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Daily Devotion 13th November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 13/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 13th November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

2 Samuel 7: 18- 29

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God; you have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come. May this be instruction for the people, O Lord God!  And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have wrought all this greatness, so that your servant may know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God; for there is no one like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.  Who is like your people, like Israel? Is there another nation on earth whose God went to redeem it as a people, and to make a name for himself, doing great and awesome things for them, by driving out before his people nations and their gods? And you established your people Israel for yourself to be your people for ever; and you, O Lord, became their God. And now, O Lord God, as for the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it for ever; do as you have promised. Thus your name will be magnified for ever in the saying, “The Lord of hosts is God over Israel”; and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, “I will build you a house”; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant; now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue for ever before you; for you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed for ever.’ Reflection As human beings we often have the tendency to give negative dimensions of our experience most attention and significance. Psychologists call this tendency “negativity bias” and studies suggest we may be hardwired to respond in this way. Anecdotally, the annual appraisal at work is often used as an illustrative example; regardless of how many positive pieces of feedback the worker is given, the negative piece of feedback will dominate the worker’s memory of the review. Sound familiar?  

David has just received the Biblical equivalent of an appraisal from God via the prophet Nathan. He’s received lots of good feedback and assurances of long-term security, but God has vetoed David’s project proposal to build God a temple. Completely absent in David’s response is any hint of “negativity bias”. Rather than focusing on what God has overruled, David is clearly conscious of all that God has done for him and chooses gratitude as his prevailing response.

Was David not subject to negativity bias like other human beings? I’m sure he was. But David, for all his faults was a person devoted to God and to right worship. He had a deep sense of God’s positive action in his life and in response David’s prayer is one of thanksgiving, praise and petition. Its tone is one of intimacy and closeness.

I know in own my life, there are times when I struggle to see what God is doing and offering thanksgiving is way down my prayer priorities. But next time I’m struggling to see God’s positive action, I’ll come back to David’s prayer and ask myself whether negativity bias could be clouding my vision of God’s good work. 

Prayer

Gracious God,
You have blessed us with life
You have given us
the gift of your son, Jesus
You have promised us
a place in your Kingdom
Forgive us for the times
we have missed your hand at work
For the times when negativity
has clouded our view
Help us, loving God,
to see you at work in the world around us
May our hearts respond
with thanksgiving and praise
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Today's Writer

Jonnie Hill, Ordinand at Northern College and member of Chorlton Central Church.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Praying the Way with Matthew, Mark, Luke & John

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 12/11/2018 - 11:44
96 Praying the Way with Matthew, Mark, Luke & John View this email in your browser

Praying the Way

Dear <<First Name>>


The Rev'd Terry Hinks, one of our regular writers, and minister of Trinity Church High Wycombe and Cores End URC, has written a book of reflections entitled Praying the Way with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  This is published by the Bible Reading Fellowship and priced at £10.99.  It is a collection of prayers and reflections, aimed at helping people enter into the stories and teaching of the four Gospels and to pray with them. 
 
General Secretary, John Proctor writes: 

‘Terry Hinks has thought and written over many years about ways that the gospels can inspire and inform our praying. Now this mature collection of prayers draws on important texts from across the four gospels and from all around the themes of the Christian year. The primary tone is reflective, coming near to God in measured, thoughtful praise, and with deep confidence and hope. The language is both reverent and accessible, moving yet not complicated. These prayers would work very well in a church service, and would be equally helpful in a small housegroup or in private devotion. This book deserves to circulate widely, and I suspect that many copies will become well-worn in the course of the years. This is a resource to return to, time and again, for one’s own faith and in the service of others.’
 
Deputy General Secretary, Richard Church also commends the book

Terry writes with freshness and honesty to all those who, like him, are trying to walk Christ's way. Like a seasoned traveller, he crafts prayers - inspired by the four gospels - that act as a way marker for his fellow travellers. I warmly commend this resource to enable us all to pray the way before turning back to the challenges that await us on the road.
 
I think Terry crafts thoughtful and useful prayers which help us better understand the Jesus presented in each of the Gospels. The book is very helpful for personal devotional use, but also an invaluable resource for leaders of worship.  You can order the book here.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  
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Daily Devotion 12th November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 12/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 12th November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

2 Samuel 7: 1 - 17

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him,  the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’ But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.  Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly,  from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.  In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
 
Reflection House and home?

‘I’ve started, so I’ll finish,’ says the host on a TV quiz show. But life is not always so accommodating. Circumstances, obstacles and the limits of time and strength can stop even our best intentions and initiatives from reaching fruition. At least they may not be fulfilled in our lifetime. So it was with King David and his plan to build a temple for the Lord. The project would be beyond him. This was a debt and dependence the Lord did not want. The king’s life would end with memories of all that God had done for David (vv.9-11), not with a long record of favours that David had done for God. His son Solomon would be the builder.

There is a tension in this story, which crops up often in Scripture. God does not need bricks and mortar. Temples cannot contain majesty. They might provide a focus, a meeting point, a touching place. Yet they never really hold God. Tent, travel and tabernacle have served adequately in the past (v.6). For you cannot limit, localise or lock up the Lord of heaven. Even the grandest building will always be a bit too small.

Which helps to explain the curious double meaning of ‘house’. A ‘house’ is a place for God to dwell in (vv.5, 6, 7, 13). It is also a heritage, a dynasty, to continue David’s royal line in Israel (vv.11, 16). So, although David never manages to build a ‘house’ for God, God still promises to build a ‘house’ for David. And this, in the fullness of time, brings us round to Jesus, in whom the two kinds of ‘house’ will meet. For he was called a new David, a kingly presence in Israel, an heir of the promise. And in his flesh, God dwelt among us.
 

Prayer

God who dwelt in Jesus,
   abide with us.
God who builds the church,
   strengthen your people to serve.
God whose plans are sure,
   reach out in mercy to your world.
God whose work spans the years,
   help us to be faithful in our day.
God of the wide spaces and wild places,
   broaden our vision of your greatness.
Through Jesus Christ,
   your presence and power. Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John Proctor, General Secretary of the URC, member of Downing Place URC, Cambridge.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 11th November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 11/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 11th November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

PSALM 72  1-10

Endow the king with justice, LORD,
The royal son with righteousness.
Your people, your afflicted ones,
He’ll judge with truth and uprightness.

The mountains will bring peace to them,
The hills the fruit of righteousness.
He will defend and save the poor,
And crush all those who them oppress.

As long as sun and moon endure,
So will he live time without end.
He’ll be like showers on the earth,
Like rains that on mown fields descend.

The righteous then will blossom forth
Throughout his everlasting reign;
Until the moon no longer shines,
Peace in abundance will remain.

From sea to sea he will hold sway
And from the River to earth’s end.
His enemies will lick the dust,
And desert tribes the knee will bend.

Then Tarshish and the distant shores
Will send the tribute of their kings;
Sheba’s and Seba’s kings will come
And bring to him their offerings.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing v 1-7 to the pleasant tune Cannock here, v 1-10 to the tune Crasselius here and later verses to the tune Church Triumphant here.
Reflection Let me come clean from the outset: Metrical Psalms do not feature prominently in my personal spirituality.  It was the date of this reflection that drew my attention initially rather than today’s text. I wondered how people singing this Psalm might have experienced it a century ago on Armistice Day.

This is a prayer for the king in David’s line.  One can see how this could easily be taken slightly out of context and applied to our own royal family – was that how it might have been sung at the end of World War I?

The Psalm is “of Solomon.”  Only this and Psalm 127 have this attribution.  Calvin thought that the words were uttered as a death-bed prayer by David, and Solomon later put it into the form of a Psalm.  He seems to be in a minority with that particular view. It is certainly about the Davidic dynasty. The Psalm opens with a prayer for the king, and closes with praise for God’s rule over all of humankind (read the second half of the Psalm to see that.)
The Psalm then goes on to express a hope for righteousness and justice, showing how the people live with all the benefits of theocratic rule under the Davidic line.  David, Solomon and their successors were to be kings for all the people (although careful study of their track records also shows their fallibility.) It includes a prayer for the king’s longevity and wide dominion (our National Anthem echoes this: “Send her victorious…long to reign over us…”)

Patriotism may be both a good thing and very dangerous.  Certainly it was the greatest recruiting sergeant in WWI and in many other wars since.  On this Sunday, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of “the war to end all wars,” take some time to reflect on the fourth stanza.  What must you and I do to allow the righteous to blossom forth for all time, so that “peace in abundance will remain”?
 

Prayer

Compassionate God,
we pray for those whose lives
have been blighted by war.
On this anniversary Sunday,
stand close to all who grieve,
even decades after the loss of loved ones.
Grant them hope and comfort.
We pray that we may be peacemakers.
Through our words, our actions
and our thoughts,
may we always show others
Jesus, Son of David, Prince of Peace,
to whom be all glory with you,
Father, and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Steve Faber, Synod Moderator, West Midlands Synod

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Saturday 10th November Matthew Prevett 

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 10/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Saturday 10th November Matthew Prevett  Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

When Out of Poverty is Born
© The Rev’d Kathy Galloway

When out of poverty is born
a dream that will not die,
and landless, weary folk find strength
to stand with heads held high,
it’s then we learn from those who wait
to greet the promised day,
‘The Lord is coming; don’t lose heart.
Be blest: prepare the way!’

When people wander far from God,
forget to share their bread,
they find their wealth an empty thing,
their spirits are not fed.
For only just and tender love
the hungry soul will stay.
And so God’s prophets echo still
‘Be blest: prepare the way!’

When God took flesh and came to earth,
the world turned upside down,
and in the strength of woman’s faith
the Word of Life was born.
She knew that God would raise the low,
it pleased her to obey.
Rejoice with Mary in the call,
‘Be blest: prepare the way!

Kathy Galloway is a Church of Scotland minister and was the first woman to be elected to lead the Iona Community.  The hymn can be found in Church Hymnary 4 and is set to the lovely English folk tune Kingsfold which can be heard here.

St Luke 1: 47 - 55

And Mary said,

‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
   Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
 
 
Reflection
Mary: rejoicer; proclaimer; servant.

Mary rejoiced in God’s presence in her life, as a recipient of a great gift from God, from the very beginning of her experience.

Around the world, we are faced with people who have many reasons not to rejoice in God. Those who are poor and landless, those who do not appear to have great gifts, those who are still waiting for the presence of God to become real.

Although Advent may be a time of waiting, we also need to reconnect with the place of rejoicing that can affirm and strengthen our faith in challenging circumstances.
 
Mary: rejoicer; proclaimer; servant.

In telling of God’s works, Mary proclaimed all that God does and about God’s nature: God shows mercy; God shows strength to transform the proud; God has realigned power in unjust systems; God has filled the hungry.

Mary’s proclamation of God’s action sits in stark contrast to our response: as people, we wander from God; we forget to share our bread; we dwell in our riches.

If we wish to proclaim all that God does for us, we also need to live that proclamation in our lives and in our communities.
 
Mary: rejoicer; proclaimer; servant.
 
Mary was open to all that God would do with and through her.

We can find that God’s work in our lives turns our world upside down. We hear God speak to us in ways that surprise and with tasks we are uncertain we can fulfil.

In listening for God, we also need to be responsive to the call upon our life to react, to be transformed, and to rejoice in whatever God calls us to do.
 

Prayer

My soul magnifies –
my spirit rejoices in you, God my Saviour.
You call us to be just to the poor and weak.
You ask much of us.
Help us to rejoice, proclaim and serve as Mary did,
and help us to hear you, and to respond. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, Minister, St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton, and Northern Synod

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Daily Devotion 9th November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 09/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 9th November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Comfort Comfort Now My People
Johannes Olearious (1611-1684) translated by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) 
revised by John Bell (b 1949)

Comfort, comfort now my people;
speak of peace - so says your God.
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
burdened by a heavy load.
To Jerusalem proclaim:
God shall take away your shame.
Now get ready to recover;
guilt and suffering are over

Hear the herald's proclamation
in the desert far and near,
calling all to true repentance,
telling that the Lord is near.
Oh, that warning cry obey!
For your God prepare a way.
Let the valleys rise to greet him
and the hills bow down to meet him.

Straighten out what has been crooked;
make the roughest places plain.
Let your hearts be true and humble,
live as fits God's holy reign.
Soon the glory of the Lord
shall on earth be shed abroad.
Human flesh shall surely see it;
God is ready to decree it.

Olearius was a German pastor and hymnwriter.  This hymn is based on Isaiah 40 and set to the wonderful tuen by Louis Bourgeois (1510-1561) Genevan 42.  Bourgeois worked with Calvin to develop tunes to the Psalms which were, firstly, taught to the children who would then teach their parents.  Elizabeth I of England was very disparaging about these "Genevan jigs" - no doubt todays' tune was one she had in mind!

You can watch and download this video which was put together by Andy Braunston which contains this hymn and images to help churches reflect on it.  It can be freely used in any church.  

A rather more lively, jig like,  rendition showing how the song could be sung is here.

Isaiah 40: 1-5

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
Reflection If this hymn doesn’t make you want to dance, you may be singing it wrong!  This is one of the gems I first met in Common Ground, and you can also find it in Hymns of Glory, Songs of Praise (the rebadged version of the Scottish Church Hymnary 4).  Even if your church is a bit shy of singing in parts, a little investment in learning the catchy three-part harmony will help you make the most of this hymn in worship.  Settings like this make a powerful contribution to worship - by singing the words ourselves rather than just hearing them we lodge them much more in our consciousness, and by setting them to a memorable tune the effect is even greater.  You’ll also find these five verses from Isaiah set as the first recitative, aria and chorus of the Messiah, but I suspect most churches would find those rather more challenging to incorporate in worship!

These verses are quoted in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s stories of John the Baptist, and if you use the Revised Common Lectionary, they are set as part of the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent in Year B.  I am struck by the emphasis on comfort, rather than the heavier emphasis on repentance in stories about John the Baptist (for example, the ‘brood of vipers’ in Matthew 3:7). They serve as a reminder that our God is a loving and forgiving God, not merely a vengeful God.  Yes, we have things to repent of, but let us first remember God’s comfort. Is that a message we convey in how we and our churches are? Or are we perceived as judgemental and critical?

And even if we avoid making people feel guilty about who they are, do we place an overwhelming burden on people by making them feel that they should be able to sort out the world’s problems?

Prayer

Lord,
when you came as a powerless baby,
you reminded us that the weak
can overturn the certainties of the strong;
that the poor can teach
the rich about using our resources;
that the leper can show
the healthy how to live in the Kingdom.
As we worry about our failings and insecurities
help us hear the Prophet’s words of comfort
and with hope in our hearts,
live out that hope in the world.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Gordon Woods, Elder, St. Columba’s URC, Oxford

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Daily Devotion 8th November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 08/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 8th November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Come and See the Shining Hope
© Christopher Idle / Jubilate Hymns Ltd
 

Come and see the shining hope that Christ's apostle saw;
on the earth, confusion but in heaven an open door,
where the living creatures praise the Lamb for evermore:
Love has the victory for ever!

Amen, he comes! to bring his own reward!
Amen, praise God! for justice now restored;
kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of the Lord:
Love has the victory for ever!

All the gifts you send us, Lord, are faithful, good and true;
holiness and righteousness are shown in all you do:
who can see your greatest Gift and fail to worship you?
Love has the victory for ever!

Power and salvation all belong to God on high!
So the mighty multitudes of heaven make their cry,
singing Hallelujah! where the echoes never die:
Love has the victory for ever

The author, Christopher Idle is a retired Anglican priest and prolific hymnwriter.   A rather splendid recording of this hymn at the Royal Albert Hall can be found here. The tune, Marching Through Georgia, was written towards the end of the American Civil War and became a Unionist anthem.

Revelation 5: 11 - 14

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the elders fell down and worshipped.
Reflection A scene like this can be very difficult to imagine in any shape or form and certainly such revelation as was given to John is so different to what we normally see in daily life. However, these inspired words in the hymn give us that glimpse into Heaven as to what our main purpose in that celestial life will hold. Chris Idle’s words, and use of rousing, well-known music, somehow grasp the excitement and elation of what the scene will hold for us believers when we enter into our eternal new home with Jesus.

My husband has always found great inspiration from these words in Revelation, but longed for some real visual representation of such so as to focus his worship upon the Lamb on the Throne. In our congregation we are blessed that one of our members is an artist and he approached her to ask if she could somehow put such into a painting for display within the church. She thought and prayed hard and long, and came up with two pictures of these verses which we are considering today. Therefore, I hope and pray that you will accept these in place of words as they literally paint the picture far more ably than any amount of my words can. Both are now in place within Tabernacle and serve as a focal point upon which we base our worship of the Lamb of God as well as the reigning Lion of the tribe of Judah.

Prayer

Our awesome, eternal God,
King of all ages,
You alone are the One
to whom all worship, praise and adoration
should be ascribed.
May our gaze be perpetually on you
and not on passing or temporal images,
reminding ourselves that our final home
is with you, singing our eternal Hallelujahs
knowing that love in the nature and person of Jesus
has the victory for ever. Amen.

Today's Writer

Verena Walder, Lay Preacher & Elder, Tabernacle URC, Mumbles

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Daily Devotion 7th November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 7th November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Praise to the God Who Clears the Way
(C) The Rev'd Dr Jan Berry

Praise to the God who clears the way
preparing room and space;
for power and pride will lose their sway
as peace comes in their place.

Praise to the God who comes to judge
the truth of word and deed,
who calls our minds and wills to change,
rebuking wealth and greed.

Praise to the God who waits with us
for hope and joy to reign,
who shares our suffering and our loss,
embodied in our pain.

Praise to the God who comes to bring
comfort to all who mourn.
The whole creation 'Glory' sings
as Christ the light is born.

Jan Berry is a retired United Reformed Church Minister who lectured, for many years at our Northern College in Manchester.  

This hymn is published in Singing the Faith at 183 and, there, is set to the tune Creator God by the Anglican priest Norman Warren.  The tune can also be found in Church Hymnary 4 at 55.  You can hear the tune here.  An alternative is to double up the verses and sing the hymn, as a two verse hymn, to the tune Kingsfold which can he heard here.

St Mark 1: 1 - 8

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.”
Reflection Recuperation has afforded me the time to watch daytime TV, which I can assure you is no particular pleasure! There is, however, a good deal of interest for anyone who enjoys people-watching.

‘Britain’s worst hoarders’ was clearly designed to leave me open-mouthed at the shocking amount of mess that some people can gather and live with. I fear the producers also intended me to laugh at the stupidity of others, but they failed in this case. More than anything I have been left with questions.
Is there some part of each of us that hoards the unnecessary, even if not visibly in our homes in the form of junk-mail, odd bits of wood, or old toasters (“which might be useful one day”)? What needless clutter do we store within us or more widely as the world?

Jan Berry’s wonderful hymn (vs.1) reminded me that God is not simply hoovering a new path through all the hoarded stuff of our lives, covering the smell with Shake-n-Vac.  As in Mark, we are introduced to the idea that God is clearing out, ready for a new way of life to be built in place of the old.
‘Making way’ for God’s realm requires more than piling the clutter into ever taller heaps, it involves the hiring of a skip (or even better a recycling machine!)

As many hoarders will attest, getting rid of all that we have so carefully gathered up can be an arduous and heart-wrenching process, especially when complicated psychological processes have led us to collect it all in the first place.

Over how many years have we stockpiled our ‘need’ for weapons or accumulated profits ahead of people?

How much unrecognised guilt and grief is locked in your attic? Clearing these things from our lives requires more than a gentle tickle with a duster!

Thank God that no stone,
no stack of 1987’s Reform or that ‘useful’ pack of 50 blank cassette tapes,
no inner pain and damage
no social ill or global suffering
is left unturned,
as space is prepared for God’s new Kingdom.

Prayer

Great God, we bring our praise and thanks
that you fully clear the way
for the living of your Kingdom
this Wednesday and every day. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is Minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Daily Devotion 6th November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 06/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 6th November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Light of the World, You Stepped Down into Darkness
© Tim Hughes
 

Light of the world,
You step down into darkness
Opened my eyes let me see
Beauty that made
this heart adore you
hope of a life spent with you

So here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down
Here I am to say that you're my God
You're altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

King of all days
Oh so highly exalted
Glorious in heaven above
Humbly you came to the earth you created
All for love's sake became poor

So here I am to worship...

And I'll never know how much it cost
to see my sin upon that cross
And I'll never know how much it cost
to see my sin upon that cross


So here I am to worship…

This can be found in Singing the Faith or, easily, on the Internet.  The music can be downloaded for a small fee - just search around if you haven't got it.

You can hear the song here.

St John 8: 12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.
Reflection November is a month of Remembrance: the Gunpowder plot; Armistice, All Saints and All Souls.  I will always remember this song as it was the first hymn at my ordination 5 years ago. What makes it memorable is that the choir from the primary school where I spent time sang and signed it for me.  Sign language is very important to me as I have always talked with my hands, so it made it more meaningful when they signed the hymn at my own special service. It inspired me to finally learn to sign so that I could communicate with those without a voice.  Sadly the lack of practice after qualifying has made me rusty.

Jesus says he is the Light of the World, bringing light to the darkness on our journey.  How can we bring that light to others? How do we remember those who are in need and bring them the hope of Christ?  Are we out of practice in our sharing of the Gospel with others? If we do not use our gifts we run the risk of losing them. If we share our gifts then others benefit.  

May we shine our light in the darkness so that others can find their way on their journey of faith, so that we can all come to worship the God of beauty; the God of light; the God of love.

Prayer

Light of the world, you shared in our darkness, that we may see your light.
Hope of the world, you shared in our poverty, that we may see your greatness
King of all days, you shared in our death, that we may see your life
So here we are to worship,
here we bow down,
in total awe of your beauty, your wonder, your magnificence.  
Show us how to be the light in our community,
that all may see and know that You are Love. Amen

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Daily Devotion 5th November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 05/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 5th November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hills of the North Rejoice
English Praise version, 1975 Tune Little Conard

Hills of the North, rejoice,
river and mountain-spring,
hark to the advent voice;
valley and lowland, sing.
Christ comes in righteousness and love,
he brings salvation from above.

2 Isles of the Southern seas,
sing to the listening earth,
carry on every breeze
hope of a world's new birth:
In Christ shall all be made anew,
his word is sure, his promise true.

3 Lands of the East, arise,
he is your brightest morn,
greet him with joyous eyes,
praise shall his path adorn:
your seers have longed to know their Lord;
to you he comes, the final Word.

4 Shores of the utmost West,
lands of the setting sun,
welcome the heavenly guest
in whom the dawn has come:
he brings a never-ending light
who triumphed o'er our darkest night.

5 Shout, as you journey home,
songs be in every mouth,
lo, from the North they come,
from East and West and South:
in Jesus all shall find their rest,
in him the universe be blest.

Charles Edward Oakley, the author, was an Anglican priest who ended up as rector of St Paul's Covent Garden in London.  He died in 1865 and this hymn was published five years after his death.  It wasn't possible to include a revised version of the hymn (the original words were felt to have colonialist allusions) in Rejoice and Sing and also pair it with the tune Little Cornard (to which is it is, almost always, sung).  Interestingly in the years since Rejoice and Sing was published it has, in revised version, entered various editions of Hymns Ancient and Modern and is also found in Singing the Faith .  It isn't included in Church Hymnary 4 used, primarily, in Scotland.                   

A rather splendid rendition of the hymn can be heard here.
 

Isaiah 43: 5-6

Do not fear, for I am with you;
   I will bring your offspring from the east,
   and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
   and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
   and my daughters from the end of the earth—
Reflection The hymn by Charles Edward Oakley and the reading both place their respective readers (perhaps I should say “singers”) squarely in the crosshairs of a compass centre-point. Every direction is invoked to participate in an encircling carnival. Oakley invokes North, South, East and West to see, and to rejoice. The moment is this one. Now is the time. The writer’s tense is the present moment, but in the sense of what is seen on the horizon.

It seems to me that the Reading is doing something connected but different. The writer's moment is yet to come, the aspect is promise. He speaks of what will be in future tense. In its way, though, the Reading is more specific. It’s action more concrete. Real justice for real sons and daughters, real flesh and blood.

Peter Rollins wrote once that the great stumbling block of Christianity - or one of them - was its insistence on a particular instance over speculative general possibility: the claim on our lives of this moment, this saviour, this place and this hope.

It is easy to believe in the possibility of a saviour, of a possible hope, in another moment. But the claim that divinity inhabits a particular life, and that the divine is active in a particular moment makes a response unavoidable. I must judge if it is true and how it is true. I cannot hide in speculation about possibility or metaphysics. A response of heart and hand - and head – is called out from me.

Prayer

Put your ear to the ground
and identify the noises around you.
Predominant are anxious, restless footsteps,
frightened footsteps in the dark,
footsteps bitter and rebellious.
No sound yet of hope’s first footsteps.
Glue your ear to the ground again.
Hold your breath
put out your advance antennae.
The Master is on his way,
most likely he will not get here
when things are going well,
but in the bad times
when the going’s unsure and painful.

(From “A Procession of Prayers” compiled by John Carden)

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr John McNeil Scott is Principal of the Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College
 

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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A break in the series...

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 04/11/2018 - 18:00
96 A break in the series... View this email in your browser

(Possibly) New to You Advent Hymns

Dear <<First Name>>

We leave David in his newly established capital having transferred the religious centre to Jerusalem to consolidate his rule and now turn to some new, possibly, to you Advent hymns.  We hope that by looking at these now they may help refresh worship in the Advent season.

Over the time we’ve been producing the Daily Devotions we have, from time to time, reflected on hymns from the Reformed Tradition, on Advent and Christmas hymns as well as Eastertide material.  We thought we’d take a different approach and look at some, possibly, new to you Advent hymns early on and hope they may help in local churches that might be looking for different material this advent.  Producing these in November may seem odd but we think the hymns are worth looking at any point of the year and, this way, they may inspire those who plan worship for Advent.

We will look at:

Hills of the North Rejoice - not at all new but, curiously, omitted from Rejoice and Sing
Light of the World, You Stepped Down into Darkness - a newer song, from the evangelical tradition, by Tim Hughes.
Praise to the God who Clears the Way - a newer song by the Rev'd Jan Berry, one of our own ministers.
Come and See the Shining Hope - a song by Bishop Christopher Idle set to the very jolly tune Marching Through Georgia
Comfort, Comfort Now My People - a hymn based on Isaiah 40 coming from the 16th Century and set to one of the better tunes from Calvin's Geneva which infuriated Queen Elizabeth I.  The tune is tricky but very worthwhile learning.
When Out of Poverty Is Born - a lovely hymn by Church of Scotland minister Kathy Galloway.

Each day we will produce the words of the song and either give a link to the song being sung or to the tune it is set to.  Copyright information will be included and well as where to find the song in hymnbooks.

We hope you enjoy this little break from the David saga.


with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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(Possibly) New to you Advent Hymns

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 04/11/2018 - 18:00
96 (Possibly) New to you Advent Hymns View this email in your browser

New (to you?) Advent Hymns

Dear <<First Name>>

We leave David, for a while, in his newly established capital having transferred the religious centre to Jerusalem to consolidate his rule and now turn to some new, possibly, to you Advent hymns.  We hope that by looking at these now they may help refresh worship in the Advent season.

Over the time we’ve been producing the Daily Devotions we have, from time to time, reflected on hymns from the Reformed Tradition, on Advent and Christmas hymns as well as Eastertide material.  We thought we’d take a different approach and look at some, possibly, new to you Advent hymns early on and hope they may help in local churches that might be looking for different material this advent.  Producing these in November may seem odd but we think the hymns are worth looking at any point of the year and, this way, they may inspire those who plan worship for Advent.  We will reproduce the words, where possible, provide links to the music and comment on them and the Biblical verses that inspired the writers.

Remember, if you would prefer to receive the Devotions as booklets either for your own use or for people in your congregation who might prefer them in a paper format, you can sign up to receive them here.  They are produced a couple of months in advance.  Previous booklets are on the Devotions' Website here.


with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Daily Devotion 4th November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 04/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 4th November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 71: 1-10

In you, O LORD, I’ve taken refuge;
protect me ever from disgrace.
Rescue and save me in your justice;
turn to me as I seek your face.

Be my strong rock and my sure refuge
to which I always may resort;
Give the command to help and save me,
because you are my rock and fort.

From wicked hands, my God, O save me,
from cruel hands of violence.
For, Sov’reign LORD, you’ve been my refuge
and since my youth my confidence.

From birth I have relied upon you;
you are the guide of all my ways.
Out of my mother’s womb you brought me;
to you I ever will give praise.

To many I’m a cause of wonder,
but you are still my refuge strong.
My mouth is filled with adoration,
praising your splendour all day long.

When I am old, do not desert me,
or leave me when my strength is gone.
For my opponents speak against me,
conspiring how to bring me down.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the lovely Scots tune Bunillidh here.  It can also be sung to the tune Spiritus Vitea and here you can hear a vocalist sing it.
Reflection The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV) describes this Psalm as “an aged worshipper’s prayer for deliverance from personal enemies”. As someone who is rapidly approaching the validity of the description “aged worshipper” (although maybe not as a “cause of wonder”!) perhaps I can resonate with the pleas for God not to “desert me or leave me when my strength is gone”, recognising that God is, has been and always will be “my strong rock and my sure refuge to which I may always resort”. Of course, there have been times in my life when the surety of that strength and refuge have seemed to be elusive.

The word “refuge” gives me pause however. What do we mean by it? Is it somewhere to hide away, to escape from the world and those in it? Proverbs 18:10 uses a slightly different metaphor, describing the name of the Lord as “a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are safe”. A worship song by Clinton Utterbach often sung with gusto in some Christian gatherings uses these words as part of the refrain.

Towers are often found as strong defensive points in castles: places of refuge, keeping the enemy at bay. Almost by definition, there are no points of contact between those inside and out, except for missiles hurled back and forth.

Sadly, that is how some outside the Church can perceive those within – a “holy huddle”, hurling out condemnations of those whose lifestyles they do not approve of, and surrounded by walls impenetrable to those who do not conform.

We need the refuge of God not as a defence against the world, but as a place of quiet retreat, a storehouse from which to draw provisions which enable us to demonstrate the love of God for the world in the world, never brought down.
 
 

Prayer

God, our refuge and our strength
our help in times of need
help us to use your strength
not as defence
but as confidence.

The needs of the world around us
are manifest
and at times
seem to be
insurmountable.

But with your gifts
of courage, faith and cheerfulness
we can break out of
our restraints of
defensiveness,
inspiring wonder.

This we pray.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon.  He is a member at Upton-by-Chester URC

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 3rd November 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 03/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 3rd November 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

from 2 Samuel 6

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.  David and all the people with him set out and went from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who is enthroned on the cherubim. They carried the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio,[the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart  with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark. David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

When they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen shook it.  The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God.  David was angry because the Lord had burst forth with an outburst upon Uzzah; so that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day…

...So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. David danced before the Lord with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

...David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, ‘How the king of Israel honoured himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!’ David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord.  I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honour.’ And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
Reflection David was a pretty boy.  When Samuel picked him out to succeed Saul as King he was the Cinderella of the family – left on the hillside to keep the sheep while his elders and betters met the prophet in Jesse’s house at Bethlehem. He became Prince Charming – red-haired, beautiful eyes and handsome (1 Samuel 16). He ruled for 40 years through good times and bad, always a charmer, especially with other men’s wives. Senior Citizens like me saw the movie: “David and Bathsheba” (Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward 1951). David was chosen to do God’s work not because he was a saint but because he knew in his heart that he was God’s servant before he could be Israel’s king, whether he liked it or not, We are chosen too.

David “danced before the Lord” with all his people -  the cymbals, tambourines, and harps joined in. You don’t get that in “Strictly”. David danced before the Lord, not the Ark. The Ark was only the symbol of God’s presence, accompanying Israel on their wanderings and battles. Their neighbours and enemies had special places where the gods lived: sacred shrines and special stones. But Israel’s God was everywhere and anywhere. The Ark was their reassurance; it was powerful (see “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) but not the reality, David knew that, and that was why he danced wearing nothing more than a linen ephod, not like a king, but like a priest, a servant of God, much to his straight-laced wife’s disgust,  David knew it was better to dance for joy in your boxers than pretend to be what you are not. Reflect on this moment in the great story of our deliverance, from the house of Jesse in Bethlehem and on to Jerusalem to find the King of Kings dancing to his cross so that we might be the forgiven and redeemed people of God (“The Greatest Story Ever Told” Technicolour 1965).
 

Prayer

Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise Thee,
In my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise Thee;
Small it is in this poor sort to enrol Thee,
E’en eternity’s too short to extol Thee
George Herbert

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister in the Northern Synod and a member of St Andrew’s URC, Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 2nd November

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 02/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 2nd November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

2 Samuel 5: 1 -5

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, ‘Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.’  So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah for seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years. Reflection Anointed by the prophet Samuel when called from tending his father’s flocks (1 Sam 16), David proved himself as a leader in battles and in respect for God.  So the elders of all the tribes at last recognised that the Lord had said David would shepherd his people and become their ruler. This Lord is God who identified himself as 'I am', when he called Moses from looking after flocks to bring the Israelites out of suffering in Egypt (Exodus 3:13-15).

The duplicitous Jacob in his old age identified God, who had renamed him Israel, as his shepherd throughout his life, and he believed God the Shepherd was enabling his son Joseph and his descendants to survive and be fruitful (Genesis 48:15, 49:22-25).

In the steps of leaders who first asked Samuel for a king, later generations longed for another king like David, but God had much more to give.

“A ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel” was quoted by Herod’s advisers to the Magi, combined with Micah 5:2 locating the birth in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:6).  “Son of the Most High … throne of his ancestor David … of his kingdom there will be no end,” the angel said to Mary (Luke 1:32-33).

Then we hear Jesus identifying himself and his mission: "I am the good shepherd".
  • “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
  • “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” (John 10:11-18)

Prayer

Thank you, God, for
shepherding us through our lives.
Thank you for your great work of
bringing all people into your flock.
Please help
us to live the life of Jesus in his mission today.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Bernie Collins, retired minister; member of Avenue St Andrew’s URC, Southampton; convenor of URC Mission Committee.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 1st November 2018 All Saints' Day

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 1st November 2018 All Saints' Day Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

For All The Saints
Rejoice and Sing 658

For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

2. Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

3. For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

4. O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

5. For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

6. For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

7. O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

8. And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

9. The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

10. But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

11. From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
Singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

William Walsham How 1864

 
You can hear a Cathedral Choir sing this hymn here

St Matthew 5: 1 - 12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Reflection
Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, follows the exploits of the last active priest in a state, which had outlawed the Church, in Mexico.  The priest travels incognito from village to village, saying mass, hearing confessions, baptising babies and praying for those who had died.  He is not presented as being at all heroic: a clumsy whisky priest with a daughter from an illicit relationship. However, despite the opportunity he doesn’t escape but, in his imperfections, continues to minister to his flock - after all there’s no one else.  Eventually he is captured, refuses to accept a state pension, renounce his orders and live in safety so, inevitably, he is shot. Awaiting execution it occurs to him that really it wouldn't have been that hard to be a saint and he thinks of today’s reading and the list of beatitudes which mark the lives of the saints.  The irony is that the priest, who thinks he’s a failure, by being executed is a martyr and will be venerated as a saint - though the Church will whitewash his failings.

We believe we are part of the Communion of Saints - fellowship not just with other Christians now but with all those who have gone before and all those yet to come.  As How wrote in his great hymn, we are united with saints of old who nobly struggled to live a life of sanctity, with apostles, evangelists and martyrs as well as with the ordinary, everyday saints as much as with the whisky priests.  Now the saints rest in “the calm of paradise the blessed” but they wait for “lo there breaks a yet more glorious day” when the saints, and us will be called back to life by our risen Lord and we, with them will rejoice as the King of Glory passes by.  

Until then we sinners wait in our present imperfection seeking to be holy and change the world as a place fit for saints.

Prayer

Remind us, Good Lord,
that Heaven shall not wait for triumphant Hallelujahs,
when earth has passed and we reach another shore.
Remind us, Gentle God, that Jesus is Lord in our present imperfection;
and that his power and love are for now and then for evermore. Amen

after John Bell and Graham Moule’s Heaven Shall Not Wait.  

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Andy Braunston is Minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland's Southside Cluster.  He is also the co-ordinator the URC Daily Devotions project.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Daily Devotion 31st October 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 31/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 31st October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

from 2 Samuel 1: 17 - 27

David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan.  (He ordered that The Song of the Bow be taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.  He said:

our glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
   How the mighty have fallen!
Tell it not in Gath,
   proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;
or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
   the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa,
   let there be no dew or rain upon you,
   nor bounteous fields!
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
   the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

From the blood of the slain,
   from the fat of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
   nor the sword of Saul return empty.

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
   In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
   they were stronger than lions.

O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
   who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
   who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

How the mighty have fallen
   in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
   I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
   your love to me was wonderful,
   passing the love of women.

How the mighty have fallen,
   and the weapons of war perished!
 
Reflection “How the mighty have fallen” – it’s a phrase we still use, but the connotations have changed rather. Today, we might use it of a politician who climbed to the top on the bodies of comrades, now disgraced and removed from office. We might use it of an overly-ambitious colleague, once the boss’s pet, now sacked for fraud; the jumped-up cheat who finally got what they deserved.

But when David speaks these words over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, there is no triumph at another’s downfall. There is no sense of ‘serves them right’. Which, to be honest, is rather strange.

How many Psalms are David praying that God would strike his enemies? Lots! “O God, break the teeth in their mouths” he prays in Psalm 58, “The righteous will rejoice when they see vengeance done.” And it’s probably Saul that David it writing about.

It’s quite understandable. Saul has made David’s life a complete misery, trying to murder him almost since they met. It’s right that David should express his anger, fear, frustration to his Lord.

But why this lament then? It sounds more like something you’d write when your best friend dies, or someone you admire. When the person you’d been hoping would walk under a bus (or the Old Testament equivalent) finally gets it, shouldn’t you rejoice? Every good story should end with the goodies triumphing over the baddies.

And surely, it’s a bit hypocritical to pray for God to smite your enemy and then write a lament when he does.

Or perhaps, are people a bit more complicated than just ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies’?
 

Prayer

God of Justice, God of mercy,
who causes your sun to rise
on the evil and on the good,
teach us to see others and ourselves through your eyes;
to rightly lament the faults in ourselves
and generously praise you
for the good in others;
be they our friends or our enemies.
That we may be your children,
Through Christ our Lord,
Amen

Today's Writer

Fay Rowland is a graduate student at Wesley House, Cambridge, and worships at St Botolph’s Anglican Church, Northamptonshire.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 30th October 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 30/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 30th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Samuel 31: 1 - 13

Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and many fell on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines killed Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul.  The battle pressed hard upon Saul; the archers found him, and he was badly wounded by them. Then Saul said to his armour-bearer, ‘Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and thrust me through, and make sport of me.’ But his armour-bearer was unwilling; for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it.  When his armour-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword and died with him. So Saul and his three sons and his armour-bearer and all his men died together on the same day. When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook their towns and fled; and the Philistines came and occupied them. The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa.  They cut off his head, stripped off his armour, and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to the houses of their idols and to the people. They put his armour in the temple of Astarte; and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men set out, travelled all night long, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. They came to Jabesh and burned them there. Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted for seven days. Reflection I have taken hundreds of funerals over the years: celebrations after a life well lived; gut wrenchingly sad following the death of a child or a life wasted through drugs or alcohol; others where the only response was to commend the deceased to God’s mercy and care after a truly awful life.  In some the family were, frankly, indifferent; in others the family was more interested in the feud (or the will) than the deceased.

In all the funerals I have taken, however, I have always been struck by the respect and professionalism of undertakers.  In my previous ministry I was very involved with one firm, in particular, and was amazed at the care they showed to the body of the deceased; the care of the embalmer, a hairdresser who would come and give women who had died a final hair do, so they looked good - for no charge, and the general sense of gentleness the undertakers always took - mindful the person had been loved and had loved throughout life.
 
A common aspect of almost all human cultures is the respect we give to the bodies of the dead.  Today’s reading, then, is shocking. Saul’s understandable fear about how his body would be desecrated by his enemies, and the fearlessness of the “valiant” men who went to reclaim it and give it a decent burial, reminds me of the women who went to tend to Jesus’ body after his bloody death.  

We have followed Saul’s story over the last few weeks, seen his instability, jealousy, cunning and scheming facing a son-in-law determined to usurp him, a relentless enemy and, at the same time, seeking to consolidate his hold on the throne.  We may not have been very impressed with him but feel he deserved better than this end.

Pray today for those who die, unloved and unlamented, and for those who undertake their final journeys ensuring dignity and grace.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you had no grave of your own,
your body was brutalised before death,
and no arrangements
could be made for your funeral,
give grace to those who wash corpses,
tend to the dead
and ensure dignity to the deceased,
that as they await resurrection,
we, and they, may sing your glory.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 29th October 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 29/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 29th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

from 1 Samuel 24: 1 - 22

When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, ‘David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.’  Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to look for David and his men in the direction of the Rocks of the Wild Goats.  He came to the sheepfolds beside the road, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave.  The men of David said to him, ‘Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, “I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.”’ Then David went and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak.  Afterwards David was stricken to the heart because he had cut off a corner of Saul’s cloak. He said to his men, ‘The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to raise my hand against him; for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ So David scolded his men severely and did not permit them to attack Saul. Then Saul got up and left the cave, and went on his way. Afterwards David also rose up and went out of the cave and called after Saul, ‘My lord the king!’ When Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance.  David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the words of those who say, “David seeks to do you harm”? This very day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you into my hand in the cave; and some urged me to kill you, but I spared you….” See, my father, see the corner of your cloak in my hand; for by the fact that I cut off the corner of your cloak, and did not kill you, you may know for certain that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you are hunting me to take my life. May the Lord judge between me and you! May the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you...When David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, ‘Is that your voice, my son David?’ Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, ‘You are more righteous than I; for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil.  Today you have explained how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the Lord put me into your hands. For who has ever found an enemy, and sent the enemy safely away? So may the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. Now I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not wipe out my name from my father’s house.’ So David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home; but David and his men went up to the stronghold. Reflection What I love most about the stories in the Hebrew Scriptures is not that they are full of magnificent heroes who get everything right (or indeed others who are out and out ‘baddies.’)  Rather, again and again I see God working through frequently flawed and imperfect people … just like you and me!

I find it reassuring and encouraging that the first King of the Hebrews was in many ways a disaster, although actually Saul achieved a huge amount in the face of what I see as a massively challenging health condition.  And likewise David, as we shall explore later, is far from lily-white. But again what I admire about the compilers of the tales is that they included the stories when the characters let themselves down dreadfully! Moses, Samson, Jephthah and indeed David are cases in point and their imperfections were not written out of the Scriptures.

But here, David does the right thing even if not the strategically advantageous thing.  He proves his worth and his loyalty when he has the opportunity to deal with his adversary once and for all.  He chooses, rather, to show mercy to his father-in-law. We live in an era when people, politicians and world leaders, in my view, far too often jump to conflict and confrontation when meeting, talking and working out things peacefully are not only possible, but preferable too.  

Would we have the Syrian refugee numbers, the rise of al-Qaeda / ISIS etc. if that better way had been followed, I wonder?  We follow a Saviour who taught justice, peace and turning the other cheek after all, and one who perhaps, as a Son of David, exhibited the same level of love and mercy and his ancestor, even forgiving his persecutors while on the Cross.
 

Prayer

God of mercy, love and peace,
teach us to hold your ways in mind
in the face of provocation,
hatred, violence and anger.
May we learn
to cut the corners of cloaks off,
rather than cutting the corner
of reason and discussion
and going straight to conflict.  Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark is the URC Minister of the Bridport and Dorchester Joint Pastorate (Methodist & URC)

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 28th October 2018

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 28/10/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 28th October 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 70

1 Make haste, O God, to save me;
O LORD, come to my aid.
2 May those who seek to kill me
be utterly dismayed.
May all who seek my ruin
be turned back in disgrace,
3 And may all those who mock me
with shame their steps retrace.

4 But may all those who seek you
rejoice in you always;
May those who love salvation
say, “To our God be praise!”
5 Yet I am poor and needy;
come quickly, God, I pray.
You are my help and saviour;
O LORD, do not delay.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Bremen here
Reflection Psalms can be used in a variety of circumstances. The words of Psalm 70 with a few minor but significant changes are also found in Psalm 40:13-17. It is difficult to date the Psalms but generally Psalm 70 is considered the older. Psalm 70 uses the word Elohim, translated in the English as God in verses 1 and 4 as opposed to YHWH, 'the Lord', in Psalm 40. Psalm 70 is regarded as the lament of an individual whereas Psalm 40 is one of thanksgiving.

In the first half of the Psalm the Psalmist asks for help in face of opposition,. Unusually unlike the plea in many Psalms the Psalmist does not ask for enemies to be destroyed. The Psalmist essentially wants them to turn round and flee, rather like a retreating army.

The Psalmist goes on to reflect upon those who are faithful to God. The Psalmist urges those who seek God to rejoice and praise. The Psalmist has moved beyond personal need to pray for others. Then right at the end the Psalmist returns to the plea made at the beginning for God to make haste to save and begs God not to delay.

Psalm 70 is not long;  it does not contain glorious, memorable lines but it can be applied to a variety of situations. If we use it in prayer, we may feel it does not particularly apply to us but even so we may realise the Psalm speaks to others in need of God's help, a help that needs to quickly come.
Common Worship of the Church of England in the opening responses for morning and evening prayer uses words long used in monastic worship:

O God, make speed to save us:
O Lord, make haste to help us.
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
we thank you for the psalmists,
whose words through the ages have addressed human need and concerns.
Whose words speak to our own condition,
with deep sighs of lamentation,
with songs of praise,
with words that bring comfort in distress.
We give thanks  and pray for those
whose concerns are deep,
whose troubles are life sapping.
We pray, God,
that you will quickly help and save...
In Christ's name we pray.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr David Whiting, Minister, Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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