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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 16th January 2021

URC Daily Devotions - 2 hours 20 min ago
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Saturday 16th January St Mark 3: 13 - 30

St Mark 3: 13 - 30

He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message,  and to have authority to cast out demons.  So he appointed the twelve:  Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);  James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder);  and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean,  and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.  When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’  And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’  And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.  And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’—  for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’

Reflection

Growing up I always thought that there were just three political parties in the UK: Conservatives, Labour and Liberal.
The first time I became aware that these parties were not particularly united within themselves was when the Liberal Party became the Liberal Democrats. Of course, as I have grown older, and considerably less wise, I have realised that political parties are themselves full of factions… the European Research Group, Momentum and so on. I’m sure that the Liberal Democrats probably have factions too – but there are so few of them that it seems likely that each individual MP is their own faction.
And they fight amongst themselves instead of working together, united as one party, to try and reform whatever unfair policies the other parties are suggesting.
“A kingdom that fights against itself will not survive.  And a family that is divided will not survive.  If Satan is against himself and is fighting against his own people, he will not survive. That would be the end of Satan”
So, that’s political parties warned, then, eh? Thank goodness we Christian denominations aren’t like that.

Prayer

Loving God,
You have told us what is good. You have told us to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with you. We promise to try better.
Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

Leo Roberts, Children and Youth Development Officer, North Western Synod  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 15th January 2021

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 15/01/2021 - 06:00
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Friday 15th January St Mark 3: 1 - 12

St Mark 3: 1 - 12

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come forward.’  Then he said to them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent.  He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Jesus departed with his disciples to the lake, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him;  hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon.  He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him;  for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’  But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

Reflection

Jesus is stirring things up again.  He’s cured a paralysed man, controversially telling him his sins were forgiven in the process, adding to controversy by then mixing with and, horror of horror, sharing meal fellowship with ‘sinners’ - folk considered to be beyond the pale!

Will he never learn to stop courting the displeasure of the powerful?  Well, obviously not, as he deliberately not only heals another person with a disability, but does so on a Sabbath.  Worse still, he rubs their faces in it by first challenging them with the ethical question of whether it is lawful to save life on the day of rest?  Their silent answer is a negative and Jesus’ ire is raised.

No ‘gentle, meek and mild’ Jesus here - his anger is evident at their lack of compassion and, instantly, and with passion, restores the man to full fitness, further offending his opponents and setting them on the road to put and end to this trouble-maker!  Meanwhile he sets off to continue his healing and teaching ministry elsewhere.
I write this still in the grip of a global pandemic restrictions, when there has been criticism of Church Leaders who have dared to enter the world of political controversy by questioning the government’s approach and the effectiveness of its Covid policies.

One Tweet suggested that the ‘Bishops’ [sic] should keep their noses out and stick to spiritual matters.  In the face of deaths and suffering that might be made worse by national policy, today’s reading would answer the question of WWJD?  After all as the URC Basis of Union says, ‘In the things that affect obedience to God, the Church is not subordinate to the state, but must serve the Lord Jesus Christ, its only Ruler and Head.’

Will we Christians never stop stirring things up?  I do hope not!

Prayer

Radical God who calls us to passion for life and the living, guide us and encourage us;
to speak up for those without a voice;
to stand alongside those who stand alone;
to share energy with those too weary or ground down to fight any longer;
and to have the wisdom to know when, where and how to stir things up when circumstances demand.  Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark, URC Minister in the Bridport & Dorchester Joint Pastorate 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 14th January 2021

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 14/01/2021 - 06:00
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Thursday 14th January St Mark 2: 18 - 27

St Mark 2: 18 - 27

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, ‘Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?’  Jesus said to them, ‘The wedding-guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. ‘No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.’ One sabbath he was going through the cornfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’  And he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?  He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.’  Then he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.’

Reflection

People compared Jesus and his disciples to John the Baptist, the Pharisees and their followers, and they noticed big differences.  Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast, and they had no qualms about plucking the heads of grain on the Sabbath.
When people asked about fasting, Jesus responded with an apocalyptic image that runs throughout scripture - the heavenly wedding banquet that awaits God and God’s people.  However the way Jesus told it foreshadowed his death.  Jesus also pointed to God doing something new here – that’s what the talk about wineskins was about.  Today we might talk about mobile phones and software.  Jesus might have said, “You can’t download the new NHS app on a phone that has out of date software.  You need a new phone with the latest software, so the new app will download and work.”  Basically, Jesus’ operating system was love and grace, and it was incompatible with strict piety of the Pharisees. Throughout Mark’s gospel, we see that Jesus was not afraid to be unashamedly gracious towards the so-called unrighteous.
When people asked about Jesus and his followers plucking the heads of grain, Jesus told them a story of David.  Not only did David eat the bread for the priests, but so did the men travelling with him.  Jesus reminded them that the Sabbath was for our benefit as people.  The day of rest was to help us, not harm us.
Jesus put faith in context.  Traditions and religious practices should make sense in the context that we are in.  If they don’t, then we should take it back to scripture and find out why.  There is a good chance we humans have missed something.  And for Jesus, whatever scripture we read is to be read through the lens of God’s grace and abundant love for both the “righteous” and “unrighteous”.
 
Prayer

God, help us to be aware of how we practice our faith.  Do we love others?  Are we quick to condemn or quick to encourage and inspire?  Help us to follow the ways and teachings of Jesus.  Amen.
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister at St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks and Christ Church URC Tonbridge 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's coming

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 13/01/2021 - 15:45
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service is being led by The Revd. Dr John McNeil Scott. John is a member at   URC and Principal of The Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College, based in Glasgow. This service will include the sacrament of Holy Communion. If you wish to partake, please have some bread and wine/juice with you when the service begins. Hymns take a particularly highland theme, Ruth Duck's As a fire is meant for burning, Leith Fisher's For your generous providing, Maule & Bell's Jesus calls us here to meet him, and Love is the boat for the journey to the tune Loch Lomond.

As usual, the service will be sent out at 9:45am for a 10am start. Please read further on this email if you have any technical difficulties.

with every blessing,

Dan

Dan Morrell
Near-coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC -->

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URC Daily Devotion 13th January 2021

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 13/01/2021 - 06:00
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Wednesday 13th January

St Mark 2: 13 - 17

Jesus went out again beside the lake; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them.  As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. When the scribes of  the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax-collectors, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’  When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

Reflection

The Pharisees assumed that if a person ate with sinners, they were a sinner, too. Levi worked for the Roman government and was a tax collector. Tax collectors were renowned for their dishonesty. Naturally, since Jesus and his disciples ate with such people, they were classed as sinners too.

Assumptions prevented people from seeing what was really going on. God was not interested in appearances but hearts. Jesus was coming into contact with sinners. But instead of the sinners making him unclean, he made them clean. The grace of God ministered through Jesus Christ isn’t limited to righteous people. It extends to sinners, even to the kind of sinners that disturb righteous people.
Jesus found out what the Pharisees were asking and answered the question himself. He told them that healthy people have no need of a physician, but rather those who have an illness. Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Pharisees made a foolish assumption. They assumed that they were “healthy people,” having no need of a physician. They assumed that they were righteous so Jesus’ call to sinners did not apply to them. They had found righteousness in their diligent faithfulness to do everything they believed God had required of his people.

Jesus said  “Follow me,” and Levi got up and followed him. Levi found righteousness in the Son of God. He saw with his own eyes what the accusing Pharisees also saw but could not recognize. He saw what Paul described in his letter to the Romans: “In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17).

Levi made no assumptions. He saw, he listened, and he believed. He trusted the One sent from God because he trusted God. May we, too, listen and believe and then live by faith, and not by assumptions?
 
Prayer

Dear God, create in us an awareness of our need matched only by an awareness of your acceptance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Sue Knight, Local Church Leader, Reigate Park URC & Lay Preaching Commissioner, Southern Synod.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 12th January 2021

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 12/01/2021 - 06:00
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Tuesday 12th January

St Mark 2: 1 - 12

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them.  And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,  ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”?   But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic—  ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’  And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

Reflection: 

When I was a child I always thought it was easier to say “your sins are forgiven” because no one could see.  If you said “Stand up and walk” and the person didn’t - how embarrassing!   Since then, knowing as we do that much is in the mind I find the next questions don’t go away quite as easily: what did those at the back of the crowd think was happening and what did the occupier think of having the roof destroyed?  
Assuming those at the back could hear, but without seeing what had happened, they would have heard a debate about authority.  Imagine the whispers running round:  “what did he say?  No!  That’s blasphemy”  - only in a loose sense - but who will stand on the letter of the law when things get heated in a debate with no negotiation?
  
Mark ends this account saying everyone was amazed, and therein lies the problem.  Some would be amazed and full of wonder, eager to tell the story.  Others would be amazed and horrified, but rather than reflect and begin to understand, try to solve the problem of Jesus’  claim to authority by destroying what is not understood. 
We have seen this problem time and again in the last months of 2020: what to do about the second wave of Covid19; the apparently intractable Brexit negotiations; fake news; state sponsored cyber attacks and disputed elections?  Answer: attack the person not the problem.   I do get frustrated with the WWJD, (What would Jesus do) question.  Did he set to work repairing the roof of the house?  A good means to clear the mind while working.  Go for a walk along the shore.  A good way to find a different perspective.   Whatever happened, as we read on, we discover that Jesus found a way to balance the discord over forgiving of sins with human and godly conversation, while some of the scribes built an internal edifice of anger that could only be resolved with retribution. 

Prayer

Lord, when I am faced with opposing views help me to find balance and a way to understand.  Then, when I have understood, help me to decide on the value, for right or wrong, of this new viewpoint.  
Amen
 
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Today's writer

Rev’d Ruth Browning, retired minister, worshipping at Thornbury URC.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th January 2021

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 11/01/2021 - 06:00
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Monday 11th January

St Mark 1: 35 - 45

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’  He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’ And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’  Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’  Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’  But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Reflection

As I’m writing this daily devotion, the second lockdown has begun in England. Our churches have been told not to gather for worship. Many congregations feel frail and vulnerable. Some doors may never re-open. 
As you are reading this, 2021 is less than two weeks’ old, but it’s hard to imagine that the new year has yet brought great clarity about the future: life may still seem very dark.
In the midst of the uncertainties of world politics, climate emergency, and pandemic, local churches up and down the land are wondering how to be church, when so much of life feels to be built on shifting sand. 
So I’m grateful for this section of Mark’s gospel, which reminds us of so many different elements of Jesus’ life.
Jesus, our rock, is shown taking time away to pray, responding to those in need through preaching and healing, proclaiming love and grace to all, and in all this he does not seek fame, but serves the kingdom of God. That seems to me like a pretty good agenda for any Christian fellowship seeking to be Walking the Way and living the life of Jesus today. 
And did you notice that although the leper is told not to tell anyone about his healing, he can’t help himself  - he makes the whole story public. The Good News embodied in Jesus is unstoppable; people are drawn to Jesus from all quarters. Where there is prayer and preaching, proclamation of God’s love and grace, healing and service of those most in need, the world will notice. Where God’s love is known, fear and uncertainty can be conquered. Whatever 2021 holds in store, God the Father is with us, Jesus shows us the way, and the Spirit fills us with the ability to be servants of God’s kingdom.

Prayer

God whose love is greater than our fear,
help us to see your path,
to follow Jesus’ way
and to know your Spirit of grace.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev'd Ruth Whitehead, Moderator of South Western Synod & member of Taunton URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday Worship - The Revd. Memona Shahbaz

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 10/01/2021 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
URC Daily Devotions Worship for Sunday 10th January 2021
 
The Rev’d Memona Shahbaz
 
Opening Music- Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (“Now the Gentile saviour comes”) by Johann Sebastian Bach
 
Introduction
 
Good morning church, peace be with you. My name is Revd Memona
Shahbaz and I am serving Lord our God in Eastbourne, in East Team
which consists of five Local Ecumenical Partnership churches. We are
working in a team of three ministers.
 
Eastbourne is a beautiful place, full of eye-catching sceneries. I am
fortunate to have an amazing church family. I am originally from
Pakistan. This is my first ministry and I am very grateful to God that he
chose me and brought me here in Eastbourne to serve Him with
enthusiastic, dedicated and devoted labourers.
My dear brothers and sisters, this morning, t’s a great privilege to worship God together as a family with you all. Let us worship God with all
our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength and mind.
 
Call to Worship
 
Come and see the grace of God,
Christ our teacher and our friend.
Come and see the son of God,
Christ our healer and salvation.
God is moving in this place.
Come and see! Come and see.
 
 
Hymn                Summoned by the God who made us
Delores Dufner © 1991 Sisters of St. Benedict.
 
Summoned by the God who made us,
rich in our diversity,
gathered in the name of Jesus,
richer still in unity:
 
Let us bring the gifts that differ
And, in splendid, varied ways,
Sing a new Church into being,
one of faith and love and praise
 
2: Radiant risen from the water;
robed in holiness and light,
male and female in God’s image
male and female God’s delight:
 
3: Trust the goodness of creation;
Trust the Spirit strong within.
Dare to dream the vision promised
Sprung from seed of what has been.
 
4: Bring the hopes of every nation;
Bring the art of every race.
Weave a song of peace and justice:
Let it sound through time and space.

5: Draw together at one table
All the human family;
shape a circle ever wider
and a people ever free.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Father, we come to you, as a family with Jesus, the son of your love, who confirmed himself our brother through his baptism, and took upon himself the burden of our guilt, so that we might know ourselves forgiven and come to you with confidence as children with a loving Father. We come holding our elder brother’s hand, like children who have been frightened, threatened, or lost in the dark, to the peace and security of our Father’s love, which we will share with Jesus Christ our Lord for ever.
 
Forgive us, great God, for all our self-righteousness, all our condemnation of others, all our selfish exploitation of each other for emotional or material gain. Out of your immense resources of grace and kindness, go on giving us the hope that we will at last be brought to the perfect obedience of Jesus and that you will receive us with him, and rejoice with us in eternal gladness. Lord we adore you and praise you; we bring our praises in the name of Jesus. He demonstrated your merciful love and your gentle touch upon our lives. We praise you for the way he identified himself with us. We praise you for accepting his sacrifice on the cross as the price of the healing of our relationship with you. By your grace and mercy, enable us and empower us, that we shall be with you and praise you for ever in Christ. Amen
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Let us pray together, “Almighty God we are thankful to you for your Word, which is alive and active, sweeter than honey and a lamp to guide our feet and a light for our path. Help us to lead our lives according to your word. Amen.
 
St Matthew 3:13-17
 
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptised, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
 
St Mark 1:9-11
 
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
 
Hymn       All to Jesus I surrender
Judson W. Van De Venter (1896)
 
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Thee I freely give;
I will ever love and trust You,
In Your presence daily live.
 
I surrender all,
I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.

2: All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Your love and power,
Let Your blessing fall on me.
 
3: All to Jesus I surrender,
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory to Your name!
 
Sermon
 
May the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord my God and my redeemer. Amen.
 
Today we will learn together about the baptism of Jesus Christ. It is mentioned in all four gospels. Mark starts his gospel with a scene where John the Baptist appears in the wilderness, with his proclamation of the greater one. He is a forerunner and road maker for Jesus and he urges people to repent. According to Mark while John was baptising people, Jesus came from Nazareth into Galilee and was baptised by John in the river Jordon. Interestingly Mark does not record any conversation between Jesus and John but he does mention of John confirming that, “after me will come one more powerful than I and he will baptised you with the Holy Spirit. Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptised by John in the Jordon. Mark does not give the reason for this act. It was not off course through any consciousness of sin, but according to Matthew 3:15 through a desire to “Fulfil all righteousness”
 
Dear friends, many people get into arguments why Jesus had to be baptised? And in response to the question different answers are given and I would not get into this debate now. For me the most important is what happened at the time of baptism. It is very clear in the all four gospels that Lord Jesus Christ was baptized by John the baptizer. John the Baptist was a remarkable man and Jesus himself said in, “There is no one greater than John the Baptist.” What a great statement from Lord Jesus? His message was brief, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” John was preaching in the valley of Jorden, so many people out of Judea and Jerusalem were coming to him. He was preaching repentance and the confession of sin. He was well known in the Israel. His ministry of baptizing the people was very unique. His ministry is as Isaiah’s, “Voice in
the wilderness.”
 
It is very strange for the people to know that why John baptised Jesus, as it was the baptism of repentance. It is in all four Gospels. Many scholars said differently, but surely John knew Jesus and according to Matthew 3:14, John said to Jesus, “I have need to be baptised by you and you come to me?” John knew Jesus very well. This is not the first time he sees Jesus. Earlier he was standing with some of his disciples and when he saw Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away sin of the whole world, “John 1:29.” He knew that Jesus was the Messiah, the saviour and he was actually proclaiming
 
Jesus. John’s attitude with Jesus is opposite of his attitude with the Pharisees and Sadducees. He said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come.” he told them to repent first and then he will baptize them. He refused to baptize them because of their sin and impenitence. He refused to baptized Jesus because he was sinless. He said, “I need to be baptised by you and you are coming to me?” But Jesus said, “permit it to be now, it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.”
 
John baptized Jesus, he understood Jesus so he also said, “You must increase and I must decrease.” According to the Synoptic gospels at the time of Jesus Baptism three things happened;
 
1. As Jesus was coming up out of the water he saw the heavens torn apart
 
2. The Holy Spirit descending like a dove on him. Isaiah 11:2, says about the coming Messiah, The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him.
 
3. A voice came from heaven, you are my son the beloved, with you I am well pleased.
 
Dear friends; this is one of the great Trinitarian passage of the New Testament. Here the Spirit and the father both bear witness of the son. At the baptism of Jesus all three persons of the Trinity are involved which makes it a very unique moment.
 
Notice that father speaking, Son being baptised and the Holy Spirit descending on the son. Dear brothers and sisters at the time of baptism of Jesus we see an affirmation by God that Jesus is his son. The voice from heaven does not interpret Jesus baptism; it was a voice of declaration, who was Jesus?
 
The baptism of Jesus shows the double attestation by the Spirit and heavenly voice that Jesus is son of God with whom the father is well pleased. Why Father was pleased at this stage when Jesus did not start his earthly ministry? Philippians 2:5-7 says, He left the heaven and became human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on the cross! So God has also highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name.”
 
He was baptized to identify himself with us. 2-Cor 5:21, “He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” 1-Peter 3:18, “Christ suffered and died for us, just for the unjust.” My dear brothers and sisters at the beginning of the Jesus’ earthly ministry, Father was pleased with Jesus and at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus took Peter, James and John and went to the mountain to pray and at the event of Transfiguration they saw Elijah and Moses with Jesus and a voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him.” My dear brothers and sisters, what we are doing to please Him or in other words what we can do to please him? In my opinion, Jesus Christ fulfilled His mission and before he was ascended into heaven he gave us, a great commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We have our mission to be completed. We need to be very brave and courageous to fulfil our commission, because Jesus promised with us that he is always with us to the very end of the age. We need to work hard and use our talents and gifts for the extension of his kingdom so we could hear from him, “Well done good and faithful servant.” May God give us his wisdom to work as His faithful servant or labourers. Amen
 
Hymn                Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
 
Holy, holy, holy!
Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning
our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy!
Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons,
blessed Trinity!
 
2 Holy, holy, holy!
All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and
evermore shalt be.
 
3 Holy, holy, holy!
Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful folk
thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy;
there is none beside thee
perfect in pow'r, in love,
and purity.
 
4 Holy, holy, holy!
Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy!
Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons,
blessed Trinity!
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
In Jesus of Nazareth, true humanity was realized once for all.
Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, lived among his own people and shared their needs, temptations, joys, and sorrows.
He expressed the love of God in word and deed
and became a brother to all kinds of sinful men and women.
But his complete obedience led him into conflict with his people.
His life and teaching judged their goodness,
religious aspirations, and national hopes.
Many rejected him and demanded his death. In giving himself freely for them, he took upon himself the judgment under which everyone stands convicted.
God raised him from the dead, vindicating him as Messiah and Lord.
The victim of sin became victor, and won the victory over sin and death for all.
 
Intercessions
 
Father, we pray for all the people in the world who are despised, rejected or discriminated against, because of their race, creed or colour. We pray especially, for those against whom we bar the gates of love and acceptance; from whom we hold back the good news of your forgiveness. (pause) The Lord hears our prayers.
 
We pray for the whole Church, which you called into being though your Son. We ask you that by your Holy Spirit your church may be renewed and empowered for the task for which you gave it life.  (pause)  The Lord hears our prayers.
  
We pray Father, that we all Christians may be ready for any sacrifice, any action and declaration that will clearly demonstrate faith, hope and love to our neighbour, our family and friends and those we meet on the journey of life each day. (pause) The Lord hears our prayers.
 
We pray to you Father give justice to those who suffer for their belief and who are persecuted. We pray who are exploited or enslaved at work or in the home, that their cries may be heard. We pray for nations and societies across the world, and for our own, for national and local government, that those who rule may serve with wisdom and integrity for communities, that they may seek the common good. (pause) The Lord hears our prayers.
 
God of peace and comfort as this time is uncertain and stressful, many people are anxious and fearful, give us strength and lift us up that we may find comfort in you. Give hope to us all, especially who are ill and suffering with life threatening health issues. Be with them who are alone and in self-isolation and under any treatment. We pray for the World Health Organisation and all key workers, who are helping others. We also pray for the scientists who are working hard for making the vaccination, guide them and give them your wisdom. We also pray for all leaders and politicians around the globe, to give them wisdom to make good strategies and plans for the good of all. (pause) The Lord hears our prayers. 
 
We pray for the earth itself, polluted and despoiled, that the fragile balance of the natural order may be respected, it beauty and variety preserved, and greed and selfish gain be put aside, that harmony may be restored between ourselves and our environment. Help us to remember that you have appointed u as the steward of this earth. (pause) The Lord hears our prayers.
 
In this moment of silence we bring forth all the desires of our hearts……
 
We ask all this in Jesus precious name and pray as He taught us saying
 
Our Father….
 
Hymn:      What a friend we have in Jesus   
                  Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1855)
 
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
 
 
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
 
 
2 Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.    

Blessing
 
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on
you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give
you peace. Amen!
 


Sources and thanks
 
Summoned by the God who made us - Delores Dufner © 1991 Sisters of St. Benedict. Published by OCP Productions. performed by Gene Garcia, John Gardner, Kate Cuddy, Matt McKenzie arranged by Gary Daigle
All to Jesus I surrender - Judson W. Van De Venter (1896), performed by Robin Mark.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty - (Reginald Heber 1783 – 1826) Holy, Recorded by the Hymns Project/Parkway Worship Ministry
What a friend we have in Jesus - Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1855)
 
Organ Pieces
 
Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger
(organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)
Songs of Praise Toccata by Robert Prizeman
(organ of St Andrew’s, Farnham – 2019)
 
Both pieces played by, and received with thanks from, Brian Cotterill: www.briancotterill.webs.com 
 
Thanks to: Christine and David Shimmin, Alison Jiggins, John Young, Marion Thomas, Anne Hewling, Christopher Whitehead, Ray Fraser, Carys and Lythan Nevard for reading various spoken parts of the service.
 
  --> 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

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 10/01/2021 - 06:00
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Sunday 10th January  

Psalm 26


Let this be my supreme desire,
my object and my prayer,
until I stand before your throne
to glorify you there:

2 To lead a blameless life, O Lord,
to trust you without fear,
to bring my humble heart to you
and know your love is near:

3 To walk before you in the truth,
to shun all evil ways,
to come into your house to pray
and shout aloud your praise:

4 Let this be my supreme desire,
my object and my prayer,
until I stand before your throne
to glorify you there!

Michael Perry © The Jubilate Group 1989
You can hear the tune, Winchester New, here
https://hymnary.org/media/fetch/188462

Reflection

Imagine praying these words before you enter church? Praying through the three steps of: asking for God’s judgment, justifying yourself, and then being certain of your righteousness. A very risky exercise. I fear that I would be lost for words with the second and third steps, and hesitant to take the first. It brings to mind the sketch where someone starts praying the Lord’s prayer and the voice of God replies to each phrase challenging whether they understand what they are saying.

There is the tendency within us to hold fast to reassurance and look away, or apply to others, the challenge within Scripture. An obvious example being on a rainy Sunday the partial quotes of Matthew 5:45 of it raining on the righteous, to which I instinctively reply ‘and the unrighteous as well.’

It does no good for us to always concentrate on just the affirmations or only the judgments in Scripture. They are held in tension, full of paradox, and we will only ever partially comprehend them on this side of eternity. So with those caveats let me offer a retelling of Psalm 26:

As far as I know my own heart, I fear no reprimand from God. I have lived honourably, faithfully, and have always trusted in God. Show me the truth? Test my resolve, my desires and convictions.

I can sense your love all around me and I step out in faith seeking your path.

I turn away from anything that distracts me from you. Only you are worthy, true, wholesome and good. My whole life is devoted to you. Your Creation is all your holy place. My voice is raised giving thanks for life’s blessings and sharing stories of faith. I know your presence all around me and am lost in wonder, love and praise. 

Prayer

O God,
May humility temper our certainty.
May love embrace our dislike.
May self-knowledge inform our pride.
 
May confidence lift up our doubts.
May awareness broaden our focus.
May mercy alleviate our guilt.

Amidst the tangles, loose ends, and tidy bows of life, may we hear your voice O God within it all and respond in love. Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d David Coaker serves with Grays URC in Essex.
 
Copyright
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Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 09/01/2021 - 06:00
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Saturday 9th January

St Mark 1: 21 - 34

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,  and he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’  And the unclean spirit, throwing him into convulsions and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’ At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee. As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.  That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Reflection

Mark’s Gospel plunges us straight into the active ministry of Jesus and today’s passage indicates the impression that Jesus had on those who witnessed and heard him. There was wonder at what happened and an enthusiastic expectation that further demonstrations of divine power would be revealed. They were exciting  and exhilarating times.

However, I want to focus on two aspects of this passage: places and people.

Nazareth and Capernaum are both noted here but neither is mentioned in the Old Testament, possibly because Nazareth was an unimportant backwater up in the hills and Capernaum was a trading and customs post which developed later.

We read elsewhere in Luke 4 of the rejection of Jesus in Nazareth and his response that “no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.” In any case a hill town in Galilee would have been no place to base a nationwide ministry. Capernaum was so very different; it was a significant trading and customs post on the Via Maris, an important route from Egypt to Syria and beyond which would have attracted and served a diverse, multinational community, so giving Jesus access to a far wider audience than in his home town.

People: Jesus enabled the recovery of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. How much more we should like to know about the family life of the disciples and apostles. 1 Corinthians 9.5 implies that the apostles, the brothers of Jesus and Peter himself were accompanied by their wives in their work and witness. We should like to know how this fitted in with family and working life – but we can assume that it did. While over the centuries there have been those who have remained celibate to facilitate their ministry (and Paul may have been one such) it is clear that many early followers of Jesus were married.

Prayer

Loving God, we thank you for quiet places where we can find renewal and for busy places where we can witness to many people.

We thank you that some have freedom to serve you without family ties and we thank you that others have the support of family and friends as they Walk in the Way of our Lord.

We pray that, whatever our personal circumstances, we may always appreciate that we are never alone for you are always with us: Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood URC
 
Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Friday 8th January 2021

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 08/01/2021 - 06:00
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Friday 8th January
 
St Mark 1: 14 - 20

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[k] repent, and believe in the good news.’  As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’  And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.  Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

Reflection

Today we reflect on one of these very familiar passages that has perhaps influenced the route your life has taken.  It’s an appropriate text when decisions about a commitment to service are sought or after they have been made, as it creates the sense that a new chapter begins.   And it comes with many hymn accompaniments.  One that immediately comes to mind is Edith Agnew’s when Jesus saw the fishermen in boats upon the sea, he called to them, ‘come leave your nets and follow, follow me.’   Another is the popular hymn by John Bell and Graham Maule, ‘will you come and follow me if I but call your name?’  With familiarity and catchy hymn accompaniments, we can be easily distracted from the directness of the Gospel writer.  In all of the words spoken by Jesus there is a clarity and an impression of urgency.  There is no sense of ambiguity or a need to read between the lines in the hope that people will understand.  When it comes to the fishermen, Simon, Andrew, James and John; what they receive from Jesus is more of an instruction than an invitation.  There is no encouragement to follow or hope that they will follow.  It is much more direct, which results in an immediate response.

Sometimes we have to say it as it is.  We have to have the courage to use words that are clear and direct.  However, we have to make sure the time is right, choose them carefully and say them with integrity.  This is a passage about activity and action so what works best for you?  When you are asked to think about doing something or when you are asked to do something?  And what about the words we use as we address God in prayer?

Prayer

God of grace.
Give me the courage to use the words I want to say.
Show me how to say them.
And make them reflect all that you call me to be and do.
Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d David Scott, Minister Duke Street & Saughtonhall URCs, Edinburgh
  Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 7th January 2021

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 07/01/2021 - 06:00
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Thursday 7th January 

St Mark 1: 1 - 13

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
    “Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight”’,

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.  He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Reflection

I really like Mark’s gospel, it's known by some as the Gospel of action – it doesn’t meander, its one jam-packed event after another, no waiting around, just “Pow! Pow! Pow!” and then on to the next event.
 
The beginning of the Gospel sets us up for how it is going to continue, and it is powerful – Mark starts with “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ”, it is just the start, and not just the start of the book, but the start of everything, the start of hope that has endured for over two millennia. 
 
In 13 short verses a lot happens, we get a declaration, a reference back to Hebrew scripture, we meet John the Baptist – who would win “I’m a Celebrity” without even trying, John prepares the way, we see Jesus, Jesus is baptised, the Spirit drives Jesus to the desert to be tempted for 40 days, and we break off as the angels are looking after him. 
 
I know that it might not carry the pomp and splendour of Matthew’s gospel or the creative imagery of John’s gospel, but it gives us everything that we need to know Jesus, to want Jesus in our lives, to become followers on the Jesus Way. We are inspired by this Jesus who shows us how to live. 
 
I encourage you to sit and read the whole of Mark’s gospel in one sitting, maybe do it on zoom with others, it will take 2-3 hours but could bring unexpected changes in your faith and mindset. It will at the very least inspire you and offer the light of hope in a world that continues to feel dark and uncertain. 
 
Let us embody the Hope of Mark’s gospel as we engage with the world.

Prayer

God of action, you sent Jesus to be our example of how we should live and move through the world.  Remind us of the Hope we have through Jesus when things feel impossible, and help us freely share it with those around us without judgement.  Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, Church Related Community Worker, Ansty Road United Reformed Church, Coventry Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Sunday's Coming

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 06/01/2021 - 15:45
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service will be looking at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan. It is led by The Revd. Memona Shahbaz. Memona is a minister in Eastbourne in the URC's Southern Synod. We are returning to our 'traditional' format of services. Hymns include Summoned by the God who made us, a wonderful Robin Mark rendition of All to Jesus I surrender, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty and What a friend we have in Jesus.

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

Dan


Dan Morrell
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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 6th January 2021- We Three Kings

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 06/01/2021 - 06:00
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Wednesday 6th January - We Three Kings

John Henry Hopkins, a priest of the Episcopal Church in America wrote this for a Christmas pageant and it has become a firm favourite though often banished from our hymnbooks!  It theologies the meaning of the three gifts.

St Matthew 2: 7-11

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,  until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped,  they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

We Three Kings Of Orient Are
John Henry Hopkins Jr 1857

You can hear this here


We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav'n replies

Reflection

And so the Christmas season comes to an end with Epiphany - but in our culture, of course, the decorations have been taken down in public places and the carols stopped on Christmas day.  In many countries an older custom of giving gifts today is followed  - in honour of the mysterious magi who brought gifts to Jesus.  Today’s carol is probably the most popular of all the Epiphany hymns but is often omitted from hymnbooks - it’s not in the Church of Scotland’s CH4, our Rejoice and Sing, the Methodism’s Singing the Faith nor was it in the Churches of Christ’s Christian Hymnody nor Congregational Praise.   It remains in Mission Praise and in the popular imagination.  There is rich theology here about the gifts presented to the Christ-Child.

Gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, myrrh for a sacrifice.  The threefold aspect of who Jesus was laid bare in these gifts. Heaven only knows what Mary and Joseph made of them though I suspect the gold and frankincense, in particular, would have been useful when they were in Exile in Egypt.  Maybe they sold the gifts to survive as refugees now have to sell all they have in order to make perilous journeys to safety.  

At the start of this new year we offer ourselves to God again as living gifts.  We don’t know how we will be used, how our churches will respond to and recover from all that we endured in 2020, but we know that as we offer our gifts to God we will be blessed just as the wise ones, years ago, were blessed in their act of giving.

Prayer

Take our gifts
of time
of talent,
of treasure,
O God,
and use them for your glory.
Amen.
  -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston works with four URCs in and around Glasgow. Copyright
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Faith in Lockdown

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 05/01/2021 - 11:19
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Hello Lockdown My Old Friend....

Dear Friends,

Now all the nations of the UK are in various forms of lockdown I thought it might be useful to remind you that, even in these difficult times, we will still be sending out a daily reading, reflection and prayer early each morning AND, every Sunday, we will still be sending out a service.

We realise that many churches will wish to suspend in person worship - out of love for their members, their minister and those who lead worship, as well love for the wider community.  Many churches are able to provide some form of virtual worship but many others aren't and these, in particular, might value the Daily Devotion services.  Here in Scotland all churches on the mainland, and in Skye, have to close leaving only one of our congregations, the Peedie Kirk in Orkney, able to open for worship.  We are also aware of many people who are shielding and limiting the occasions when they go out regardless of whether their church is offering in person worship. Of course, many people who are still attending in-person worship like to supplement that with the range of preachers that we've recruited for the Devotions services.  

We don't know how long these restrictions will continue for but Dan and I have worship already produced until the end of February and preachers booked until Pentecost in May.  Over the next few weeks we will have worship is led by the following ministers:

Sunday 10th January, the Rev’d Memona Shabaz                
Sunday 17th January, the Rev’d Dr John McNeil Scott       
Sunday 24th January, the Rev’d Mike Walsh            
Sunday 31st January , the Rev’d Nicola Furley Smith
  
Sunday 7th February, the Rev’d Sue Fender
Sunday 14th February, the Rev’d William Young, 
Sunday 21st February, the Rev’d Samuel Cyuma                   
Sunday 28th February, the Rev’d Jenny Mills

The material for January has already been sent, and the material for February is about to be distributed to contacts in local churches who burn the services to CD or save to memory pens to give out and/or print the orders of service and post to people.  If you would like to do this for your church please join the early bird mailing list here - please only sign up if you will be distributing to others; the services are all queued to be sent out in the normal way to everyone.  We will, by Thursday evening, resend the January material as well as send the February services.

I hope that despite the race between virus and vaccine we all keep faith that things will get better and that God continues to hold us in the palm of His hand.

with every good wish


Andy 


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC
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URC Daily Devotion  Tuesday 5th January - See in Yonder Manger Low

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 05/01/2021 - 06:00
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Tuesday 5th January - See in Yonder Manger Low

Originally a much longer hymn the first verse has alternate opening lines. The last verse, deemed too Catholic for Protestant hymnals runs: Virgin Mother, Mary blest, By the joys that fill thy breast, Pray for us, that we may prove, Worthy of the Saviour's love.

Colossians 1: 15-20

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in  him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

See in Yonder Manger Low
Edward Caswall (1814-1878)

You can hear Annie Lennox’s version of this hymn here

See in yonder manger low,
Born for us on earth below,
See--the gentle Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Hail the ever blessed morn;
Hail redemption's happy dawn;
Sing through all Jerusalem:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"

2 Lo, within a stable lies
He who built the starry skies,
He who, throned in height sublime,
Sits amid the cherubim. 

3 Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this. 

4 Teach, oh, teach us, holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee
In Thy sweet humility. 

Reflection

By the eleventh day of Christmas we have known a lot of sugar. We may have over-indulged on puddings, cake, marzipan and icing. In our worship, too, we may have been tempted to indulge the sweetness over the meat (or plant-based protein) of the Christmas story. Our carol today tries to bring some balance to our diet, a little like the cheese served with Yorkshire Christmas cake. 

Perhaps we have been reflecting on the vulnerability of Jesus, born as a human baby to young parents. We might be imagining ourselves into the role of father, midwife, shepherd, cousin and counting fingers and toes on the Christ-child. This is the baby Jesus who enchanted us through nativity plays and Christmas stories so many times before. We need him, and look forward to retelling this part of his story, which helps us remember that Jesus was fully human, born as one of us, a person in history. 

“See in Yonder Manger Low” invites us to see and love Jesus, this little fragile Lamb. The capital letter of Lamb as a symbol opens up another way to see him, familiar from the gospel of John and the book of Revelation. The child in the manger we adore is also the one in the throne room of God, adored by the angels, and the faithful witnesses of heaven. The one through whom all things were made. The eternal judge. Our saviour who reconciles broken humanity to the One in whose image we are made.  
And so, between the tender words of a folk carol, breaks in an anthem worthy of the heavenly host. Weighty tones, rich and resonant which invite us to open our hearts again, and not just to the infant Jesus but to Christ the Creator and Ruler of all. 

Prayer

Christ, let us know your majesty. 
As we imagine the throne room of heaven – 
  so awesome it might make us weep at its beauty – 
may we glimpse the enormity of what you have done in bringing heaven to earth,
divine to human, the unimaginable to everyday. 
We whisper another holy name – Emmanuel – and listen for the chorus in heaven who also know and celebrate that God is with us.
   -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is a healthcare chaplain in Salford and a member of Tonge Moor URC Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion  Monday 4th January - O Come All Ye Faithful

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 04/01/2021 - 06:00
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Monday 4th January - O Come All Ye Faithful

The earliest version of this hymn, in Latin, is in a book by John Francis Wade but there is note in it attributing it to an earlier author.  The English version sung is by the Catholic priest Fr Frederick Oakelely and dates to 1841. The hymn puts in verse form  traditional theology about Jesus.

St John 1: 1 - 14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

O Come All Ye Faithful
Latin 18th Century, possibly by John Francis Wade (1711-1786)

You can hear the carol here


O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, 
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem; 
come and behold him born the King of angels; 

O come, let us adore him; O come, let us adore him; 
O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord! 

2 God of God, Light of Light; 
lo, he abhors not the virgin's womb; 
very God, begotten not created;

3 Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation, 
sing, all ye citizens of heav'n above; 
glory to God, all glory in the highest; 

4 Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning: 
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv'n; 
Word of the Father, late in flesh appearing; 

Reflection

John’s description of Jesus as ‘the Word’, was understood by both Greeks and Jews of his time. For the Greeks, it referred to the powers that sustain the universe, whilst for the Jews it was a reminder that back in Genesis, when God spoke, the world was created. The Word was an expression of God’s wisdom and creative power and the audience of the day was perplexed by the audacious claim that ‘the Word’ became a person and was both 100% human and 100% divine.

The hymn writer picks up the theme in this favourite carol, and whilst I’m slightly uncomfortable about the triumphalism of the first line, I love to sing it as the descant soars and we celebrate Jesus with us in the world (when we’re allowed to sing), though I wonder, do we think about the lyrics?

O come, let us adore him! 

How do we ‘adore him’ now, in the 21st century, at a time of pandemic with present and future economic crisis? What can we learn from God becoming human?

The clue is at the end of the Bible passage and the final line of the carol: “… the Word…lived among us … full of grace and truth”. Another translation says: “…full of unfailing love and faithfulness”. Jesus lived as human and humans must live like Jesus, sharing our faith in unfailing love for others. 

At the start of this new year, worse than most of us can remember, there are many people who are lonely, isolated, unwell in body and spirit, grieving loved ones and sorely missing family and friends
.  
SO come on! Let us adore him by looking after our neighbours, strangers, families and friends; spend time with them, if not in person, then on the phone, do the shopping, deliver some food, or small homemade gifts, and help them meet the Jesus we adore. 
 
Prayer

God of unfailing love and faithfulness, 
we ask that you bless us as we try to be like you,
as we try to share our faith,
try to help our neighbours.
Sometimes we forget
even worse, sometimes we choose to turn away
when we see someone in need.
Help us to be as you were in the world
and help us, in loving others
to show them just how much we adore you.
Amen -->

Today's writer

Linda Rayner is a member at Bramhall URC and URC Coordinator for Fresh Expressions Copyright
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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship - 3rd January 2021

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 03/01/2021 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotions Sunday Worship - 3rd January 2021 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.
URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service - 3rd January 2021
Epiphany- The Magi
 
Opening Music  Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
 
Introduction
 
The story of the wise men who came to visit the infant Christ is one of the most popular in the Christmas cycle of readings.  We don’t know much about these mysterious visitors - they appear only in St Matthew’s Gospel.  We’re not told how many of them they were - just that they brought three gifts - and St Matthew doesn’t name them as kings.
 
There is, however, an older prophecy that kings will come and bow before the Messiah and this, older prophecy, unites in the Church mind with the story from Matthew’s Gospel and so the idea of the three kings was born.  I’ve seen a reliquary in Cologne Cathedral where the bones of the three kings are supposed to lie - these strange people from the east captured the minds and imaginations of earlier generations of Christians who came to see them as the first fruits of further flung peoples to hear and accept the Gospel.  In our service today we think of those mysterious astrologers who came to pay homage to Jesus as we bring our own gifts, adoration and love to Christ as the start of this New Year. 
 
Call To Worship
 
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,
for a child has been born for us, a son given to us!
 
Glory to God in the highest heaven!
Let us worship the Prince of Peace.
 
Hymn       Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
James Montgomery
 
Hail to the Lord’s anointed,
Great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed,
His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression,
To set the captive free;
To take away transgression,
And rule in equity.
 
2: He comes with succor speedy
To those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy,
And bid the weak be strong;
To give them songs for sighing,
Their darkness turn to light,
Whose souls, condemned and dying,
Were precious in His sight.

3: He shall come down like showers
Upon the fruitful earth;
Love, joy, and hope, like flowers,
Spring in His path to birth.
Before Him, on the mountains,
Shall peace, the herald, go,
And righteousness, in fountains,
From hill to valley flow.
 
4: Kings shall fall down before Him,
And gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him,
His praise all people sing;
For He shall have dominion
O’er river, sea and shore,
Far as the eagle’s pinion
Or dove’s light wing can soar.
 
5: For Him shall prayer unceasing
And daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing,
A kingdom without end:
The mountain dews shall nourish
A seed in weakness sown,
Whose fruit shall spread and flourish
And shake like Lebanon.

6: O’er every foe victorious,
He on His throne shall rest;
From age to age more glorious,
All blessing and all blest.
The tide of time shall never
His covenant remove;
His name shall stand forever,
His name to us is Love.

Prayers of Approach, Confession, Forgiveness
 
Lord, we come to you today, in the darkest months of the year,
as people surrounded by light.
The light that shines from your son, Jesus Christ
We lift our hearts and voices in praise and worship
Hear our prayer
 
Forgive us when we stray into the darkness
At times it is hard for us to find your light, 
As we stumble and fall 
Allow us to be guided, as the Magi were, out of the darkness and into your light.
Lord, hear our prayer
 
Allow us to follow the pathway of Christ
To not be blinded, but to be led in the teachings show to us
Let us be your example here on earth 
For all to see, that they too may follow
Lord, hear our prayer
 
May we always be guided by your words
Should we be tempted to stray, as Herod was,
Let us be reminded of the leadership shown to us through Christ
Guiding us back onto the righteous path
Lord, hear our prayer
 
Forgive us when we place more importance on the gifts we bring
Than on the gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit
Settle our restless minds and provide  us with patience
Filling our hearts with love and kindness 
Lord, hear our prayer
 
Allow us time to contemplate the true meaning of epiphany
The realisation that Christ is your true son
The light to our dark world
Our guide and saviour
 
And in this time and place, hear us now Lord, as we say together the prayer taught to us by your son..
 
Our father who art in heaven….
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Open our eyes Lord, that we may see your light
Open our ears Lord, that we may hear your voice
Open our hearts Lord, that we may understand your teachings
Open our mouths Lord, that we may share your work with others.
 
Amen
 
Matthew 2: 1-12
 
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,  and have come to pay him homage.’  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.  They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
 
 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.”’
 
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men[e] and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,  until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
 
Magi - We Knew it Would be worth it
 
We knew it would be worth it the moment we saw the star,
worth the hassle,
worth the effort,
worth the sacrifice.
But there were times when we wondered, I can tell you!
As we laboured over those dusty barren tracks,
        as we watched fearfully for bandits in the mountains,
        as the sun beat down without a break,
        and still no sign of an end to it,
        we wondered, all too often.
We asked ourselves whether we’d got to wrong,
        misread the signs.
We argued over whether we’d taken the wrong turning
        somewhere along the way.
We questioned the wisdom of carrying on as the days dragged by.
And when finally we got to Jerusalem
        only to find his own people had no idea what was going on,
        then we really became worried.
Quite astonishing - the biggest event in their history,
        and they didn’t even realise it was happening!
Thankfully they looked it up, eventually,
        somewhere in one of their old prophets,
        and we knew where to go then.
It was all there in writing if only they’d taken the trouble to look -
        God knows why they couldn’t see it!
Anyway we made it at last,
        tired, sore and hungry,
        but we made it.
And it was worth it, more than we had ever imagined,
        for in that child was a different sort of king,
        a different sort of kingdom,
        from any we’d ever encountered before.
As much our ruler as theirs,
        as much our kingdom as anyone’s.
So we didn’t just present our gifts to him,
        we didn’t just make the customary gestures of acknowledgement.
We fell down and worshipped him.
Can you imagine that?
Grown men,
        respected,
        wealthy,
        important,
        kneeling before a toddler.
Yet it seemed so natural,
        the most natural response we could make,
        the only response that would do!
 
Hymn       Gaudete
                 Bob Hurd
 
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus,
ex Maria Virgine, Gaudete.
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus,
ex Maria Virgine, Guadete.
 
(Translation: 
Rejoice, rejoice, 
Christ is born of the Virgin Mary)
 
Nature marvels at the sight,
angels sing the glory,
God becomes a little child,
shepherds tell the story.
 
2: Hail Mary, ever blest,
Mother of the promise.
By your word
the word the Word made flesh
came to dwell among us.
 
3: With the wise men from the East,
with the stars of Heaven,
with the shepherds and the sheep,
come, let us adore Him.
 
4: Now is born Emmanuel,
now is come salvation.
Sing we all noel, noel!
Sing in exultation!
 
Meditation of the Magi
 
Well, we made it at last.
After all the setbacks,
    all the frustration,
    we finally found the one we were looking for -
    our journey over,
    the quest completed.
And I can't tell you how relieved we were.
You see, we'd begun to fear we'd be too late,
    the time for celebration long since past
    by the time we eventually arrived.
It was that business in Jerusalem which caused the delay,
    all the waiting
    while Herod and his entourage rummaged around
    trying to discover what we were on about.
They were unsettled for some reason,
    taken aback, it seemed, by the news we brought,
    apparently unaware a king had been born among them.
A rival claimant, they must have thought,
    and who could tell what trouble that might stir up?
Anyway, they pointed us in the right direction if nothing else,
    but we'd wasted time there we could ill afford,
    and although the star reappeared to lead us again
    we were almost falling over ourselves with haste
    by the time we reached Bethlehem.
It was all quiet,
    just as we feared -
    no crowds,
    no family bustling around offering their congratulations,
    no throng of excited visitors,
    just an ordinary house -
    so ordinary we thought we'd gone to the wrong place.
But we went in anyway,
    and the moment we saw the child, we knew he was the one -
    not just the King of the Jews,
    but a prince among princes,
    a ruler among rulers,
    a King of kings!
We were late,
    much later than intended,
    the journey far more difficult than we ever expected,
    but it was worth the effort,
    worth struggling on,
    for, like they say, 'Better late than never!'
 
Hymn       The First Noel
                 Anonymous 1833
 
The First Noel, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
 
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!
 
2: They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the East beyond them far
And to the earth it gave great light
And so it continued both day and night.
 
3: And by the light of that same star
Three Wise men came from country far
To seek for a King was their intent
And to follow the star wherever it went.
 
4: This star drew nigh to the northwest
O'er Bethlehem it took its rest
And there it did both Pause and stay
Right o'er the place where Jesus lay.
 
5: Then entered in those Wise men three
Full reverently upon their knee
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

6: Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
 
Magi - Do you know what we gave him?
 
Do you know what we gave him –
that little boy in Bethlehem?
Go on, have a guess!
A rattle?
A toy?
A teddy bear?
No, nothing like that!
In fact, nothing you’d associate with a child at all,
            even if he was destined to be a king.
Gold!  That’s what I brought!
And my companions?
Wait for it!
Frankincense and myrrh!
Yes, I thought you’d be surprised,
for, to tell the truth
we’re pretty amazed ourselves, looking back,
unable to imagine what on earth possessed us
to choose such exotic and unusual gifts.
It wasn’t so much that they were costly,
though they were, of course -
to a family like his they were riches beyond their dreams.
But we could more than afford it -
little more than small change to men of our means.
No, it wasn’t the price that troubled us afterwards,
but the associations,
the possible meanings his parents might have read into our presents
when we’d gone.
Now the gold, there was a problem there -
a gift fit for a king and designed to say as much, of course.
But frankincense?
Well, the main use his people have for that, as we learned later,
is to sweeten their sacrifices,
to pour out onto their burnt offerings
so that the fragrance might be pleasing to their God.
Hardly the most appropriate gift for a baby.
But compared with myrrh!
Don’t tell me you don’t know?
It was a drug used to soothe pain,
either for that or as a spice for embalming -
more fitting for a funeral than a birth,
having more to do with suffering and death than celebration!
So what were we thinking of?
What possible significance could gifts like those have for a little child?
Frankly, I have no idea.
Yet at the time the choice seemed as obvious to us
as following the star,
as though each were all part of some greater purpose
which would one day become clear to all.
Were we right?  Well, after all I’ve said, I hope not,
for if this king was born to die,
to be offered in sacrifice rather than enthroned in splendour,
then his must be an unusual kingdom,
very different from most we come across -
in fact, you might almost say, not a kingdom of this world at all!
 
Hymn       Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness
                 J. S. B Monsell (1811 - 1875)
 
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his Name!

2: Low at his feet lay thy burden of carefulness,
high on his heart he will bear it for thee,
and comfort thy sorrows, and answer thy prayerfulness,
guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.
 
3: Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine;
for truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness,
these are the offerings to lay on his shrine.
 
4: These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
he will accept for the Name that is dear;
mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.
 
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him: the Lord is his Name!
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Out of Israel, God in due time raised up Jesus.
His faith and obedience were the response
of the perfect child of God.
He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel,
the beginning of the new creation,
and the pioneer of the new humanity.
He gave history its meaning and direction
and called the Church to be his servant
for the reconciliation of the world.
 
Intercessions
 
We join together now in our prayers for others, let us pray:
 
Lord God, 
 
In this Season of Epiphany, 
shine your light upon us,
Into the recesses of our spirits, into those places where we experience
anxiety, depression, fear and despair.
We ask today, that you lift up in particular all among us who are struggling.
 
And in this time of silence, we bring those who we love into your light….
 
Shine your light upon us, 
into those places of conflict and tension, within our families, 
in our friendships, in our work and community relationships.
May your light be a healing balm, 
bringing with it forgiveness and reconciliation.
 
Shine your light upon us, 
Across the common human ties that bind all people together
Neighbour and stranger, friend and enemy alike.
In your light, remind us that we are all created 
In your image, unique and beloved by you.
 
Shine your light upon our country and its leaders
That they may govern justly and wisely, showing empathy for all.
Taking into account the needs and concerns not just of the most wealthy and powerful,
But especially of those who are poor, those who struggle with physical and mental illness,
Those who are forgotten and forsaken.

Shine your light on all the places around this world
Where violence and war are found:
For all people who are living in daily fear for their lives.
With your light bring peace to those who languish
In fear, violence and despair.
 
We thank you for the light that shines
The light that we see in the glory and wonder of your creation,
In the snowy mountain tops and cold frosty valleys.
 
Thank you for the light that shines through our community and its members, 
young and old, who remind us of your presence in tears and laughter, 
teaching and learning, order and disruption, work and play.
 
Shine your light upon us.
Around us,
And within us,
That we, too may be a light to the world. 
 
Amen.
 
Offertory
 
As of old when gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh
were offered to the Christ Child,
so we bring our gifts to You, O God.
As you revealed yourself of old,
we pray that these gifts will aid others see you now
in the life of the Church.
Help us always to give ourselves,
our talents
and our treasure to you.  Amen.
 
Hymn       We Three Kings Of Orient Are
                 John Henry Hopkins Jr. 1872
 
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star
 
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light
 
2: Born a King on Bethlehem's plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign
 
3: Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all folk raising
Worship Him, God most high
 
4: Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
 
5: Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav'n replies

Blessing
 
Lord
Fill us today with the light of Christ,
That we may feel his love and guidance 
In our words and deeds throughout the coming week
So that we may shine his light for all to see.
 
May the illumination of God’s words fill our hearts, 
May the light of Christ shine into our lives
And may the brilliance of the Holy Spirit guide us along our path.
                   
Amen

Closing Music - Handel’s Sarabande
 
Sources
Meditations by Nick Fawcett from his Reflective Services for Advent and Christmas (C) 2001 Nick Fawcett.  Published by Kevin Mayhew Ltd. 
 
Opening Music: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba  ( performed by Bela   Banfalvi  © Warner Chappell, Warner Chappell, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA - UBEM, UMPG Publishing,)
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed- James Montgomery- Sung by Phil & Lythan Nevard
Gaudete- © Bob Hurd OCP Publications 1996- Sung by Portsmouth Cathedral Choir
The First Noel- Anonymous 1833- Sung by Kings’ College Cambridge Choir
Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness- J. S. B Monsell (1811 - 1875)- (Choir of Christ Church St. Laurence from the album "What Sweeter Music")
We Three Kings- John Henry Hopkins Jr. 1872- Sung by Kings’ College Cambridge Choir
Closing Music: Handel’s Sarabande (The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Entertainment One U.S., LP (on behalf of Silva Screen Records); UMPG Publishing.
 
Thanks to
Dan Morrell, Andy Braunston, Victoria Turner, Reuben Watt, Rachel Harvey, Lesley Thomson, John Young, Rameez Birkat and Johnson Olubenga Awe for reading the spoken parts of the service.
--> 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

  Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 3rd January 2021 - Who Would Think That What Was Needed

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 03/01/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 3rd January 2021 - Who Would Think That What Was Needed

John Bell and Graham Maule’s Christmas carol is a moving reflection on how God surprises us.  It is often sung to Scarlet Ribbons rather than the tune White Rosettes for which it was written.

Isaiah 11: 1-9

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
    or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
    and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
    and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
    and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
    the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
    and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
    their young shall lie down together;
    and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
    on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
    as the waters cover the sea.

Who Would Think That What Was Needed?
John Bell and Graham Maule © Wild Goose Worship Resource Group

You can hear this hymn to the tune White Rosettes here


and to Scarlet Ribbons here


Who would think that what was needed
to transform and save the earth
might not be a plan or army,
proud in purpose proved in worth?
Who would think despite derision,
that a child might lead the way?
God surprises earth with heaven,
coming here on Christmas Day.

Shepherds watch and wise men wonder,
monarchs scorn and angels sing,
such a place as none would reckon
hosts a holy helpless thing.
Stable beasts and by-passed strangers
watch a baby laid in hay:
God surprises earth with heaven,
coming here on Christmas Day.

Centuries of skill and science
span the past from which we move,
yet experience questions whether,
with such progress we improve.
While the human lot we ponder,
lest our hopes and humour fray,
God surprises earth with heaven,
coming here on Christmas Day.  

Reflection

‘Who would think that what was needed…?’

This past year has seen a major amount of re-thinking about what is needed, not only in health, but also in economics and finance, in personal life, in creation, in racial justice and in the whole sense of what it means to mutually belong to one another and care for each other. Is what lies ahead a return to what there was before? Or is it an abandonment of everything that has been, in favour of what is new?

Entering into the New Year opens up the possibility of seeing a new vision. But this vision is not one where the past is abandoned. It’s a vision which connects with the deeper roots and values that have sustained us, even in the midst of the most difficult times.

The birth of Jesus, in the darkness of the stable, and yet in the fulfilment of historic prophecies, points to the vision that sustains God’s people over the centuries, through plagues, pandemics, war and suffering. It’s not the myth of the inexorability of human progress that gives hope. It’s God’s surprising and loving presence, on the side of the poor and the meek, bringing together animals and children, there for the whole of creation, that opens up new possibilities.

Entering the New Year opens up a new vision, a vision rooted in the far distant past, yet opening up God’s future. Isaiah reminds us of God’s challenge to open our eyes and ears so that we see and hear more than is in front of us in the present moment. It’s a reminder not to be confounded by negativity, but to focus on God’s love that carries us through our suffering and enables us to carry others through their suffering.

Prayer

Grant to me, O loving God, a share in the gift that you gave to Jesus
for all the world and the whole of time.
May I receive the spirit of wisdom and understanding.
May I see your creation with new eyes.
May I hear your word in new ways.
At the beginning of this New Year,
may I not be so distracted by the present moment
that I fail to grasp your eternal vision.
Amen -->

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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 2nd January - Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 02/01/2021 - 06:00
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Saturday 2nd January  - Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

Published in 1833 this song has its origins in the medieval mystery plays where the actor playing Christ would sing the verses and the audience would sing the chorus.  It was not uncommon to have the baby Jesus singing all 12 verses foretelling his life, and death linking the incarnation with the redemption.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, 11

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
William Sandys 1833

You can hear this here


1. Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
this have I done for my true love

2. Then was I born of a virgin pure,
of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance. 

3. In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance. 

4. Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard from above,
To call my true love to my dance. 

Reflection

The metaphor of battling exists in various ways in the English speaking mindset.  We battle through traffic, battle through life, we stand our ground, fight our corners…  Life is a struggle, a battle of wills – may the strongest survive!  But what if instead of a battle, we see life as a dance?  To see life as a dance… tango, foxtrot, waltz, jive – whatever the style, you have to accept and move with your partner for the dance to work.  If you fight your partner in every step choice, you won’t get a 5 let alone a perfect score of 10.  Battling focusses on opposition and winning, but dancing focuses on movement, beauty, and partnership.

Dancing is the metaphor used in this song, as it reflects key points in the life of Jesus.  Every life event is an opportunity to “call [Jesus’] true love to [his] dance.”  His life, death and resurrection is our invitation to join in the dance.  His prayerful intercessions for us at the right hand of God not the solemn occasion you might expect, but rather a dance that we are invited to join!

And if, like me, you hear the Byrds singing “turn, turn, turn” as you read the passage from Ecclesiastes, maybe the turning is not just the turning of time, but the turning that comes with dancing – “in every season” – the good and the difficult times.  We can try to fight the turning of time, and many people do – with facelifts, mid-life crisis, or just makeup and a really good wardrobe selection.  But to dance even with time, the many stages and happenings of life – can we join that dance here, before we join in the dance at the heavenly wedding feast one day?
 
Prayer
 
God, we cannot fully grasp all you have done – from the beginning to the end.
Christ, we are amazed at your dancing through your life on earth and your resurrected life.
Holy Spirit, call us to join in the dance.  Teach us the steps.  Help us to move to your rhythms, we pray.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister at St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks and Christ Church URC Tonbridge 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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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