URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 4th March 2020

Wed, 04/03/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 4th March 

St Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And remember that I am with you always, to the end of the age’.

Reflection

Matthew’s Gospel ends where it began, with the assurance that Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us.  It is interesting that at this climax, Matthew still observes that some doubted, but there is no suggestion of efforts made to persuade them otherwise.  Perhaps not everyone will be persuaded. The emphasis lies on the task of the disciples to baptize disciples of all nations, and to teach them what Jesus has commanded.  This became the established strategy of the missionaries of the Church, before the later Protestant emphasis on preaching rather than baptism.

Prayer  

Gracious God we thank you that by baptism we are made members of a world-wide Church – a fellowship of believers, all different, each with their own contribution to make.  May we be ready to play our part. May we remember that Jesus challenged us to make disciples of all nations, not just individuals, in order to show more clearly that baptism makes us a diverse  body of believers. Teach us to enjoy and appreciate our differences, without wanting to make everyone the same; in the name of the one who died for all, even Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Professor David Thompson is a retired minister and a member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge. 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 3rd March 2020

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 3rd March  

St Luke 12:49-50

I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed. 

Reflection

In Acts, Luke distinguishes between baptism with water and baptism with fire, which may have meant the Holy Spirit, especially as a distinction between John’s baptism and Jesus’s baptism.  In this passage from Luke’s Gospel Jesus is clearly referring to the ordeal of his forthcoming death, to which he frequently refers during his ministry, though never quite so strikingly as here.  But it makes sense of the Church’s later references to being baptized into Christ, or into Christ’s death. Only occasionally does Jesus reveal anything like emotion at the thought of his forthcoming death: this is one such place.  It encourages us to take very seriously the implications of our own baptism, whether we remember it or not.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, as we think about your passion and death, we cannot but be amazed by your courage and the faith in God that sustained you.  Give us the same courage when we face challenges and difficulties in our own lives, and finally at the end when we face death alone. Fill us with your grace that we may remember that you have been through all of this before for our sake.  In your name, we pray. Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Professor David Thompson is a retired minister and a member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 2nd March 2020

Mon, 02/03/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 2nd March 

St Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.  John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’  But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’  Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’. 

Reflection

Of the four stories of the baptism of Jesus in the Gospels (although John does not actually say that the Baptist baptized Jesus), Matthew is the only one to suggest any hesitation on John’s part.  Jesus’s reply, ‘It is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness’, suggests that he understood John’s reluctance; but a greater good was to be shown, namely Jesus’s total identification with the humanity he had assumed, and whom he was to save.  Moreover, although the Biblical text does not suggest the presence of any women in the crowd, in the light of later events it would be surprising if they had been absent. From the beginning baptism was available to Christian women (see Lydia in Acts 16:14).  Unlike circumcision that was for boys, baptism was for all as God created us.

Prayer

Holy Lord God, we thank you that baptism is for everyone.  We give thanks for our own baptism into Christ, and we pray that the life of Christ may be made known in and through us, so that we may be faithful witnesses and disciples; for the sake of his holy name.  Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Professor David Thompson is a retired minister and a member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge. 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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Baptism and the Eucharist

Sun, 01/03/2020 - 18:00
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I hope you have enjoyed our wander through 1 Corinthians - we will go and have a look at 2 Corinthians after Easter.  For the next two weeks we will look, between Mondays and Saturdays, at the two Sacraments we celebrate in the United Reformed Church – Baptism and Eucharist.   We continue to work through the Sing Psalms!  Psalter on Sundays.

The Rev’d Professor David Thompson has written these reflections on Baptism and the Eucharist.  David is a retired minster and Professor of Church History at Cambridge – he attends Downing Place URC in the city.  He is one of our premier theologians and was a Churches of Christ observer at the talks which formed the union of the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregational Church of England and Wales in 1972.  Later, he helped steer the majority of the Churches of Christ into the URC and has been used by the Disciples of Christ – in America – in their dialogue with the Catholic Church.  David is one of our sharpest minds and brings the Churches of Christ commitment to weekly celebrations of Holy Communion (something Calvin himself wanted) and a keen commitment to believer’s baptism to his reflections.  We hope you find these reflections useful.

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With every good wish


Andy

The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator Daily Devotions from the URC
 
 
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URC Daily Devotion  1st March 2020

Sun, 01/03/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 1st March
Psalm 138


1 I’ll praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
Before the gods I’ll sing your praise.
2 I’ll bow towards your holy place
And bless your holy name always.

I’ll praise you for your faithfulness
And for your cov’nant love, O LORD,
For over all things you have raised
Your holy name and faithful word.

3 The very day I called to you,
You gave an answer to my plea.
You made me bold within myself;
With new resolve you strengthened me.

4 O LORD, let all earth’s kings give praise,
When from your mouth they hear your word.
5 Let them extol the ways of God,
For great’s the glory of the LORD.

6 Although the LORD God dwells on high,
The lowly person he protects,
Whereas the proud and haughty one
He knows afar off and rejects.

7 Although I walk a troubled path,
Your tender care preserves my life.
You raise your hand against my foes;
Your right hand saves me from their strife.

8 The LORD will certainly fulfil
For me the purpose he commands.
Your love endures for ever, LORD;
Preserve the works of your own hands.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this, from verse 4, here to the tune St Bartholomew.  

Reflection

This Psalm is a huge outpouring of a thankful heart for a recent great blessing, which apparently has been the fulfilment of a divine promise. The singer is so absorbed in his blessedness that he neither names the Lord as the one he is thanking, nor specifies what has set his heart vibrating.   

We do not know what the Psalmist is praising the Lord for.   If David is the Psalmist then it can only have been the fulfilment of the monarchy and the Lord’s promise to restore Israel to their land.

The second part (4-6) resembles many earlier Psalms in connecting the singer’s deliverance with a world-wide spreading of God’s name. This great lesson of the Lord’s providence, care for the lowly, faithfulness to His word, so clearly demonstrated in the Psalmist’s recent history will become known and those who think of themselves as ‘great’, shall learn the principles of the Lord’s ways and become lowly receivers of His attention and adoring singers of His great glory.  The glowing vision is not yet fulfilled; but the singer clearly holds no illusions when he sings. Could this be a foretelling of God’s manifestation of Himself in Christ?

In verses 6 to 8, the Psalmist returns to his own needs, and takes to his heart the calming assurance of his recent experience, that he bears a charmed life. He may be surrounded by troubles but he is now in God’s protection.   He may walk in the valley of the shadow of death unafraid, for God will hold his soul in life. So was the Psalmist assured; and so will those also be who will have wonders to thank the Lord for.
That last prayer of the Psalm blends confidence and petition beautifully. Because the Lord’s loving kindness endures forever, everyone on whom His shaping Spirit has begun to work can be sure that they will come to fruition. He never stops till He has completed His work.  We would do well to remember this.

Prayer

Faithful God,
We are grateful for the unfailing love and faithfulness You have shown toward us:
you answer when we call;
you give us strength when we are exhausted;
You stand with us in times of trouble. 
Open our eyes to see and know you.
Open our ears to hear your voice.
Give us what we need to we live and work in the world as your faithful disciples. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion  29th February 2020

Sat, 29/02/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 29th February

I Corinthians 16: 12 - 24

Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to visit you with the other brothers, but he was not at all willing to come now. He will come when he has the opportunity.


Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

Now, brothers and sisters, you know that members of the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to put yourselves at the service of such people, and of everyone who works and toils with them. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence;  for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. So give recognition to such people.

The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, greet you warmly in the Lord. All the brothers and sisters send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand.  Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus.

Reflection

Never one to miss an opportunity, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians ends with some words which at one level seem more about practical details than deep theological questions. But we treat such passages lightly at our peril. In these few verses Paul has picked up key points from the main content of his letter, he has reminded his readers of the importance of their relationships and above all of the need to surround all that they do in love.

This is someone else’s correspondence we are reading and there are details which point to the ‘history’ which is part of the fabric of that community, the ongoing disagreements, the past suspicions. We can recognise them from our own experience. This was a world where travel was difficult, communications limited and daily life hard.

And yet ….. and yet …… over the 2000 years since Paul wrote to the churches around the Mediterranean so much remains the same.


In every sentence we see evidence of Paul’s purpose in writing, this is someone with a mission to shape the life of the church by his presence or through his writing. There are words here about cementing the relationships with each other, with Paul and with other leaders. There are pointers to examples of ‘good practice’ to be followed in service and mission. There are reminders that their life in Christ necessarily involves being a part of the wider network and sharing the good news. And crucially, that sentence which leaves no doubt “Let all that you do be done in love”.
Finally, Paul takes up the pen himself to cement his relationship with his readers.

Relationships, good practice in service and mission, our global interconnectedness and love. Surely the heart of the message for the 21st century as much as for the 1st century.

Prayer

Loving God,
we thank you for the relationships we have
with the people who surround us
we recognise our interconnectedness
with those across the globe.
We pray that we may never
break the bonds which link us in love.
Amen -->

Today's writer

Val Morrison, elder and former General Assembly Moderator, Hall Gate, Doncaster Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  28th February 2020

Fri, 28/02/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 28th February

I Corinthians 16: 1 - 11

Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia.

On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me. I will visit you after passing through Macedonia—for I intend to pass through Macedonia—  and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to fear among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord just as I am; therefore let no one despise him. Send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I am expecting him with the brothers.

Reflection

Paul now turns to practical matters. As church treasurer, verse 2 is very familiar: although most giving is by standing order, I still see it weekly on our giving envelopes.

For Jewish Christians, giving was normal: the Law required tithing, storing a proportion of crops for the benefit of those in need, and ungrudging giving.  God says ’Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land’ (Deut. 15). The believers shared all their possessions and held everything in common, distributing to those in need (Acts 4). 

Paul asks them to share their surplus, a more practical approach but with the same expectation: they should use their wealth, great or small, to benefit the vulnerable and support the church’s mission.

Tithing in mediaeval Europe required a tenth of income to be given to the Church.  Looking at richly decorated historic churches, was this at the expense of people living in poverty?  Love of money is the root of all evil and we can all think of examples where this has corrupted principles and motives.

Today our weekly ‘collection for the saints’ funds MoM contributions, local church ministry and running buildings.  Giving to others has become a personal rather than community act – apart from the requirement to pay our taxes to support state welfare provision.

Giving isn’t just about buying a raffle ticket for a good cause, sponsoring someone to do something amazing or anything else that has become the norm for giving today.  These things have value – putting the FUN in fundraising, encouraging the idea that giving is good. However, stewardship is more: recognising all we have comes from God, that while it’s fine to provide for ourselves and our families, we also want to give from love and generosity to enable God’s work of compassion and justice.

Prayer based on 1 Timothy 6

Lord of all giving
All we have comes from you
We set our hopes not on our riches, but on you as the generous provider
May we always be ready to do good, be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, storing up treasure in heaven and enjoying life in abundance
 Amen -->

Today's writer

Ruth Tompsett, elder, Newport Pagnell 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.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  27th February 2020

Thu, 27/02/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 27th February  

I Corinthians 15: 35 - end

But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.  It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?’

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.

Reflection

Everything we know, we know through our bodies. The taste of an apple, the warmth of a hug, the pain of a bruise - these we know through our bodies. But what kind of bodies will we have in heaven? Will I have no body, or a different body? Will I just be a spirit, and how will anyone recognise me? Such amazing questions lead onto others, about how our body and sense of self are utterly connected. As I work in a hospital people ask me: do we stay the same age we were at death when we reach heaven? Among friends, the question is will disabled people still be disabled in heaven? Does that question feel different if we imagine it in relation to a person with Motor Neurone Disease and another person whose whole life was shaped by Down’s Syndrome.

I want to ask Paul what he imagines about race in heaven, about transgendered bodies, autistic bodies. I’m sure that he came across such bodies in his own time. I want to be reassured that the bodies which are disdained, maligned, abused and hurt in this world will be celebrated, restored, and tended to in the next. I trust that the God who made us in such diverse image in this world will gather that diversity into heaven. And although I don’t know if these are the right questions, they remind us that our understanding of heavenly bodies shapes the way we live here and now.

And for now we have this: the fact that perishable bodies pass away, and with them pain, and with them stigma, and with them our limited human understanding. But beyond this God endures in all God’s glory, and we emerge again, renewed, awakened, and – in our own way – also glorious. 

Prayer

Nothing distress you,
nothing affright you,
everything passes,
God will abide.
Patient endeavour
Accomplishes all things;
Who God possesses
Needs nought beside.

See the world’s glory!
Fading its splendour,
everything passes,
all is denied.
Look ever homeward
to the eternal;
faithful in promise
God will abide.

Verses from Colin Thompson’s hymn, based on a prayer by Theresa D’Avila. Hymn 548 in Rejoice and Sing. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is a healthcare chaplain in Salford Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  26th February 2020

Wed, 26/02/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 26th February Ash Wednesday

I Corinthians 15 

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.  For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection’, it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord.  If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised,

‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’

Do not be deceived:

‘Bad company ruins good morals.’

Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

Reflection

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten journey. We think about what it means to be penitent, to live in the wilderness and to be mindful of all that gets in the way of our relationship with God. 

‘Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more’

Lent is opportunity to think about the wrong that we cause through our thoughts and actions. It’s the time when we can think about what we do to our relationships when we do and say things to others. It’s the time when we catch ourselves in our actions that do not honour our neighbours or ourselves. 

‘Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more’

Lent is time to look into our hearts and minds and consider what makes us think, speak or act in certain ways. It’s the catalyst for introspection about what our churches say and do that do not bring life to the world and community. It’s the opportunity to reflect on all the ways that we restrict the spreading of the gospel and the furthering of the kingdom. 

‘Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more’

Lent is activity towards transformation. It’s the journey to death. It’s the journey to resurrection. It’s the transformation from darkness and sin to everlasting light and eternal glory. 

We start this journey with Ash, a symbol of the journey of death transformed by the cross to new life in Christ. 
 
Prayer

In our journey this Lent: may we sin no more.
Considering our desires: may we sin no more.
Reflecting on our motivations: may we sin no more.
Transforming our words and actions: may we sin no more.
From ash to Cross may we be made new and may we sin no more. Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is the Chaplaincy Coordinator at Newcastle University Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 25th February 2020

Tue, 25/02/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 25th February

I Corinthians 15: 12 - 19

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;  and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Reflection

As a strict Pharisee, Paul was no stranger to arguments about the resurrection of the dead. Jesus faced the same arguments when tackled by the Sadducees (who denied the resurrection of the dead. See Mark 12) about the dilemmas of a much-married lady meeting seven deceased husbands at the pearly gates. For Christians it was not an abstract theological argument but an essential conviction. No resurrection - no faith, no hope, no love.

It is possible to explain away miracles, healings and exorcisms, but not the resurrection; Christmas and Pentecost, but not Easter, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”. Paul’s argument is two-fold, each side of the argument supporting the other: if Christ was not raised then neither are the dead; if the dead are not raised, then Christ cannot have been raised either. Either way, your faith is futile. The arguments are clear enough in all four gospels as well as Paul’s letters. For Paul it is deeply personal; and goes back to his encounter with the resurrected Christ on the Damascus Road, an experience which he held to be as real as that of any of the Easter witnesses. The resurrection is the foundation of our faith, the strength of our hope, and the  source of our love. It sustains us in this “middle time” in which we live, between the cross and the Last Day – the Parousia.

George Caird put it this way: ”….the Christ of faith is still the crucified and risen Lord, and to be identified with him is to be united with him in death and resurrection”.

Because of the resurrection of the dead, death has no power over us. Because he lives, so shall we.
 
A Prayer of St Francis

May the power of your love, Lord Christ, fiery and sweet as honey,
so absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven.
Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love,
As you died for love of our love. Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Peter Moth retired minister, St Andrew’s URC, Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  24th February 2020

Mon, 24/02/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 24th February

I Corinthians 15: 1-11

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,  through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,  and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Reflection

Paul’s words “by the grace of God I am what I am” have found a resonance in the most unlikely people.  From Gloria Gaynor to Lady Gaga these words have struck a chord with people who have felt rejected and oppressed by the mainstream.  Gaynor made the song I Am What I Am famous but it first appeared in the gay musical La Cage aux Folles and became not only a popular song to dance to in discos but something of an lgbt anthem in the 80s.  Lady Gaga’s Born this Way has a similar resonance, and became a contemporary LGBT anthem but, I suspect, this isn’t quite the legacy Paul intended.

Paul was concerned that he was also an apostle; not commissioned before the Ascension, not one of the chosen twelve, not a disciple but still an apostle despite his persecution of the Church.  His apostleship came from his encounter with the Risen Christ. The end of today’s passage shows something of Paul trying to prove he was worthy of the title apostle - “his grace toward me has not been in vain….I worked harder than any of them…”  Of course we only have Paul’s assessment of his work so we’re not sure if he’s being accurate or self aware nor if he had guilt from his earlier life.  

Many of us can feel second best, imposters, guilty,  and unworthy of the trust given to us. Many of us may even, like Paul, try to over compensate and make ourselves appear more important.  Early on in my ministry a rather waspish parishioner sent me a card saying “get off the cross dear you’re not the Messiah!” A great put down but one which I still remember when I start to get too pompous, too self-important, or if I’m tempted to put a chip on my shoulder.  

The words that were missed out by the writer of I am what I am were “by the grace of God.” This isn’t surprising given the context but there is something there to hold on to.  Grace is undeserved, freely given, enables us to do all that is asked of us, and to be all we were created to be. By the grace of God we are what we are, born this way, fabulous, and, like Paul, commissioned to proclaim the Gospel. 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you worked with the most unlikely people,
you dined with collaborators,
let those seen as unclean touch you,
trusted those who betrayed you,
and dipped your bread with deserters,
yet you called those unlikely people 
to be your disciples.
Lord Jesus,
help us to remember that you call us,
even when we think 
we’re unlikely, unworthy, untrustworthy and unclean,
for by your grace we are what we are.
Amen. -->

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


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URC Daily Devotion  23rd February 2020

Sun, 23/02/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 23rd February

Psalm 137

By the streams of Babylon
We remembered Zion’s hill.
There we sat and wept in grief;
On the trees our harps lay still.

3 For our captors asked for songs;
Our tormentors called for mirth:
“Sing us one of Zion’s songs
From the land that gave you birth.”

4 How can we sing to the LORD,
Exiles in a foreign land?
5 If Jerus’lem I forget,
Skill depart from my right hand!

6 May my tongue cling to my mouth
If of Zion I lose sight,
If I prize Jerusalem
Less than my supreme delight.

7 LORD, remember Edom’s sin,
When Jerus’lem met its fate.
“Tear it down!” their voices cried,
“Tear down every wall and gate!”

8 Babylon, for all our pain
At your door destruction knocks.
Happy he who pays you back,
9 Throws your children on the rocks.

Reflection

Psalm 137 is not in the 3-year Sunday-lectionary cycle. We may never hear it in church, but many are familiar through Boney.M’s 1978 song, one of the top-10-selling singles of all time. (Click here to see and hear the video on You Tube)

Pain, loss, grief, humiliation, anger, rage, revenge are some emotions in this Psalm. The final verse shocks, even repulses us. What brokenness and experience leads anyone to write something like this? 

Most of us cannot truly imagine what it must be like to be forced to leave our homeland. Whatever the reason for leaving, it is a wrenching, emotional experience.

The theme of being a refugee runs through the whole Bible like the lettering through a stick of sea-side rock! Even Jesus’ and His own earthly parents were refugees when they fled to Egypt from King Herod.

The UN estimates 70million refugees worldwide: if we kept just one second silence for each, we would be in silence for 2¼ years.
Consider the fate of ancient Israel: the Northern Kingdom whose people disappeared into history (732BCE), and the exile of Judah (597-587BCE). Maybe we can understand, even if we cannot condone the Psalm’s call for violent revenge.

Human-beings can be cruel, and maybe one of the worst forms of cruelty is mocking and taunting, as the exiles experienced at the hands of their captors (vv.1-3).

The central part of the Psalm (vv.4-6) is a call to remembrance, never to forget their identity. Remembering is important. We do this so as not to lose sight of what made us who we are.

The Psalm ends with that shocking verse inciting revenge on innocent children. Just like the refugees of ancient Israel, when terrible things happen, there comes a point when we must make a choice: either to follow a dark path and allow that to become all-consuming, or to take the opportunity to create a new future.

Prayer

Loving God,
in the evening of my life I shall look to the sunset,
at a moment in my life when the night is due.
And the question I shall ask only I can answer:
was I brave and strong and true?
Did I fill the world with love my whole life through?
Amen.

(from the song by Petula Clark “To Fill The World With Love”, YouTube link) -->

Today's writer

Walt Johnson, NSM Ordinand at Northern College and Member at Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC (Chorlton, Manchester) Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 22nd February 2020

Sat, 22/02/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 22nd February

1 Corinthians 14: 26 - 40

What should be done then, my friends?  When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.  If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn; and let one interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let them be silent in church and speak to themselves and to God.  Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to someone else sitting nearby, let the first person be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged.  And the spirits of prophets are subject to the prophets, for God is a God not of disorder but of peace.

(As in all the churches of the saints,  women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says.  If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only ones it has reached?)

Anyone who claims to be a prophet, or to have spiritual powers, must acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. Anyone who does not recognize this is not to be recognized.  So, my friends, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues; but all things should be done decently and in order.

Reflection

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery using gold.  The idea is that it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of the object, rather than seeking to disguise it.  Similar things happened to ancient (and modern) texts, except that it’s much harder to see where this has been done with words.  Verses 34 and 35 of today’s reading are in many of the manuscripts of this letter, and only appear as an appendix. It seems that a later editor thought that Paul’s work needed “improving”.  Perhaps we might be best advised to discover the real Paul’s views in other verses where women take a full part in the leadership of the Church.

Paul probably wouldn’t recognise the worship in many United Reformed Churches today.  There is so much order and peace that one might be forgiven for thinking that everyone was asleep, when compared to the rowdy Early Church.  In Corinth, however, it was chaos, and the loudest voices were somewhat overbearing and bossy. Paul is reminding his readers that the point of worship is about meeting a living God, not about the ego or personality of the leaders of the church; and that it’s important to avoid extremes.  In the context of Corinth this probably meant that it was better to drink wine from a glass, rather than swigging from the bottle during worship.

Perhaps the United Reformed Church in 2020 doesn’t need as many warnings to avoid extremes in worship as the church in Corinth did all those centuries ago, but does our worship enable as many people as possible as often as possible to meet and have their lives changed by our living God?

Prayer

May we find you, God, wherever we find ourselves today.
Give us eyes to see your presence.
Give us ears to hear you speak.
Give us wisdom so we may understand you.
Give us courage to follow you.
May we find you, God, as you move us in us, through us, and around us. Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Revd Michael Hopkins, Minister of a group of Methodist and United Reformed Churches based around Farnham, Surrey, and Clerk of the URC General Assembly. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  21st February 2020

Fri, 21/02/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 21st February

I Corinthians 14: 1 - 25

Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy.  For those who speak in a tongue do not speak to other people but to God; for nobody understands them, since they are speaking mysteries in the Spirit.  On the other hand, those who prophesy speak to other people for their building up and encouragement and consolation. Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church.  Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I speak to you in some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?  It is the same way with lifeless instruments that produce sound, such as the flute or the harp. If they do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is being played?  And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves; if in a tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different kinds of sounds in the world, and nothing is without sound.  If then I do not know the meaning of a sound, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. So with yourselves; since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church.

Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unproductive. What should I do then? I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also. Otherwise, if you say a blessing with the spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say the ‘Amen’ to your thanksgiving, since the outsider does not know what you are saying?  For you may give thanks well enough, but the other person is not built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you; nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Brothers and sisters, do not be children in your thinking; rather, be infants in evil, but in thinking be adults.  In the law it is written,

‘By people of strange tongues

    and by the lips of foreigners

I will speak to this people;

    yet even then they will not listen to me,’

says the Lord.  Tongues, then, are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers.  If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your mind?  But if all prophesy, an unbeliever or outsider who enters is reproved by all and called to account by all. After the secrets of the unbeliever’s heart are disclosed, that person will bow down before God and worship him, declaring, ‘God is really among you.’

 

Reflection

So often in churches we get into conversations about the ‘right’ worship or the ‘best’ translation of the Bible or the ‘most effective’ form of evangelism. We use words that carry our own interpretations and personal views and obsessions. It is clear, when reading such a text as we have in front of us today, that it was also happening in the Early Church.

Paul was writing to the people of Corinth hoping they would listen and respond. Paul was writing because he wasn’t happy with the behaviour of ‘church’ members. He was concerned that their worship had become very insular and was less about sharing the love of God with those beyond the worshipping community and more about holding themselves up as faithful people because they had all the external trimmings of faith (ie in this case, speaking in tongues). So he wrote to encourage them to do better: to look outwards. Paul was encouraging prophecy for the building up of the community. His encouragement was for them all to work for the good of the whole community - believers and non-believers.

Many people in churches today still consider the Sunday service to be ‘church’ and struggle with the idea that people coming into other worship opportunities are somehow not part of the ‘church’ (often because the Sunday congregation is the financial powerhouse too!). Others judge a church service as ‘good’ or not by their own needs being met as in ‘I got nothing from that service’.

God calls us beyond boundaries and limitations or traditions and expected behaviours, God calls us out of our self-absorption; God calls us to be bringers of the kingdom. That means going beyond the physical (and spiritual) walls of ‘church’ to see where God is already at work… and then God invites us to join in.

 

Prayer

Gracious God,
help us to ensure that our corporate acts of worship
speak more about your love
than about our preferences.
Inspire us so that we may be bold enough to go
beyond our comfort zones.
And, through the ways we live and love,
may we see you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
follow you more nearly,
day by day.
Amen. 

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Today's writer

The Rev’d Jenny Mills, Minister at Newport Pagnell URC and West End United Church, Wolverton and Convenor of the Children and Youth Work Committee. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 20th February 2020

Thu, 20/02/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 20th February 
 
I Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end.  For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Reflection

Love, Love, Love ... All you need is Love, Love ... Love is all you need ...

In the summer of 1967, everyone was singing it – the Beatles' anthem to love. I rather doubt that [m]any enjoying the Summer of Love, made the connection with Paul's first Letter to the Church in Corinth...
Love was something the Church in Corinth hadn't quite got the hang of … in fact they had hardly got the hang of what it meant to be a church. It was all very new.

They were a very mixed group – Jews and pagans, women and men, slaves and free citizens, poor and wealthy people, often with little in common, and they argued about everything. Should women cover their heads? Who should share in the Lord's Supper (men and women, or just men …?) and how should it be ordered? Who was most important – someone with great knowledge? or someone who could heal others? or speak in tongues of ecstasy? or people of great faith? None of these.

Paul identifies the missing ingredient in their church life. There is a better way.


Love is all you need … well not quite, but it is what the Church in Corinth (and [y]our church, perhaps?) is missing, the key to living in God's way, the way Jesus lived, with patience, kindness, acceptance of others – not insisting on our own way, enduring whatever comes. I know local churches where people differ profoundly in their views about many things, from same-sex marriage to how Communion is served … but in caring for one another and working together and with others to meet the needs of vulnerable people, in charitable giving and volunteering, they are patient, kind, self-giving and are daily demonstrating faith and hope, motivated by the greatest of God's gifts: Love.

Love is all you need.

Prayer

When we think that it's all about organisation
or presentation or information
or even congregation,
forgive us
and remind us that your question is
Where is Love?
May it be our question too. Amen
-->

Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion  19th February 2020

Wed, 19/02/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 19th February

I Corinthians 12: 27 - 31

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?  But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
 
Reflection

Maybe it’s only when a church is in vacancy that the true shape of the Body of Christ in a congregation is revealed. Without a human leader/figurehead, however charismatic or inadequate, the people of God when left to their devices will often move up to the plate and do a very good job of ‘getting on with things’, growing - sometimes quite dramatically - in the faith, while they’re at it. And then, just as suddenly, when a new minister turns up, especially of the new broom type, the congregation return quietly to their pews to take a back seat and be invisible again. As if the minister alone was ordained to ministry or service in the Kingdom. 

The other side of the coin is the kind of congregation who expects their minister to be all things - apostle, prophet, teacher, able to do deeds of power, healing etc etc - and they are sure to be disappointed. Teamwork, Paul makes perfectly clear, is the name of the game. We’re parts of a body and need to fulfil whatever part God’s Spirit is gifting us for. And not one of us has a starring role because it is Christ alone who is the Head. It takes a funny mix of humility and … well, that greater gift. But I won’t spoil tomorrow’s devotion!

Prayer 

Some of our churches, Lord, are like teddy-bears with the stuffing knocked out of them. Some are china dolls with shiny heads too big for their bodies, hollow inside. We who should be bringing new life and love to the world in Your power need You to put us back into working order. Restore us and inspire us to gladly play the part You have chosen for us as members of Your Body.
 
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Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion  18th February 2020

Tue, 18/02/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 18th February

1 Corinthians 12: 12 - 26

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect;  whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.


Reflection

You would be forgiven for thinking that this passage is all about team work. Using the image of the body, Paul tells us how important each part of it is and how no part of it can function without the other. It is a way of saying that all Christians have gifts to bring and all strengthen the life of the Church. And that is true, as far as it goes.

But what Paul is saying goes much deeper than that. Note the beginning of the passage: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ”. It does not say, “so it is with the church”. Paul is not talking about the Church as a sociological entity, he is talking about the new community of Christ. He is painting a picture of what a community that truly lives in Christ’s way looks like.

Orators in Paul’s day often used the image of the body as a metaphor for society, to denote the different roles its members played.  It was particularly used to preserve the social order and to urge people considered inferior to stay in their place. Paul takes the same image but turns it on its head. In the body of Christ the weaker members are indispensable, clothed with greater honour, treated with greater respect.  In the body of Christ new ways of relating are practised that challenge the power relationships of society. All members belong and stand equally before God. In the body of Christ God’s future is lived today.

It is a place where the vision of the heavenly banquet becomes reality: everyone is welcome and diversity is celebrated and valued and seen as a source of strength. The church in Corinth struggled to live out that vision, as do we. But it is only when living like this, that the church is true to its nature and calling.

Prayer

Loving God,
we thank you that you give us every day images
to teach us how we should live.
Help us to be the body of Christ today:
bringing light in darkness,
sharing hope in despair,
being love in deed.
May we use all our gifts to live today in faith
and to walk Christ’s way in peace.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

Francis Brienen, Deputy General Secretary (Mission), Muswell Hill URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion  17th February 2020

Mon, 17/02/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 17th February 

I Corinthians 12: 1 - 11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.  You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak.  Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Reflection

I will never forget when during my ordination training many years ago, I had a visit from a very devout Christian I knew from the USA.  At that time, I had experiences of Holy Spirit who Paul details here, but I hadn’t yet had the experience of ‘various kinds of tongues’.  My visitor was convinced that if I didn’t speak in tongues, I wasn’t a Christian. We had a very interesting conversation where I managed to convince him that not only was I a committed Christian but that a woman could be a minister.  Imagine my annoyance when in a communion service in Chapel the next term, I started praying in tongues. Still do, every communion. It was a fun irony that having convinced both of us that it wasn’t a required activity of Holy Spirit, no more necessary than any other gift, I then received it. 

We can twist ourselves in knots about how to be a ‘proper’ Christian or what signs we think we need to see to be convinced of someone else’s legitimacy as a believer.  In this part of the letter to his beloved Corinthian community, Paul is confirming an enormous variety of faith expression, yet with a single common thread. The commonality is Holy Spirit, the internal presence of God, giving us wisdom to recognise the reality of Jesus.  Spirit gives us wisdom to recognise the power of our community of faith, and passion for the common good. Holy Spirit, the physical God energy moving amongst us, literally links us. But Spirit doesn’t always show up the same way! Thankfully, Spirit is bespoke for the occasion and for the common good. There are hundreds of millions of ways of being a Jesus person in the world, not just a few.  Thank God. 
 
Prayer

God of all time, known to us in Jesus, real in this time by Holy Spirit, thank you.  Difference is your gift to us and our gift to each other. Give us grace to welcome, to honour, and to notice deeply your grace in the differences of others.  Live in us with restless energy, making us courageous to love well.
In the name of Jesus and the power and presence of Holy Spirit, Amen. 

Editor’s Note:  The author requested the omission of the definite article as she feels this makes the language about the Holy Spirit more personal
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Elizabeth Gray-King, Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba’s 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  16th February 2020

Sun, 16/02/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 16th February 
Psalm 136

1 O thank the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures for ever.
2 O thank the God of gods always;
his love will fail us never.

3 Give glory to the Lord of lords;
his love endures for ever.
4 Great wonders he alone performs;
his love will fail us never.

5 In wisdom he has made the heavens;
his love endures for ever.
6 He set the earth above the seas;
his love will fail us never.

7-8 He made the sun to rule the day—
his love endures for ever—
9 The moon and stars to rule the night;
his love will fail us never.

10 He struck down Egypt’s firstborn sons;
his love endures for ever.
11-12 By might he brought out Israel;
his love will fail us never.

13 He made a pathway through the Sea;
his love endures for ever.
14 And through it he brought Israel;
his love will fail us never.

15 King Pharaoh and his mighty host—
God’s love endures for ever—
He swept into the raging sea;
his love will fail us never.

16 He led his people on their way;
his love endures for ever.
He brought them through the wilderness;
his love will fail us never.

17 Thank him who struck down mighty kings—
his love endures for ever—
18 And slaughtered kings of great renown—
his love will fail us never—

19 King Sihon of the Amorites—
God’s love endures for ever—
20 And Og, the king of Bashan, too;
God’s love will fail us never.

21 He made their lands a heritage—
his love endures for ever—
22 For his own servant Israel;
his love will fail us never.

23 He thought upon us in our need;
his love endures for ever.
24 And freed us from our enemies;
his love will fail us never.

25 To every creature he gives food;
his love endures for ever.
26 Give thanks to God, the God of heaven;
his love will fail us never.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the lovely tune Dominus Regit Me here.

Reflection

Repeats are often a subject of discussion in our household.  That annoying person who walks into the room and says: ‘I know who did it’.  You sit watching thinking, ‘I haven’t seen this one,’ and an hour in, you have seen it and remember the ending.
 
My son occasionally prepares the church audio visual for a Sunday morning.  There is an assumption that he knows where the repeats are or even worse - somebody spontaneously repeats the last chorus: ‘How dare they!’  I’m not sure the congregation I serve think too much of responses in worship. They certainly would not say ‘Please sir, can we have more!’ 
 
It may seem a bit much to repeat ‘His love endures forever’ twenty six times, but the truth enshrined in these words is the explanation for everything else that can be said about the work of God: ‘For his steadfast love endures forever’ [RSV], ‘For his faithful love endures forever’[NJB].  Robert Alter in his ‘The Hebrew Bible Translation with Commentary’ changes the refrain to ‘For his kindness is forever’. He goes on to comment on verse 6 - Stamps firm on the earth. ‘There is then, a solid slab or firmament that is the sky, and another one below that is the earth. Beneath the earth is the deep- hence the earth is ‘On the Waters’.  As is evident in the flood story, there are waters above the heavens and waters below the earth.’
 
To quote Alter again: verse 25 Who gives bread to all flesh. ‘Bread indicates all kinds of food. In an apt gesture of closure, the celebration of God’s enduring kindness, having begun with his acts as creator, concludes by moving beyond the national perspective to God’s providence to all living creatures.’
 
As we repeat the Psalmist’s words over and over again, may they stick in our thoughts as we share God’s love with all we encounter today.
 
I’m all for repeats if they become for us part of the story in telling of God’s love.
 
Prayer
 
Gracious God
Your steadfast love endures forever.
Your faithful love endures forever.
Your kindness is forever.
 
As we repeat those ancient words from the Psalmist,
may we hold them and share them,
as we bring others into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
 
You remind us in amazing ways that we, too, are
‘Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love’.
 
Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Andrew Royal Minister Maidstone & Staplehurst 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  15th February 2020

Sat, 15/02/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 15th February
 
1 Corinthians 11: 27 - 34
 
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves.  For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation. About the other things I will give instructions when I come.
 
Reflection
 
We can no longer be innocent about eating in our global village.  What I choose to eat, how much, how often, and where and how it is produced affects the daily lives and possibilities of people in the poorest sectors of our world.  It even determines whether they live or die. Eating itself – not just food banks – poses moral and theological questions.
 
That is what Paul wants the Corinthians to know about their Communion services.  Rich members are celebrating the Lord’s Supper privately instead of sharing, so that they could gorge on rich food and fine wine while the poorer members went hungry because they did not have enough to eat (11:21).  Paul told them that they were making a mockery of all that the Supper signifies.
 
Note his stress on the body of Jesus.  At the Last Supper, Jesus offers his own body and lifeblood as a sacrifice.  “It is for you,” he tells them. “Do it to remember me!” How do we “remember” Jesus in this way?  Firstly, it is an occasion to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”. It’s Gospel time!
 
Secondly, it’s about the Church – the kind of community it is, and the relationships among the members.  Paul calls the Church “the Body of Christ”. What happens to the Church and within it is “done” to Jesus, whose body it is.  If we inflict suffering or hunger on one another, we do it to Jesus. We wound and re-crucify his body. Instead of it being the means of healing for our brokenness and inequality, it becomes the whipping post for our greed and living at the expense of others.
 
Do we examine our own part in our Church’s relationships at Communion? Do we use it as a space to put things right? We need to!
 
Prayer
 
Lord,
Do your transforming work
until every aspect of our lives speak of you –
your salvation, your healing, your forgiveness!
Make that true of our relationships within our community,
our world,
our Church,
for Christ’s sake!
Amen.
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Today's writer

Lawrence Moore, Mission & Discipleship consultant, Worsley Road URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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