URC Devotions

Worship for Low Sunday

Sun, 19/04/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
19th April 2020 - Easter 2
Behind closed Doors
 
Today's service was devised by the Rev'd Nicola Furley Smith, Secretary for Ministries.  She lives in Purley in South London. 

 
 
 
 Call to Worship
 
Alleluia! Christ is Risen!           He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!
 
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour,
radiant in the brightness of our King!
Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Saviour shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy, as we rise and sing,
echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!
 
Hymn:      At the Name of Jesus
                Caroline M Noel (1817 - 1877)

At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
every tongue confess him king of glory now;
this the Father's pleasure, we shall call him Lord,
who from the beginning was the mighty Word.
 
2 Humbled for a season, to receive a name
from the lips of sinners unto whom he came;
faithfully he bore it spotless to the last,
brought it back victorious when from death he passed.
 
3: Christians this Lord Jesus shall return again
with the Father's glory with his angels’ train,
for all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,
and our hearts confess him king of glory now.
 
Prayer of approach
 
Risen Lord, you came to the disciples in that Upper Room, in spite of those locked doors of doubt. You brought them peace and wholeness in the darkest of times with the light of your resurrection putting their frightened minds at rest and making them ready for the task you had for them. We pray that you may make us ready in our worship and in our lives, to allow you to walk through the closed doors and walls of stone  that we so often have and the barriers that we create.

Take away our fears.
 
Open our hearts that your Holy Spirit may come again to rest within us, that we, your people, may be ready to hear your words and respond to your call to bring the light of your resurrection in the darkest places of our world. Amen.
 
Prayer of Confession
 
God who loves us we seek forgiveness.
You call us to trust that Jesus lives.
Forgive our doubting.  Help us to trust you.
 
You call us to trust what we have not heard;
Forgive our doubting.  Help us to trust you.
 
You call us to trust what we have not seen.
Forgive our doubting.  Help us to trust you.
 
You call us to trust what we have not touched.
Forgive our doubting. Help us to trust you.
 
You call us to trust each other.
Help us to believe despite our doubts and fears.
Help us to receive your peace.
and to be at peace with you and each other. Amen.
 
Assurance of Pardon

Jesus said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here and see my hands. Do not doubt but believe.'
People of God, be assured that you are loved by God, who offers grace, comfort and hope. In his strength you are made new. Receive peace and live in resurrection joy. Amen.
 
A Prayer of Illumination
 
Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.
 
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
 
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd:  “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.  This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:
 
“‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life;  you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
 
“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.  But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.  Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay.  God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.
 
Hymn:      Before the Throne of God Above
                Charitie L De Chenez 1841 – 1923
 
 
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea:
a great High Priest whose name is love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands;
my name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heav'n He stands
no tongue can bid me thence depart;
no tongue can bid me thence depart
 
2: When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there
who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God the Just is satisfied
to look on Him and pardon me;
to look on Him and pardon me.
 
3: Behold Him there, the risen Lamb,
my perfect, spotless Righteousness;
the great unchangeable I AM:
the King of glory and of grace.
One with Himself, I cannot die!
My soul is purchased by His blood!
My life is hid with Christ on high;
with Christ my Saviour and my God
 
John 20: 19-31
 
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’  After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
 
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
 
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’  Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
 
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
 
Sermon
 
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said ‘Peace be with you’. (John 20v.19 NRSV)
 
It has been a long, bewildering, exhausting day.
Amidst all the devastation caused to their hopes and dreams
by the events of Good Friday,
the disciples begin this day discovering that the body of Jesus
their teacher
their friend
has been removed,
-      by whom they don’t know.
Disturbed and blinkered by grief,
they have forgotten what Jesus has spent three years trying to show them.
And, as a result, his death on the cross is a loss to them.
The world around them is dark.
 
So they do what human beings tend to do in such circumstances
-      they lock themselves away
-      they pull the covers up and bury their heads under the bedclothes
Hidden behind doors of wood and walls of stone
they seek that feeling of safety amidst a hostile world
hiding not just from the Jewish authorities
but from overwhelming feelings of loss
as they attempt to make sense of it all.
When all the world around them is dark.
they are still unsure they can live in the light of the resurrection.
 
John, however, has the answer.
We need to have faith.
 
But as this gospel story shows us
faith can be complicated by fear and doubt.
 
Behind locked doors
all the disciples except Thomas (and Judas) gather.
They have heard from Peter and John about the empty tomb
and they have heard from Mary Magdalene who has not only seen the risen Jesus
but spoken with him also.
Yet still they are unsure.
Still they are afraid.
When all the world around them is dark.
they are still unsure they can live in the light of the resurrection.
 
Then Jesus appears
and they rejoice.
Jesus says to them ‘As the Father sent me so I send you.  Receive the Holy Spirit’.
We sometimes tell the Easter story as if the joy of new life and resurrection
dawns on the disciples all at once.
apart from Thomas that is,
who is, of course, absent.
 
In the story of Thomas, doubt is given as the opposite of faith.
So, John reports Jesus coming back the same time the following week
seemingly to put Thomas right.
And, despite what Jesus tells Thomas
‘do not doubt but believe’
 and ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’,
Thomas comes to faith 
precisely because he has the courage to voice his doubt!
 
John, of course, has a purpose in focusing on doubt.
He writes in the last verses of the chapter
that his recording of these events is
simply a snapshot of many events which have not been recorded.
He records these events
so that successive generations may believe in Jesus Christ
as the Son of God
and so have the life that comes from faith.
This is his reason for the story about Thomas:
to doubt is to be human.
 
For Christians doubt might be the opposite of faith
but it is not its enemy.
As with Thomas,
doubt is not a stumbling block
it is a stepping-stone
on the road to faith
as we go in search of what is true
in order that we may find it.
In these days of panic buying
as someone said to me recently
faith is not a packet to be lifted from the spiritual shelf.
Coming to faith is a process.
Coming to faith will take as long as it needs to take.
Thomas simply had yet known the transforming power and presence,
joy and confidence,
direction and purpose,
guidance and inspiration
of the risen Christ.
But I wonder if there is something more going on here.
Because there is not only doubt but fear as well.
For me the enemy of faith is not doubt but fear.
 
We know a lot about fear at the moment.
-      fear of catching the virus
-      fear of not getting a supermarket delivery
-      fear of losing my job as businesses shut down albeit temporarily
-      fear of being on my own
-      fear of not knowing how long this new way living will last or if things will ever going back to ‘normal’ what normal may be for you
 
Fear is real.
It’s not just in the mind;
it brings physical symptoms,
trembling,
physical sickness. 
Fear is not just an individual trait.
Fear can grip groups of people or whole communities.
What we would term mass hysteria
can make a group of people behave irrationally
as we have seen as people fight over toilet rolls and pasta.
It is the disciples fear that has enclosed them
behind locked doors made of wood and walls of cold stone.
they have no idea of their next move.
But Jesus moves through the locked doors and walls
and stands among them and says peace be with you.
He gives them direction,
direction in the task they have to do
to bring new life and hope
to a confused and hurting world.
 
Many of us are behind closed doors at this time
but these are not doors of wood and walls of stone
which keep us inward looking.
What many of us are learning afresh during this season
is that the Jesus who asks Thomas to look and see
is the same Jesus who asks you
to look and see the gift of God
that is alive and present in those who call themselves the people of the resurrection.
The challenge of God is that you should take this transforming presence so seriously
that not only you believe in it,
but that a whole world of hurting and confused people
recognise new life and hope,
new direction and guidance.
 
This was the appeal of the Church in our Acts reading.
When Peter delivers his powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost
he does so almost immediately after the Holy Spirit
has burst through the closed doors of the upper room.
Peter tells his congregation in Jerusalem
that the ministry of the resurrected Jesus continues through his followers
all in the power of the Holy Spirit
for the resurrection of Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit
are inextricably intertwined
 
The result is
a church which lay in its ability to hold together the proclamation of a stunning new message,
a church which nurtured its people by explaining what that message means
a church that expressed itself in service and care
to those living inside and outside its community.
 
I’ve been humbled by the acts of kindness shown to me over the past few weeks
-      virtual flowers
-      e-cards
-      phone calls and Facetime
-      offers of shopping for essentials
-      as well as conversations with those ministers and congregation who are getting to grips with technology needed to keep in touch with their communities
all practical ways in which the Spirit is helping us to break out
to share the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
 
As we journey on through these disturbing and dark times
let God’s Spirit release us from the fears and doubts
that keep us behind our closed doors
to continue to share the message of the Resurrection that through Jesus
God promises us new life and new life casts our fear.
Scarred and wounded we may be
but we will be no longer afraid.

Jesus is saying to us Peace be with you! My peace I give to you!
As one Facebook post says:
Churches are not being closed.
buildings are being closed.
you are the Church!
You are to remain open!
Let the light of the resurrection
shine through us now and always. Amen.

Hymn:      Here is Love Vast As The Ocean  (sing through twice)
                William Rees 1802 - 1883
 
Here is love, vast as the ocean,
loving kindness as the flood -
when the Prince of Life, our Ransom
shed for us His precious blood.
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
throughout Heaven's eternal days.
 
2: On the mount of crucifixion
fountains opened deep and wide.
Through the floodgates of God's mercy
flowed a vast and gracious tide.
Grace and love, like mighty rivers
poured incessant from above,
and Heaven's peace and perfect justice
kissed a guilty world in love.
 
An Affirmation of Faith
 
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—
which some seek to control, but which others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust: our world belongs to God!
 
From the beginning, through all the crises of our times,
until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever.
Our world belongs to God!
 
We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness,
and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for our world belongs to God!
 
As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise, we offer our hearts and lives to do God's work in his world, for our world belongs to God!
 
With tempered impatience,  eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the earth when Christ appears for our world belongs to God!

Prayers of Intercession
 
Risen Lord, no door is closed to you, no heart is barred to you, no mind is shut off from you. Come lead us out of darkness into light, out of doubt into faith, out of death into life in all its fullness:
 
We pray for all who witness to your resurrection, for those who speak of your presence, for preachers and ministers of the Word, for those who minister in community; for those who reveal your presence by the way they live, for all who live simply that others may simply live. We pray for all who are in doubt and for all who are seeking you. We pray for unity in the Church and in the world.
 
Lead us out of darkness into light, out of doubt into faith,  out of death into life in all its fullness:
 
We come today as we shelter behind closed doors with all who have lost their freedom, all who have lost hope. We pray for all who have been imprisoned because of their beliefs; that in the darkness they may find your love.
 
Lead us out of darkness into light, out of doubt into faith, out of death into life in all its fullness:
 
We pray for any fellowship to which we belong, for communities and clubs, for social groups, for our church. We give thanks for your appearing in the Upper Room, and pray for our homes and those we love.
 
Lead us out of darkness into light, out of doubt into faith,  out of death into life in all its fullness:
 
We remember all who are despairing,  all who lack confidence, those afraid to trust themselves or others. We remember all who are lonely, all who are fearful.
We pray for those in sickness, looking to you in hope. Come lead us out of darkness into light, out of doubt into faith,  out of death into life in all its fullness. These prayers, and the unspoken prayers of our hearts we ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
Offertory
 
Lord, in these complicated times, we offer ourselves to serve you.  Take the money that we give to our churches, through Standing orders and through cash saved up, and all that we do and give in loving service to others, and bless  everything in your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
Hymn:      Come Ye Faithful Raise the Strain
                 St John of Damascus (675-750) tr. John Mason Neale 1818 - 1866
 
Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
of triumphant gladness;
God hath brought his Israel
into joy from sadness;
loosed from Pharaoh's bitter yoke
Jacob's sons and daughters;
led them with unmoistened foot
through the Red Sea waters.
 
2 'Tis the spring of souls today;
Christ hath burst his prison,
and from three days' sleep in death,
as a sun hath risen;
all the winter of our sins,
long and dark, is flying
from his light, to whom we give
laud and praise undying.
 
3 Now the queen of seasons, bright
with the day of splendour,
with the royal feast of feasts,
comes its joy to render;
comes to glad Jerusalem,
who with true affection
welcomes in unwearied strains
Jesus' resurrection.
 
4 Neither might the gates of death,
nor the tomb's dark portal,
nor the watchers, nor the seal
hold thee as a mortal:
but today amidst thine own
thou didst stand, bestowing
thine own peace, which evermore
passeth human knowing.

Closing Blessing
 
May you find in the risen Lord
the way to fullness of life,
the way to joy and peace
 
And the blessing of God Almighty
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Be amongst us and remain with us
This day and for evermore. Amen.
 

 
Sources and Thanks

Call To Worship adapted from the Exultset by Andy  Braunston, Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Christian Church of North America.
Sermon, prayers and blessing by Nicola Furley Smith Offertory by Michael Hopkins.
 
At the Name of Jesus recorded by the BBC’s Songs of Praise
Before the Throne of God Above a capella version by Michael Lining Music
Here is Love sung by Robin Mark
Come Ye Faithful sung by Sandra Anderson, Lincoln Briney, Mary Beth Cecil, Greg Clark, Brett Gilbert, Tracy Laas, and Roger Treece
 
Thanks to members of Barrhead URC, Anne Hewling, Kathleen Haynes, Karen Smith, Patrick Henderson, Pam Carpenter, Phil Nevard and James Whately for reading the spoken parts. and to Phil Nevard for mixing the recordings into one podcast.
 
 
 
  
 
 
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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 19th April Psalm 143

Sun, 19/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 19th April Psalm 143 
 

1 O hear my prayer, LORD;
My cry for mercy heed.
In truth and righteousness
Draw near to meet my need.
2 And do not judge me in your sight
For in your presence none is right.

3 The foe has hounded me
And crushed me to the ground,
In darkness made me dwell,
Like those in death long bound.
4 And so my spirit is afraid;
My heart within me is dismayed.

5 Therefore I call to mind
The days and years long gone;
I ponder all your works
And what your hands have done.
6 To you in prayer I spread my hands;
For you I thirst, like arid lands.

7 My spirit fails, O LORD;
Come quickly to my side.
Hide not your face from me,
Lest to the pit I slide.
8 Let morning bring your love anew,
For I have put my trust in you.

To you I lift my soul;
Show me the way to go.
9 I hide myself in you;
LORD, save me from my foe.
10 My God, teach me to do your will;
May your good Spirit lead me still.

11 For your great mercy’s sake,
O LORD, preserve my life;
And in your righteousness
Deliver me from strife.
12 In love, put all my foes to shame;
Destroy them, for I bear your name.

The editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tune Love Unknown for this Psalm which you can hear here.

Reflection

Even in this Easter season it is possible to feel devitalised, drained, and overwhelmed by the seeming victory of wrongdoing in the world. In other words, one week later, it is possible to live more in Good Friday than in the hope and joy of Easter Day.

The singer here reflects on a cut throat society in which (s)he feels persecuted. So strong is the sense of psychological shock and humiliation that (s)he compares it to being close to death. Through the agency of Amnesty International today, one hears of situations in which even the judiciary cannot be relied on to administer justice. To whom then can a prisoner of conscience turn?

The response of the Psalmist is, with trepidation, to address his/her situation to the God who is defined by covenant grace. I remember God’s saving acts. I ponder the signs of God’s grace in the past and present. It emboldens me to cry out to God on behalf of myself, my family, my society, my suffering earth for relief. 

My appeal cannot be based on anything other than that the judge of all the earth will act justly. Under pressure of circumstances, I take refuge in the possibilities that God will bring to light, unpredictable mercies. 

In the blindness of my fear, I often want destruction. I want an end to the humiliation of the vulnerable, but more than that I want the perpetrators to suffer. That part of the singer’s prayer will not be answered. What they do to me, they do to you. So even though I am helpless, you are not, vindicate yourself. 

Yet the prayer for vengeance rebounds with redeeming love, as we celebrated last week. God’s truest nature
absorbs hatred and violence. We cannot linger forever on Good Friday feelings, we are called to exercise hope in God’s justice. New life flows, even in the bitterest of situations. Halleljuah!  

Prayer

You know our hearts,
You understand our powerlessness,
In the face of injustice,
Our desire for retribution
Is familiar to you.

Hear our cries for those in extreme situations,
Grant us hope to trust in your strange victory,
In the name of Jesus, Amen    -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Richard Church member of Streatham URC, Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) Copyright
Sing Psalms! The Psalmody and Worship Committee of the Free Church of Scotland
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Tomorrow's Worship

Sat, 18/04/2020 - 12:29
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Worship Tomorrow

Dear <<First Name>>

Tomorrow our worship is led by the Rev'd Nicola Furley Smith, the URC's Secretary for Ministries.  It will be sent out between 9.45 and 9.50 ready for a 10am start.  We hope that you feel connected with the thousands of others across the church who will be listening, praying and praising together during these testing times.

If you know others who would value the Devotions you could forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up using this link.

with every good wish


Andy

The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC project. --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Sat, 18/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 18th April 2020

2 Corinthians 4: 1 - 15

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.  We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practise cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

Reflection

The term clay jars brings a couple of images to mind, firstly, making clay dishes/ashtrays at school and how on occasion they exploded in the kiln. Secondly, the paint-your-own pottery shops in various holiday locations around the country where a lot of money is paid so a child can create a masterpiece on a mug, plate, dish or other pottery-based item. 

What strikes me in both of these images is that the items are similar but have different memories attached, and the crockery is oddly sturdy and fragile at the same time. Our lives are just like that, as is our faith. There are times when our faith enables us to stay strong when people expect that we would break, but there are other times when it would be the expected norm that our faith gets us through, and in fact we feel distant from God. 

Clay jars in my head vary from arts and crafts rough and ready simplicity, to beautifully handcrafted artisan pieces, and again that is like us. I look at some of my friends and colleagues and wonder at how well presented and together they are as human beings, and then think I must look like a child’s art and craft project in comparison with my less than togetherness, then I am reminded that to others, I am the one they see as all worked out together grown up and they see themselves as the “mess”. 

The thing is, to God, we are all the child’s messy art and craft clay project that didn’t make it out of the kiln intact, but that is exactly why we are called by God to show and share the message of hope to God’s glory, because through God, we are all made artisan handcrafted pieces even on the days we feel arts and craft.

Prayer

Creator God, you have crafted the universe precisely,
And even when we feel like the rough arts and crafts clay pot 
Remind us that we still hold your grace and spirit and are called by you.

Amen -->

Today's writer

Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, CRCW, Ansty Road URC & St Columba’s URC, Coventry  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

Fri, 17/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Friday 17th April 2020

2 Corinthians 3

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all;  and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ towards God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God,  who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry of death, chiselled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside,  how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!

Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that  was being set aside. But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside.  Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
 
Reflection

I like to walk and chat with God (or at least, try).  Part of my route takes me alongside fields, and on today’s unusually clear pre-dawn morning I could see the stars.  There was also a beautiful moon, and it got me thinking. (Don’t imagine I’m some super-holy prayer warrior, by-the-way. I’m writing this in January, in Britain; most folks are up before dawn.)

Moonlight is great, but it’s only reflected glory. It’s not the same as starlight. The moon, were I to visit, would seem familiar: solid surface, rocks, sunlight and shadows. A star is altogether different. Our sun is a ball of hydrogen-fuelled nuclear reactions, throwing out heat, light and all kinds of deadly radiation across millions of kilometres.  It has no solid surface and its corona, an ‘atmosphere’ of plasma, is over a million degrees Celsius! It is so totally ‘other’ that I can’t get my head round it. But I can cope with the moon.

I think this is what Paul was talking about when he spoke of “seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror”. God is so utterly more than we can comprehend, and all we can cope with, for present, is a reflection.

Moses saw a glimpse of God’s glory, as did Elijah, and some of the disciples at Jesus’ transfiguration. One day, we will all see God’s full glory when we meet him face-to-face. As Paul said elsewhere, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12)

But for the present, we are called to be moons to God’s sun – to reflect his glory in the world – while God works in us to change us from one degree of glory into another.
 
Prayer

Father of majesty and mercy,
Saviour of power and presence,
Spirit of glory and grace;
Finish, then, thy new creation.
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory,
'til in heav'n we take our place,
'til we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Amen.

(from Charles Wesley) -->

Today's writer

Fay Rowland, graduate student of Wesley House, Cambridge, worshipping at Christ the King, Northants Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion

Thu, 16/04/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 16th April 2020
 
2 Corinthians 2: 12 - 17
When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; but my mind could not rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said farewell to them and went on to Macedonia.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God and standing in his presence.

Reflection
As someone who has been blind from birth, fragrance is important. It is often said that the other senses of someone without sight are sharpened. This has been proved not to be the case. However, I probably use the senses I have in a different, possibly more productive way.

Paul begins this passage by explaining his reasons for not staying in Troas. A door has been opened for him, but Titus isn’t there. Paul doesn’t consider himself a one man show, and moves on to depict himself as a soldier in an army in which Christ is the general.

If a general had won a major battle, he was given a triumph in Rome. Soldiers and prisoners alike were marched through the streets, and incense was burned. For the soldiers, it signified victory, and for the prisoners, captivity, and possibly death.

When you enter a church, do you smell the fragrance of Jesus. It is intangible, and undefinable, but comes from our behaviour as people of Christ. If I had to define the smell, it would be paraffin, which was always burnt at home when I was a child. The overarching point here is that fragrance has different associations for different people, and as we struggle to comfort the homeless, provide courage and hope for those who are sick, and give comfort to those who are bereaved, exuding that fragrance is of great importance.

Prayer
Lord God, Enable us through the power of your spirit to exude the fragrance of life, hope, love, and comfort. May our churches be churches where those who enter smell the fragrance of life and victory over death. Through this fragrance, we might bring more people to you, such that the fragrance of Jesus may fill our hearts, our churches, and the places in which we live.  Amen. -->

Today's writer

David Reynolds is a serving elder at Cores End URC, Bucks Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion

Wed, 15/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Wednesday 15th April
 
2 Corinthians 2: 1 - 11

So I made up my mind not to make you another painful visit. For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained?  And I wrote as I did, so that when I came, I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice; for I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you.  For I wrote to you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person;  so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. I wrote for this reason: to test you and to know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ. And we do this so that we may not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Reflection

As a teenager I attended a neighbouring church’s evening Folk Mass from time to time (this probably dates me).  The excellent choir there sung a piece with the striking lyric: “what God asks of me can never be the same as what He asks of you so I must cause you pain.”  One of the difficult things in life is the realisation that, however, unwittingly we cause others pain - sometimes by our own sense of vocation and call, sometimes by the more mundane minutiae of daily life.  

Paul clearly had a difficult relationship with the Corinthian Church.  We read in 1 Corinthians of the ways in which he was appalled at how their worship had descended into drunken depravity and, whilst his teaching was expected, one imagines that his visits and letters to them were difficult.  He is clear that his intention had not been to cause pain but he is aware enough to recognise that pain was caused.

In our contemporary culture we see pain as something to be avoided - it’s probably why we talk about the weather so much as it’s safer than politics!  Yet through the pain of childbirth comes new life, through the pain of growing we mature, through the pain of love we become stronger and, at the end, the pains of life ebb away as we enter into our eternal rest.  Pain is part of life and one we need to embrace. Again, as a child, there was a saying to “offer it up” meaning our pain and despondency. It’s not a phrase we use much in the URC and can easily mask underlying issues but there is some truth there.  We should offer to God the pain we feel and the pain we cause in the hope that through the painful experiences of life we’re refined and made ever more into God’s own image.

Prayer

God of sorrow and joy,
you take our pain and uniting it with yours,
use it to transform our world.
Give us the grace, when we cause pain, to be self aware.
Give us the time, when we are pained, to forgive.
Give us the faith to follow you.
Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Andy Branston ministers with four churches in and around Glasgow and co-ordinates the Daily Devotions from the URC. Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion

Tue, 14/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Tuesday 14th April
 
2 Corinthians 1: 12 - 24

Indeed, this is our boast, the testimony of our conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God—and all the more towards you.  For we write to you nothing other than what you can read and also understand; I hope you will understand until the end— as you have already understood us in part—that on the day of the Lord Jesus we are your boast even as you are our boast.

Since I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a double favour;  I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to ordinary human standards, ready to say ‘Yes, yes’ and ‘No, no’ at the same time?  As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been ‘Yes and No.’ For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not ‘Yes and No’; but in him it is always ‘Yes.’ For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’, to the glory of God.  But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment.

But I call on God as witness against me: it was to spare you that I did not come again to Corinth.  I do not mean to imply that we lord it over your faith; rather, we are workers with you for your joy, because you stand firm in the faith.

Reflection

“There’s been a change of plan.” If you’re an organised sort of person, the heart sinks. Why can’t people stick to what’s already been arranged? For most of us life is complicated enough as it is, and we really want to know just where we are.

So we can guess the Corinthians’ sense of frustration as Paul’s travel plans seem to change yet again. His supporters will no doubt rejoice at the promise of a double visit, either side of his trip to Macedonia; but others it seems are asking if he’s going to stick with these plans or change them yet again. It’s no surprise then that Paul is quick to defend himself. But we would hardly expect a few comments on his own reliability to lead into so deep a reflection on the very nature of Christ.

Paul recognises that we make plans by weighing up the consequences of our possible actions, saying ‘yes’ to some and ‘no’ to others. But once we ask God to be with us in the choices and decisions we make, our carefully nuanced “on the one hand this, and on the other hand that” thought processes no longer function. Paul believes that God has been with him in the plans he has made (even over matters such as should the journey be by sea or by land), and he is convinced that God never mixes up “yes” and “no”.

Central to Paul’s life, as the power and the inspiration behind his mission to sometimes awkward and obstreperous people like the Corinthians, is the person of Jesus Christ. And he, Paul declares, is the way in which God has said a resounding “Yes”. There’s no room for doubt, and no hint of change in God’s plans. In Jesus Christ, it is “Yes” all the way!

Prayer

Loving God
help me to be true to my word
and stick to the plans you have helped me to make
that even in my life others may see
the Christ who is your unfailing YES.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John Durell, retired minister, member of Waddington Street URC, Durham Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Monday 13th April 2020

Mon, 13/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 13th April
 
2 Corinthians 1: 1 - 11

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.  If we are being afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation; if we are being consoled, it is for your consolation, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we are also suffering. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation.

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again, as you also join in helping us by your prayers, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted to us through the prayers of many.

Reflection

So the solemnity of Lent is over; the emotions of Holy Week are past and we have arrived at Easter.  Even the nation still recognises its importance (historically if nothing else) by granting us all a Bank Holiday.  None of your VE Day Bank holiday nonsense, this is real victory - God’s great victory over sin, evil and death, in raising the crucified one to life and glory.  ‘Blessed be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…’ indeed.
 
That brings to mind the words of 1 Peter 1.3, that famous verse: ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’  That seems a better verse for Easter Monday than getting stuck into Paul’s second letter to that difficult church in Corinth that caused him such anguish.
 
But wait a minute…the risen Christ still bears the scars of the cross; the living hope is not some easy-going fantasy, looking always on the bright side of life.  The living hope is forged in the cauldron of human suffering and divine sacrifice. It is hope at times in the face of hopelessness and despair, not optimism based on reasonable expectations.  There is nothing reasonable or sentimental about Easter Day!
 
And so we come to Paul’s heart aching letter, that speaks of being crushed and despairing of life and through it coming to rely on the God who raises the dead.  The letter that will open Paul’s hurt at his fellow Christians in Corinth and what they say about and do to each other and to him. Yet his hope in them is unshaken.  Blessed by the God who brings us such amazing hope and consolation.
 
 
Prayer
 
Such grace and peace
you show us Living God,
through the life and death
and ever new life
of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
Such consolation, amid affliction;
such hope, amid the strife;
unshaken hope for ourselves,
for our churches, for our world. 
Blessed be your name,
name above all names.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Terry Hinks, minister of Trinity, High Wycombe and Cores End 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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2 Corinthians

Sun, 12/04/2020 - 18:00
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2 Corinthians

Dear <<First Name>>

Happy Easter!

I hope you enjoyed both this morning's service from Downing Place URC in Cambridge, have found the Holy Week services useful and have enjoyed the Stations of the Cross reflections based on Fr Sieger Koeder's art over the last two weeks.  

We continue with our journey through Paul’s letters to the Corinthian Church spending the next few weeks in what we know as 2 Corinthians.  Newer subscribers can find the reflections on 1 Corinthians by going to devotions.urc.org.uk

Whilst scholars are clear that Paul wrote the letter there is a view that it’s a compilation of at least two letters which later editors merged into one due to the change of tone between chapter 7 and 8.  The situation in the church was still complicated, Paul asserts his apostleship and clearly sees that he’s been attacked.  We know that church conflicts can be messy and those in leadership often take the brunt of the pain.  The letter encourages us that even when we get it wrong we’re in good company!


with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Easter Sunday  Service

Sun, 12/04/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
Worship for Easter Sunday 2020
from
Downing Place United Reformed Church Cambridge
 
Today’s service is led by the Rev’d Dr. John P. Bradbury with musician: Ian de Massini.  It includes an opportunity to share Holy Communion Together so you  may like to get some bread and wine and have ready.
 
 
Prelude:  The Communion Plainsong Proper for Easter Day
 
Christ, our Paschal Lamb,
has been sacrificed, alleluia:
therefore, let us keep the feast
by sharing the unleavened bread
of uprightness and truth, alleluia, alleluia.
 
Call To Worship
 
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
 
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness
of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
 
Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Saviour shines
upon you! Let this place resound with joy,  
as we sing, echoing the mighty song  of all God’s people!
 
Hymn:      Christ the Lord is risen today
                Charles Wesley (1707-88)
 
Sing “Alleluia” after each line of music
 
Christ the Lord is risen today: 
let creation join to say: 
raise your joys and triumphs high: 
sing, ye heavens, thou earth reply: 
 
2: Love’s redeeming work is done:
fought the fight, the battle won:
vain the stone, the watch, the seal:
Christ hath burst the gates of hell:
 
3: Lives again our glorious King:
where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once he died our souls to save:
where’s thy victory, boasting grave?
 
4: Soar we now where Christ hath led:
following our exalted Head:
made like him, like him we rise:
ours the cross, the grave, the skies.
 
5: King of glory, soul of bliss,
everlasting life is this,
Thee to know, thy power to prove,
thus to sing, and thus to love.
 
Prayers of Approach and Confession including verses from Psalm 118
 
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever!

 
Living God, we give thanks for your goodness. That you came into the darkness of a fallen world, bringing light and life and truth. In Christ, death has been broken, resurrection life won as a victory over darkness.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
 
We praise you that through our baptisms Christ’s story has become our story: Christ’s death, our death; Christ’s resurrection our resurrection.
 
This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.
 
As we worship in the midst of a broken world, send us the gift of your Spirit; unite us with the praises of your people  in all times and places
as we lift our voices in thanksgiving for all your good gifts for us. This is the day that the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it!
 
God, we are a broken people. The angel at the tomb said, ‘Do not be afraid’. And yet we are afraid. Very afraid. The risen Christ stood among his disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you’, and yet our hearts are full of anguish, we condone violence and war, and we know no peace. We are a broken and sinful people, and we come seeking your forgiveness.
 
Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.
 
“God raised Christ on the third day. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge  of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”.         
(Acts 10: 40,42-43, altd.)
 
May you know you are forgiven. May you know the peace of the living Christ. Amen.
  
Jeremiah 31: 1-6
 
Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away.  I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: ‘Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’
 
St Matthew 28:1-10
 
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.  And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.  For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.  But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’
 
Reflective Music
an excerpt from the Menuet from Le Tombeau de Couperin
by Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937).

 
Sermon
 
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary head at first light, heavy with grief, to the tomb. One can only begin to imagine the nature of the sleepless nights that had preceded that dawn. The exhaustion; the emotional confusion. The previous week had been nothing if not tumultuous, as the one they had confessed to be the Messiah, the Lord, had taken centre stage in the most deadly passion play. Crowds of people just like you and me, had waved their palm branches and cried ‘Hosanna’. Those very same crowds of people, just like you and me, had shouted ‘crucify’, and willed the ghoulish spectacle of a crucifixion for their delectation. The religious ‘powers that be’ had felt threatened by this man of peace. They had plotted and connived to have him removed from harm’s way. Their harm’s way. The occupying Imperial power of Rome, supposedly famed for its justice, had washed its hands of him, taking the easy way out. Weak and pathetic men allowed evil to prevail. We know something of what weak and pathetic men can do in our own age. And the cruellest and most tortuous death had been witnessed, as it had time and time again under Roman rule, and would be time and time again to come. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had witnessed all of it. As the disciples fled, and disowned the one they supposedly professed as Lord, these faithful women had stood at the foot of the cross.
 
Exhausted. Bewildered. Far removed from any sense of normality, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary head to the tomb.
 
As Matthew recounts the story, its beginning is dramatic. There is an earthquake, there is an angel of the Lord like lightening, white as snow. And the guards, lackeys of the empire, shake and become like dead men. The living dead surround the moment of resurrection.
 
It feels at the moment like we are surrounded by death. The numbers of the dead appear daily on our screens, we watch the statistics and the graphs with rapt attention. We hear stories  from our hospitals that are hard to take in. It feels like we cannot properly honour our dead and commend and commit them to God in the way we would wish. We live lives unrecognisable compared with but a few weeks ago. We cannot go to honour our dead as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary did.
 
What does it mean to celebrate the resurrection in a time of Coronavirus? A time when our world feels like it has been turned upside down, we fear for our loved ones, we fear for our lives, we fear for the future of our churches, and we fear for life as we have known it? A time when we fear for our bodies, and perhaps have been brought up short against the fact that we are our bodies. Weak and fragile as they are, without them, there is no ‘us’.
 
Perhaps it helps to recall that the resurrection was attended by those guards, the living dead. The living are dead, and the dead live. Resurrection times are strange times.
 
We never see the moment of resurrection itself recounted in scripture. We see the effects of resurrection. There is the dramatic moment with the earthquake and the angel, but then resurrection becomes strangely tentative. As Mary Magdalene and the other Mary encounter the risen Lord he says, simply ‘Greetings!’. They worship, and take hold of his feet. For just as we are our bodies, so Jesus is his body and they touch and caress it. “Do not be afraid” says Jesus, words uttered whenever there is a manifestation of the divine upon earth. Words easier to hear than to live by. Then Jesus tells them to go and tell his brothers to go to Galilee. To head away from the centre of power and religious life, to the marginal place of Galilee. There they will see him. And that is it.
 
The Romans are still in power. The religious authorities are still corrupt. Popular opinion is still fickle. The guards are like the living dead. And Jesus is risen and nothing will be quite the same ever again.
 
And Mary Magdalene and the other Mary clearly do go, and do tell, and the disciples head to that out-of-the-way place Galilee. And there they do encounter the risen Christ and he commissions that frail, fragile, exhausted, broken, bemused band to make disciples and baptise ‘to the ends of the earth’. From the telling by Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, here we are two thousand years later, recalling the promise of Christ that he is with us ‘always, to the end of the age’. The one who said to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, ‘Greetings! Do not be afraid’, says to us this day, ‘Greetings! Do not be afraid’.
 
What does it mean to ‘not be afraid’ in a time of Coronavirus? It feels easier said than done, I find. I suspect that might be because of our tendency to look at things from a human point of view. And from that point of view we want resurrection to be different to that which it really is. We want resurrection to mean that the brutal occupying powers of the world no longer rule over minority populations. We  want corrupt religious authorities to be unseated from their thrones. We want the ‘will of the people’ to embody perpetual truth, life and love. And yet that is not what we get. What  we get is a greeting, an injunction to not be afraid, a grasping of the feet of the Lord, and an injunction to go and tell. In resurrection God’s kingdom is born into the midst of life in the world, it seeps into it, it spreads through it, it leavens and transforms it, but we still wait upon the day when God will bring all things to completion and the lion will lie down with the lamb, there will be feasting on the mountaintops and nation upon nation upon nation will process into the heavenly city and all things will be in all in Christ. As Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go and tell, they are a sign and a foretaste of that reality. As St. Paul realises that God’s Spirit falls upon us unclean gentiles as much as upon God’s chosen people, that sign and foretaste becomes yet more palpable. Wherever Christ’s people worship, follow him and serve, that sign and foretaste of the kingdom becomes yet more real. And at the heart of it stand these words of resurrections: “Do not be afraid”.
 
For whilst seemingly not much had changed early that morning, in reality everything had changed. For death had been overcome. Life had been transformed. Terrified men locked in an upper room became courageous apostles, proclaiming the good news to people and places previously unthinkable and unimaginable. For we have been invited into that story of Jesus. In our baptism his story has become our story. His identity has become our identity. We are engrafted into the Christ’s body, he has become our head. His life and death have become our life and death. His resurrection has become our resurrection. Where Christ has gone before us, he has prepared a place for us and we will go after him. As Christ has been victorious over death, he was won that victory for us too. We live filled with that Good News, hopeful and expectant for the coming of the Kingdom, when all things we be created anew in Christ, death shall be no more, there will be no more weeping and every tear will be wiped from every eye.
 
And so it is that we need not be afraid when surrounded by death. For the reality of the resurrection is the promise that death does not have the last word. Like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, we will grieve in these times. We will feel fear. With the Psalmist and with Christ upon the cross we  will cry ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’. The world continues to be a broken place, just as those guards became the living dead at the moment of the resurrection. But we will not be afraid. For into this world of death life has been born, resurrection hope has escaped and been let loose in the world, Good News has been told, and is ours to tell. The Kingdom is abroad in the here and now. Christ is with us now, as he is to the end of the time. The Spirit captures us up in the life of the Kingdom, holds us in grief, leads us to life, fills us with resurrection hope.
 
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
 
Hymn       Now the green blade rises
               John Macleod Campbell Crum 1872 – 1958 © 1928 Oxford University Press
 
Now the green blade rises from the buried grain,
wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
love lives again, that with the dead has been:
love has come again, like wheat that springeth green.
 
2: In the grave they laid him, love whom they had slain,
thinking that he never would awake again,
laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
love has come again, like wheat that springs up green.
 
3: Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
he that for three days in the grave had lain,
quick from the dead my risen Christ is seen:
love has come again, like wheat that springeth green.
 
4: When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Christ’s touch can call us back to life again,
fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
love has come again, like wheat that springs up green.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—which some seek to control, but which others view with despair—we declare with joy and trust: our world belongs to God!
 
From the beginning, through all the crises of our times, until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever. Our world belongs to God!
 
We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness, and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for our world belongs to God!
 
As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise, we offer our hearts and lives to do God's work in his world, for our world belongs to God!
 
With tempered impatience,  eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the earth when Christ appears for our world belongs to God!
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
Living God, we give you thanks and praise that in Christ’s resurrection, your Kingdom has been inaugurated here on earth.  Christ was lifted up for all, and in resurrection new life is made possible for all creation. And so we bring our prayers for the life of the world and the life of the Church:
 
“As the first day of the week was dawning Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb”.
 
We pray for those faced with the stark realities of death: For those who fear because death is near. Grant them peace and assurance of your love. For those who are this day tending the dying, uphold them through your Spirit in this demanding labour. For those separated from loved ones close to death, grant them comfort and relief from anguish. For those grieving the loss of loved ones; surround them in your love and sustain them through your power. For those who lament that there was no chance for a goodbye, my they experience the reality of your Spirit, who unites us all with you and all we love.
 
May those surrounded by death know something of resurrection hope. That death is not the end, but the beginning of new life in Christ. The angel said, “Do not be afraid”.
 
We pray for all who this day live in fear: Those who fear for their own safety as they tend the needs of others. Grant them courage. For those who fear the unknown of what is to come: may they rest in the assurance you sustain all things in being through your love. For those who fear the spaces they are confined in, may they experience your supportive presence and live in the hope of freedom.
 
“Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
 
We pray for the life of the Church. By the power of your Spirit, enable us to go and tell the good news of your resurrection. May we be a people of peace, a people who proclaim that there is no need to live in fear. A people who hear the good news with open ears and hearts, and proclaim it with open mouths and lives lived well.
 
In a moments silence we bring those concerns on our hearts and minds this day:
 
All these our prayers we offer in the name of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and saviour. Amen.
 
Introduction to Communion
 
In this time of coronavirus, physical distancing and lockdown, any celebration of Holy Communion is damaged. There are three of us gathered here today, and Christ’s promise is that where two or three are gathered in his name, he is there among them. At the same time, some of you may be isolated as individuals at this time – and yet we are all surrounded so great a cloud of witnesses that none of us truly marks Easter alone.  Across the family of the church, we cannot today share fully together the one loaf and the one cup. That we cannot do, and we lament.  But in communion we follow the command of Christ to remember him. That we can do. We come to remember with thanksgiving Christ’s death upon the cross  and his resurrection. That we can do. We pray that the Holy Spirit will unite us with Christ, and across space and time with one another.  That we can do, gathered or scattered as community. You may wish to take bread and wine at home, and join me in saying some of the communion prayers. You might, perhaps, prefer to use these prayers later at your Easter meal table, so that as you gather at table, you remember all Christ has done for us, and pray that he will be present with you at table through the work of the Holy Spirit. If so, you may wish to leave out the words in brackets whilst using these prayers as a form of extended ‘grace’ at the table. However you find it most helpful to join with us, our prayer is that our celebration of Holy Communion may reach out to everyone sharing with us in some way, such that God will unite us with one another, and with Christ, that we might be fed by the Holy Spirit in these difficult days.
 
Invitation to Communion
 
Hear the gracious words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.
I am the bread of life: whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
 
The Peace
 
The risen Christ stood in the midst of his disciples and said: ‘Peace be with you’. The peace of the risen Christ be with you all.  Peace be with you.
 
Hymn       I come with joy to meet my Lord
                Brian Wren (1936-  ) © 1975, 1981, Stainer and Bell Ltd
 
Repeat the last line of each verse
I come with joy to meet my Lord,
forgiven, loved, and free,
in awe and wonder to recall
his life laid down for me.
 
2: I come with Christians far and near
to find, as all are fed,
the new community of love
in Christ's communion bread.
 
3: As Christ breaks bread and bids us share
each proud division ends.
The love that made us, makes us one,
and strangers now are friends.
 
4: And thus with joy we meet our Lord,
his presence, always near,
is in such friendship better known:
we see, and  praise him here.
 
5: Together met, together bound,
we’ll go our different ways,
and as his people in the world
we’ll live and speak his praise.
 
The Narrative of the Institution
 
Hear the narrative of the institution of the Lord’s Supper as it was recorded by the apostle Paul.
 
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.                                                                           
 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and following his example, we take the gifts at this table, this bread and this cup, and give thanks to God.
 
The Lord be with you and also with you.
Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
 
It is indeed right that we give you thanks and praise, source of all life and love, guide and goal of creation. Long ago you called to yourself a people to be a light to the nations. We wandered often from your ways, yet you loved us with an everlasting love, and have continued in faithfulness to us. You came into the world in Christ, teaching and healing, showing us your ways, and drawing us into union with you. You broke the power of death, greeting startled women on the first day of the week, bidding them go and tell. With Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, with all the company of heaven and all your people of all times and places, we proclaim your greatness and sing your praise:
 
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
 
We remember with thanksgiving Christ’s life here on earth. The lessons of forgiveness he taught us. The peace he shared with us. The healing of troubled bodies, minds and spirits he offered us. Yet his ways of peace were met with violence from power.
 
We recall now his sufferings upon the Cross for our sake, and his glorious resurrection, which promises new life for all.
  
Let us proclaim the mystery of faith
 
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
 
We who have been redeemed by Christ and made a new people by water and the Spirit now gather at your table.
 
Send your Holy Spirit upon us and upon the gifts at this table, bread and wine, that we who eat and drink at this feast may share the life of Christ, our Lord.
 
Pour out your Spirit upon the whole earth and bring in your new creation. Gather your Church together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, where peace and justice are revealed, that we, with all your people, of every language, race, and nation, may share the banquet you have promised. Let us say together the prayer that Jesus taught us:
 
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come; thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
 
The Breaking of the Bread
 
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’
 
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’
 
The Feast
 
The gifts of God for the people of God
 
If and as we receive bread and wine:
 
The body of Christ, broken for you.  The blood of Christ, shed for you.
 
Prayer after Communion
 
God of a love stronger than death, you have given us new birth into a living hope, through the gift of your Son. God with us, like a mother you have fed us with yourself and strengthened us for journeying ahead.

God of truth and power, you take our weakness and our sin and refashion us by grace. Gracious God, may the love which bids us welcome at this table gather all your children into one, in your eternal presence, whole and free at last. Amen.
 
Hymn       Thine be the glory
                Edmond Louis Budry. (1854-1932)  tr. Richard Birch Hoyle (1875-1939)
 
 
Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave-clothes where thy body lay.

Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won!

2: Lo, Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness hymns of triumph sing,
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting:

3: No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee: aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love;
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.
 
Blessing
 
As Christ burst forth from the tomb, may new life burst forth from us and show itself in acts of love and healing to a hurting world. And may that same Christ, who lives forever, and is the source of our new life, keep your hearts rejoicing and grant you peace. this day and always and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us now and evermore Amen.
 
Postlude:          Easter Hymn Fanfare, by Ian de Massini (born 1959).
 
Sources and Thanks
 
Opening Responses adapted by Andy Braunston from the Exultset.
Affirmation of Faith from the Christian Reformed Church in North America
Prayer after Communion (and other inspiration!) from: Worship from the United Reformed Church (London, United Reformed Church, 2003).
The epliclesis in the Prayer of Thanksgiving is an adapted form taken from The Worship Sourcebook (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Baker Books, 2013).
 
Christ the Lord is Risen Today performed by Maddy Prior.
Now the Green Blade Rises performed by the Smoke Faeries.
I Come With Joy To Meet My Lord unknown performers on YouTube. Thine be the Glory from BBC’s Songs of Praise.
 
Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith read by members of Barrhead URC.
 
Words to hymns, where in copyright, reproduced according to the terms of the various licences held by the URC.  Barrhead URC’s OneLicence covers the performance rights of the recorded musical material. --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Sun, 12/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 12th April - Easter Sunday - 14th Station - Jesus is Risen


Alive Seiger Koder
 
St John 20:13 - 16

They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).

Reflection

This account of Mary weeping outside the garden tomb, has always fascinated me. I don’t know quite why, but it is a scenario into which each one of us could have fitted, given God’s amazing plan of having people in the right place at the right time. Here we find Mary literally breaking her heart as she finds the tomb of her beloved Lord empty. What’s more she sees in that place two angels in sparkling apparel where Jesus had been laid just three short days previously. To us mere mortals it seems obvious that she is mourning the loss of Jesus, as well as finding that even His body has gone missing, but the angels ask her why she is weeping. Surely they would know, and yet perhaps they need her to put this into her own words, as God often needs us to do, despite Him knowing everything about every situation?

We may need to put ourselves in the place where Mary stood on that Easter morning. Having gone early, making the discovery of the empty tomb, she runs to tell Peter and John (verse 3), and then returns there in quiet contemplation and great turmoil of heart. All of a sudden it would seem that as she turns around and alters her focus, she sees Jesus and yet does not recognise Him. Perhaps her grief has overtaken her, rather than forgetting His words that He would rise from the dead. She even supposes him to be the gardener, and as Jesus realises how great her loss is, in love calls her name, and then it is as though the proverbial penny drops.

I feel sure that we can often be like this, in the situation, but not of it, until there is that uniquely personal touch from our Saviour, calling us by name so that afresh we can respond wholeheartedly, to the wonder of his resurrection from the dead JUST AS HE SAID!

Prayer

Living, Loving, All conquering Lord!
Forgive us for those times when we don’t see you,
When our minds forget how close you really are.
Thank you that you have truly risen,
Giving us victory, even over the last enemy of death itself.
Even in the darkest of times may we acknowledge you,
Feel you, trust you, love you and worship you unreservedly. AMEN
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Today's writer

Verena Walder    Lay Preacher  and Local Church Leader.  Tabernacle Mumbles. 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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Sunday's Coming

Sat, 11/04/2020 - 18:51
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming

Dear <<First Name>>

Today is Holy Saturday, an in between time where, traditionally, until dusk at least services are sombre and reflect on Our Lord in the tomb.  Some traditions start their Easter celebrations after dusk with an Easter Vigil, but today we wait.  

Tomorrow our Easter service comes from Downing Place URC in Cambridge and is led by the Rev'd Dr John Bradbury.  That service gives an opportunity, if you wish, to share in Holy Communion so you may like to be prepared and have some bread and wine (or juice) ready.

I hope you've found comfort in our journey together through Holy Week with Fr Sieger Koeder's Stations of the Cross (one more to come tomorrow), the audio visual Stations and the Good Friday service.  Our Easter joy should not be diminished tomorrow by the fact we're apart - over 4,000 people receive these devotions directly and many have them forwarded to them.  We're living through a foretaste of the Communion of the Saints in these days of isolation.

with every good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Daily Devotions from the URC Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 11th April

Sat, 11/04/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 11th April - Holy Saturday - 13th Station - Jesus is placed in the tomb



“Chrysalis” Sieger Koeder
 
St John 12: 14

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Reflection

I learnt the wonders of the butterfly life cycle as a child. An egg hatches into a caterpillar, which eats, grows and sheds successive skins, until the final moult reveals a chrysalis. In good time, a butterfly will emerge, but first the contents are transformed in an organic process of deconstruction and reconstruction. Revealing a living transformation, an act of wonder in a hidden, silent time. 
 
I learnt the stories of Jesus as a child, from birth to adulthood and Galilean days before journeying to Jerusalem. On one Sunday we’d sing songs with waving palm branches, the next, songs with hallelujahs. I remember making a miniature Easter garden, with a cross and tomb bedecked by primroses (no butterflies). Portraying a living transformation, an act of wonder in a hidden, silent time. 
 
The artist Sieger Koeder knows of butterflies and telling the stories of Jesus. Through Chrysalis, Koeder shines light on a hidden mystery of faith. Set in an enveloping tomb, Christ’s cold, nail-bloodied body, is shrouded within translucent graveclothes. Yet his veiled face, which seems warm with the blood of the living, is semi-illuminated with light, breaking from within or beyond the stone. Envisioning a living transformation, an act of wonder in a hidden, silent time.
 
No longer a child, I find myself wondering about life. There can be new ventures, new hopes, with growth and shedding, but sometimes we experience disappointment or heartache, or even question why we bothered. When hope is dashed, we may wonder, is this it? Or is this when we’re trapped in a caterpillar mindset, seeing only a chrysalis ahead, entombed, stone-like?
 
Koeder’s painting points beyond the tombs that entrap, to a holy transformation, an act of wonder, by Jesus in one time, for all, through all time. For if love is cocooned, then as inevitably as dawn follows dusk, love will break through. There will be glory days. 

A Haiku-form Prayer
 
When life closes in,
help me pause in holy hope,
for butterfly days.
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr David Pickering, Moderator National Synod of Scotland, Member Rutherglen URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Good Friday Worship

Fri, 10/04/2020 - 14:45
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Good Friday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the top of the screen is a large red arrow, press that to start the service then switch back to this screen to follow the transcript and join in with the prayers and hymns.
Worship for Good Friday from the United Reformed Church
 
 
Today’s service has been developed by the Rev'd Andy Braunston who works
with Barrhead, Shawlands, Priesthill and Stewarton URCs
which are either in or near Glasgow.
 
 
                                  

Introduction
 
Good afternoon.  My name is Andy Braunston and I work with four churches in and around Glasgow in Scotland’s Central belt. 
 
Good Friday is the saddest day in the Church’s year.   Our service today is simple, reflective and doesn’t contain a sermon  - instead we let the Biblical readings and the prayers speak for themselves. 
 
None of our churches can meet for worship at the moment so each of us, in our own way throughout these islands,  stands at the Cross to try to understand the enormity of it all.   We have many theologies and explanations of the Cross but today they must stand silent in the face of the God who died.  Our first reading is from the book of Isaiah.
 
Reading:  Isaiah 52: 12 – 53: 12
 
See, my servant shall prosper;
    he shall be exalted and lifted up,
    and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
    —so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations;
    kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
    and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.
 
Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
 
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
    Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
    and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
 
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
     Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
    The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.
 
Hymn       When I survey (Isaac Watts 1674 - 1748)
 
When I survey the wond'rous Cross
on which the Prince of Glory dy'd,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
 
2. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ my God:
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.

3. See from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose so rich a Crown?
 
4. His dying crimson, like a robe,
spreads o'er his body on the Tree;
then am I dead to all the globe,
and all the Globe is dead to me.

5. Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
 
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to St John  
(Jerusalem Bible)

Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron valley where there was a garden into which he went with his disciples. Judas the traitor knew the place also, since Jesus had often met his disciples there, so Judas brought the cohort to this place together with guards sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees, all with lanterns and torches and weapons. Knowing everything that was to happen to him, Jesus came forward and said, 'Who are you looking for?'  They answered, 'Jesus the Nazarene.' He said, 'I am he.' Now Judas the traitor was standing among them. When Jesus said to them, 'I am he,' they moved back and fell on the ground. He asked them a second time, 'Who are you looking for?' They said, 'Jesus the Nazarene.'  Jesus replied, 'I have told you that I am he. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.'  This was to fulfil the words he had spoken, 'Not one of those you gave me have I lost.'  
 
Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus.  Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword back in its scabbard; am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?'  The cohort and its tribune and the Jewish guards seized Jesus and bound him.  
 
They took him first to Annas, because Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.  It was Caiaphas who had counselled the Jews, 'It is better for one man to die for the people.'  Simon Peter, with another disciple, followed Jesus. This disciple, who was known to the high priest, went with Jesus into the high priest's palace, but Peter stayed outside the door. So the other disciple, the one known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the door-keeper and brought Peter in.  
 
The girl on duty at the door said to Peter, 'Aren't you another of that man's disciples?' He answered, 'I am not.'  Now it was cold, and the servants and guards had lit a charcoal fire and were standing there warming themselves; so Peter stood there too, warming himself with the others. The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.  Jesus answered, 'I have spoken openly for all the world to hear; I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple where all the Jews meet together; I have said nothing in secret.  Why ask me? Ask my hearers what I taught; they know what I said.'  At these words, one of the guards standing by gave Jesus a slap in the face, saying, 'Is that the way you answer the high priest?'  Jesus replied, 'If there is some offence in what I said, point it out; but if not, why do you strike me?'  Then Annas sent him, bound, to Caiaphas the high priest.
 
As Simon Peter stood there warming himself, someone said to him, 'Aren't you another of his disciples?' He denied it saying, 'I am not.'  One of the high priest's servants, a relation of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, said, 'Didn't I see you in the garden with him?'  Again Peter denied it; and at once a cock crowed.  They then led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the Praetorium. It was now morning. They did not go into the Praetorium themselves to avoid becoming defiled and unable to eat the Passover.  So Pilate came outside to them and said, 'What charge do you bring against this man?' They replied,  'If he were not a criminal, we should not have handed him over to you.'  Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves, and try him by your own Law.' The Jews answered, 'We are not allowed to put anyone to death.'  This was to fulfil the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way he was going to die.  So Pilate went back into the Praetorium and called Jesus to him and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'  Jesus replied, 'Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others said it to you about me?'  Pilate answered, 'Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?'  Jesus replied, 'Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. As it is, my kingdom does not belong here.'  Pilate said, 'So, then you are a king?' Jesus answered, 'It is you who say that I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.'  'Truth?' said Pilate. 'What is that?'
 
And so saying he went out again to the Jews and said, 'I find no case against him.  But according to a custom of yours I should release one prisoner at the Passover; would you like me, then, to release for you the king of the Jews?'  At this they shouted, 'Not this man,' they said, 'but Barabbas.' Barabbas was a bandit."
 
"Pilate then had Jesus taken away and scourged; and after this, the soldiers twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on his head and dressed him in a purple robe.  They kept coming up to him and saying, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' and slapping him in the face. Pilate came outside again and said to them, 'Look, I am going to bring him out to you to let you see that I find no case against him.'
 
Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said, 'Here is the man.'  When they saw him, the chief priests and the guards shouted, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves and crucify him: I find no case against him.' The people replied, 'We have a Law, and according to that Law he ought to be put to death, because he has claimed to be Son of God.'  When Pilate heard them say this his fears increased.  Re-entering the Praetorium, he said to Jesus, 'Where do you come from?' But Jesus made no answer.  Pilate then said to him, 'Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?'  Jesus replied, 'You would have no power over me at all if it had not been given you from above; that is why the man who handed me over to you has the greater guilt.'  From that moment Pilate was anxious to set him free, but the people shouted, 'If you set him free you are no friend of Caesar's; anyone who makes himself king is defying Caesar.'
 
Hearing these words, Pilate had Jesus brought out, and seated him on the chair of judgement at a place called the Pavement, in Hebrew Gabbatha.  It was the Day of Preparation, about the sixth hour. 'Here is your king,' said Pilate to the Jews.  But they shouted, 'Away with him, away with him, crucify him.' Pilate said, 'Shall I crucify your king?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king except Caesar.'  So at that Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.
 
They then took charge of Jesus, and carrying his own cross he went out to the Place of the Skull or, as it is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified him with two others, one on either side, Jesus being in the middle.  Pilate wrote out a notice and had it fixed to the cross; it ran: 'Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews'.
 
This notice was read by many of the people, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the writing was in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.  So the Jewish chief priests said to Pilate, 'You should not write "King of the Jews", but that the man said, "I am King of the Jews". ' Pilate answered, 'What I have written, I have written.'
 
When the soldiers had finished crucifying Jesus they took his clothing and divided it into four shares, one for each soldier. His undergarment was seamless, woven in one piece from neck to hem; so they said to one another, 'Instead of tearing it, let's throw dice to decide who is to have it.' In this way the words of scripture were fulfilled: They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothes. That is what the soldiers did.
 
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.'  Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
 
After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the scripture should be completely fulfilled, he said: I am thirsty.  A jar full of sour wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the wine he said, 'It is fulfilled'; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.  
 
It was the Day of Preparation, and to avoid the bodies' remaining on the cross during the Sabbath -- since that Sabbath was a day of special solemnity -- the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away.  Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other.  When they came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it -- true evidence, and he knows that what he says is true -- and he gives it so that you may believe as well.  Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture: Not one bone of his will be broken;  and again, in another place scripture says: They will look to the one whom they have pierced.
 
After this, Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus -- though a secret one because he was afraid of the people -- asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission, so they came and took it away.  Nicodemus came as well -- the same one who had first come to Jesus at night-time -- and he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.  They took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried.
 
Since it was the Jewish Day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there."
 
Music  Surely He Has Born Our Iniquities – Handel’s Messiah
 
The Reproaches  please join in with the responses in bold
 
The Reproaches are a liturgical text from the 9th Century used on Good Friday, or in Eastern Churches on Holy Saturday.  The version we use today have been adapted for use in the Presbyterian Church of the USA.
 
O my people, O my church, what have I done to you, or in what have I offended you? Answer me.
 
I led you forth from the land of Egypt and delivered you by the waters of baptism, but you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I led you through the desert forty years, and fed you with manna: I brought you through tribulation and penitence, and gave you my body, the bread of heaven, but you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
What more could I have done for you that I have not done? I planted you, my chosen and fairest vineyard, I made you the branches of my vine; but when I was thirsty, you gave me vinegar to drink and pierced with a spear the side of your Saviour, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I went before you in a pillar of cloud, and you have led me to the judgment hall of Pilate. I scourged your enemies and brought you to a land of freedom, but you have scourged, mocked, and beaten me. I gave you the water of salvation from the rock, but you have given me gall and left me to thirst, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I gave you a royal sceptre, and bestowed the keys to the kingdom,
but you have given me a crown of thorns. I raised you on high with great power, but you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
My peace I gave, which the world cannot give, and washed your feet as a sign of my love, but you draw the sword to strike in my name and seek high places in my kingdom. I offered you my body and blood, but you scatter and deny and abandon me, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I sent the Spirit of truth to guide you, and you close your hearts to the Counsellor. I pray that all may be one in the Father and me, but you continue to quarrel and divide. I call you to go and bring forth fruit, but you cast lots for my clothing, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I grafted you into the tree of my chosen Israel, and you turned on them with persecution and mass murder. I made you joint heirs with them of my covenants but you made them scapegoats for your own guilt, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Holy God, holy and mighty,
Holy immortal One, have mercy upon us.
 
I came to you as the least of your brothers and sisters; I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me, and you have prepared a cross for your Saviour.
 
Hymn       This is Your Coronation
Sylvia Dunstan 1955 – 1993 GIA Publications Ltd
 
This is your coronation –
thorns press upon your head;
no bright angelic heralds,
but angry crowds instead;
beneath your throne of timber,
and struggling with the load,,
you go in cruel procession
on sorrow’s royal road.
 
2: Eternal judge on trial,
God’s law, by law denied;
love’s justice is rejected
and truth is falsified.
We who have charged, condemned you
are sentenced by your love;
your blood pronounces pardon
as you are stretched above.

3: High priest you are anointed
with blood upon your face,
and in this hour appointed
the offering for our race.
For weakness interceding;
for sin, you are the price;
for us your prayer unceasing,
O living sacrifice.
 
The General Intercessions
 
Dear people of God, God sent Jesus into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved, that all who believe in him might be delivered from the power of sin and death and become heirs with him of eternal life.
 
Let us pray for the one holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ throughout the world: for its unity in witness and service, for all church leaders and ministers and the people whom they serve, for all Christians those unable to worship this year and those always unable to openly worship, for those about to be baptized, that God will confirm the Church in faith, increase it in love, and preserve it in peace.
 
Eternal God, by your Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified. Receive our prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in our vocation and ministry we may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
Let us pray for all nations and peoples of the earth, and for those in authority among them: for the leaders of our nation, especially Elizabeth our Queen, our Prime Minister, and members of Parliament for all who serve the common good, that by God's help they may seek justice and truth, and live in peace and concord.
 
Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that justice and peace may increase, until the earth is filled
with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Let us pray for all who suffer and are afflicted in body or in mind: for the hungry and homeless, the destitute and the oppressed, and all who suffer persecution, doubt, and despair, for the sorrowful and bereaved,
for prisoners and captives and those in mortal danger, that God will comfort and relieve them, and grant them the knowledge of God's love, and stir up in us the will and patience to minister to their needs.
 
Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer, hear the cry of those in misery and need. In their afflictions show them your mercy, and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them, for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Let us pray for all who have not received the gospel of Christ: for all who have not heard the words of salvation, for all who have lost their faith, for all whose sin has made them indifferent to Christ, for all who actively oppose Christ by word or deed, for all who are enemies of the cross of Christ, and persecutors of his disciples, for all who in the name of Christ have persecuted others, that God will open their hearts to the truth and lead them to faith and obedience.
 
Merciful God, creator of the peoples of the earth and lover of souls, have compassion on all who do not know you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ. Let your gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it. Turn the hearts of those who resist it, and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Let us commit ourselves to God, and pray for the grace of a holy life, that with all who have departed this life and have died in the peace of Christ,
and those whose faith is known to God alone, we may be accounted worthy to enter into the fullness of the joy of our Lord, and receive the crown of life in the day of resurrection.
 
Eternal God of unchanging power and light, look with mercy on your whole Church. Bring to completion your saving work, so that the whole world may see the fallen lifted up, the old made new, and all things brought to perfection by him through whom all things were made, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.
 
Our Father…
  
Hymn:      Praise to the Holiest in the Height
J H Newman 1801 - 1890
 
Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all His words most wonderful;
most sure in all His ways.
 
2: O loving wisdom of our God,
when all was sin and shame,
a second Adam, to the fight
and to the rescue came.
 
3: O wisest love! that flesh and blood
which did in Adam fail,
should strive afresh against the foe,
should strive and should prevail.
 
4: And that a higher gift than grace
should flesh and blood refine,
God’s presence, and His very self
and essence all-divine.
 
5: O generous love! that He, who smote
in man for man the foe,
the double agony in man
for man should undergo.
 
6: And in the garden secretly,
and on the cross on high,
should teach His brethren,
and inspire to suffer and to die.
 
7: Praise to the Holiest in the height,
and in the depth be praise:
in all His words most wonderful;
most sure in all His ways.
 
Sources, Copyright & Thanks
 
  • First reading – the NRSV Anglicised
  • The Passion Reading from the Jerusalem Bible
  • The Reproaches and General Intercessions adapted for the use of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and published in their Book of Common Worship © Westminster John Knox Press 1993
  • Hymns are either public domain or reproduced under the URC’s copyright licence.  They were shared by podcast within the frames of the URC’s OneLicence. 
 
Thanks to Tina Wheeler, Jonnie Hill, Adam Scott, Ruth Browning & Kingsley Fulbrook, Margaret Higton, Marie Trubic, and members of Barrhead URC for recording different parts of today’s service. --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  Good Friday 10th April 2020

Fri, 10/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  Good Friday 10th April 2020 Friday 10th April Good Friday 12th Station Jesus Dies View this email in your browser

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Friday 10th April - Good Friday - 12th Station - Jesus Dies



“Holocaust” Sieger Koeder
 
St Matthew 27: 46

And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

Reflection

Jesus Dies.  Two very powerful yet overlooked words in our Lenten Journey.  Not Jesus fainted; Jesus felt unwell; Jesus was badly injured. Jesus dies.  He passes from life into the world of the dead. It is so tempting to skip this bit and go on to the Sunday morning where we can celebrate the new life that Christ brings.

But without those two words, none of this is possible.

Jesus spent his life and ministry secure in his relationship with God.  They were one and were everything together. Yet at this crucial part of his journey, are we to believe Jesus doubts?  Jesus cries out “why have you forsaken me”. Is this a genuine belief, or a quotation of prophecy (see Psalm 22)? This became a huge stumbling block for me when I was growing in my faith, and I’m not convinced I’m sure of the answer.

The Artist here focuses his image on Jesus.  He forms the centre of the picture, showing his injuries and reaching up in question.  The walls seem to be closing in on him, preventing his escape. The people trapped with him represent the title of this piece – Holocaust – as those who were trapped feeling abandoned in the gas chambers with no hope of escape.  The Artist has experience of this, and it influences much of his work.

Do we ever feel so trapped?  So absolutely desperate that we cannot find our way out?  Feeling so truly abandoned that all we can do is cry out. Let’s not try to answer these questions with a neat explanation.  Let us stay with the questions, wrestle with the emotion and truly experience the significance of Good Friday.

Prayer

Lord God, so often I want a neat faith, tied up with comfortable answers to all my questions.  Yet it is only when I stay and wrestle with my questions that I can grow. May I find the space to be uncomfortable, and the willingness to let go of what is safe, in order to understand what is real.  Amen
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Watson, Minister Patricroft and Worsley Road URCs 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

Thu, 09/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Thursday 9th April - Maundy Thursday - 11th Station - Jesus is nailed to the Cross


 “Face to Face: Sieger Koeder
 
St John 19: 18 - 19

There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.’

Reflection

What a picture!

The Roman soldier raises the hammer high preparing to strike the nail, while the crowd of people (and animals) look on.  Their expressions reveal a host of emotions. What was each of those gathered feeling? What was the Roman soldier feeling?  Was he feeling anything? Or was it just another day’s work for him?

A few years ago, I read a little book called simply ‘The Nail,’ written by Stephen Cottrell.  The question that was being posed in it was - who killed Christ? Various characters in the story came forward to justify their actions - and pass on the blame. The Roman soldier, holding a nail, said that it wasn’t his fault.  He was simply following orders and he put the nail down.

A few years previous to this, a group of us had gone to see Roger Jones’ musical ‘Mary Magdalene.’  We had to imagine the crucifixion - how can you portray this anyway? But what we could hear was the ringing sound of a hammer hitting a nail - over and over again  That sound lives with me still!

Like that soldier, we have done things we know are wrong, but somehow justify them.  Sometimes we have a good laugh at someone else’s expense.

Jesus on the cross shows the best of humanity - the Roman soldier perhaps the worst.  Where in that gathered crowd are we?

Prayer

Jesus, sometimes, like that soldier
we have done things we know to be wrong
and we have made our excuses.
But just a your body
received the hammer-blow of the nails,
we know that your love also held you to that cross.
We know too that your love and forgiveness
reach deep down inside us
and we are forgiven and made whole.
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Sue Henderson retired URC Minister member of Bradford on Avon United 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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Stations of the Cross for Wednesday in Holy Week

Wed, 08/04/2020 - 14:45
96 Stations of the Cross for Wednesday in Holy Week View this email in your browser

Worship from the URC

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Stations of the Cross
 
The Stations of the Cross are associated with Catholic, and many Anglican/Episcopalian Churches.  They have their origins in the 13th Century when the Franciscan Order started to commemorate Jesus’ journey between Pilate’s court and the Cross.  By the 16th Century the devotion had become widespread in Europe and many churches have carved or bronze Stations around their walls.  For the last week or so each day, in our Daily Devotions, we have been considering Fr Sieger Koeder's Stations of the Cross as we journey with Jesus to the Cross.  The Stations have fascinated artists for hundreds of years and, this evening, we have an audio visual version of them for you.  

Using clips from Mel Gibson's film, the Passion of the Christ, music from a variety of sources - but mainly from Handel's Messiah - and reflections written from the perspective of the Centurion we are invited to set aside some time to prayerfully contemplate Jesus' journey from Pilate's court to the Cross.  

The term Station comes from the Latin meaning to stop and stare.  The devotions invite us to stop, stare, pray and reflect.  They are mainly taken from the Gospels but are supplemented with pious legend – the Gospel’s don’t record Jesus meeting His Mother, Veronica wiping His face nor the number of times he fell.  They are a powerful devotion, especially for Holy Week.  We hope you find them useful.
 
 
to watch these on Youtube.  This will open up a new screen, simply press the forward arrow at the bottom of the panel on the new screen to play. --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Wed, 08/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion View this email in your browser

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Wednesday 8th April - Wednesday in Holy Week - 10th Station - Jesus is Stripped of His Garments
 


“Counting” Sieger Koeder

St John 19: 23-25

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,

‘They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots.’

And that is what the soldiers did.

Reflection

The garment the soldiers preferred not to rip into pieces but let one of them win whole, has lived on in tradition and story.  It is the subject 1950s Hollywood blockbuster The Robe, based on a best-selling novel, enabling the repentance and conversion of the Roman soldier in charge of Christ’s crucifiction.  There are competing myths about its whereabouts and power as a relic. Imagine if you could see or even touch the tunic Christ wore at the end of his mortal life - a tangible bridge across the centuries to the heart of our faith.

On a tourist trip to Ephesus, I sat in the amphitheatre where the locals (encouraged by the silversmiths) had rioted against Paul’s influence in that city dependent on the Temple of Artemis for prosperity.  The story was suddenly TRUE in a deeper way – it really had happened – even though I had always believed.

For early Christians, particularly those from a Jewish background, the fulfilment of a prophecy makes this scene ring true.  The quote comes from Psalm 22, and Jesus cries the opening line as he dies on the cross. We now read this psalm through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and it ends with lines that include us:

‘future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.’

For us the words of the Bible are a bridge to The Living Word – so we chew on this bread daily for loving sustenance and life.  For many of all ages the connection can be made more vivid, the stories real, through employing our senses as well as our minds – things to see, smell, taste, touch and hear.  The meditative images by Sieger Koeder help our immersion in the Passion; sharing bread and wine includes us in the Last Supper – and the promise of the heavenly banquet to come.
 
Prayer

Lord,
Thank you for the gift of words
That act as a bridge between
Your life, death and resurrection
And our lives.
Help us to find life within these words
And find creative ways to tell the stories
So that all may discover truth, liberation and love in Christ.
Amen -->

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

Tue, 07/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion View this email in your browser

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Tuesday 7th April - Tuesday in Holy Week - 9th Station - Jesus Falls for the Third Time


“Amen” Sieger Koeder.

 
Lamentations 1:14

My transgressions were bound into a yoke;
    by his hand they were fastened together;
they weigh on my neck,
    sapping my strength;
the Lord handed me over
    to those whom I cannot withstand.

Reflection

He passes through the city gates and falls again. The loss of blood, too much pain, the lack of sleep and he falls, the weight of the heavy cross pinning him to the ground where he just lies in the dust with no dignity or energy left to care. Amen. So be it. He had passed through those gates a week before when he had been hailed as king but now he was being forced through those gates again as a criminal - a traitor and blasphemer. He came to his own people in the city he loved and they did not receive him. He has failed and he is in too much pain, has been betrayed and denied  and is just too sad. His strength is completely sapped, he falls under the weight of it all and he cannot move because he is held down by the cross. In his memory he hears his mother singing her special song to him: ‘and you will be called the prophet of the Most High; you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways and give knowledge of salvation to his people’ and he wonders how they could have got it so wrong. Through the blood dripping from his broken head he imagines the tempter creeping towards him saying ‘You still have a chance. You can save yourself if you want! Where is your God now?’ His yoke is no longer easy – he has the weight of his own suffering and that of the world on his shoulders and he croaks ‘Amen’ knowing that it means be firm, steady, trustworthy, faithful. God and the world rely on him. He will lay down his life for the sheep so he struggles to his feet, takes up his cross and staggers to Calvary.
 
Prayer

Suffering God,
we can imagine you holding out your hand as you lay under the cross
hoping and praying someone, anyone, would reach out to hold it
and bring you some comfort.
May we be ready to take the hand of any who suffer
under the weight of pain or loss or fear
and know that we are holding your hand.
Let others rely upon us to be firm, steady trustworthy and faithful.
So be it. Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Lis Mullen is a retired minister and member of Kendal 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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