutes follow you and find their worth;
reclined with your beloved disciple at the Last Supper;
and healed the Centurion’s treasured boy.
Help us to celebrate love in all its diversity,
to understand and critique our culture,
and to be careful with our use of Scripture,
that we may not condemn but celebrate your creation.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston ministers with four churches in and around Glasgow and co-ordinates the Daily Devotions project.  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 26th January 2020

Sun, 26/01/2020 - 15:16
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Sunday 26th January Psalm 133

1 How excellent a thing it is,
how pleasant and how good,
When brothers dwell in unity
and live as brothers should!

2 For it is like the precious oil,
poured out on Aaron’s head,
That, running over, down his beard,
upon his collar spread.

3 Like Hermon’s dew, upon the hill
of Zion it descends.
The LORD bestows his blessing there—
the life that never ends.

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

Reflection

Some sociologists and political scientists encourage us to think of communities, societies and political unions in terms of three dimensions. A healthy community has demos, ethos and telos.
 
The members of a community recognise each other as members of a common body, in commitment and imagination they together constitute a demos, a people. The community shares common values, commitment to certain ways of relating to each other. This is the ethical dimension through which groups become ‘communities of values’. Finally, the group shares a common purpose or end, a telos.
 
In the central assertion of this Psalm there are two concepts that jump off the page (or the screen). The later imagery of beards and oils, mountains and dew, enthralls. But the two ideas that challenge are these: brothers and dwelling in unity.
 
To think of ‘brothers’, though we are really far better to read ‘kindred’, remind me that closeness and intimacy are inherently challenging. It is often easier to love humanity, than it is to love the humans most closely connected to me in family, church, workplace or school.
 
‘Dwelling in unity’ speaks of an ongoing engagement from which I cannot easily withdraw. It contrasts with the sort of encounter from which there is escape. Despite the frictions of proximity there is unity and peace. This is ethos, but it is also a good, an end in itself.
 
This Psalm of ascent may have been sung by pilgrims as their paths converged and the crowds became a throng. Their end, as a gathering moving people, was the holy mountain and the worship of the true God, the God of Truth.
 
 
Prayer

As we gather towards our houses of worship today, O God!
Put this song on our lips too.
In imagination remind us
of the joys of community
in right relationship.
Make us a people equally committed to
The journey towards our Kingdom destination
and to journeying well together.
In the name of the one who is always before and always beside.
Amen.
 
 
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Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion 25th January 2020

Sat, 25/01/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 25th January

I Corinthians 6: 1-8
When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous, instead of taking it before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? If you have ordinary cases, then, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to decide between one believer and another,  but a believer goes to court against a believer —and before unbelievers at that? In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—and believers at that.
 
Reflection
“Love keeps no record of being wronged”, Paul will tell the Corinthian church in 13:5.  The Church is the creation of the Holy Spirit, whose work is to transform it into a Jesus-shaped community.  Love is the hallmark of that transformation – not fluffy feelings, but radical, cost-bearing relationships, that put forgiveness above winning, and continued fellowship above even the quest for personal justice.  That is why Paul tells the Corinthians that going to law against one another is evidence that they’ve already lost (6:7).
 
This is a huge challenge for churches and members in our current culture of blame and litigation.  “Reputation Management” is a church industry under Charities Commission legislation. It means protecting the Church against exposure, liability and financial penalty.  Protecting the institution is, in Paul’s terms, massively dangerous. It’s what gives rise to the numerous legal horror stories of people being sacrificed for the sake of maintaining the reputation of the Church, at the cost of justice.
 
The “good name of the Church” lies precisely in the Jesus-shaped relationships Paul is advocating, which are the unmistakable signs of the Spirit’s reality and work.  This is what will draw people to the Church, for all its failings.
 
Paul assumes that a Jesus-shaped, loving Church will be a safe place where justice is done, better and more transparently than in any court!  Love is always on the lookout for the good of the other. I can be free enough from resentment to waive my own need to win (as he suggests) because everyone else in the fellowship will have my back.  Then everyone wins, because love, justice, compassion and forgiveness are all in play to heal the rifts and resentments that smash relationships. That’s when the Church looks most like the Kingdom of God – and wins big!
 
Prayer:
 Flood my heart with divine love, Holy Spirit!
Free me from my captivity to the hurts of yesterday.
I do not ask you to change the hearts of my enemies;
instead, I ask you to change my heart,
so that I can be a channel of your love, justice, compassion and reconciliation.
Amen.
 
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Lawrence Moore, Mission & Discipleship consultant, Worsley Road URC

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


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URC Daily Devotion 24th January 2020

Fri, 24/01/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 24th January  

I Corinthians 5: 1-13
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgement  in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus,  you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons—  not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world.  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?  God will judge those outside. ‘Drive out the wicked person from among you.’

Reflection 
In my experience, churches are places full of people who like to enjoy themselves.  Christmas party season is a great opportunity to gather together with a variety of people to enjoy the festive season. Church halls host parties for the Women’s Guild, Men’s Friendship Club, Junior Church, Caledonian Society, Elders’ Meeting, and many others, with buffets and roast meals all loaded onto heaving plates.  New Year (or Hogmanay) follows swiftly on the tail of Christmas parties, with late-night celebration, joviality, drinks (including a congratulatory dram or two) and the customary revelries as the clock chimes midnight. 
Today’s passage gets us to think about what it means to judge those ‘of the world’ who are seen to behave in ways we feel strong enough to question: whether that be greed or drunkenness, revelry or making idols, or putting before the world a view of sexuality which is informed by our anxieties and assumptions.  Instead, this letter wants those ‘inside’ to think about the hypocrisy of this position which suggests distancing from the world rather than be part of it. Yet this passage calls upon those of faith to sort out their own house first – to consider what it means to be party people, to be people with diverse sexualities, needs and desires. It is our responsibility to revise our understandings to reflect those among our fellowship; we on the ‘inside’ are compelled to think about what makes us into people who like to celebrate, like to embrace a variety of relationships and encounter a plethora of needs and interests. 
If we can embrace and own our ‘inside’ celebrations, relationships and passions in their complex multiplicities, then our own interactions with the world in its ‘otherness’ can be nothing but welcoming and loving, embracing the humanity we share and enfold. 
 
Prayer
Loving God, help us to behave
without hypocrisy
and with love.
Open our eyes
to the diversity among us
and the ways we are your people.
Make us quick to judge ourselves
ahead of others, that we may better appreciate 
your kingdom in the world. Amen.
 
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The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is the Chaplaincy Coordinator at Newcastle University

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 23rd January 2020

Wed, 22/01/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 23rd January

I Corinthians 4: 14 - 21
I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.  I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me. For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church. But some of you, thinking that I am not coming to you, have become arrogant.  But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power. What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
 
Reflection
Growing up, we may have (or have had) someone in our lives to whom we look up, someone we aspire to be like, someone who we respect and want to base our own lives on.  For some it will be a parent or guardian, for others it will be a teacher, a youth leader or a Minister, for example. Alternatively, there may be several people involved.  For me, family, teachers, Boys’ Brigade Officers and Ministers all played their part.
Paul called upon the Corinthians to imitate him.  Having started the Church in Corinth, he saw himself as a ‘Father’ figure and was trying to unify the people by assuring them that he had their best interests at heart.  Paul walked close to God, spent time in His Word and in prayer and, as a result, was aware of God’s constant presence in his life. God was Paul’s inspiration, the person he looked up to.  Paul wanted others to imitate these aspects of his life, this Christian living. 
Paul may have been writing as long ago as A.D.55 but we could do worse than follow his example even today.  Living as God would want us to, not just talking about it, has stood the test of time as a way of life. To know what God wants us to do in serving Him, we need to stay close to Him, following Paul’s example of reading Scripture and spending time in Prayer, in conversation with Him and, very importantly, live our lives in such a way that  His light shines through to those we encounter in our daily lives. 
 
Prayer
Lord God,
Thank You for all those who guide us through life, especially those whose guidance is inspired by You.
Help us to listen, to discern what is right and then to act as You would have us do as an example to all around us.
Help us to constantly focus on You, both through Scripture and Prayer.
In Jesus’ name.
Amen!
 
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Today's writer

Jeff Newall, Lay Preacher, Christ the Vine Community Church, Coffee Hall, Milton Keynes 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 22nd January 2020

Wed, 22/01/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 22nd January 

I Corinthians 4: 8 - 13

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you!  For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honour, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless,  and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.

Reflection

We all reckon to know the danger of being “rich in things and poor in soul”, as Fosdick put it. But the Corinthian congregation were probably a pretty poor,  humble and downtrodden lot, and Paul’s accusation that they have become rich is more than tongue-in-cheek.

But people who are poor in things might hope to become rich in soul – and this is how the Corinthians are now seeing themselves, never guessing that they are to become a by-word in Christian history for spiritual arrogance and divisiveness. And churches like this may still be found today – convinced that they have been blessed by God, and eager to show off their spiritual gifts and shame others with their moral rectitude. Churches, that is, that pretend to be something that they really are not.

And then there are those who try to help them change course. Perhaps an apostle, or a minister, or just a faithful and honest friend, who knows that any church is as much a hospital for sinners as it is a school for saints. Someone who recognises the human weaknesses within any fellowship that church leaders can sometimes try to disguise. When we become too self-satisfied and proud of our church life, we need a “fool” like Paul to risk their reputation and show us the truth about ourselves.

We hear plenty about ministries of encouragement, but maybe there is a place for ministries of discouragement as well. Only of course, anyone responding to such a calling is going to be in for a hard time, and will expect (like Paul) to be treated like dirt. Sometimes you’d be a fool to step out of line and say the things that need to be said – but maybe it’s still possible to be a fool, for the sake of Christ.
 
Prayer

Loving God
may we be ready to speak truth to power
and also to weakness.
May we never expect of others
more than we demand of ourselves.
Keep us wise in our judgments and our actions
or let us be foolish – but only for Christ’s sake.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John Durell, retired minister, member of Waddington Street URC, Durham 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 21st January 2020

Tue, 21/01/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 21st January 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion 20th January 2020

Mon, 20/01/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 20th January 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister, Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
I Corinthians 3: 16 - 23 

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

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

‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’,

and again,

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

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

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

Prayer
God, we thank you that we don’t have to be the wisest people.
You choose us anyway.  Sometimes more than once as we wander away and you call us back.
Remind us who we are.  Remind us of your Spirit at work within and among us.
Wherever we go, remind us of your presence with us and your love for the people we meet there.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
 
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URC Daily Devotion 19th January 2020

Sun, 19/01/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 19th January Psalm 132

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

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

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

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

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

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



Reflection

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

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

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

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

The Rev’d Dr John McNeil Scott, Principal of the Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College Copyright
Sing Psalms, (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
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URC Daily Devotion 18th January 2020

Sat, 18/01/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 18th January

1 Corinthians 3: 10 - 15

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion 17th January 2020

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

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Friday 17th January

1 Corinthians 3: 1-9

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

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion 16th January 2020

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

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Thursday 16th January

1 Corinthians 2: 14 - 16

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion 15th January 2020

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

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Wednesday 15th January

1 Corinthians 2: 6 - 13

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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


Prayer

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

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


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