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URC Daily Devotion Monday 10th August 2020 The Plague of Frogs

URC Daily Devotions - 13 hours 40 min ago
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Monday 10th August 2020  The Plague of Frogs 

Exodus 8: 1 - 15

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs.  The river shall swarm with frogs; they shall come up into your palace, into your bedchamber and your bed, and into the houses of your officials and of your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your officials.”’   And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, the canals, and the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.”’ So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.  But the magicians did the same by their secret arts, and brought frogs up on the land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Pray to the Lord to take away the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.’  Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘Kindly tell me when I am to pray for you and for your officials and for your people, that the frogs may be removed from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.’ And he said, ‘Tomorrow.’ Moses said, ‘As you say! So that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God, the frogs shall leave you and your houses and your officials and your people; they shall be left only in the Nile.’ Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh; and Moses cried out to the Lord concerning the frogs that he had brought upon Pharaoh.  And the Lord did as Moses requested: the frogs died in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields.  And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank.  But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

Reflection

I LOVE frogs.  I find their shape, colours, movement, sound and feel beautiful.  I have had pet frogs (and kept live insects to feed them), and still have an amazing collection of frog sculptures. I have been enraptured by a host of tiny frogs singing their mating song in Monet’s garden one May and croaked to sleep by large Dutch dike-dwelling frogs whilst camping one April.  It takes, as they say, all sorts.  The scene in ET when all the dissection frogs are released in the science class is for me a glimpse of Exodus freedom.

Here millions of frogs emerge from the blood-polluted waterways and pools dug by thirsty Egyptians in their search for clean water.  They get everywhere – in people’s beds, in cooking pots, on people’s skin.  A by-product of environmental damage is often the displacement and distorted balance of species directly affected, which impacts us as co-inhabitants of the delicate balance that sustains life.  The subsequent destruction of the frogs, unsurprisingly, impacts down the food chain, and there follows infestations of gnats and flies.  Removing one symptom does not address the underlying problems.

This is part of the story of God’s actions to change the hearts and minds of the holders of political power to overthrow the very economic structure that gives them power and wealth: slavery.  The surprising tactic, unique to this plague, is to invite Pharaoh to choose when God should intervene via the timing of Moses’ prayers.  An all-powerful God waits to be invited to act so that we might know something of the One who acts.  This is the relational heart of salvation.

Moses prays, God responds, Pharaoh and Egypt enjoy immediate relief - but nothing else changes.  We are left with the stench of rotting frog carcasses to remind us that the underlying injustices remain.

Prayer

God of Moses,
move us to see beyond symptoms to structural problems,
give us awareness of who really pays for our lifestyles,
help us make the changes we can.
Give us courage to speak truth to power,
and whole-heartedly pray to see all people set free
and in loving relationship with you
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth work, member of mayBe community, Oxford.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Daily Devotion Sunday Worship for 9th August 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 09/08/2020 - 09:45
96 Daily Devotion Sunday Worship for 9th August 2020 View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
 
Daily Devotions from the
United Reformed Church
Sunday Worship for 9th August 2020
 



Holy Communion
The Rev’d Stewart Cutler
St Ninian’s Church, Stonehouse

 
Introduction
 
Good morning and welcome to worship.  My name is Stewart Cutler and it’s my privilege to get to be the minister of St Ninian’s Church in Stonehouse.  St Ninian’s is a Local Ecumenical Partnership between the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland so I’m in a slightly unusual situation in the URC now… I only have one church to minister to but it is the parish church and so has all the things that comes along with that.  Stonehouse is a somewhere between being a large village and a small town with around 6,000 residents.  Its history includes weaving and coal mining along with farming.  It’s still disconnected from the great Lanarkshire conurbation but these days it is very much a commuter town for Glasgow. Today we will be thinking about one of the most striking stories in Matthew’s Gospel, the time when Jesus walks on the water, and when Peter gets out of the boat.  We will also join together to celebrate Communion, so you might want to have some bread and some wine or a suitable alternative to hand for when we come to that part of our time together.
        
Call to Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,
Many:      God says, Come out.”
 
One:         To all who are living in darkness,
Many:      God says, Show yourselves”
 
One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:      God gives food and springs of water.
 
One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us,
                we are inscribed on the palms of His hands.
 
Hymn:      Eternal Father, Strong To Save
                William Whiting 1825-1878
 
Eternal Father, strong to save,
whose arm doth bond the restless wave,
who bids the mighty ocean deep
its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
for those in peril on the sea.
 
2 O Trinity of love and pow'r,
thy children shield in danger's hour;
from rock and tempest, fire, and foe,
protect them where-so-e'er they go;
thus, evermore shall rise to Thee
glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
 
Prayers of Approach
 
Lord God, creator of the elements,  we come to you today, not because we are worthy, but because we are broken and helpless without you. 
 
Lord God, creator of fire, we thank you for the sun that brings us warmth, that nourishes life, that brings light to our world. 
 
You alone are the light of our lives.  You alone fight of the darkness that sometimes covers our hearts.   We ask you to forgive us when we have covered the light you have put in each one of us.  Forgive us for times when we have caused harm or hurt.
 
Lord God, creator of water, we thank you for rain.   We often complain that we have too much of it, but we realise that the bountiful water we enjoy  is not shared by those in other places.  We thank you for our green land and our plentiful crops  that exist because of the rain you send us. 
 
We ask your forgiveness for times when we have diluted your love,  for times when we have extinguished someones hopes or dreams  through our thoughtlessness or spitefulness.
 
Lord God, creator of the air we breathe, breathe new life into each one of us.   Renew our souls with your awesome spirit.  Breathe you healing spirit into those we name in the silence of our hearts before you now.
 
Lord God, creator of the earth, we give you thanks all that we have  and all that we take for granted.  We realise that we have much while others have little and we promise now before you to work to make sure that all those who are thirsty and hungry are fed, all those who are in need are sustained and all those who are lonely are comforted.   Lord God, creator of all, hear our prayers. Amen
 
Prayer of illumination
 
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our God and our redeemer. Amen
 
Reading  St Matthew 14:22-33
 
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, It is a ghost!And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.  Peter answered him, Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. He said, Come.So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus.  But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me!  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, You of little faith, why did you doubt?When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, Truly you are the Son of God.
 
Sermon
 
Today, for just a short while, I want to talk to you about possibilities.   The things that we only dare to imagine,  the things we have always wanted to do, but for some reason or another have never quite got round to.  All our lives are full of If onlys and I wish I hads. There are many reasons we dont do things.  We have other priorities, commitments, fear and pride.  The thing is, If you want to walk on the water youve got to get out of the boat. That sounds like an obvious statement doesnt it?  If you want to walk on water youve got to get out of the boat.
 
The story of Jesus walking on the water has always fascinated me.  Or should I say the story of Peter walking on the water?   I mean which is the more unlikely?  Son of God walks on lake?or fisherman steps out of a perfectly good boat?
 
It’s a story that is perhaps harder to believe because it isnt just another one of Jesus miracles.  Its not about a healing or even turning water into wine.  Its a story in which an ordinary man does an extraordinary thing.
 
Jesus was having a bit of a day.  He had just heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded by Herod and some of the disciples had brought Johns body to Him.  Jesus understandably wanted some time to himself so the disciples took him out in the boat to the quiet of the lake.  When they got back to the shore there was a huge crowd and Jesus healed the sick, taught them for a while and fed them all with a few loaves of bread and some fish.  We are told that there were about 5,000 of them.
 
As Jesus was finishing up with the crowd He sent the disciples away in the boat to go ahead to the other side.  So, there they are in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, a place well known for its fierce and sudden storms. 
By the fourth watch of the night the disciples would be tired, cold, probably wet and hungry. 
 
They were all huddled together in the back of the boat when out of the storm a figure comes walking towards them.  They are terrified!  And no wonder.  They think it is a ghost. Then Jesus speaks to them.  Its me.  Dont be sacred.’ 
 
Im sure that Jesus’ words might have had a calming effect on at least some of the disciples but it has an extraordinary effect on Peter.  Bold as you like Peter calls out If its you Lord tell me to come out on the water to you.
 
Can you imagine the other disciples reaction? 
 
What? 
Tell you to come out on the water. 
Have you lost your mind? 
There is a storm blowing. 
Sit down! 
Youll rock the boat. 
Peter! 
For goodness sake. 
Dont be stupid.
 
But Jesusresponse is simple, come
So Peter gets out of a perfectly good boat in the middle of the lake in the middle of a storm.  And for a glorious few seconds Peter, the big, rough, never understands whats going on fisherman, is walking on the water towards Jesus.
 
I wonder what was going through Peters head when he saw Jesus? 
 
Did he know who it was out there on the lake?  Did he recognise Jesusvoice? If he did why on earth did he ask Jesus to tell him to get out of the boat and come water walking?  Why not just be glad that Jesus was out there looking after them? 
 
But Peter wasnt the kind to sit back and watch.  He wanted to follow Jesus wherever He went, and if that meant out onto the lake in the middle of a storm then thats where Peter was going.
 
Its unbelievable isnt it?  Peter was walking on the water. Unfortunately thats what Peter thought too.  He was suddenly very aware of what he was doing.  He realised that a minute ago he was in a boat and now he was out on the water in the middle of a storm. 
 
How did that happen? 
Wait a minute. 
Im not in the boat! 
Im in the middle of a storm. 
Look at the waves! 
What am I doing? 
Im sinking! 
Help!!!
 
As soon as he asked for help Jesus reached out to Peter, lifted him up and put him back in the boat.   As Jesus saves Peter from the storm Jesus whispered to him what might be the harshest thing Jesus ever says, You of little faith.  Why did you doubt?.   Ouch.
 
Peter got out the boat.  The rest of the disciples were huddled together in the boat, scared out of their minds, but Peter got out of the boat, asking only for the confirmation that it really was Jesus out there. 
 
You of little faith?  I wish I had a tenth of the faith Peter had at that moment.  I know where I would have been… I would have been with the other eleven, huddled in the back of the boat, not out there having a life changing experience.
 
Peter was getting out of that boat.  He had made up his mind already.  Jesus saying Comewas just the confirmation.  Whether he ended up swimming in the water or dancing on top of it Peter wanted to be where Jesus was, doing what Jesus did.
 
I bet that day lived with Peter forever. 
 
I wonder if the other disciples talked about it when they got together. 
Remember that day Peter got out of that boat in the middle of the storm? Fancied a wee swim did you Peter?   What were you thinking?
 
But Peter, just for a moment, a glorious, life-changing moment, walked on water towards his Lord and master. This story is a fascinating one for all kinds of reasons.  It is full of mystery and imagery we can relate to.
 
Firstly there is the storm.   Commentators often describe the society around us in terms of a storm.  It is fast, changing, sweeping us along on currents we seem powerless to swim against.   We have little or no control over it.  It can be frightening.  It can seem alien to us.  We dont understand where it comes from, how it is created or what drives it, but we can see all to clearly the power it has, and sometimes, like in our current times, the destruction it causes. We can feel overwhelmed.  We can feel tossed and thrown about.
 
So we retreat to the place that we can be safe from the storm.  Our boat. For many of us that boat is our church. What kind of boat is our church?
Is it a luxury liner sailing from port to port allowing people off for a brief visit to the nice parts of the world?  Is it a yacht that we can escape in at weekends, getting away from everything?  Or is our boat a lifeboat, braving all kinds of storms, crewed by willing volunteers, searching for lost souls out there in the ocean?
 
I know what kind of boat Id prefer to be in.  The big, comfortable, luxurious, safe kind.   The church has in many ways become that kind of boat.   From the inside we might not recognise it,  but those on the outside, out there in the storm, they can see it. 
 
The church is often criticised for being all talk and no action.   We can create our own safety here.   We mix with people like us,  take part in our own activities, speak our own language and listen to our own music.   We have created a safe haven from the storm.
 
Of course we all have our own personal boats too, our own little comfort zones.  The places we feel safe and secure.  We take refuge in the things we know we can do.  The places where no one will ask us to think too much about what we believe or why we believe it.  The places where we wont be asked to do anything new or hard or difficult.
 
Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, said  "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, that is all that ever has."   Well, if a small group of committed people can change the world, imagine what a large group of committed people can do
in each of our communities.  All you have to do is step out of the boat.
 
And here is possibly the most important thing for you to remember
as you step out of your comfortable boat.  Sometime the experience of the journey is more important than arriving.
 
It’s there in those experiences you will find out things about yourself
and each other that you never knew. 
 
You will discover that God can use you in ways you never dreamed possible.  You will deepen friendships.  You will have a better understanding of your faith.  You will feel a sense of belonging stronger than anything you have felt before.  This journey wont all be plain sailing.   Stepping out of the boat is dangerous.  Its the unpredictable thing to do. 
 
It is safer in the boat.  Ok, you might get bounced about by the storm occasionally, but our boat is sound and it will survive, for a while at least.
 
But how much more did Peter gain from taking that one step of faith? 
How much more did he believe when he took those small faltering steps on the water?   How much more did he trust in Jesus when he felt his strong arms rescue him as he sank down into the storm?  And how much greater was his reward? Faith in Jesus demands that we take risks, that we step out of the boat. 
 
It is our choice to be risk takers for the sake of the Gospel.  To follow Peter’s example, asking only for the slightest confirmation that it is Jesus we are walking towards.
 
Jesus chose this man, this Peter, this fisherman who would deny even knowing Him not once, not twice, but three times in one night to found his church on.   That gives those of us like me who get it wrong,  who ask questions,  who never really fully understand,  great hope. And when Jesus got into the boat the wind died down and the storm stopped.


Hymn:      Will Your Anchor Hold?
                  Priscilla J Owens
 
 
Will your anchor hold
in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold
their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift,
and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift,
or firm remain?
 
We have an anchor
that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure
while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock
which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep
in the Saviour’s love!
 
2 Will your anchor hold
in the straits of fear,
when the breakers roar
and the reef is near?
While the surges rage,
and the wild winds blow,
shall the angry waves
then your bark o'erflow?
 
3 Will your eyes behold
through the morning light
the city of gold
and the harbour bright?
Will you anchor safe
by the heavenly shore,
when life's storms are past
for evermore?
 
Offertory
 
We ponder the many gifts that God has given us, deeply aware that we are also given the choice to put them to good us or not, to build us or tear down, to empower others or to hold onto power ourselves, to build the kingdom or to stand by in our indifference.
 
So, in this moment, we offer our gifts back to God, choosing to use them for their rightful purpose, to do justice and live mercifully, to bring peace and to foster love.  We bring our gifts and offer them back to God.
 
 
Prayer of Dedication
 
Loving God,
we offer ourselves, we offer our gifts, our dreams, our hopes;
we offer our talents, our skills, our generosity;
we offer our questions, our wonder, our doubts;
we offer our vision, our energy, our enthusiasm;
we offer our prayers, for the world and for each other;
we offer our longings for places of conflict and people with hunger
and those without homes;
we offer all we are and hope to be and we offer it all in the name of love.
So be it.  Amen
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history.
God is our life.
 
We believe in Gods Son,
born amongst the poor, light in our night,
first-born from the dead. He is alive.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives birth to the new life of God,
who breathes life into the struggle for justice,
who leads us to hope.
who is a living force.
 
We believe in the holy universal Church,
herald of the Good News
which frees people and brings new life.
We believe in the coming of a new world
where Jesus Christ, our Lord, will be all in all. Amen.
 
Hymn:               I Come With Joy to Meet My Lord
                         Brian Wren © 1971, 1995 Hope Publishing Company,
                         380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188

I come with joy, to meet my Lord
forgiven, loved and free,
behold I wanted 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
in this is 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.
 
Communion
 
Invitation
 
What table is this that bears the weight of sacrifice: heavens intent, broken in each morsel? What moment is this that spills with holy love restless in this the world, crushed in the taste of wine? What place is this where heaven shatters into a thousand crumbs in the hands of a vulnerable Saviour? What hour is this that calls the bread-maker to break body and spill blood in the name of love?

The Apostle Paul reminds us why we share this simple meal:
 
The tradition which I handed on to you came to me from the Lord himself:  that on the night of his arrest the Lord Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks to God broke it and said: This is my body, which is for you; do this in memory of me. In the same way, he took the cup after supper, and said: This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.’ For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11: 23 - 26

Prayer of Thanksgiving
 
The Lord be with you.
We lift up our hearts to the Lord.
 
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God because it is right to give him thanks and praise.  God of abundance and mercy, we give joyful thanks for your eternal love and healing presence in our celebration of bread and wine. Bless us, the body of Christ, that we may attend faithfully to our call to be your servants with each other  and throughout the world.
 
Therefore, with your people  of all places and times,  and with the whole company of heaven,  we proclaim your greatness  and sing your praise in the angels’ song: 
Santo, Santo, Santo.
¡Mi corazón te adora!
Mi corazón te sabe decir
¡Santo eres Señor!
 
Holy, holy, holy.
My heart, my heart adores you!
My heart is glad to say, the words:
You are holy, Lord!
 
Send down your Holy Spirit to bless us and these your gifts of bread and wine,  that they might help us grow in grace, to the glory of your most holy name.  And here we offer and present to you our very selves, to be a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for your acceptance; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  all honour and glory are yours, almighty Father, now and forever.
 
God in community, Holy One hear us as we pray in the words of Jesus;
 
Our Father…
 
As we share this bread and wine together we symbolise our unity in Jesus, the one who calls us to follow him, who calls us from the safety of our traditions and our comfort zones, to journey with him. And so at this sacred moment we re-enact the events on the night before Jesus died, when,  sitting with his friends at the table,  he took the bread,  gave thanks,  blessed it and broke it. Jesus then shared it with them. We will do the same,  breaking the bread as the symbol of his body  broken by the sins of the world.   And after sharing the bread,  Jesus took the cup of wine, blessed it and then shared it with all his friends. We do the same,  we will drink it as the symbol of his lifeblood. Through the work of God the Divine Spirit,  and as we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, this simple bread and wine are reminders of the sacred.   By sharing this bread and wine together we remember Jesus, who he was, who he is, and who he will always be. So come, all of you, the table is ready. Come all of you who are burdened, and receive again these symbols  of our tradition,  our history  and our eternity.  We eat and drink together.
 
The Peace
 
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
  
Prayer
 
We believe the time is now, with the taste of bread fresh on our lips, to go into the world and face the darkness.  We believe the moment is right, with the bitterness of the wine sharp in our mouths, to face the powers of the world with the love of heaven.  We believe the place is here, with the sound of covenant echoing in our ears, to endure the suffering love calls us to.  We believe the path is before us (with the crumbs of heaven still scattered across the table) to side with truth in a deafened world.  We believe the hour is come, with the table conversation a turmoil in our minds, to conspire with Christ and move against injustice.  We believe the gospel is this, with bread lying broken and a goblet left empty, love was betrayed, but death shall not have the final word. Amen
 
Intercessions
 
Lord God, show us how to have trust. Lead us to know the full conviction
of our faith that whatever strife or storms we find ourselves in, you will come to us, extend your hand, and invite us to take hold of it.
 
Show us how to believe. Reveal the full breadth of your glory that we might lift the limits on what we are prepared to, and are able to, envisage as the possibilities of life and creation under the energy of your Holy Spirit.
 
Show us how to live. Teach us through the stories of the Bible and the example of others that we might understand The Wayof discipleship
and apply it in the way we set about living our own lives.
 
Compassionate God, many in our world live with fear, and many find it difficult to do anything other than cower away from the world as if beaten by the pressures, challenges, anxieties and the worries of day-today existence.

We pray today:
 
  • for those drowning in the sorrow of their grief, and the emptiness of their loneliness;
  • for those drowning in squalor, poverty and hunger, for those drowning
  • in the inadequate availability of basic resources;
  • for those drowning in a sea of violence and hatred as victims and as those embroiled in it;
  • and for those drowning in an ocean of despair as they see no way out and no prospect of change in their lifes circumstances.
God, your love for people is no illusion, it is no trick of clever rhetoric, it is no mere opiate created by the Church to ease peoples pain. Your love is real, it is living, and it is present.   Through your Church may this love be known in the world, and made available through us to all we come across.
 
May people come to believe in the constancy of your love by the words and actions of our own faith. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
 
Hymn:      Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult        
                Cecil Francis Alexander
 
Jesus calls us o'er the tumult
of our life's wild, restless sea;
day by day his sweet voice soundeth,
saying "Christian, follow me."
 
2 As, of old, apostles heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home & toil & kindred,
leaving all for His dear sake.

3 In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
"Christian, love me more than these."
 
4:  Jesus calls us; by thy mercies,
Saviour, may we hear Your call,
give our hearts to Your obedience,
serve and love You best of all.

Blessing
 
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give you great peace,
this day and always.
Amen
 
 Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A  Prayer of Approach from Spill the Beans 35 Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France. Prayer of Dedication, Invitation to Communion & Post Communion Prayer by Roddy Hamilton - https://www.nkchurch.org.uk All other liturgical material by Stewart Cutler.
 
Eternal Father sung by the Military Wives’ Choir for Songs of Praise.
Will Your Anchor Hold? – Songs of Praise
I Come With Joy unknown artists.
Santo Santo, Santo Mi Corazon t’adora – Unknown author, unknown artists.
Jesus Calls Us O’er The Tumult – Songs of Praise
 
Organ Pieces played and recorded by Brian Cotterill.  Opening  Ach Gott Von Himmel Sieh Darein (“O God from heaven see this”) by Johann Pachelbel (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)  Closing: Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach  (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)
 
Thanks to Anne Hewling, Ray Fraser, John Young, Kathleen Haynes, Carol Tubbs, and to the choir of Barrhead URC for recording the Lord’s Prayer, to  Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 
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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 9th August 2020 Psalm 9

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 09/08/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 9th August 2020 Psalm 9     
 
Come sing to God with all your heart;
give thanks to God Most High,
who makes the ruthless fall from power
and rescues those who cry.
 
For, Holy One, you take our part;
your ways are always just.
You stop the tyrants in their tracks
and turn their names to dust.
 
You are a shelter for the poor,
a stronghold in distress.
You care for all who trust in You
and all who are oppressed.
 
The violent move in vicious stealth
to dig their victims’ grave.
Come, snare them in the nets they cast.
Come, Mighty God, and save!
 
Rise up, O God; our blood cries out,
bring justice! Raise your hand!
Then we will tell how you have saved
Your praise will fill the land.  
 
© Ruth Duck 2011 GIA Publications Ltd
You can hear the tune, Morning Song, here.
 
Reflection
 
Captain Tom Moore has been quoted on his 100th birthday: ‘Together we will beat this enemy’. This man who inspired the world walking 100 laps around his garden has raised 30+ million pounds for NHS charities.
 
Where we shall be in our fight against the ‘enemy’ Covid-19 on 9th August, I have no idea. Will church buildings be open? What will be the impact of on-line worship? How many will have recovered? How many families will have lost lives to the enemy? The impact that the enemy will have on the recovery, restoration of communities, businesses and churches is still unknown.
 
Psalm 9, according to commentators, may have been written at a time when Israel had just been delivered from powerful enemies, such as the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Assyrians or the Babylonians. The super- powers have released Israel, justice has been done and love has eventually prevailed. 
 
Robert Alter in his translation of the Hebrew says of verse 17: ‘The Lord is known for the justice (…) he did’.( It sounds a bit like Yoda speaking in a Star Wars film). The translation assumes an (…) ellipsis in the Hebrew. The literal sense of the four Hebrew words in sequence here is : ‘The Lord is known Justice(…) He Did’. Now I have been using three dots in the writing of emails for years ( some have questioned my Suffolk English). I never knew it was ‘a thing’ until I heard it discussed in an interview in lockdown. Don’t rush from ellipses!   
 
Justice and love go together. They lead us to praise God. In times of despair we are even more ready to turn to prayer backed up by practical care and support: ‘For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever’ (verse 18). Today the needy will bear the biggest losses at the end of this.
 
Words of Assurance  
 
from Captain Tom’s  No 1 hit song with Michael Ball and the Care Choir 

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
 
You'll never walk alone.
Oscar Hammerstein II / Richard Rodgers
You'll Never Walk Alone lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Andrew Royal Minister: Maidstone & Staplehurst URC’s  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 8th August 2020 The Plague of Blood

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 08/08/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 8th August 2020  The Plague of Blood   
Exodus 7

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; stand by at the river bank to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a snake. Say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.’ But until now you have not listened. Thus says the Lord, ‘By this you shall know that I am the Lord.’ See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood. The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.”’  The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over its rivers, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water—so that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.”’

Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into blood, and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river.  Seven days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.

Reflection

Perhaps the most convincing reason why Moses would find Pharoah at the river in the morning is that the story requires it.  The first challenge to Pharaoh's authority must take place at the Nile, the origin of Egypt.  The annual four-month inundation left behind rich silt, while rapids to the south, the delta to the North, and desert either side of the river defended the nation from attack.  Vast irrigation systems harnessed the water when the river receded, providing all year round agriculture, with excess produce traded with other lands by boat.  The organisation required to control the waters created a stratified society which valued order and stability, whose foundation was slavery: the hardly visible army of foreign workers without whom it would be difficult to keep the system running. 

The Egyptian word for “blood” and “red” were the same, and red was the colour of Apep, the serpent of chaos and synonym for evil.  When the highly learned priests, not served well by the translation “magicians”, performed rituals of execration they destroyed red pots or figurines as proxies for Egypt’s enemies.  Now in an ironic reversal they experienced this destruction for themselves.  All they could do in response was conjure more bloody water, bringing further misery to the people and helping Moses’ mission.  The Nile, source of fertility and life becomes the bringer of death, and the people have to dig into the sands to find clean water. 

This is still reality for millions of people. The World Health Organisation reported in 2017 that although 71% of the global population (5.3 billion people) used a safely managed drinking-water service, at least 2 billion people were using a contaminated drinking water source able to transmit diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio.

Prayer

Gracious God,
thank you for the technical wisdom and commitment to the common good which has brought clean water to more people than ever.
Where decisions must be made about allocating resources may leaders be guided to channel these to the people who have least.
Give us determination to build communities on fairness, questioning the ways that we have always done things, and bringing our practices into your sunlight. Amen -->

Today's writer

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

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 07/08/2020 - 16:30
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Back to Egypt

over the last month we've taken a break from our meander through Genesis and Exodus with an excursion into Jonah and a wander through the Basis of Union.  Now we return to where we left off: the stories of a hard hearted Pharoah, Moses the liberator and now a plague or 10.  

When these Devotions were planned out the idea of writing about plagues didn't have the same resonance as they do now as we live through a modern day plague.

I hope the readings are fruitful for you.


with every good wish


Andy

The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC
 
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Back to Exodus

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 07/08/2020 - 15:30
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Dear Friends,

I hope you've found the last two weeks' devotions on our Basis of Union useful; considering it's place in our common life it does rather deserve to be better known.

Now we've worked our way through it we return, tomorrow morning, to Exodus picking up where we left off as we start to consider the plagues sent to change Pharaohs mind.

with every good wish


Andy

Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, URC Daily Devotions
 
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URC Daily Devotion Friday 7th August 2020 Basis of Union 23

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Friday 7th August 2020  Basis of Union 23 
 
Acts 20:17, 28, 31-35
 
From Miletus (Paul) sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. When they came to him, he said to them: “… Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son … Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no-one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
                                                                                                                                                              
Basis
 
Some are called to be elders. They share with Ministers of the Word and Sacraments in the pastoral oversight and leadership of the local churches, taking counsel together in the elders' meeting for the whole church and having severally groups of members particularly entrusted to their pastoral care. They shall be associated with Ministers in all the councils of the church. Elders elected by the church meeting are ordained to their office and are inducted to serve for such limited period as the church which elects them shall determine. All elders are eligible for re-election, and those elected shall enter upon their office by induction. On moving to another local church an ordained Elder is eligible for election by that church to the elders' meeting, and, if so elected, is inducted. The ordination and induction of elders shall be carried out in the course of public worship by a Minister of the local church (or, during a pastoral vacancy, by the interim moderator) acting with the serving elders.  (23)

Reflection

I thank God for elders – for this pattern of Christian service, and for a host of fine people who fulfil it. Eldership is one of the treasures of the URC. Here are some of the reasons we value it so highly.

Elders are both lay and ordained. With roots and experience in wider society, they lead and care for the church. Appointed as individuals, they work as a team. They are chosen by the local congregation, for a role recognised by the URC as a whole. We ordain them because this ministry – linking church and world, locally rooted, operating as a team – is an ‘essential element’ of our shared life, a key ingredient for healthy Church order.

I notice two practical themes in today’s scripture passage. One is vigilance: ‘keep watch … be alert’. An elder lives in two worlds – Church and wider society. To stand on the boundary is to see the dangers and the opportunities. The Church is not an island. We belong to the local community, and we represent Christ within it.  Elders are well placed to understand this.

The second theme is generosity: ‘God’s grace … support the weak … it is blessed to give’. Eldership is demanding. It asks people to offer to God a lot of time, energy and compassion. Pastoring needs patience. Leadership must be given in love. Caring can be costly. Supporting others will stretch us. Yet this is God’s church, brought into being through the suffering love of Jesus. We are not in this on our own. Grace and goodness are behind us, with us and among us.

Eldership is a big ask. I see many people in the URC who have given a big answer to that ask, and I thank God for them.

Prayer

For the elders among us we pray for strength and steadiness,
  to care with understanding,
  to lead with confidence,

  to guide the Church wisely and well.
We pray that in giving they will receive – 
  joy in serving, 
  the thanks of friends,
  and growth in faith, hope and love.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John Proctor is a retired minister and 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.
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URC Daily Devotion 6th August 2020

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Thursday 6th August Basis of Union 22  

St Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,  and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’  He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth,  who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,  and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.  Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,  and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’  Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’  That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.  They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Basis

Some are called to the Ministry of church related community work. After approved preparation and training, they may be called to be Church Related Community Workers in a post approved by the United Reformed Church, are then commissioned to the office of Church Related Community Worker and inducted to serve in a particular post for a designated period. This commissioning and induction shall be in accord with Schedules D & F. Church Related Community Workers are commissioned to care for, to challenge and to pray for the community, to discern with others God’s will for the well-being of the community, and to endeavour to enable the church to live out its calling to proclaim the love and mercy of God through working with others in both church and community for peace and justice in the world. Their service may be stipendiary or non-stipendiary, and in the latter case their service is given within the area of a synod and in a context it has approved.  (22)

Reflection

The ministry of Church Related Community Work has been like walking numerous Emmaus Roads in all sorts of locations and contexts. I have walked alongside individuals, groups, communities and encouraging the Church to do the same.

Many of these folks, like the disciples were often broken, grieving, feeling that there was little, if anything they can do to change their situation and that of their communities. They have stood still, paralysed, frozen, looking sad, feeling lost and helpless. So, I have travelled with them, listening to and embracing their stories – never denying, correcting or changing any of the narratives and always waiting until their stories come to an end. I have tried (and sometimes failed!) to resist the temptation to interrupt them or tell them what I think they should do.  Even when I think that we may have been heading down a cul-de-sac, I have stayed with them - sometimes reluctantly!  When we have found ourselves in unfamiliar territory (never admitting that we could be lost), we have worked out a route together.

Because through the journeying and listening to each other comes the realisation that the answer is and, always has been, right there amongst and within them. After years of being told what is best for them by professionals and despite what messages they may have been given by society and the world around them, they come face to face with the reality that they have the gifts and talents. Gifts and talents that can transform their lives and communities in the ways that they, not others, deem appropriate.

The journeys have always been two-way processes. At times, things have not been easy and there have been many bumps in the road plus a few near crashes. But along the way I have found myself being challenged and changed by the adventures with my co-travellers. Ultimately, together we have been able to discover the transformative power of God - often hidden in plain sight.

Prayer

Boundless and transformative God,
teach us to be good co-travellers.
Help us to know
when to do justice,
how to love kindness,
and remind us to walk humbly,
always with You.
Amen
(Micah 6:8)
 
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Today's writer

Marie Trubic is a Church Related Community Worker serving the Shawlands and Priesthill project in Glasgow. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Sunday's Coming

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 11:15
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service of Holy Communion is led by the Rev’d Stewart Cutler minister of St Ninian’s Church in Stonehouse, a partnership between the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church.   Hymns include  William Whiting’s Eternal Father, Strong to Save, Priscilla J Owens’ Will Your Anchor Hold?, Brian Wren’s I Come With Joy To Meet My Lord, a lovely Sanctus from Argentina in both Spanish and English, and Cecil Francis Alexander’s Jesus Calls O’er the Tumult

The service will be sent out, as normal, at 9.45 on Sunday morning for a 10am start.  If you have any problems receiving it please read on for advice.

with every good wish


Andy


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

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If, however, the email isn't in your Spam/Junk folder please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read it there.  I am away for August and so won't be able to help if you email!

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 5th August 2020 Basis of Union 21

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 05/08/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 5th August 2020 Basis of Union 21 

Ephesians 4: 11-13
 
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
 
Basis
 
Some are called to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments.  After approved preparation and training, they may be called to be Ministers of local churches, or missionaries overseas, or to some special and approved ministry, and are then ordained and inducted to their office...They are commissioned to conduct public worship, to preach the Word and to administer the Sacraments, to exercise pastoral care and oversight, and to give leadership to the church in its mission to the world.   Their service may be stipendiary or non-stipendiary, and in the latter case their service is given within the area of a synod and in a context it has approved. (21)
 
Reflection
 
Fifteen years of my ministry have been at Westminster College, and this combination of Paul’s teaching and these invitations from the Basis have seldom been far from me, or, I suspect, from any of us devoted to the URC’s education, training and formation for ministry. The ways in which we deliver and plan it have changed dramatically (within a year of arriving at Westminster I was at the General Assembly that withdrew ministerial training from many ecumenical partnerships to focus upon Cambridge, Manchester and the Scottish College). The expectations, aspirations, demands and deployment of ministry remain in constant flux across our Synods. Congregations wrestle with many histories and much memory of previous ministries that often jar against what, now, is either possible or even useful. I have always thanked God that the URC has consistently devoted tremendous resources to equipping and sustaining ordained ministry. 
 
None of this, I believe, denies the rightful wonder and significance of everyone who wants to follow Jesus. None of this should let us trip ourselves up by imagining that the overwhelming majority of Christians who are not ordained to these ministries are in any way lesser Christians of less significance before God. Paul’s ultimate focus in Ephesians is not the self-aggrandizement of a holy and select guild, but the equipping of every believer for their own unique ministries and the growing up of the whole Church to the spiritual and missionary maturity Christ teaches and yearns for in us all. Yes, a thousand times, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. But Paul, as our Basis, is equally clear that God calls some, and wants some, prepared to be God’s agents in this equipping and nurturing. We have always, and must continue, to test and refine how we do such calling and preparing in response to the leading of the Spirit. New circumstances and changing contexts demand our most passionate dreaming and our most energetic reinvention again and again and again. I do not know what future Ministry of Word and Sacraments will be for the URC. But neither do I believe that we have no further need of it, or that God has ceased to call people into it.
 
Prayer
 
Thank you, dear God,
for the call of the Spirit
in the name of your Son.
Thank you for all who minister amongst us
and throughout our communities and institutions.
Thank you for those who have helped us to follow you.
Bless them this day.
Bless us as we, too,
discover your claim and calling
in our lives today.
Amen.
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Neil Thorogood is Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge, until he returns to local URC pastoral ministry at Trinity-Henleaze (Bristol) and Thornbury in summer 2020 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 TTuesday 4th August 2020 Basis of Union 20

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 04/08/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 4th August 2020 Basis of Union 20

Ephesians 4.11-13

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Basis

For the equipment of his people for this total ministry the Lord Jesus Christ gives particular gifts for particular ministries and calls some of his servants to exercise them in offices duly recognised within his Church. The United Reformed Church recognises that Christ gives himself to his Church through Word and Sacrament and through the total caring oversight by which his people grow in faith and love, the exercise of which oversight is the special concern of elders and Ministers. Those who enter on such ministries commit themselves to them for so long as God wills: the United Reformed Church having solemnly acknowledged their vocation and accepted their commitment shall appoint them to their particular ministry and give them authority to exercise it within the church, setting them apart with prayer that they shall be given all needful gifts and graces for its fulfilment, which solemn setting part shall in the case of Ministers and elders be termed ordination and in the case of Church Related Community Workers be termed commissioning. In the United Reformed Church all ministries within the life of the Church shall be open to both men and women. Appropriate affirmations of faith shall be made by those entering upon all ministries within the life of the Church. (20)

Reflection

‘So do you feel any different?’ was one of the first questions I remember family and friends asking me once we got back to the manse after attending the worship service at which I was ordained as a minister and inducted to my first post.  I don’t remember feeling any different and my memory of that day is a bit of a blur.  

Reading through this section of the Basis of Union I am struck by the concept of ‘total ministry’.  A ministry that no one individual is able to carry or fulfil alone.  Each individual has a unique constellation of abilities, interests, and talents; and what’s more all of those are needed for the Church to fully live out its mission and witness.  The idea of ‘every member ministry’ is a popular one in many denominations; the idea that everyone has a part to play in living and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in the places we live out our lives.  As the Church once again shifts its shape this is an important idea to remember and to try to live out.  

And yet, the URC is a church that does set people aside in particular ministries.  The largest body of ordained people in the URC are the people we name elders.  According to the 2020 Year Book there are 8079 serving elders - far more than Ministers.  All of these are people who have been called in some way to serve the Church and this has been solemnly recognised through prayer and the giving of authority.  We name this solemn setting apart ‘ordination’ for Ministers and elders, and ‘commissioning’ for Church Related Community Workers.  Ordination (and Commissioning) is an act of the whole Church and is an act that almost irrevocably changes the relationship an individual has with the Church, with the wider community, and sometimes even with family and friends. 

More recently someone asked me what I thought about something ‘not as a Minister’.  I found their question impossible to answer.  Why?  Because I am a Minister.  It showed me how ordination means something but doesn’t itself change anyone.  Ordination and Commissioning is a form of naming.  It points out something already present, sharpened and polished through training and experience identifying who someone is but not changing who they are.  Part of our task as Christian people is to continuously be alert to who we are called to be and what are we called to do.  This is true for everyone, for the few who are ordained and commissioned, and for everyone else, called to play their part in the total ministry of Christ’s Church. 

Prayer 

We will grow together 
in humility, gentleness and patience; 
we will nurture each other in faith;
we will bear with one another in love; 
we will make every effort 
to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit 
in the bond of peace, 
so that we may faithfully proclaim the gospel of Christ. 

(from the Ordination and Induction of Elders, Worship from the United Reformed Church, 2004)
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Sarah Moore is Assistant Clerk of the General Assembly and Transitional Champion for the National Synod of Scotland  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 3rd August 2020 Basis of Union 19

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 03/08/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Monday 3rd August 2020 Basis of Union 19 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 3rd August 2020  Basis of Union 19

1 Peter: 4: 7-11

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without complaining.  Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.  Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Basis

The Lord Jesus Christ continues his ministry in and through the Church, the whole people of God called and committed to his service and equipped by him for it. This service is given by worship, prayer, proclamation of the Gospel, and Christian witness; by mutual and outgoing care and responsibility; and by obedient discipleship in the whole of daily life, according to the gifts and opportunities given to each one. The preparation and strengthening of its members for such ministry and discipleship shall always be a major concern of the United Reformed Church. (19)

Reflection

I am particularly drawn to the vision of ‘Jesus continuing his ministry in and through the Church’. Perhaps it would do us good to reflect, at regular intervals, on this truth.

Do we see Jesus continuing his ministry in the churches we are part of?
Are there areas of our church life where we most certainly do not?
Might the answers to these questions give us enough impetus to change where needed?

The global pandemic has given many areas of our human life a necessary wake-up-call. We have discovered, as we humans do when pushed, that we can indeed change and adapt when it is clear we need to – or when we are left with no choice!

Surely asking ourselves if Jesus’ ministry can be seen in and through our local churches, is just the kind of stimulus we need to stay focused on our ‘worship, prayer, proclamation of the Gospel, Christian witness, care and discipleship in our daily lives’.

As I engaged with this section of the Basis of Union, I heard words from 1 Peter reflected back to me: ‘Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.’ 

You and I are stewards of God’s grace. We are guardians and enablers of Jesus ministry in the church. Whilst that is a whole lot of responsibility, we are empowered with the unique and glorious gifts that God has given each of us. All of us, in our technicolour variety are important to the flourishing of the church.
 
In the last sentence of this section, we are reminded and encouraged as a denomination, to build-up, cherish and embrace the amazing array of gifts that we each possess: gifts that God has given so that we can indeed continue the ministry of Christ.

There is real excitement and creative hope in these words.

Take a moment to look inward: to seek and know what amazing and unique God-given gift you can bring to the ministry of the church.

Prayer

Ever-creating God,
we pray that we may find and own the gifts you have given us.
We pray that, once found, we may be brave to use them, even if they are surprising and unappreciated.
We pray that we will continue to build each other up and to recognise the gifts of others as we are church together.
Make us brave to continue the ministry of Jesus and creative when change is needed to follow him more closely.
Call us again and inspire us through your Spirit, we pray.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/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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Sunday Worship 2nd August 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 02/08/2020 - 09:45
96 Sunday Worship 2nd August 2020 View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

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worship for challenging times
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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 for the URC Daily Devotions
August 2nd 2020
 
 
The Rev’d Dr Kirsty Thorpe

Introduction   
 
Good morning, and welcome to this act of worship. I’m Kirsty Thorpe, the minister of Wilmslow United Reformed Church. This small town grew from an agricultural village during the 19th century once the railway came. That meant people could live in leafy Cheshire and work in Manchester, a few miles to the north. Our church began 176 years ago, with a strong focus on worship and educating young people. It’s founders began and housed a local school which was on the church site until the early 1900s. In the last five years we’ve discovered a fresh call to serve young people through a new charity, in partnership with another church nearby. Source Youthwork reaches out to the 2000 plus pupils of the High School a few hundred yards down the road from our front door. It’s after school cafes and counselling sessions usually fill the social space under our worship area with young people several afternoons and evenings a week in term time. Since March the church buildings have been very quiet. We’re keen to see the youth work re-start. It worries us to think about the loss of confidence and wellbeing there will be among the school pupils, especially those who struggled with their mental health before the pandemic began. Meanwhile, behind our church are a large health centre and pharmacy. Early on in the lockdown one of the GPs asked if we could help to steward the pharmacy queue.  That grew into three months of volunteering. As a result, I spent hours marshalling outside the pharmacy and looking at our buildings from a distance. I gained a whole range of new perspectives on our place in the community. That’s a good preparation for coming before God to worship.
 
Call to Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,  God says, “Come out.”
 
One:         To all who are living in darkness, God says, “Show yourselves.”
 
One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:      God gives food and springs of water.
 
One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us,
                we are inscribed on the palms of His hands.

 
Hymn:      Let All the World, In Every Corner Sing
                George Herbert 1593-1633
 
Let all the world in every corner sing,
"My God and King!"
The heavens are not too high,
His praise may thither fly;
the earth is not too low,
His praises there may grow.
Let all the world in every corner sing,
"My God and King!"

2 Let all the world in every corner sing,
"My God and King!"
The Church with Psalms must shout:
no door can keep them out.
But, above all, the heart
must bear the longest part.
Let all the world in ev'ery corner sing,
"My God and King!"
 
Prayers of Approach and Confession    
 
Gracious and generous God, we are glad to gather in your presence, drawn together through your loving invitation in Jesus and united as your people in the power of your Holy Spirit. We remember those people we like to see on Sundays, the gatherings we think of as our spiritual home, and the aspects of worship that feed and nurture us. As part of your Church - worldwide, multi coloured, diverse, past, present and to come - we place our lives before you. Help us now to put aside those things that distract us from you, prevent us from sensing your presence, limit our understanding and confine our vision.  May we look at our lives in the light of God’s love –  the faults and failings we recognise in ourselves but struggle to change - our lack of trust in the possibility of transforming forgiveness. In the silence we seek God’s compassion and goodness - we remember his slowness to anger and his steadfast love.
 
Silence
 
We start again, gracious God, as we receive your gift of forgiveness, forgive ourselves and extend forgiveness to one another. We celebrate our new life in Jesus Christ as we say the prayer he taught us:  Our Father…
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
God of light and understanding,  speak to us now through your word in Scripture. Give us open hearts and minds to hear and open hands to respond to your call.
 
Readings

Isaiah 55: 1-5
 
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.

 

St Matthew 14: 13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
 
Hymn:      Holy Wisdom, Lamp of Learning
                Ruth C Duck (b. 1947) © The Pilgrim Press.
 
Holy Wisdom, lamp of learning,
bless the light that reason lends.
Teach us judgment as we kindle
sparks of thought your Spirit sends.
Sanctify our search for knowledge
and the truth that sets us free.
Come, illumine mind and spirit
joined in deepest unity.
 
2.Vine of truth, in you we flourish;
by your grace we learn and grow.
May the word of Christ among us
shape our life, your will to know.
Joined to Christ in living, dying,
may we help the Church convey
witness to the saving gospel,
bearing fruit of faith today.
 
Sermon
        
Sometimes people imagine Christian faith is all about spiritual things. Today’s readings give the lie to that idea through two pieces of scripture - one two thousand years old and the other at least five hundred years older – which can speak to us and touch us today. They are about real needs and the God who knows what we human beings must have to lead a healthy life. They remind us that God offers us a lasting relationship within which to grow and flourish as part of a community of faith. They show us that this way of living is not a secret to be kept to ourselves but an offer to be broadcast widely. When that happens others can gain relationship with God and join us in serving the wider community. So the world becomes a better place for all those alive now and generations yet to come.
 
People don’t always get this message – they never have done – and God gives us freedom to accept or to reject relationship with him. Over the centuries, faith-filled people have offered others their take on God’s good news. One of these was the prophet Isaiah – a man of prayer and insight who tried to give God’s perspective on events to God’s people in his day. The words we heard from him in our reading were probably written for people far from home, whose grandparents and great grandparents had been taken off into exile by the Babylonians when the city of Jerusalem was overrun and the Jewish nation collapsed before a strong, invading army. ‘Now’, the prophet says, ‘God wants to lead you back from exile’. A long journey lies ahead, with much rebuilding work to restore their homeland when they get back once more but the prophet assures them that God will provide for them.  We cannot survive without water.  We need grain to make bread.  Milk is a staple that helps our bodies to grow and drinking wine both makes the feast and boosts morale. Isaiah says that God is offering all these things – water, grain, wine and milk – even though people have no money with which to buy them. God holds out the promise of a good life and there is no great mystery about how to secure this. It is the fruit of building a lasting relationship with him – a covenant – where we offer our love and faithfulness in return for God’s care and provision for us.
 
It sounds like an attractive offer on the face of it so why do people hold back from saying ‘yes’ to God? Perhaps one favour the Covid 19 experience has done for many of us is to demolish the idea that anyone can be totally self-sufficient.  Those people who say they do not need God or other people, and can get all they want brought to their doorstep with a few online orders, may now have some re-thinking to do.

Our communities are fast rediscovering the value of neighbourliness, mutual help and care for one another. It is interesting that worship on the internet is attracting back people who have lost touch with church in person and reaching others who may be searching for God in a new way. Maybe one obstacle to establishing a lasting relationship with God for some of us is that question of time span which Isaiah mentions. In a world that has not yet done the risk assessment for next week’s activities, how can we honestly enter into an ‘everlasting covenant’ with God? It is hardly believable that God should be bothered about each one of us in the first place. Did those who heard Isaiah’s words wonder why God was giving his people this new chance at a relationship, when their forebears had failed so often to be faithful in the past? Perhaps one reason we draw back from promising ourselves to God is our awareness that if we say ‘yes’ then we’ll have no control over who else receives the same offer – some of them far from being our first choice of co-worshippers. A temptation to put everything in terms of ‘them and us’ is always lurking at the back of our minds to trip us up and prevent us from establishing intimacy with God.
 
Our second reading from Matthew’s gospel shows us God’s offer of nourishment and lasting relationship in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. At the start of today’s passage Jesus has just heard the sad and troubling news that his cousin, John the Baptist, has been brutally murdered by the puppet ruler of Galilee, Herod Antipas. Jesus wants time alone, to mourn and perhaps to consider the even greater threat now to his own ministry. Going further around the shore of the Sea of Galilee on his own in a boat is not enough to guarantee him solitude. A large crowd gathers in this isolated place, bringing with them people in need of healing. Jesus responds compassionately to those who are suffering but the day draws on. As the shadows lengthen the disciples alert Jesus to the other need of the people before them – that for food.
 
The ensuing dialogue between Jesus and the disciples tells us a lot about the way God’s love operates. We discover how deeply God is concerned about our practical, bodily needs alongside all the other things we lack in our lives. By accepting the challenge of feeding large numbers of people in an isolated place, Jesus opens himself up to fresh attention from the authorities as a disturbing, crowd-gathering influence who needs to be watched and quite possibly put out of action. The gospel writer makes it clear the large-scale feeding is not something Jesus achieves by acting totally alone. He starts by asking the disciples what they can bring to the feast – ‘You give them something to eat’, he says to them.
 
There is no reason why God in Jesus should invite us to cooperate with him in changing the world but that is how he chooses to do things. We are God’s partners, God’s chosen collaborators, and God makes us the vehicles through which people’s lives can be transformed. No wonder that, when the first people heard Matthew’s gospel and his version of this story, they understood the parallels between this feeding and the meal he celebrated with his disciples before his death. On that occasion too Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and divided it out amongst people. When we come to share communion now we normally sit in rows of seats indoors rather than outdoors. Our stomachs are usually full after breakfast rather than empty at the end of a long day. Perhaps it would help us to understand God’s nourishing love better if we were less comfortable sometimes.
 
I am less concerned about the logistics of this large meal than I am interested to see there was enough for everyone and twelve baskets of leftovers too. This story of Jesus feeding a large number of people confirms for me the importance of practical outreach in church life and community life. People who bring us a meal when we’re isolated and alone, who come to our door with a food delivery when we’re unable to go out, who stock the local foodbank and give food to destitute refugees and asylum seekers, are all reminding us of God who seeks us out in love and meets our needs.
 
Communities with very few resources are often those who understand this ministry best. I think of two places where I have seen hospitality in action over the years. One was a lunch club in a small Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cuba, far from Havana and the tourist trail. The cooking facilities in the small rooms at the back of the church were very basic – a small gas hob and two electric slow cookers. Power cuts quite often meant the cooks had to rely instead on a charcoal barbeque. The supply of food they had was not plentiful either, but the meal was welcome as a supplement to the ration card food everyone was getting. Some people were able to get in to church for their lunch, while others had food taken to them at home. What struck me was the contrast between the limited facilities and food, and the determination and cheerfulness of the women who prepared the meals.
 
I also think of Rose Anne, a Haitian nurse who founded a charity called Aprosifa almost 30 years ago in a poor community on the edge of Port au Prince. Rose Anne was away from Haiti when the earthquake struck in January 2010, and her first priority was to get home and start helping. As soon as she could return, and once she knew her own family were safe, she started to set up an emergency food system for people in the area where she works. With help from Christian Aid her charity employed 60 people to cook meals for up to 6,000 people, five days a week, until two months after the disaster. It was a way of getting families back on their feet – a temporary help that kept people together under the stresses and strains of the disaster. A group of us from the UK met Rose Anne when Christian Aid took us to visit rebuilding projects eighteen months after the earthquake. ‘You never go to Aprosifa without being fed’, the local staff member told us. She was right. That’s a sign of followers of Jesus at work building the Kingdom of God.
 
Hymn         Lead Us, Heavenly Father, Lead Us
                 James Edmeston (1821)
 
Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
o'er the world's tempestuous sea;
guard us, guide us, keep us, feed us,
for we have no help but thee;
yet possessing every blessing,
if our God our Father be.
 
2 Saviour, breathe forgiveness o'er us:
all our weakness thou dost know;
thou didst tread this earth before us,
thou didst feel its keenest woe;
lone and dreary, faint and weary,
through the desert thou didst go.

3 Spirit of our God, descending,
fill our hearts with heavenly joy,
love with every passion blending,
pleasure that can never cloy:
thus provided, pardoned, guided,
nothing can our peace destroy.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history. God is our life.

 
We believe in God’s Son,
born amongst the poor, light in our night,
first-born from the dead. He is alive.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives birth to the new life of God,
who breathes life into the struggle for justice,
who leads us to hope, who is a living force.

 
We believe in the holy universal Church,
herald of the Good News
which frees people and brings new life.
We believe in the coming of a new world
where Jesus Christ, our Lord, will be all in all. Amen

 
Offering  
 
Generous God,  you give us the gift of life,  you send Jesus your son to share our life on earth, and you have given us the gift of this new day. Bless the gifts we bring to your table – our hopes and prayers, our dreams and visions, and help us to use the resources you place in our hands to feed one another and nourish new growth. Amen.
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
In a world that is hungry for truth, righteousness and justice, we hold before you the leaders, the movers and shakers, the ideas people and those who put plans into action. Help us to build communities where each person has a voice, where the needs of those on the edges are seen and met, and the rich and powerful learn what it means to wait rather than pushing to the front of the queue.
 
In a world that is hungry for bread we pray for those in food poverty, depending on hand outs, on food banks and aid programmes.
Help us to renew our commitment to the global bodies and international charities that address the causes of poverty and give people tools for self-reliance.
 
In a world that is hungry for contact and care, we pray for those who find themselves isolated by grief, loss of paid work, sickness of mind or body. Help us to reach out in love to those in need, even the people we find it hard to help, so your light and hope break into their lives.
 
Hymn:      The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy
                Bryn A Rees (1911-1983)
 
The Kingdom of God is justice and joy;
for Jesus restores what sin would destroy.
God's power and glory in Jesus we know
and here and hereafter the kingdom shall grow.
 
2 The kingdom of God is mercy and grace;
the captives are freed, the sinners find place,
the outcast are welcomed God's banquet to share;
and hope is awakened in place of despair.
 
3 The kingdom of God is challenge and choice:
believe the good news, repent and rejoice!
His love for us sinners brought Christ to his cross:
our crisis of judgement for gain or for loss.
 
4 God's kingdom is come, the gift and the goal;
in Jesus begun, in heaven made whole.
The heirs of the kingdom shall answer his call
and all things cry 'Glory!' to God all in all.

Blessing
 
Let us go in peace, to love and serve God. And may the Holy God surprise us on the way, Christ Jesus be our company, and the Spirit lift up our lives. Amen.
Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A  Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France. All other liturgical material by Kirsty Thorpe. Let All The World and Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us from BBC’s Songs of Praise.  Holy Wisdom by the OCP Choir, The Kingdom of God, St Barnabas Church Dulwich.
 
Thanks to John Young, David Shimmin, Kathleen Haynes, Carol Tubbs, Ruth Watson and to the choir of Barrhead URC for recording the Lord’s Prayer, to Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 
Organ Pieces  Opening: Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016).  Closing Procession by Arthur Wills  (organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014).  Both played by Brian Cotterill
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 2nd August 2020 Psalm 8

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 02/08/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 2nd August 2020 Psalm 8

O Lord, our Lord, throughout the earth how glorious is your name,
and glorious too where unseen heavens your majesty proclaim.
On infant lips, in children’s song, a strong defence you raise
to counter enemy and threat, and foil the rebel’s ways.

When I look up and see the skies which your own fingers made,
and wonder at the moon and stars, each perfectly displayed;
then must I ask, “why do you care? Why love humanity?
And why keep every mortal name in your memory.

Yet such as us you made and meant and meant just less than gods to be;
with honour and with glory, Lord, you crowned humanity.
And then dominion you bestowed for all made by your hand,
all sheep and cattle, birds and fish that move through sea or land.

John Bell © 1993 Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community
You can hear a verse of this Psalm here 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCq3bETGz8E

Reflection

Why do you care? Why love humanity?

I was asked similar questions by commuters when I was part of a project run each Holy Week a couple of years ago in Stockport.  We offered free coffee/orange juice and a hot cross bun to commuters on their way to the local station between 6-8am.  Within the bag contained a short ‘meaning of Easter’ card and why we’re doing what we’re doing.

It was fascinating seeing the ‘progression’ of people during the week.  From hesitancy, to acceptance, to appreciation, despite this progress, still pure confusion at times!  Of course, people never really had time to stop and chat.  We were well aware of that.  The main thing is they knew we care.

It went down in history, people remembered us from one year to the next.  A tiny little thing to really brighten up someone’s, inevitably uneventful, commute.

Studies have shown that depression is far more common amongst commuters.  Indeed a potentially mind-numbing part of many people’s day.  Of course, we’re now in a world where many companies are considering abolishing the commute.  COVID-19 has taught us valuable lessons on the productivity of working from home.

But they’re not alone, depression and anxiety exists in all areas of our society.  As a church we are called to love our neighbour.  In a world desperate for prayer, desperate to know someone cares, we must show that.

People are inquisitive.  People were genuinely interested to hear about our story.  And boy do we (all) have a good story to tell!
We care. We love humanity. And, so important it was mentioned twice: “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (NRSV). 

Prayer

Caring God, You love each one of us.
Even when we feel inadequate, You love each one of us.
Even when we feel alone, You love each one of us. 
Even when we are at our wit’s end, You love each one of us.
O Lord, our sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth.
Give us strength to continue to praise you. Amen -->

Today's writer

Dan Morrell, Media for Ministry Consultant (Yorkshire Synod), member of St Andrew’s Roundhay, Leeds. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 1st August 2020 Basis of Union 18

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 01/08/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 1st August 2020  Basis of Union 18 

Basis

The United Reformed Church, under the authority of Holy Scripture and in corporate responsibility to Jesus Christ its ever living head, acknowledges its duty to be open at all times to the leading of the Holy Spirit and therefore affirms its right to make such new declarations of its faith and for such purposes as may from time to time be required by obedience to the same Spirit. At the same time the United Reformed Church accepts with thanksgiving the witness borne to the catholic faith by the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. It recognises as its own particular heritage the formulations and declarations of faith which have been valued by Congregationalists, Presbyterians and members of Churches of Christ as stating the Gospel and seeking to make its implications clear. (18)

Reflection

Words and their meaning change over time.  For instance, in the late 14th century, the French word flus (meaning ‘a heavy flow’) and the Latin fluxus (which generally meant ‘a little loose or slack’) were the roots for the English word flux, coined to describe a certain unpleasant condition that kept people hovering near their village cesspit.  Fast forward 300 years in 1620 ‘flux’ was recorded as meaning‘a continuous change’, the definition we are familiar with today.

The same kinds of change are true in the way that we use language to speak of God.  The Basis of Union contains a Statement of Faith drafted in the late 1960s, based upon a similar statement agreed by the Presbyterian Church of England in 1956.  By the 1990s deficiencies were obvious, such as using “men” when we meant “people”.  The first General Assembly that I attended in 1996 began the process of agreeing a new Statement of Faith, not so much changing the theology but changing the language used to speak of God in ways that were more easily understood by more people.

For some of us today, the ancient Creeds of the Church universal (of which we were a part for the fifteen centuries before the Reformation), and the Confessions that our Reformed ancestors wrote in the seventeenth century clearly speak of God, while others find it much harder to discern God through them.  This is why each generation requires, or at least demands, its own ways to speak of God, almost to borrow a phrase from the preface of the Congregational Hymnary (1916).

What language do you need to borrow to speak of God today?

Prayer

God, may your Spirit speak to me in language my heart can embrace,
in language my mind can understand,
and in the language of silence that sinks deep into my soul.
God, may your Spirit speak to me
words of transformation,
words of empowerment,
words of grace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins, Minister of a group of Methodist and United Reformed Churches based around Farnham, Surrey, and Clerk of the URC General Assembly. Copyright
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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Gone Camping

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 31/07/2020 - 14:15
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Gone Camping....

Dear Friends,

it's always a pleasure to hear from you but, until the end of August, I will be away!  We're catching up on deferred annual leave and have taken ourselves off to far flung northern isles.  Now, of course, this doesn't mean the Daily Devotions will stop.  They are all queued up ready to be sent each morning.  The services, similarly, are ready to be distributed.  I will be turning off my email and so won't be able to help with any queries.

If a Devotion doesn't arrive please, first, check your Spam/Junk folder.  As we send out over 4,300 emails a day some spam mail filters see these as unsolicited.  By adding this address to your contacts and to a safe senders' list you cut down the possibility of this happening.  Sometimes this doesn't work and emails go missing.  If this happens fear not as you can also see each Devotion and Service in three other ways:-
  1. On Facebook the Daily Devotions have a presence - just search for Daily Devotions from the URC and "like" the page.  
  2. The United Reformed Church has a Facebook page (look for the organisation not the groups) and "like" that page.  They also distribute the link to the service and daily reflections.
  3. You can go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read the daily reflection and see the weekly service there too.
I will be back at my computer, hopefully not dealing with a mountain of emails, in September.

with every good wish



Andy -->

Today's writer

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. 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 Friday 31st July 2020 Basis of Union 17

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 31/07/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 31st July 2020  Basis of Union 17 

Scripture Acts 5.12-16

Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.

Basis

The United Reformed Church gives thanks for the common life of the Church, wherein the people of God, being made members one of another, are called to love and serve one another and all people everywhere and to grow together in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Participating in the common life of the Church within the local church, they enter into the life of the Church throughout the world. With that whole Church they also share in the life of the Church in all ages and in the communion of saints have fellowship with the Church triumphant. (16)

Reflection

Recently I read New Testament scholar Paula Gooder’s book, ‘Phoebe’, that imagines the story of the deacon named thus referred to by St Paul in Romans 16.1.  Gooder, an Anglican laywoman currently serving as Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, imagines the Church and churches at the time of Acts as tight knit communities of people for whom encounter with Jesus Christ quite literally brought a sense of liberation.  These communities in many ways shared a very obvious common life, of meals, service, study and worship spent together.  Baptism was a big deal which came with a high cost particularly for those coming to Christian faith from the higher echelons of imperial Roman society.  In many ways early Christians had little choice but to stand together. 

We might ponder what this idea of ‘common life’ referred to in the Basis of Union means for us now.  Perhaps as we live now with Covid 19 and the experience of lockdown and how our churches had to respond to that we are better place to think again about what it means to live as Christian community.  The idea that we might belong to each other is a tricky one for our modern ears.  We might well struggle with any suggestion that someone else can tell us what we should(n’t) do with our energy, time, and money.  A more helpful way of looking at this might be around mutual accountability.  I am accountable to you as you are accountable to me.  We are called to love and serve each other and all people.  We are called to engage in Church through the local church.  We are interconnected and interdependent as individuals and as local churches and as denominations.  There is a sense that when one limps we all limp but also when one limps others can help carry that friend until they have regained their strength and if they can’t we can help carry our friend.  Our relationship with Christ is deeper, our friendships are stronger, our service is more effective, when we pray, stand, and serve side by side.  

Prayer 

Creator God, 
we give thanks for the relationships between us. 
Help us to remember and celebrate these relationships 
in good times and bad.  
Remind us to celebrate one another. 
Help us to depend on one another 
both in good times and bad.  

Build up our common life, 
for the sake of our witness to your Son 
and for the sake of his kingdom. 
In the strength of the Holy Spirit we pray.  
Amen.  
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Sarah Moore is Transition Champion for the National Synod of Scotland, and the Assistant Clerk of the 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.
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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 30th July 2020 Basis of Union 16

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 30/07/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 30th July 2020 Basis of Union 16

St Matthew 26:26-28

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Basis

The United Reformed Church celebrates the gospel sacrament of the Lord's Supper. When in obedience to the Lord's command his people show forth his sacrifice on the cross by the bread broken and the wine poured for them to eat and drink, he himself, risen and ascended, is present and gives himself to them for their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. United with him and with the whole Church on earth and in heaven, his people gathered at his table present their sacrifice of thanksgiving and renew the offering of themselves, and rejoice in the promise of his coming in glory. (15)

Reflection

The breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine play a key role in Jesus’ life and ministry.  This offering takes place at a particular moment on Jesus’ path of suffering leading to the Cross.  Yet it is also a gift given for all of time.  It is the gift of Jesus’ renewing presence and points to the nourishment Jesus gives, week in, week out, day in, day out.

In some traditions of the Church, the daily offering of bread and wine emphasises the closeness of Jesus and the regular receiving of his renewing life which is possible.  In other traditions, a quarterly offering emphasises the key significance of the bread and wine, a gift binding the people of God together, but not to be taken for granted by too regular reception.

While in the United Reformed Church, Holy Communion was traditionally offered on a monthly basis, the union with the Churches of Christ brought into the URC the practice of a weekly celebration. The Basis of Union does not refer to the regularity of the celebration, only to the significance of this.  Local congregations have the freedom to decide how regular this celebration might be.

The Lord’s Supper lies at the heart of the Churches’ life.  It draws together, through the power of the Holy Spirit, both the brokenness of Jesus’ body and the new life promised in the resurrection.  Holy Communion is both the point of renewal and of the sending out of God’s people.  At the Holy Table, the people are gathered together as one people in one place, to receive again the new life in Christ, and drawn into God’s offering of love reaching out across the world, in each place and at all times.

Prayer

Loving God,
You are ever present in bread and wine.
In and through this holy sacrament,
may I know again that I am forgiven.
Renew my life,
build the life of the community,
draw me into sharing in your offering for the world.
Open my heart to receive you.
as I receive, may my life overflow with your love for all people.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

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

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 29/07/2020 - 11:15
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service is led by the Rev'd Dr Kirsty Thorpe, minister of our church in Wilmslow.  Hymns include:  Let All the World In Every Corner Sing, Ruth Duck’s Holy Wisdom, Lamp of Learning, James Edmeston’s Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us, and Bryn Rees’ The Kingdom of God is Justice and Joy.

The service will be sent out, as normal, at 9.45 on Sunday morning for a 10am start.  If you have any problems receiving it please read on for advice.

with every good wish


Andy


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

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If, however, the email isn't in your Spam/Junk folder please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read it there.  I am away for August and so won't be able to help if you email!

Finally, a reminder if you need to change your email address please use the link, below, "update your preferences".   
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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 29th July 2020 Basis of Union 15

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 29/07/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 29th July 2020 Basis of Union 15
  
St John 3.22-29

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptised. John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptised— John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.

Now a discussion about purification arose between John's disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptising, and all are going to him.’ John answered, ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, “I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.” He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.’

Basis

...The United Reformed Church includes within its membership both persons whose conviction it is that baptism can only be appropriately administered to a believer and those whose conviction it is that infant baptism also is in harmony with the mind of Christ. Both convictions are honoured by the church and both forms of baptism are understood to be used by God in the upbuilding of faith. Should these differences of conviction within the one church result in personal conflict of conscience it will require to be pastorally reconciled in mutual understanding and charity, and in accordance with the Basis of Union, in the first instance by the elders' meeting of the local congregation, and if necessary by the wider councils of the church. Whether the baptism is of an infant or a believer, whether it is by pouring or immersion, it shall not be such to which a conscientious objection is taken either by the person administering baptism, or by the person seeking it, or by the parent(s) requesting it for an infant…(14)

Reflection

The Baptism section of the Basis of Union is one of the few that has been substantially revised since the original 1972 agreement. This paragraph hints at the issue.

When Congregational and Presbyterian traditions united to create the United Reformed Church, both had infant baptism as the norm, whilst recognising adult baptism as also theologically valid for those not baptised as infants. However, when the Churches of Christ sought to join the young URC, Baptism was a major issue in the negotiations as the Churches of Christ tradition did not recognise infant Baptism. This paragraph explains how this issue was resolved: accepting both stances as legitimate while protecting individuals from being pushed into a position they did not themselves hold.

The paragraph modestly fails to trumpet what an extraordinary agreement this was. Many churches in the Congregational tradition had split in previous centuries because some members came to believe in believers’ baptism and it was widely assumed that it was impossible to have a church where both convictions could live alongside each other. The enlarged URC decided it was both possible and honouring God’s will.

This struggle has echoes in other Church traditions. The passage in John 3 where Jesus and John are both baptising, leading to questions about what sorts of baptism are valid or superior, shows that such debates have a long history.

While URC debates around Baptism may have been intense a generation ago, nowadays this feature of the URC’s life is rarely commented on. Different congregations have chosen their own emphases within the flexibility the Basis deliberately offers and we live at peace together.

This part of the URC story might be a hopeful sign on other questions that have perplexed and sometimes divided the Church. Holding within one Body views that seemed irreconcilable to one generation may seem routine to another.   
    
Prayer

Creator God,
who chose to make us all different,
we thank you for our diversity.
Give us graceful patience with those who fail to understand our convictions.
Make us as keen to test our convictions as we are to test those of others.
Show us a vision of your Church with the boundaries you want.
We pray in the name of the only Head of the Church, even Jesus Christ. Amen.   
 
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Today's writer

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