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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 21st October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - 16 hours 28 min ago
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Wednesday 21st October 2020 - 2 Thessalonians - The Coming of the Lord

2 Thessalonians 2: 1 - 12 

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters,  not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.  He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?  And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes.  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. 

The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false,  so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.

Reflection

This is not the language of most URC sermons. The Elders’ Meeting is more likely to be agitated about M&M contributions to central funds than the Second Coming.  Our Church Meeting minutes rarely mention Satan.

But try reading the passage again treating “lawless” not as literally meaning breaking Parliament’s laws but as meaning a disorderly environment, where the usual rules have stopped applying and the things that give us a secure framework within which to run our lives have been snatched away.  Then Paul could be talking about a year dominated by Coronavirus.  There is a clear battle to be won, against a virus that showers death on us. In the midst of the turmoil, we can be “shaken” and “alarmed”, even stop gathering round Jesus, but Paul assures us that one battle is not the war and God’s ultimate sovereignty remains certain.    
 

Possibly Paul was actually thinking of the political turmoil in the Roman Empire around the assassination in AD41 of the horrendous Emperor Caligula, whose treatment of the Jews was especially despicable. So we could also hear in this passage a recognition that sometimes the world suffers leaders with unlimited capacity for self-deception and self-promotion, who imagine they have the wisdom of gods. In fact they create instability that can infect the lives of millions with anxiety and worse. Such leaders will not have the last word either.

Then there are the more subtle empires of thought patterns. Those who are “lawless” by hiding the reality of God through claiming that God does not exist and that to be responsible in education or broadcasting we have to base work on the assumption there is no God. Paul reminds us there is a battle to be fought there just as much as against a virus or an evil empire.   

Prayer

Sovereign Lord,
How we long for your Kingdom to come.
But while the “mystery of lawlessness” surrounds us:
          save us from being engulfed
          show us the battles we need to fight
          strengthen us for what we are called to do
give us peace about the battles we need to leave to you.
 Your Kingdom come and your will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Amen.   -->

Today's writer

John Ellis is the Synod Area Leader for West Kent and East Sussex and Secretary of Capel United Church Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 20th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 20/10/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 20th October 2020 - 2 Thessalonians - Punishment of the Wicked

2 Thessalonians 1: 5 - 12

This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marvelled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection

As a non-scientist, I find seeds amazing.  They start covered up by soil, buried as if dead.  Yet the longing for sunlight is so strong, that they push through, determined to find the sun. 

Humans are not so different.  Some days we want to stay hidden underneath our duvets.  We sigh, “God, there’s just too much suffering, hate, greed, anger, apathy, just too much to do… How long oh LORD?”   Yet something or someone draws us up from underneath our duvets.  Maybe work?  Maybe a loved one?  Maybe hunger? 

“Just have hope” people might say.  “Be more positive.” 

No - I want to be honest here.  When the world does not look like the kingdom community of God that we pray and work towards every day, when the injustice and hate in the world scream louder than the whispers of kindness and mercy, it is difficult to maintain a perspective of hope.  Even for Christians - the people who are meant to embody the hope of Christ - hope can be difficult to find or even see sometimes.  

In this part of this letter to the Thessalonians, the author is reminding the people what Christian hope looks like – “the righteous judgement of God.”  That Greek word often translated at righteous, also means just.  After all, how could something be right in God’s eyes and not just?  God’s people have longed for the righteous judgement of God all throughout the story of scripture, and here we see that Jesus returning will finally bring that righteous judgment about.

The author doesn’t write these words to scare the Thessalonians into submission to God.  The author is NOT saying, “Follow God’s rules or Jesus is gonna get you with his mighty flaming angels.”  Rather, the author is saying, “Keep pushing your way through the soil.  Keep growing in Christ.  God’s glory will shine.  You will see it.”

Prayer

Jesus,
Help us to see you when we can’t.
When our path seems hidden, help us to keep moving towards your justice, righteousness and kindness.
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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 19th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 19/10/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 19th October 2020 - 2 Thessalonians - Encouragement

2 Thessalonians 1: 1 - 4

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

Reflection

Maya Angelou, a black American poet and civil rights activist, wrote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Other encouraging words are: “Be kind, be loving, keep smiling.” There are times when we don’t feel like, but doing it anyway definitely helps. When we have doubts about our ability, it’s amazing when someone says, “Of course you can do it.” 

Knowing that his words would fill the Thessalonian believers with the humble desire to do better, Paul praised them for their growing faith despite tremendous persecution. He gave thanks for their increasing faith and love in difficult circumstances. The Thessalonians have set an example for us as Christians to follow. Difficult circumstances are not excuses for us to lose faith. On the contrary, they are opportunities for our faith to grow.

The Thessalonians demonstrated patience. They endured in spite of hardships. They took their suffering and used it in positive, creative ways. In doing so, they showed love to each other. Paul also praised the Thessalonians for their abounding love toward each other. Rather than living according to their own self-interest, as suffering people often do, the Thessalonian believers had reached out to one another.  Their persevering patience testified to God’s power and the reality of their faith---things that Paul could boast about to other churches - meaning that Paul could hold up the Thessalonian believers as good examples.

God’s grace and peace allow us to grow in every area of our lives, including our love for others.  We can glorify God when we live our lives to our very best, when we do the greatest thing even when the wrong things are happening all around us, and when we can give encouragement to others.
 
Prayer

God, there have been times of weariness or fear and times when we feel ready to give up, but always at the right time there came a note or a call from someone that you have lovingly placed in our lives. 

Thank you that you are a God of encouragement, and that we have your Holy Spirit to help and to comfort in times of need.   Show us how we can best be an encouragement to others.   Amen.
 
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Sue Henderson, retired minister and member of Bradford on Avon United Church  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Worship for Sunday 18th October 2020 - The Rev'd Angela Rigby

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 18/10/2020 - 09:45
96 Worship for Sunday 18th October 2020 - The Rev'd Angela Rigby 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.
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 18th October 2020
 
 
The Rev’d Angela Rigby
Introduction
 
Hello Church!  My name is Rev Angela Rigby, and I’m currently serving at Christ Church URC in Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC in Sevenoaks.  These two towns are in the home county called Kent, also known as the Garden of England.  In some ways, where I am now is very different from St Helens in Merseyside, where I lived for twenty years prior to moving to Tonbridge.  However in some ways, Tonbridge and St Helens are very similar.  God is still God.  And I am blessed to be part of the body of Christ, co-labouring with others for God’s kingdom community in this part of England.
 
As you may hear from my accent, I am originally from Tennessee in the United States, and in my sermon, I will be drawing from my culture and history a little bit.  Hopefully I will do this in a way that helps you consider God’s word and how you might apply it in your life, wherever you find yourself today.  Now let us approach God together in worship as we share in our Call to Worship.
 
Call to Worship
 
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
 
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
 
Be Thou My Vision
Irish Traditional

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art
be Thou my best thought, in the day and the night;
both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.
 
2: Be Thou my wisdom, be Thou my true word;
Be Thou ever with thee and I with thee, Lord.
be Thou my great Father; and I Thy true child,
be Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one.
 
3: Be Thou my breastplate my sword for the fight
be Thou my whole armour be Thou my true might
be Thou my storm’s shelter be Thou my strong tower.
O raise thou me heavenward great Power of my power.
 
4: High king of heaven, thou Heaven’s bright sun!
O grant me its joys after victory is won
great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Holy God, this world is Your creation: Let the nations take note
 
You created people to help each other and to share what You had created: Let the nations take note
 
In Your kindness God, You created places to make homes, food to eat, and people to share them with: God we thank You.
 
In Your righteousness, You created justice and peace and laid plans for how we should live together in community.  God we thank You.
 
In your holiness, You created the world in an ordered way, yet we have polluted Your world.  God we are sorry
 
We polluted Your world with violence and war.  We polluted Your world with racism and nationalism.  We polluted Your world with economic greed and injustice.
 
God we are sorry. God help us to live together in community, so that when people look at us, they see You. Amen.
 
“The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah… No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.  For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  Hebrews 8:8, 11-12 NIV
 
Prayer of illumination
 
God, as we listen to today’s Bible reading, by Your Spirit, speak to us we pray.  Help us to receive your word and to respond in a way that honours You and helps build Your Kingdom community on earth as in heaven. Amen.
 
Reading:  Matthew 22:15-22 (NIV UK)
 
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.  They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.  Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius,  and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
 
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Adapted from an old African American Spiritual by Alilce Wine in 1956.
 
Paul and Silas bound in jail had no money for to go their bail.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.
 
Hold on, hold on. Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on
 
Paul and Silas began to shout. Jail door opened and they walked out
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.
 
I got my hand on the gospel plough;
wouldn't take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.
 
Well the only thing we did wrong –
stayed in the wilderness a day too long
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.
The only thing that we did right was the day we started to fight.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on
 
We met jail and violence too but God's love will see us through.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on
 
Only chain that we can stand is the chain o' hand to hand.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on
 
Sermon
 
In the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s, the song “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” became the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.  The song is an evolution of the hymn “Gospel Plough.”  Both the hymn and the song are about staying focussed on the goal. 
 
When times get tough – and times will get tough  when you start to get resistance to change – and there will be resistance to change.
 
Stay focussed.  Remember why you are there.  Don’t let whoever or whatever knock you off course.
 
Staying focussed was important, especially in a movement of nonviolent resistance such as the one Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr led.
 
It was the 1950s and 1960s, and in the Southern states especially, there was a lot of resistance to change from legal authorities – police, state troopers, local mayors, city councils, and state governors.  Many white people in power wanted African-Americans to “stay in their place,” and they wanted to be the ones to define where that place was.  That is after all the heart of segregation and the lie of “separate but equal.”
 
Most police officers are different now, but back then in the Southern states, the police officer or state trooper that showed up at any nonviolent protest most likely had two thoughts in mind.  Either, the protesting African-American needed to submit to the legal authorities and go back to “his or her place”, or the protesting African-American needed to lose their temper.  In my opinion, the tactics by the legal authorities were to elicit one response or another.  If the African-American lost their temper, then the police or state trooper would have felt justified in beating, arresting or even killing the protestor.
 
To sing a song like “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” when you are face to face with state troopers, Alsatians, and water cannons is to be reminded to stay focussed.  The nonviolent resistance movement only works if it stays nonviolent.  Once the protestors become violent, they’ve lost.  So – “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.”  Stay focussed on the goal.  The goal isn’t being better than the state troopers in front of you.  The goal is freedom for an entire people, which for that generation started with voting rights and the end to segregation. 
 
I was reminded of this song and the American Civil Rights movement as I read today’s passage.
 
In His response to the question being asked by the Pharisees via the Herodians, Jesus demonstrates that He remains focussed on His goal – the kingdom community of God.
 
The first line of our reading today was: “Then, the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Jesus in his words.”
 
This whole conversation was a lie.  The Pharisees really didn’t care what Jesus’ thoughts on the Poll Tax were.  They laid a trap to stop Jesus.  “Let’s see if we can get Jesus to say something that will get him in trouble with the Roman Empire,” they thought.  “Or, even better, let’s see if he will say something that will cause him to lose favour with the people following him around.”
 
The Pharisees hated Roman rule and would have hated the Poll Tax, along with most of the people to be fair.  The Herodians on the other hand worked with the Roman Empire in support of King Herod.  Their obedience in regards to taxes helped them preserve what little power and status Rome allowed them to have.  The two were unlikely friends. So for the Pharisees to ask the Herodians to ask this question was part of the trap.
 
It was a simple enough question:  “Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not?  Yes or no, Jesus?”  Either answer would have had signalled something to someone.
 
“Yes” would have signalled to the Jewish people that Jesus was out of touch with them.  You can almost hear the comments.  “Jesus is sympathetic to the Roman Empire?  How on earth can he possibly be the Messiah then?  Everybody hates the Poll Tax!  Surely if Jesus is our Messiah, he would too?”
 
The answer “no” would have signalled to the Herodians and to the Roman Empire that Jesus was leading a rebellion.  “He is inciting the people against Caesar,” they would think as they arrested him.
Either answer would have landed Jesus into a mess.  But Jesus isn’t phased by the question.  His hand is on the gospel plough.  His eyes are on the prize. 
 
He ponders the question and gives a witty answer.  An answer that is neither yes nor no.  An answer that neatly sits on the fence, but could come down on either side quite easily depending on who was listening.
A fellow Jew would hear, “Too right, Jesus.  Give to God what is God’s, and it is all God’s.” 
 
A listening Roman soldier would hear, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and since it is all Caesar’s that works out well for the Empire.”
I suppose a good preacher would point out the civic lesson here:  we do have a responsibility to live responsibly.  Obey the laws.  Pay our taxes.  Etcetera, etcetera… 
 
But for me today – this whole Q&A session isn’t the point.  This whole conversation is a lie.  It’s a trap.  It’s a state trooper with an Alsatian and a water cannon.
 
I want to focus on how Jesus dealt with this trap.
 
Clearly, he saw it coming.  But rather than get entangled in their word trap, Jesus refocuses the conversation back to what Jesus is interested in – the Kingdom community of God.  That’s His prize.  And for Jesus, the Kingdom community of God is not limited to some place and somewhere else in time.  It isn’t some celestial parallel world. 
 
For Jesus, the Kingdom community of God was “at hand” and “among you”.  It was both to come and yet breaking forth right now wherever they were.  It was to be a lived experience now (at least in part), as well as an experience to be fully realised one day.
 
I admire Jesus’ focus.  Jesus knows what he is about.  Jesus doesn’t get entangled in the political jostling of the day, but He doesn’t ignore it either.  In His answer, He rose above it. 
 
In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama famously said, “When they go low, we go high.”  In her speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2020, she said that many people have asked her if going high still works when so many people are going low and using inhumane tactics.  She responded by saying, “Going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanising others, we just become part of the ugly noise that is drowning out everything else.  We degrade ourselves and we degrade the very causes for which we fight…going high means taking the harder path…standing fierce against hatred…going high means unblocking the shackles of lies and mistrust…”
 
It’s the same with the Kingdom community of God.  A community that is to reflect the character of God needs to be formed of people who also reflect the character of God.  Jeremiah 9:24 tells us that God’s character is just, righteous and kind.  We know from Galatians 5:22-23 that if the Spirit of God is at work among us, we will see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  How we co-labour with Christ matters.
 
Every day the trap is set – by tweets, arguments on social media, or something a politician or presenter says on a talk show.  It’s up to us to stay focussed on the kingdom community of God.  To stand up for the character and qualities that drew each of us to God in the first place.  It’s up to us to advocate for those in the places we find ourselves every day.
Instead of getting distracted by words, let’s keep our hands on the gospel plough and our eyes on the prize.
 
Siblings in Christ, hold on.
 
Jesus be the Centre
Michael Frye © Vineyard
 
Jesus, be the centre; be my source, be my light, Jesus.
 
Jesus, be the centre; be my hope, be my song, Jesus.
 
Be the fire in my heart. Be the wind in these sails.
Be the reason that I live, Jesus, Jesus.
 
Jesus, be my vision, be my path, be my guide, Jesus,
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
 
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
 
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.

This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen.
 
Offertory
 
The offertory is an important part of our tradition of worship.  And although we won’t be passing an offertory plate at your home – or even in church buildings these days! – you might want to take this moment to put some cash into your freewill offering envelope and put it somewhere safe until it can be collected by your local church.  You might also want to remember any local charities that are special to you.  Many are struggling as the events where they raised money or collected donations in 2020 were cancelled.  Many of them find themselves with less money, more work and fewer workers to do that work.  You might want to think about how you might reach out to them with some support.

Prayer
 
Loving God, you give to us beyond measure, you give to us without counting the cost.  Accept whatever giving I can offer and use it that life may flourish and your Kingdom community come.  Amen.
 
Intercessions
 
God, we bring to You our prayers.
 
We pray for those who are feeling lonely or isolated.  God, comfort them with Your presence.  May people reach out to them in Covid safe ways.  Help us to create community, safe spaces of comfort in these difficult times.
 
We pray for those who are anxious.  God, comfort them with Your peace.  May they hear words of calm and not chaos.  May they hear words of gentleness and not confusion.
 
We pray for those who mourn.  God, comfort them with Your love.  May memories comfort and console.
 
We pray for those who celebrate love.  We thank You for those able to finally begin married life together.  May these couples have strong loving marriages with You at the centre.
 
And in this moment of quiet, we bring to You our own concerns and prayers…
 
God of justice, righteousness, and kindness, we pray together the words of Amos 5:24:
 
“May justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream”
 
Amen
 
Let us we pray together the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray.
 
Our Father
 
How Can I keep from Singing
(adapted from an American Shaker Hymn)
 
My life goes on in endless song
above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real,
though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.
 
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that Rock, I’m clinging.
Since Love prevails in heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?
 
2: While though the tempest
round me roars,
I know the Truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness
round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.
 
3: I lift my eyes.
The cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it.
And day by day,
this pathway smooths,
since first I learned to love it.

No storm can shake my inmost calm, I hear the music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?
 
Blessing
 
Go now – back to your home, school, university or workplace.
Go – back to family, friends, and colleagues.
Take God’s spirit with you and share the word you heard God speak to you today.
 
Let us share the words of the Grace together.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore.  Amen
 
 
 Sources and Thanks

Call To Worship from Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary from the Presbyterian Church of the USA
Affirmation of Faith from selected sections of the Belhar Confession of Faith.
Offertory adapted from the Rev’d Phil Nevard’s used on 29 March 2020 with permission.
All other prayers by Angela Rigby
 
Be Thou My Vision from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock
Jesus Be the Centre Ingrid DuMosch, The London Fox Singers, Shout! - Top 100 Praise & Worship Songs Volume 1
How Can I Keep From Singing by the New York City Virtual Choir. 
 
Opening Organ Piece Ach Gott Von Himmel Sieh Darein (“O God from heaven see this”) by Johann Pachelbel (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020). Closing:  Toccata in Seven by John Rutter (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)  Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776
 
Thanks to Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith, and to David and Christine Shimmin, Marion Thomas, Anne Hewling, Lorraine Webb, and John Young for reading and recording other 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 18th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 18/10/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Sunday 18th October 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 18th October 2020 - Psalm 19

The stars declare his glory;
the vault of heaven springs
mute witness of the Master's hand
in all created things,
and through the silences of space
their soundless music sings.

The dawn returns in splendour,
the heavens burn and blaze,
the rising sun renews the race
that measures all our days,
and writes in fire across the skies
God's majesty and praise.

So shine the Lord's commandments
to make the simple wise;
more sweet than honey to the taste,
more rich than any prize,
a law of love within our hearts,
a light before our eyes.

So order too this life of mine,
direct it all my days;
the meditations of my heart
be innocence and praise,
my Rock, and my redeeming Lord,
in all my words and ways.

Timothy Dudley Smith © 1981 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188

You can hear v1 here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-I6gX9UtP8

Reflection

Spirit of God, present within the beat of our hearts, the pulse of our neighbour, and within all of life – but we still lift our eyes to acknowledge your presence.

The bluest of skies, the darkest of nights, the stampede of clouds and the glitter of stars – all speak of glory, of the splendour of Creation in its infinite and finite expressions.

As we orbit the sun, and the moon runs its course, events uncountable occur. Lessons are learned and forgotten, relationships born and broken, changes made and resisted, yet there is no single voice, or a unified account. But still, if we could but hear it, a chorus made up of billions of sounds blast forth from our tiny corner of the universe.

Within the spark of Creation, the laws were set, the constants determined, and through the ages our understanding has, and continues, to develop, deepen and dilate. From rejoicing with the dawn, to placing ourselves at the centre, to seeing that we are but one orbiting planet in a galaxy, to whatever we discover in the future; in faith, in trust, we name God, within, around and beyond all that is.

In all that speaks of perfection, wisdom, simplicity, justice, clarity, purity, eternity, and truth; in faith, in trust, we name God, within, around and beyond all that is.

In all that enlivens our spirits, heightens our confidence, causes us to rejoice, gives us clarity of vision, makes us awestruck and feel blameless; in faith, in trust, we name God, within, around and beyond all that is.

For us to reflect God’s glory, is beyond price and the sweetest of rewards.

For us to deflect God’s glory, is too often our true nature and we are called to search ourselves, challenge our assumptions, be of humble heart, and place ourselves at the service of God’s Kingdom.

Prayer

Let the words we speak, and the thoughts we keep to ourselves, both be acceptable to God. God, Spirit within, ground of our being and our continual Saviour. Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d David Coaker serves with Grays URC in Essex. Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 17th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 17/10/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 17th October 2020 - 1 Thessalonians - Closing Prayer and Farewell

1 Thessalonians 5: 23 - 28

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. Beloved, pray for us. Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.  I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Reflection

Paul's warm tone shows how much he loves and appreciates the Thessalonian Christians.  He prays that God will help them remain holy until Christ returns again. ‘Observe the affection of the teacher’ says St John Chrysostom of Paul’s benediction to this letter.

The blessing might well remind folk of Paul’s leading the church’s worship in person: for words such as these seem characteristic of Paul’s farewell greetings.  However this is not an ‘all purpose’ blessing.  We find it is directed specifically to the needs of the church.
‘The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ troubled church members in Thessaly.  At least some were agonizing about their state of readiness to be judged by Christ, with this anxiety colouring their whole lives.  Paul took time to reassure the church; and here we find Paul’s calming words echoing in his benediction.  It is the God of peace to whom they have already dedicated themselves, who will complete their sanctification.  Their being made holy is both a gift and a goal. God’s promises to them in Christ remain true.  It is a reassurance that echoes down the centuries to all who are worried about the future.

When Paul urges the church to pray for him, we get a glimpse of his need for support. He is aware of the great responsibility laid upon him in bringing the Gospel to many people.  I wonder how many in the church regularly pray for their leaders in all aspects of our church life?  Such support is needed more than ever in these days of affliction by a global pandemic.  The ‘holy kiss’, one to the other, enjoined by Paul, must perforce be a virtual one these days, but no less valued.  
 

To this very day we commend each other to Christ’s favour and kindness.

Prayer

‘Count your blessings name them one by one…’
How much we need blessing, gracious God,
and how quickly we forget your generosity.
May your Spirit’s reassuring presence today
gather us together in praise of your goodness.
In the life of faith in Jesus Christ may our lives
flourish as you have promised.
Never forget us, and walk life’s way with us,
for that is blessing indeed. Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John A Young, retired minister National Synod of Scotland, Member Giffnock URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion  Friday 16th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 16/10/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 16th October  2020 1 Thessalonians - Closing Remarks

1 Thessalonians 5: 12 - 21

But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets,  but test everything; hold fast to what is good;  abstain from every form of evil.

Reflection

As often at the end of a NT epistle, lots of good stuff about Christian living, relevant to every age. While to us it sounds like sound Christian teaching, for the new converts who heard it first, some of these instructions would be radically different to their former way of life.  Writing this in Coronavirus lockdown, the whole country is respecting those who labour among us and esteeming them highly because of their work: NHS workers, care staff, all involved in food production and supply, teachers, waste disposal workers and many more, some of them people we take for granted and only now realise fully the immense value of what they do.

But in fact, Paul is inviting respect for people working among the Thessalonians to build up the church, those with oversight and responsibility.  So let’s be thankful too for church ministers, CRCWs, moderators and all those who work in our denomination (and others), even when what they say is challenging or difficult. 

A minister’s role has been defined as ‘comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’ – or, as Paul says here to an individual leader, give a kick to some, get people who think they can’t do things to have a go, help the weak, give encouragement, and be patient with everyone, treating them as individuals loved by God.

Paul also warns us to be careful with what we hear, testing everything: again, relevant in these days of fake news, scams and phishing emails.  Don’t believe everything you hear but test to see if it is genuine.  How do we recognise the authentic word of God in our information-loaded lives? Seeking to do good, praying and rejoicing, working to reach consensus in our Church meetings on where the Spirit is leading, and abstaining from evil, are all things that are commended to us.

Prayer

Lord we thank you for calling women and men
from all backgrounds into ministry,

both as ordained and lay people,
to build up your Kingdom in love.

Give wisdom, discernment and patience
to all who work alongside people at times of need,

in good times and difficult times. 
May they be guided by your Spirit always.

Amen
 
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Today's writer

Ruth Tompsett is an elder at Newport Pagnell URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 15th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 15/10/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 15th October 2020 1 Thessalonians Stay-Awake

1 Thessalonians 5: 4 - 11

But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.  So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;  for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Reflection

Four days before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his very last Sunday sermon in the National Cathedral in Washington DC. He recounted Washington Irving’s story of Rip van Winkle, who slept through the American Revolutionary War. History was turning and old Rip missed the moment. King was afraid that day that America and the world was missing theirs.

Contrary to our romanticized view of King, at the time of his murder he was the most hated man in the country by all races. The world was at a fevered pitch, and in a few days his death would tip the scales of unrest. The world on 31 March 1968 was not the most jovial, and yet the unpopular King told a city about to burst open, “We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in a single garment of destiny…I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be…” and vice versa.

Paul writes to a church for whom tribulations are a constant theme. They, too, are unpopular in a city where the cultic religions hold supreme influence. They have experienced much grief—sleep is the metaphor he’s been using to describe the many in Thessalonica who have died. But in verse 6, he uses a different word for sleep that connotes moral dullness. Paul celebrates the church for what they do well, but at the same time he warns them of spiritual boredom. Imagine: a boring church! A belief in the Second Coming can cause one to say, “what’s the point?”

This may be the question so many people of faith are asking in this year of quarantines, death and unrest. What’s the point of being the church when we are without our rituals and buildings as we know them? Paul answers our ‘what’ with a reminder of who we are: children of light who are not caught off guard by the dark. Faith lived for real keeps us on our toes, ready to find new ways of discovering the sacred and being sacred in the world.

Stay awake for the great revolution!

Prayer

God, You hold us in arms of compassion even as you keep us on our toes. When the frights of life make us sleepless, may the pursuit of your peace keep us awake.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d William Young, pastor, Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington DC 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 Really is Coming....

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 14/10/2020 - 10:52
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The best laid plans...

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service will be lead by the Rev'd Angela Rigby, not Canon Angela Tilby!  I think I must have been listening to or thinking about the latter and type her name into the promotional email!  

best wishes

Andy --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->
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Sunday's Coming

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 14/10/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service is led by the Rev'd Angela Tilby and explores Jesus' command to pay one's taxes.  The hymns include Be Thou My Vision, Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock, Jesus Be the Centre and the New York City Virtual Choir's  How Can I Keep From Singing
 
The service will be sent out, as normal, at 9.45 on Sunday morning for a 10am start.  If you have any problems receiving it please read on for advice.

with every good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
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If, however, the email isn't in your Spam/Junk folder please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read it there.  

Finally, a reminder if you need to change your email address please use the link, below, "update your preferences".   
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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 14th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 14/10/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 14th October 2020 1 Thessalonians - Wait for the Lord

1 Thessalonians 5: 1 - 3

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters,  you do not need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape!

Reflection

“You know very well,” says Paul, “that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  This theological statement is rooted in his congregation’s everyday reality.  Although the Roman Empire was technologically very sophisticated, it had never mastered the forces of nature.  Storms, plagues, earthquakes and volcanoes could turn life upside down at any moment, with no warning – just as criminals could.  The Roman Empire’s claim of offering “peace and security” was – ordinary people knew – pretty hollow.  This was a natural metaphor for the disruption of the world that would signal the arrival of the true peace and security of God’s Empire.

We post-War baby boomers have lived through a most unusual period in human history when it appeared that the western European empire in which we lived could indeed offer peace and security.  We need not fear war; nature had largely been tamed (at least in our part of the world); and even crime rates were down.  Passages such as these therefore puzzle us, as they fail to connect with our lives. The God they describe seems rather vindictive – why would He want to disrupt our peaceful existence in this way?

It may be that 2020 will come to be seen as the year when all that changed.  A global pandemic – preceded for us in south Wales by destructive floods – have shown us a nature far from tamed.  The floods came like a thief in the night; the arrival of COVID-19 was sudden.  Perhaps we can now reconnect with Paul’s apocalyptic theology.  It turns out that we are after all dependent on nature. The Empire in which we trusted has failed to protect us as promised – indeed, some of its actions have made things worse.  There is no escape from our need for God.

Prayer

Creative, powerful, world-overturning God,
we have for too long relied on the peace and security
offered by political systems and possessions.
Forgive us for trying to escape from your presence,
for dismissing the Biblical passages which talk of your judgement,
for praying for our comfortable life to carry on as ‘normal’,
for resisting the coming of your Day.
Wake us up to the coming of your Kingdom
and prepare us to meet you.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Gethin Rhys is Policy Officer for Cytun (Churches together in Wales) and a member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 13th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 13/10/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 13th October 2020 1 Thessalonians - The Lord’s Coming

1 Thessalonians 4: 13 - 18

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.  For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Reflection

Few people go through life without experiencing the pain of bereavement or without having to go through a time of grief. It is one of the wonders of human life that we are able to love each other so deeply that we grieve, sometimes so profoundly, for those who die. Of course, the particulars of every experience are different, but grief is an experience we can recognise across the years. And here is a Christian writing to other Christians, who are grieving. It may be that their grief was made worse because of fears that, by dying before Jesus had returned, their loved ones would not rise with Christ. But, whatever the specific situation, this piece of this letter offers something to anyone of us who might read it. Paul does not tell these Christians in Thessaloniki not to grieve, that death is nothing at all, or that those for whom they grieve have gone into the next room or ‘passed away’.  He tells them to grieve, but not to grieve ‘as others do who have no hope’. 

There is no escape from the pain, or the work, of grief. As someone once said, ‘the only way through it is through it’. However, we grieve, as Christian people, in a context of hope. Just as Jesus died and rose again, just as death could not defeat him, so death does not have the final victory over our lives, or the lives of those who have already died. 

Few of us might feel we can say more than this, about times and seasons. But the Christian faith is founded on the conviction that even the deepest pain and wounds of human life, those profound experiences of grief and loss, can be framed with hope.   

Prayer

O God,
who knows my heart,
give me grace to grieve,
when I must,

with the fierce courage
that love demands,

and the hope
that faith inspires,
in the name of Jesus,

the Risen One, Amen.

 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is  Minister of Taunton United Reformed Church Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Monday 12th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 12/10/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 12th October 2020 - 1 Thessalonians - Live in Holiness and Charity

1 Thessalonians 4: 1 - 12

Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication;  that each one of you knows how to control your own body  in holiness and honour,  not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;  that no one wrongs or exploits a brother or sister  in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.  Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another;  and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more,  to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you,  so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Reflection

At ordination and induction ministers and church related community workers make solemn vows including the, rather catch all, promise to live a holy life.  Despite creative attempts to be unholy the URC has never fully defined what holiness, in that context, actually is.  

In today’s passage Paul puts some meat on the bones for believers in the earliest Church.    These new believers had to work out how to be faithful to Christ where Christianity was alien to the ideologies and practices of the age.  Paul, the observant Jew,  was horrified by the sexual mores of Roman society and here, clearly, is concerned that these new converts don’t wallow in Gentile sin.  He doesn’t limit his view of holiness to sexual morality, however.  Loving one another, supporting other communities of believers and keeping one’s head down were all forms of commended behaviour.  The earliest believers had to find a balance between living a radical commitment to Christ, being different from the people around them in terms of belief and behaviour and, at the same time, having to live quietly and attend to their own affairs to avoid persecution.

We also live in a time which is not that unlike Paul’s.  We live in a society with only limited knowledge of the claims of Christianity, where morals (and not just sexual ones) seem different to what’s gone before and where we debate the rights and wrongs of that.  We too need to support others - other believers as well as those who are vulnerable and oppressed by our economic and social systems.  Around the world believers still need to keep their heads down - not so much as a form of holiness but of survival.

Like the earliest believers we are called to be holy; what that means for us is informed by Paul’s words but has to be worked out, even in fear and trembling, in our own contexts.

Prayer

O God, from whom all holy desires, 
all good counsels,
and all just works do proceed;
give unto thy servants that peace which the world cannot give;
that both, our hearts may be set to obey thy commandments,
and also that, by thee,
we being defended from the fear of our enemies
may pass our time in rest and quietness;
through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Verena Walder Lay Preacher  and Local Church  Leader Tabernacle, Mumbles Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Daily Devotion Service for Sunday 11th October 2020 - The Rev'd John Grundy

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 11/10/2020 - 10:01
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 11th October 2020
 
 
The Rev’d John Grundy

Introduction
 
Good morning and welcome to worship and out time together today.  My name is John Grundy and I am delighted to serve as the Minister of St. Andrew’s Brockley and St. Michael’s in the Milton Court Estate in New Cross, both of which are in South East London.  St. Michael’s is an Ecumenical Partnership with the Church of England.
 
Most of today’s service I will be leading from the sanctuary at St. Andrew’s but for the Communion portion of our service, we will be in St. Michael’s.  If you would like to see our churches to get a better sense of where I am speaking from, please do have a look at our website: www.standrewsbrockley.com.
 
Today we will be sharing in Holy Communion together and the invitation is for all of us to share this. I invite you to have some bread and wine, or whatever suitable alternative you have, ready for that part of the service.
With people we know, with people we will likely never meet, as the gathered people of Jesus together, let’s pause and prepare to worship.
 
Call To Worship
 
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
 
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
 
Jesus Calls Us Here to Meet Him
John Bell and Graham Moule  © Wild Goose Resource Worship Group
 
Jesus calls us here to meet him
as through word & song & prayer
we affirm God’s promised presence
where his people live and care.
Praise the God who keeps his promise;
praise the Son who calls us friends;
praise the Spirit who, among us,
to our hopes and fears attends.
 
2: Jesus calls us to confess him
Word of Life and Lord of All,
sharer of our flesh and frailness
saving all who fail or fall.
Tell his holy human story;
tell his tales that all may hear;
tell the world that Christ in glory
came to earth to meet us here.
 
3: Jesus calls us to each other:
found in him are no divides.
Race and class and sex and language -
such are barriers he derides.
Join the hand of friend and stranger;
join the hands of age and youth;
join the faithful and the doubter
in their common search for truth.
  
Prayers Of Approach
 
God of the journey, we gather together, from wherever we are to worship and praise you. We realise that we can’t know what will come next or what the future holds  but we thank you for inviting us to walk with you. When life becomes challenging, we thank you for being there, for wanting to journey with us, for offering hope when hope seems fleeting  and peace when peace is hard to see.
 
Loving God, sometimes life feels overwhelming and we forget where to place our faith, at times we get pulled by distractions and brighter lights. We forget you, we disregard to care for other people and their feelings, we neglect ourselves, our own wellbeing, our own hopes and dreams.
 
We bring all of those things we aren’t proud of, the things we didn’t do, the things we did, what we said, when we avoided ‘that’ person… and we lay it all down before you.
 
(pause)
 
Forgiving God, we thank you for renewing us for forgiving us and for breathing your love into us. We continue in prayer as we share the words of The Lord’s Prayer together:
 
Our Father…
 
Reading: St Matthew 22: 1-14
 
Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying:  “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come.  Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’  But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.  The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.  Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy.  Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’  Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.
 
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe,  and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  For many are called, but few are chosen.”
 
Thy Hand O God Has Guided
Edward Hayes Plumptre (1821-1891)

Thy hand, O God, has guided
thy flock, from age to age;
the wondrous tale is written,
full clear on every page;
our fathers owned thy goodness,
and we their deeds record;
and both of this bear witness:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.
 
2: Thy heralds brought glad tidings
to greatest as to least;
they bade folk rise and hasten
to share the great King’s feast;
and this was all their teaching
in every deed and word;
to all alike proclaiming:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

3: Thy mercy will not fail us,
nor leave thy work undone;
with thy right hand to help us,
the victory shall be won;
and then, by all creation
thy name shall be adored,
and this shall be their anthem:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.
 
Prayer of illumination:
 
Will you pray with me?

Loving God, take the smallness of the words I share and use them to speak as you need them to be heard. Open our hearts to respond to your calling; open our minds to consider your love at work within us, around us and despite us.  Amen
 
Sermon: 
 
I remember, many years ago, I led worship at my sending church dressed, not in the usual shirt and tie I would wear, but wearing Jeans and a hoody.  Somewhere in the dim corners of my brain I remember there was a really good reason for this, I might have been going straight from church to somewhere else, but that detail is escaping me.
 
Of course, no one commented on the fact I wasn’t wearing a suit and tie but, in my head, I could very loudly hear a disapproving tut from my Grandmother.
 
She was a remarkable person in many ways, as were all of my Grandparents, but Grandma was the one, as children, that we sat with in church.  She did teach me a lot… but somehow never taught me to not fidget!  Grandma came from that almost indestructible generation that lived through the blitz and was, like many people we would see on Sunday’s mornings in the North of Liverpool, someone who always wore a hat and gloves and her Sunday coat to go to church in.
 
What you wore for church mattered not because someone else might judge you, but it was much more because you wore your best clothes as an outward sign of the honour you were paying to God. 
 
I see this still in the members of the churches I was called to serve here in South East London.  Our church family at both of our churches come from across the world, bringing different traditions, experiences and stories… but for all of us, how we honour the Lord’s Day remains important.
 
This parable that Jesus shared is of course about much more than making sure you show up in hats and gloves or a jacket and tie.
 
In some ways, this story could be read as a story of outrageous hospitality.
 
Jesus tells us about a King, a proud father, a proud father who is giving a banquet in honour of his son’s wedding.  Jesus doesn’t tell us which one of his sons this is, but there’s a fairly strong chance that in this parable, Jesus wants us to think about the oldest, the heir to the kingdom.  This could easily be the wedding of this country’s next king. 
 
Like with all of those royal weddings we’ve seen on the television, we can imagine that the list of guests would be packed with the great and the good, the allies, those with power, those the King really wants to show the son off to. So, the king sends the slaves out to get them to come… and all that comes back are insults and refusals.  None of the people with position want to be there.
 
You can see why the king is really angry, any of us might be if we had been insulted, maybe humiliated.  At this point in the story, it pauses.  We get this interesting gap which allows the kings rage to happen.  The troops are called together, they go out, the invited guests are murdered, their cities destroyed.  The banquet is paused for the bloodshed to happen and then the king starts to prepare again.
 
This time though, anyone the slaves can find get brought into the banqueting hall, anyone at all – good, bad, a bit of both – all are called to come and join the party.
 
I like to imagine the face of the never-mentioned bride at this point – by now she will have realised that she has married the son of a really angry king, but all of the guests at her big day have been dragged in off the streets to make the place look fuller than it was.
 
I don’t imagine that’s what any bride would put on her wish-list as she dreams of her special day, but in this parable that is definitely what this poor girl has got.
 
Perhaps she thought the grumpiness of her new Father in law was sort of over with now… but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead of celebrating a job done, a wonderful day sorted, his son and daughter-in-law happily married… the king spots someone not dressed in the way he expected and loses his temper yet again.
 
We have another affront to the already fragile ego of our insulted king – a guest not wearing the correct robes for this occasion.
 
And the guest is thrown from the building, hands and feet bound, thrown into the darkness where there will be gnashing of teeth and weeping!
 
And that’s where Jesus ends this story but really this is a story of reactions, overreactions, and it is overly absurd on purpose.
 
But what this story is though is a bit disturbing. 
 
In many ways Jesus sharing a parable which lays out what disobedience and retribution looks like in the much bigger scripture story.  This story in Matthew 22 forms part of the story of the last week of Jesus’s life.  Immediately before it in Matthew 21, we read “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet”.  Our passage began, “once more Jesus spoke to them in parables”.  This parable is almost Jesus saying - whoa! hang on, I’ve more to say to you… I’m not finished yet.
 
This is another story of insult, and another story of those who should know better not giving due recognition and the honour that they should.  And again, it is those people who should be more aware of what God is doing among them that are at risk of being left behind in the future that Jesus’s parables explore.
 
As I read this passage this week, I wondered if what I needed to see this time was the call to radical and open hospitality?  The king does throw the doors open and does offer this glorious banquet to everyone.  He even calls the man friend… and then spoils it by throwing him into the place of tears and teeth gnashing.
 
I wonder if you feel sorry for that man too.  How could he have got a beautiful wedding robe to wear? He was outside on the streets five minutes ago.
 
We should never take this parable as an excuse to evict people from our churches if they’ve not come that day in hats and gloves or suits and ties  and even, I’m sorry to say it, if they have inadvertently sat in our pew…
 
The way people are dressed isn’t the message of this parable for me.
 
The man was at the banquet, he got in with everyone else – but maybe, we are supposed to think of him as someone who was there but who didn’t take the hugeness of what he was being offered seriously enough? 
 
Sometimes it can be easy to forget just how wonderful that radical open invitation to be part of the transformative life of Jesus really is, and to be in relationship not just with God, with Jesus but with fellow pilgrims journeying together through joys, sadness’s, through challenges: this year through a pandemic?

It would be one thing to just show up.  It’s another thing to be in relationship – ready to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world – that needs us to be ready, together and alone.
 
How wonderful would it be if the whole world stopped worrying about what ‘clothes’ we are wearing, we need to make sure that we are making sure we are clothed, and sharing, love, justice, peace, hope and compassion.  Those are the gifts of God which we can all share. 
 
And what matters more than what we wear is that we strive to live a life without pretence and take seriously the gift of grace that Jesus offers.

We are invited to be in relationship with one another, with God, with Jesus.  Let’s embrace the gift. Amen.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do

Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.

Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.

This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen
 
For Your Generous Providing
© The Rev’d Leith Fisher
 
For your generous providing
which sustain us all our days,
for your Spirit here residing,
we proclaim our heartfelt praise.
Through the depths of joy and sorrow,
though the road be smooth or rough,
fearless, we can face tomorrow
for your grace will be enough.
 
2: Hush our world’s seductive noises
tempting us to stand alone;
save us from the siren voices
calling us to trust our own.
For those snared by earthly treasure,
lured by false security,
Jesus, true and only measure,
spring the trap to set folk free.

3: Round your table, through your giving,
show us how to live and pray
till your kingdom’s way of living
is the bread we share each day:
bread for us and for our neighbour,
bread for body, mind, and soul,
bread of heav’n and human labour –
broken bread that makes us whole.
 
Introduction to offertory:
 
We have been given so much from God: skills, opportunities, relationships and hopes. So let us together consider what we have and how we offer it to God as we pray together.
 
Loving God, we bring ourselves and our gifts for the wider work of your kingdom. Use who we are, what we offer;  all of our experiences and our hopes. Use them to make change within us, around is and despite us,
help us to build community, to share peace and to create spaces of grace. Amen.
 
Prayer of Intercession:

We now approach God in prayer. This service has been recorded in advance so should there have been a huge event happen this week, please know that we are all praying for it and in the silence, I invite you to pray for it too.
 
Loving God, today, we pray for your world, for places and people we know, and those we don’t. We pray for places where there have been wars and disasters: help us to respond to the needs we see as we can.
 
We pray for people who are continuing to shield, or aren’t yet ready to leave home: be with them and support them.
 
We pray for people who are grieving, struggling to move on or needing peace: Loving God, we pray that you will help us to support them as best as we can, at the right time, but help us to know when to listen and not to speak and ‘be’ and not ‘do’.
 
We pray for ourselves, our communities and our churches: Knowing our own issues, local needs and the challenges we all face,  we offer, into the silence, our own private prayers:
 
Gracious God, Hear our prayers
 
We thank you for listening to us,  for hearing our concerns and needs  and for knowing how we can be best held, supported and loved. Loving God, accept these, and all of our prayers, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
 
Holy Communion

As we come to share in Holy Communion, we bring the bread and wine that we prepared earlier and pause as we prepare to share in this meal with one another.
 
Invitation:
 
In our own homes, at our own tables, we meet with Jesus. At our own tables, Jesus calls us to meet him and Jesus knows us. He welcomes us without the need for show,  without the need to be what others expect us to be,  without any baggage that might be weighing us down. Come, together in our own spaces you have been given a welcome.
 
Come and drink of the love of God,  which has been poured out for each of us; Come and taste the bread – the bread which isn’t dependant on the supermarket shelf or the food bank parcel The bread which never spoils, which never grows mould Come and share, come and experience, come and see.
 
Narrative:
 
We hear again the story of that night: While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body’.  Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  Truly, I tell you, I will never again drink the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ (Mark 14: 22-24)
 
We are the friends of Jesus today.  He invites us to break bread together, to remember him and to pray that God’s Kingdom will come.
 
We pray together:
 
Thank you loving God for these gifts which we share  and for the love that you give to us. We meet with you here filled  with your promise of welcome and community. So, we gather here as we are, as you need us to be  and as you have called. Long ago, you welcomed your people to you  and made known your greatness and glory; you sought out the outcast, you welcomed the stranger, you reached outside society’s expectations,  beyond tradition and though the power of empire.
 
Help us to be mirrors of your glory,  to be the people that you need us to be so that  we can shine as beacons of hope and love in your world. Transforming God, we thank you that your Holy Spirit  meets with us and we pray that she will take  these human made gifts and symbols: Wheat harvested, baked and prepared; Grapes picked, trodden and transformed and make them for us your body broken and shared and your blood spilt and poured out and offered. All of this we ask in Jesus’ name… Amen.
 
For all that we are offered here, we thank God, as we gather at our own tables, as we hear again the story, and as we consider the signs of Jesus’s love for us: the cross a sign of Jesus’ arm stretched out in love His empty tomb a declaration that God’s love is greater than human power and stronger than death.
 
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,  Holy, Holy, Holy Lord,
God of power and might,  God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full, Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest!
Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna in the highest!
 
May God’s peace be with you always, with your community and the world we live in.  Amen.
 
Sharing:
 
When Jesus had given thanks, he took bread and broke it and said: “Take and eat, this is my body which is broken for you”
 
When Jesus had given thanks, he gave his cup to those gathered there and said: “Take and drink all of you, for this is the blood of the new covenant spilt for you and for many for the forgiveness of sin”
 
As we follow the example of Jesus, I invite you, if you are able, to hold the bread: This is Jesus’s body broken for you – so let us take and eat.
 
Jesus, Lamb of God, Jesus, Lamb of God,
Jesus, Saviour, have mercy on us!
Jesus, bearing all our sin, Jesus, bearing all our sin,
Jesus, Saviour, have mercy on us!
Jesus, Redeemer of the World, Jesus, Redeemer of the World,
Jesus, Saviour, O give us your peace!
 
I invite you, if you are able, to hold the wine:
The blood of Jesus poured out for each one of us – take it and drink it.
 
Jesus, Lamb of God, Jesus, Lamb of God,
Jesus, Saviour, have mercy on us!
Jesus, bearing all our sin, Jesus, bearing all our sin,
Jesus, Savour, have mercy on us!
Jesus, Redeemer of the World, Jesus, Redeemer of the World,
Jesus, Saviour, O give us your peace!
 
Prayer of thanks
 
Loving God, You have met us here and fed us again, may our hands be prepared to work for you, may our eyes see what you show us, may our ears hear your voice speak to us and call us, may our hearts burn with the hope that you have given to us. We thank you God for all that you have offered to us here, may we respond as you need us to. May we go and tell of your love.  Amen.
 
 
Hymn:  We Are Marching
 
Siyahamb' ekukhanyeni kwenkos, Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos'.
Siyahamb' ekukhanyeni kwenkos', Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos'.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos']
Siyahamba... ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos'.
[ekukhanyeni kwenkos']
Siyahamba... ooh
[Siyahamba, hamba, Siyahamba, hamba]
Siyahamba ekukhanyeni kwenkos'.
 
We are marching in the light of God. We are marching in the light of God.
We are marching in the light of God, we are marching in the light of God.
[in the light of God] We are marching... ooh
[We are marching, marching, we are marching, marching,]
We are marching in the light of God. [the light of God]
We are marching... ooh
[We are marching, marching, we are marching, marching,]
We are marching in the light of God.
 
Benediction
 
We go, strengthened to do the work of Jesus, standing in the gap, extending the invitation to the eternal banquet, rejoicing in God.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone and don’t worry about anything. The God who created you, Jesus who redeems you and the Spirit who empowers you is with you today and ever more. Amen.
 
 
 
Sources and Copyright
 
Call To Worship from Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary from the Presbyterian Church of the USA
Affirmation of Faith from selected sections of the Belhar Confession of Faith.
Benediction from Standing in the Gapwritten by Rev. Dr. Bob Gross, OCC, pastor at Lake Avenue United Church of Christ, Elyria, OH and posted on the United Church of Christ website. 
All other prayers by John Grundy based on Rootsontheweb.com resources.
 
Jesus Calls Us Here to Meet Him by John Bell and Graham Moule from the BBC’s Songs of Praise
Thy Hand O God Has Guided by Edward Hayes Plumptre from the BBC’s Songs of Praise.
For Your Generous Providing by The Rev’d Leith Fisher performed by the Scottish Festival Singers, Ian McCrorie (Conductor), John Langdon (Organ) made available by the Church of Scotland.
Sanctus and Agnus Dei by Paul Inwood © Magnificat Music performed by the Choir of Brentwood Cathedral.
We are Marching from a Zulu folk song written down by Andries Van Tonder.  Performed by the KwaSisabantu Mission.

Organ Voluntaries.  Opening:    Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016) Wir Glauben all’ an Einen Gott (“We all believe in one God”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, Farnham – 2001)  Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks To
 
Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith and John Young, David Shimmin, Anne Hewling, Lorraine Webb, and Carol Tubbs for recording other 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 11th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 11/10/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 11th October 2020 Psalm 18

How I love You, Lord, my God,
You my Rock and fortress strong;
constant Refuge, mighty Shield -
I will praise You in my song.
Snares of death entangled me,
hellish torrents frightened me;
but You heard my desperate cry,
and Your hand has set me free.

2: All creation reeled and rocked,
mountains quaked when God came down,
soaring on the wings of wind,
fire and hailstones all around.
Then HIs anger, with a blast,
split the sea that billowed there;
when the Lord unleashed His wrath,
earth's foundations were laid bare.

3: From on high the Lord reached down,
seized me with His pow'rful arm;
when the floods engulfed my soul,
He delivered me from harm.
God, the Lord, my strong support,
brought me to a spacious place,
for it is His great delight
to reward my righteous ways.

4: With the faithful You are true,
to the pure You show Your grace,
but to crooked humankind
You reveal an angry face.
You, Lord, bring the haughty low,
save the humble from their plight,
and You keep my lamp aglow,
turn my darkness into light.

5: All God’s promises are sure.
Who is God besides the Lord?
He is perfect in His ways.
Who the Rock except our God?
It is God who gives me strength;
He enables me to stand
high above the battlefield,
held up by His pow’rful hand.

6: God prepares me well for war,
makes my feet as swift as deer,
arms me with salvation’s shield,
makes my pathway broad and sure.
I pursued my enemies
till they fell beneath my feet,
beat them fine like blowing dust,
low like dirt that lines the street.

7: God has rescued me from strife
with the nations all around.
He has made me head of all;
foreign leaders now bow down.
Yes, the Lord exalted me
over all my enemies;
they obey all my commands,
cringing low on trembling knees.

8: God, the Lord, my Savior, lives!
To the Rock be all the praise!
He has overcome my foes,
shown me His unfailing grace.
Lord, I will extol Your name
and make all Your blessings known.
You give vict’ry to Your King,
give His heirs a royal throne.

Ada Roeper-Boulogne © 1987 Faith Alive Christian Resources

you can hear v1 sung here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbc0gBkGDsE

Reflection

This is one of the longer of the Psalms and it won’t likely be among your favourites if you prefer walking beside still waters or lifting your eyes to the quiet hills. 

This is more like a white-water ride; engulfing floods and trembling mountains, the snares of death and fearful enemies, reeling and rocking aplenty. The writer longs for a rock and a fortress, for security and a refuge, but many of the words of this psalm evoke very powerfully the kind of experiences that are anything but that. And not only does the writer long to be rescued from this frenetic tempest of human experience, but also wants a secure way of knowing that they deserve to be rescued – the kind of security that longs to be able say, ‘I’m a good person, so I know I will be OK’. 

We all know the power of such experiences and such desires, and of how they can’t simply or readily be quelled. There are times in most of our lives when we are completely knocked sideways and we find ourselves pleading for solid ground and for the kind of reassurance that it will be OK, it must be OK, somehow. We use the same metaphors as the Psalmist, as we find ourselves ‘all at sea’, or ‘rocked to the core’, or feeling that everyone is against us or that no-one understands. It’s rare to find such disturbing experiences captured so vividly. 

The temptation is to quieten such feelings. But, first, they deserve to be heard. Perhaps our prayer today can simply be to speak before God with such honesty ourselves; either from present storms or from memory of them. Today, just as in the Bible, there is space for such prayers.

Prayer

O God,
when my life reels and rocks,
when the floods engulf my soul,
and I am sinking, desperate and afraid,
hear my cry, and rescue me. 
When I can hold on no more,
take my hand,
and pull me close,
that I may live. 
My lamp is sometimes low
and the light fades,

but keep it glowing with your light,
and keep my flame alive, Amen.  -->

Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 10th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 10/10/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 10th October 2020 -I Thessalonians - Thanking God

1 Thessalonians 3: 6 - 13

But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?  Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.  And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Reflection

Six United Reformed Church Synods are due to meet on this day, but will they?  This is written during the lockdown brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic which would prohibit such gatherings and leads me to wonder about the function and value of such events.  There is Church business to which attention has to be given but which rarely proves contentious, there is information sharing which may be done more effectively than by mail or email, but, above all, there is the opportunity to meet and share what is happening in the life of our congregations and to catch up with friends from other churches.

Paul had not been able to return to the Thessalonians himself so had sent Timothy on his behalf as “co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ.”  Paul was greatly encouraged by Timothy’s report.  What news and encouraging reports do we share at Synods and on less formal occasions?  It is good to learn of the ways that local churches are reaching out in service to their communities; it is good to recognise long service by dedicated servants and to welcome new arrivals, but how often do we celebrate growth in our fellowships and deepening of our faith in Christ?

For the young churches to which Paul wrote the uniqueness of the Christian Gospel set them apart from their fellow citizens in clear and sometimes dangerous ways.  To what extent is this still the case for us? It is correct to recognise the right of others to follow different religions or none, but that should not mean that we accept the validity of other faiths on equal terms with Christianity.
Paul was encouraged by reports of the faith and commitment of the Thessalonian Christians: may we be able to share such reports in our Synods and all church groups.

Prayer

Most gracious God, we give thanks for those who have supported and encouraged us on the Christian Way, and we give thanks for the opportunities we have to support and encourage others. Guide us and strengthen us, we pray, to share with others in action and word the Good News of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour: Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, retired minister, member of Verwood URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 9th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 09/10/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 9th October 2020 - 1 Thessalonians - Timothy’s Mission in Macedonia

1 Thessalonians 3: 1 - 5

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens;  and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith,  so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for.  In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know.  For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour had been in vain.

Reflection

Paul experiences not just the pain of self-isolation, but the anxieties and frustrations of being cut off from a faith community.  “I ought to be there” is a natural reaction when we hear of the needs of a family member or a friend – or (as with Paul) when there is no news of them.  The hurt and regret that so many people have felt when lockdown regulations insisted “You stay where you are” will take a long time to heal.  And for Paul there is a similar hurt in not being able to travel to where he is surely needed.

But think of Timothy, knowing that he is only the stand-in.  Paul wanted to be travelling to Thessalonica himself, and the Thessalonians would certainly have preferred to welcome the “real” apostle.  But between them they recognise that good may come out of this less than ideal compromise, and there is genuine hope for a strengthening of faith and mutual encouragement.

Paul is writing against a background of threat and persecution.  Maybe the threat of the pandemic is still a factor in our life decisions – or maybe travel restrictions, lack of finance, or the loss of energy that comes through ageing are holding us back from what we hoped to do, and from where we hoped to be. Although Paul has seen the hand of Satan holding him back and blocking his way, finding another way forward now gives Timothy the opportunity to develop his own gifts and ministry.

Paul has to move on from thinking of himself as indispensable for the life of the community he loves and cares for. If I can’t manage myself to do what I once thought God was asking of me, maybe it’s time to look around and find someone else to take my place.

Prayer

Loving God
may we find ourselves
where you want us to be
and through the community of your people
may we know encouragement in our daily living
and strength to remain faithful to the end.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John Durell, retired minister, member of Waddington Street URC, Durham Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 8th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 08/10/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 8th October 2020 - 1 Thessalonians - Paul’s Anxiety

1 Thessalonians 2: 17 - 20

As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way.  For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?  Yes, you are our glory and joy!

Reflection

Does this remind you of any situation that you have faced recently?

Being separated, changed plans, diaries cleared, events cancelled and postponed, family that you want to support but only allowed to do it from a distance?

Paul wants to visit his family.  He has described himself as both mother ‘Like a nursing mother taking care of her own children’ (2:7) and Father ‘For you know how, like a father with his children’ (2:11)

Paul has become an orphan (that’s one way to describe lockdown) to those he cares deeply about and he wants to be back with them, sharing the gospel of the person of Jesus.

Who knew, when we have uttered these or similar words: ‘Absent in body but present in mind’ that was a common phrase in Graeco-Roman letter writing?

I am uncomfortable with any thought that Covid-19 is seen as the devil’s work but many will want to have that conversation with you.  Paul says that’s what has messed up his plans. For Paul the devil always puts obstacles in the way of the progress of the Kingdom of God and tries to hamper the good works of God’s servants.

May we experience some of Paul’s joy as we gradually return from being on-line, disconnected, re-connected to our New/Old frontlines. Walking the way of Jesus today we can be freed from the guilt of those things that have may have dragged us down in lockdown.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever,

Paul pins everything on this community: ‘They are his hope, joy and crown of his claim to honour; in the presence of his Lord Jesus at his Parousia they will be his honour and joy’*

What an incentive to keep working in order to attain the glory that is to come!

*The Oxford Bible Commentary Page: 1205.
 
Prayer

Loving God,
As we pray and praise you without ceasing
fill us with your grace and love.
When faced with distance
may we be present through your Spirit,
so that we seek more opportunities,
not obstacles to following you.
 
We pray that our lives with you will be
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before you,
Lost in wonder, love and praise. Amen.

© R&S 663 Love Divine Charles Wesley 
 
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Today's writer

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


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Sunday's Coming

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 07/10/2020 - 15:30
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service explores the theme of the Parable of the Wedding feast and led by the Rev'd John Grundy.  The service will be a celebration of Holy Communion so you may wish to have bread and wine, or suitable alternatives at hand.  The hymns include John Bell and Graham Moule's Jesus Call Us Here to Meet Him, Edward Plumptyre's Thy Hand O God Has Guided, Leith Fisher's For Your Generous Providing, the Sanctus and Agnus Dei by Paul Inwood and the Zulu song We are Marching.

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

with every good wish


Andy


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

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 7th October 2020

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 07/10/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 7th October 2020 1 Thessalonians - Faith and Patience

1 Thessalonians 2: 13-16

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.

Reflection

The book of 1 Thessalonians, likely being Paul’s first letter, is a book of its time.  As we read it we enter the ‘harsh first-century Mediterranean world of violent stereotypification and vilification of out-groups’ (The Oxford Bible Commentary, p.1205, OUP). In it we can hear words that sound, to us, unethical and harmful, such as denigrating the Judeans of killing Jesus (even though he was crucified by the Romans!).  Many of us hoped and believed that overt prejudice and public condemnation had begun to disappear from our world.  Yet we have seen a growing number of hurtful, harmful, judgemental and divisive words being shared on social media and in public forums in recent years.  Some of these words have even come from those in positions of power and responsibility.  When we read this text, we can see why some have used words from the Bible to hurt and harm; using the phrase ‘God’s Word’ has been used as a reason to condemn, criticise or shame others.  Yet we believe in a God of love, so if our words destroy and hurt then we surely need to ask if they are of God or of us!  When I share a Bible reading in public, I end with the words: ‘in this is the Word of the Lord’ as there are some texts, such as this, that are problematic.  I believe God wants us to consider carefully and critically what we hear or read in Scripture and sometimes we need to look closely before we can find God’s authentic word to us. God is love and, as followers of Jesus, we are called to ensure we reflect that love by our words, actions and attitudes (in public and private) and cannot use the excuse of ‘God’s word’ to harm or damage others. 

Prayer

Loving God, 
We inhabit a world that is the result of all that has gone before:
a world of good and bad, kind and hurtful.
As we seek to live authentic God-focused lives,
we pray that we may choose our words carefully,
using those that build up and encourage.
We pray for strength as we share your love,
in many and varied ways, with the hurting world in which we live.  
Amen.  -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Jenny Mills. URC Secretary for Education and Learning. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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