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URC Daily Devotion 18th June 2019

5 hours 55 min ago
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 3: 4 - 10 


Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.  No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.  Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters. Reflection In today’s portion of John’s pastoral letter, he addresses the issue of sin. Firstly, he acknowledges that we all have a tendency to sin. In this discourse he raises two very different issues concerning sin. Firstly, he acknowledges two facts related to God. Initially, John acknowledges that God is without sin and then continues to state that true believers cannot sin. But then John develops his theme further by distinguishing how we react when we admit our wrong doings. Firstly, when we sin we also have the opportunity to seek forgiveness by acknowledging that sin before God and seeking forgiveness that is provided through Jesus’ sacrificial death at Calvary and subsequently his resurrection.

However, he also looks at sin in relation to human nature. There are occasions when we do not just sin in the sense of a one off wrong-doing but the continually committing the same kind of sin time and time again. If that was not bad enough, when the nature of that sinning takes over the very essence of the individual’s life, their thoughts and behaviour then that condition indicates that no matter how often we express regret for the continuance of the sinful thought or behaviour we are being at the very least insincere in our confession that John identifies with the work and influence of the devil. Today we are surrounded by all kinds of temptations but will we always resist? We frequently take shelter in our “comfort zones”, but is that approach helpful or not? Repentance is about changing direction, abandoning those areas of our lives or thoughts that are a barrier to our relationship with God.

Prayer

Gracious God, ever loving and caring, so often we get things completely wrong. By your grace, enable us to be honest with ourselves and more especially with You. Give us the courage and will to be honest when we consider the ways we conduct our lives. This we ask through Jesus’ redeeming love. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Colin Hunt, worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 17th June 2019

Mon, 17/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 3: 1 - 3 

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Reflection It isn’t always easy to see the bigger picture, particularly when you find yourself out on a limb, or under attack. This is true of life, and of church life too. The writer of 1 John reveals earlier in his epistle that a drastic split has occurred in the church, and that he is one of the survivors. An influential group who claim they love God, and ‘know’ God in an exclusive way which puts themselves beyond reproach, spiritually speaking, have detached themselves. They feel no need of the rest of the believers. Does any of this sound familiar?

The writer of John’s letter is not tempted to accept this meekly, and offers a spirited rejoinder. He sets out what ‘love of God’ really means to him, using the witness of John’s gospel. Love for God entails love of our brothers and sisters in the faith. It is not merely we who love, but God loves through us. We have been granted the inestimable privilege of being called ‘children of God’. This is not a right we can hold as our own, guaranteeing purity from the world, but a promise that one day we shall know God as Christ himself knows God. Our lives and relationships are blessed by that hope.

Later on 1 John lambasts those who separate themselves off from fellow Christians as ‘antichrists’, but that’s still to come. Our little passage today reminds us that loving God and being loved by God permeates all our relationships for good. And that one day, which is not in our control, our lives will be caught up in glory.
 

Prayer

Gracious God
when we are tempted to close in
on ourselves
imagining that we have to harbour
our blessings for better days,
open us out to your love,
which in its generosity
can sweeten our lives
and the life of the world.  Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John A Young is a retired URC  minister in the Synod of Scotland and a member of Giffnock URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
You can update your email address by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 16th June 2019

Sun, 16/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 101

1 I’ll praise your love and justice, LORD;
I’ll praise you cheerfully.
2 I’ll strive to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?

Within my home the life I lead
will show a blameless heart.
3 My eyes will view no worthless thing;
from sin I will depart.

I hate what faithless people do;
it shall not cling to me.
4 All wicked people I’ll avoid;
from evil I’ll stay free.

5 I’ll put to silence everyone
who slanders secretly;
I will not tolerate the proud
who act so haughtily.

6 My eyes are on the faithful ones,
that they may dwell with me;
Whoever lives a blameless life
will serve me constantly.

7 No one who practises deceit
will dwell within my home;
Nor will the one whose words are false
before me ever come.

8 Each morning I will silence all
who wicked deeds have done;
I’ll cleanse the city of the LORD
of every evil one.

The editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tune York for this Psalm which you can hear here, or the tune Moravia (here) or the tune St James (here).
 
Reflection
Wanted! God’s Representative on Earth Today.
Must lead a blameless life, evidenced by showing a blameless heart.
Must be prepared to depart from sin and not to tolerate its presence in their household and wider community.
Sympathy with and support for God’s faithful ones is a genuine occupational requirement for this post.

This is a re-advertisement. Previous applicants should re-apply.

Whoever wrote Psalm 101 would not hesitate to apply for this job, but I would. I’m all too aware of the gap between what I want to be and how things turn out in practice. Is this just an aspirational Psalm? Is this optimistic public advertising language about a job; what we want, though, privately, we expect a lot less?

Still, the Psalmist makes a confident pitch for the post. These claims make contestants on TV’s The Apprentice appear modest in comparison. They will praise God cheerfully, maintain a blameless life, avoid the wicked, keep company with the faithful, have nothing to do with deceit, and ‘cleanse the City of the LORD of every evil one.’ I admire them, but perhaps not as much as I fear them, especially were they to detect any evil or deceit in me.

Aim high, like this Psalmist, and I crash and burn. Step back, and I remain stuck with my many imperfections. Yet there’s a chink in the Psalmist’s optimism which gives me hope: ‘I’ll strive to live a blameless life – when will you come to me?’ Even this most self-confident of believers admits to striving as well as achieving, needing God to turn up to make sure the job gets done. So …

Dear God
I wish to apply for this job, which I am sure I can do,
sometimes and to some extent …
though only with your help.
 

Prayer

Encourage me to aim high
in how I live my life, O God,
and when I struggle or when I fail,
come to me;
comfort me and save me.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Trevor Jamison, Minister, St Columba’s United Reformed Church, North Shields.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 15th June 2019

Sat, 15/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 2: 29

If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who does right has been born of him. Reflection There are many jokes, proverbs, stereotyping sayings – whatever you wish to call them – that play on where people come from. As I was growing up in Derbyshire, I used to hear that people said of us, “Derbyshire born and Derbyshire bred, strong in t‘arm and thick in t’head”. I guess we’ve all heard grim jokes about Irish people, and similar jokes are told in other countries but different peoples – the Greeks tell them about the Bulgarians, for example.

In John’s Gospel, knowing where Jesus comes from (“above”, “the Father”) is particularly important in understanding his person and his work. In this verse from the first epistle of John, we have a similar sort of theology in action. We are to be children of God, and how we behave and who we are is going to help others identity where we’re from. We are born of the righteous Christ if we show his righteousness.

There’s a question that gets asked of folk sometimes today when another seeks to understand them: ‘where are you coming from?’ What are the origins or your ideas? What is your belief system rooted in? Why do you do the things you do? And one of the most powerful, and actually one of the least scary, ways of talking about our faith today is when someone asks us for our motivation for doing something. Why do you work in a food bank? Why do you run this toddler group? These questions give us an opening to talk … and I would say, isn’t that what John is encouraging from us here? Act in such a way that people recognise you are rooted in Christ and that that is where you’re coming from.

Prayer

God whose Holy Spirit bears fruit in us,
encourage us to live out those fruits
in ways that draw others into a curiosity
that helps them explore who you are,
and what your Son has done
and what that might mean for their lives.
Inspire us to play our part
by truly being your children
and living out this family life
in all faithfulness. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Rosalind Selby, Principal Northern College and member of Didsbury URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 14th June 2019

Fri, 14/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 2: 26 - 28

I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming. Reflection I’m going to let this writer off.  6 male pronouns in four sentences, when eternal God has no pronoun.  This writer had a point to make. The point was that in Jesus, God did truly connect with humanity and indeed, in Jesus, was human.  At the time of this writing, the early Christian world was having a heresy bazaar. All sorts of imaginative ways were being adopted to explain just how Jesus came to be God present on earth.  For this writer, the most recent heresy was that Jesus wasn’t really flesh, but spirit only. No wonder the overuse of a human pronoun.

For adults like me who are annoyed when called children, we’ll also let this writer speak.  To be a child of God is a Jewish faith deep truth; a profound knowing that we are so connected to eternal God that we share flesh and blood, thoughts and passion. We are utterly related.  Jesus revealed this, and by the time of writing, this author knew Holy Spirit, present personally and in Christian friends and communities. We are so related that the mind of God reveals truth inside our own mind – the ‘abiding in you’ phrase of this lovely passage.  We are so connected that we abide in God as God abides in us. God is inside and outside, holding us, giving us courage. When we know this as truth for ourselves, we can have the confidence we need, whenever it is needed, at our meeting with God whenever that is, and in our own time. When we absolutely know that we are so connected with God, we’ll have the courage to walk the way of Jesus in any protest, in any trauma, in any place where love will transform. Amazing.  “It is true and is not a lie.” v27.

Prayer

Eternal God, I trust you.
I know you in Jesus.
I know you, Holy Spirit.
And I know how very human I am.   
Give me patience to relax in you so that you are not restrained in me.
Let me love and act with generous confidence.
Strengthen courage and trust in me and in my faith sisters and brothers.

In the name of Jesus and in the power and presence of Holy Spirit,
Amen
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Elizabeth Gray-King, URC Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba’s URC.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
You can update your email address by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 13th June 2019

Thu, 13/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 2: 18 - 25

Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.  But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and you know that no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also.  Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life. Reflection My first recollections of the Antichrist were from the 1970s horror film “The Omen”. I was a kid then, and such talk gave me nightmares for days. Are such threats real?

Firstly, lets nail down what a Christian might be. We can use many definitions, but theologian N.T. Wright’s characterisation of loyalty to Christ is compelling. Jews, including those in the first Century,  are defined by their loyalty to the One God. This continued in the embryonic Jesus movement through their loyalty to the One God through the Messiah.

An anti-Christ - either a movement or an individual - can be defined by their opposition to the reign and status of Christ. I would hypothesise that they would be loyal to their cause too. We should be mindful of such opposition, be it veiled or in the open, and the threat that they may present to the modern day Jesus movement.

But the tone of today’s reading is not one of hopelessness or dispair. It is a reminder that such threats, real as they may be, do not have the final say. We are reminded and encouraged to continue abiding in God’s love through our relationship with his Son, Jesus. The ultimate gift to us is eternal life - a quality of life, empowered by the Spirit, and extending out into the next life. Any earthly threats that we face, no matter how large, cannot annihilate Christ’s love for us.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank you
that you have ultimately defeated
all threats that we may face.

We are hopeful
of the ultimate rule
of the Kingdom of God.

May we draw strength
and encouragement from abiding in you,

from dwelling daily
within your love and care.

We thank you, in Jesus’ name,
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

Daniel Harris - Student Minister at St Neots URC / Ordinand at Westminster College.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
You can update your email address by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 12th June 2019

Wed, 12/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 2: 15 - 17 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live for ever. Reflection “Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world ...”
Hang on! Hang on!

I thought we were meant to love this world in which we live, from God’s beautiful creation to all the messiness which we humans have managed to generate. What about ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (John 3:16).

Let’s just take a deep breath and start again. Here we have words which, taken out of context, seem to be saying something contrary to the messages we find in other places. We can be confident from what we can read in so many places in our bibles that God loves the world and all that that involves. We can also be confident in saying that, through his Son, he calls us to love and care for the whole of creation.

If we take the trouble to read the previous and the following verses, we find the context and we find some indication of some of the things which God really does want us not to love. We also find a call to do the will of God and so live for ever.

Sadly, we often find it so much easier to make a judgment based on the first words which present themselves - particularly if they are words with which we agree. I think there is a lesson here for us all. It is about taking time to listen and understand, the nuances and the backstory whether that is as we read the Bible, as we listen to the media or engage in conversation with friends. That way bridges are built and the world will become a more loveable place.
 

Prayer

Loving God,
Snap judgments are so easy
forgive our lack of patience and care.
Help us to understand the full story,
to take the time to listen carefully
and to share your love for the world
Amen
 

Today's Writer

Val Morrison - Hall Gate URC Doncaster and Former Moderator of the General Assembly

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
You can update your email address by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 11th June 2019

Tue, 11/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

I John 2: 12-14

I am writing to you, little children,
   because your sins are forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young people,
   because you have conquered the evil one.
I write to you, children,
   because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young people,
   because you are strong
   and the word of God abides in you,
       and you have overcome the evil one.
Reflection If you are an insomniac like me you might have seen the “infomercials” that run on certain channels late at night. Watch long enough and you will find yourself wondering how you ever managed to navigate life without a solar-powered-salad-spinner. The infomercials’ sales pitch works hard to convince you that their product is for everyone, absolutely everyone, especially you.

The writer of 1 John lets us know that Scripture is for everyone: young children, teenagers, grown-ups and those that refuse to grow up. That this is written for little children, young people and mature people. If Scripture is for everyone, then of course the Church also needs to be for everyone.

This passage goes further than inclusivity and affirms all those people; for their wisdom or faith or understanding or strength. Do we recognise what people of all ages bring to our faith families? The equally valuable contributions made by little children, young people and mature disciples?

Infomercials usually finish with a deal, an offer that goes further to make the product extra enticing. Order today and not only will you receive one patented onion carving kit, but two, and the first 100 callers will also receive a free set of hand crafted soup skewers.

We too need to go further than just recognising the gifts of everyone in our faith families, we must affirm these gifts too. We must remind those who can no longer take an active role in volunteering how valuable their prayer is to our mission. We must affirm those that do all the little jobs, without which the big plans never happen. We must show the children that they are not the future of the church but a full and vital part of it today.

Sometimes we all doubt if we are doing enough. We doubt if we are good enough disciples, dedicated enough. John’s words affirm everyone, let us hear the words of the passage and be affirmed ourselves.

Prayer

Affirming God,
help us to value each other,
to notice each person in our church family,
to recognise the value in each member of your body,
to listen to every voice,
and to give joyful thanks for each contribution.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jo Clare-Young is minster in the North Yorkshire Coast URCs

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
You can update your email address by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 10th June 2019

Mon, 10/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

I John 2: 7 - 11  

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness. Reflection The more I’m involved in church work, the more convinced I am that many people have forgotten the basics of our faith. I don’t feel so unhappy about this, however, when I read this text, written sometime in the latter part of the 1st Century, because then I realise that the problem is not something new to us; but was epidemic in the Early Church as well.

Listen to people around you, to the television and the radio, and to preachers far and wide, and you will get a dizzying array of opinions, facts, and suppositions on the Christian faith.

The real test of Christianity isn’t how much we give. God’s not looking at how many days a week we are in church. It doesn’t matter if we are a Baptist, a Presbyterian, an Anglican or if we wear any other badge. What matters is our faith, and the basis of our faith is love.

If our faith is based on Christ, then our faith is based on love because Christ is love. Christ is love in person! If we are to understand the very bedrock basis of our faith, then we need to understand love.  John calls us back to basics today, he tells us to return to the basic commandment of Christ - and that commandment is love. Indeed, love has been part of God’s plan throughout eternity.

Prayer

Father of love, who in Christ, showed us the way to love others; open our hearts to the needs of our neighbours.  Let us not be too hasty to make judgements lest we too, are judged, but give us the patience to hear and to show others that they will receive a welcome.  God is love, God is truth, God is beauty – Praise Him!

Today's Writer

Ann Barton Member of Whittlesford URC and former Facilities Manager at Church House.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 9th June 2019

Sun, 09/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 100

1 Shout to the LORD with joy,
all who to earth belong.
2 Adore the LORD with joyful hearts
and come to him in song.

3 Know that the LORD is God;
he made us as his own.
We are the sheep for whom he cares—
his people, his alone.

4 Enter his gates with praise,
his courts with thankfulness.
Your praises gladly sing to him;
his name for ever bless.

5 For God the LORD is good;
his love is ever sure.
His constant truth and faithfulness
through every age endure.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the haunting tune Golden Hill hereThe editors of  Sing Psalms also suggest it can be set to the jolly tune Diademata which you can hear here.
 
Reflection Today is Pentecost Sunday, and Psalm 100 is a good thematic match.

In services today, we will probably hear Acts 2, when God’s Church burst into life! The excitement in that reading is palpable. How do we respond? Psalm 100 gives us inspiration.

This Psalm has inspired many hymns/songs through the centuries: e.g. “All People That On Earth Do Dwell” (Old 100th), “Jubilate, Everybody!” (Fred Dunn), “Jubilate Deo” (Taizé)…

In 2019, ‘worship’ is an unfamiliar, ‘religious’ concept to many. Psalm 100 offers an understanding…

Who? Verse 1 identifies all humankind.
The message at Pentecost began the Church’s mission to fulfil the desire within the Psalm.

Whom? God is the object of our worship (Verses 1, 2, 3, 5).
The materialism in our world offers us the short-term: today’s TV heroes are next year’s ‘Z-list’ celebrities; how many models of iPhone have there been? God is long-term.

What? How? The Psalm encourages us to do 7 things: shout, adore, sing, know, enter in (come together), praise and bless. Ask folk how they feel after going to these things: sports event, musical concert, political demonstration, church service. The Psalm speaks of joy and gladness. God did not gift us with these emotions, only for us to dismiss or discourage them in our church worship.

Where? Those who worship God should come together (v.4)

When? “for ever” (v.4)
In contrast to the transience of the human world, when we get caught up in God’s story, our part in it has no end.

Why? Verses 3 and 5 speak of the nature of God.
We are God’s creation: our Creator longs for relationship with us with a love that has no limits and knows no barriers.

At Pentecost, believers heard and understood God’s message in their own language and the world changed.

Through the Reformation, believers experienced the Scriptures in their own language and the world changed.

How can the people of the 21st Century encounter God and the world be changed?
 
 

Prayer

Holy Spirit, Comforter,
on this day of Pentecost
we celebrate Your presence.
As Jesus promised,
You give us the joy
which endures deep within,
a joy which carries us
even in times of trial.
You do not impose,
You come to strengthen us,
defending the dignity of each person.
And in our great diversity,
it is in You
that we find unity and peace. Amen.

(Prayer by Brother Alois, Taizé)

Today's Writer

Walt Johnson, Elder, Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC, Chorton, Manchester.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 8th June 2019

Sat, 08/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 2: 3-6

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist;  but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked. Reflection We could argue about which Commandments are the ‘true’ ones. What it means to ‘know’ Jesus and who are the liars with no truth within them and who are the obedient, loving, perfect ones. We could use this passage to divide, to raise ourselves up and push others down, or to make ourselves feel worse and place others on pedestals.

This passage is an argument for the impossible. It argues that we can be sure of knowing Jesus if we behave exactly as he would and thus be perfectly loving as God is. On that basis, can anyone be 100% sure?

Well, just because something is impossible is no excuse not to try! In the life of Jesus, and the affirmation of the Resurrection, we are given the example that perfect love can be humanly possible. Just because humanity abundantly fails to achieve it on a regular basis is no reason for us not to strive after it, celebrate it when we experience it, and encourage it when we recognise it before us.  That has no chance of happening if Christians don’t step out, seeking to walk as Jesus walked, striving to love God, each other, and ourselves.

So let us not use this passage to divide. May we support each other as we walk the Way of Jesus, know that we are all beloved within the perfect love of God, act in ways that affirm this, and be ready to encounter Christ within ourselves, each other and through Creation.
 

Prayer

Living God, assure us of your love, lift us up within your perfection, and urge us along the better path.
Brother Christ, make known your Way, guide our steps, and ignite your abiding love within us.
Eternal Spirit, fill our hearts with love, inspire our minds with truths, and open us up to the opportunities that are ever before us.
May we love, abundantly as God loves, as we walk the Way of Christ. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Coaker, minister of Grays URC and a chaplain to the Moderators of General Assembly.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 7th June 2019

Fri, 07/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 2: 1 - 2

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. Reflection Recently, I have been re-reading C S Lewis’s classic “The Screwtape Letters”. On reflection, I wondered whether the format of this classic work was inspired by John’s pastoral letters to the young churches of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey and Syria)? In the Epistle, John, an elderly, widely experienced Apostle writes to the relatively inexperienced young church members.

John writes with real affection for these congregations addressing them as “My little children.” Initially, in this passage he reassures them that when they do sin it is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who provides the means of forgiveness through His sacrifice at Calvary. Now we all sin, but generally speaking we later seek forgiveness. The difficulty comes when we continue to sin in the same way as before, so much so that we begin to value that sinning behaviour higher than anything else in our experiences of life. In reality, this continual sinning means that we are not at all sorry for what we have done wrong, but rather we have just gone through the motions of sorrow in order to kid ourselves that we are forgiven and, therefore, our thoughts and actions are insincere.

The sacrifice that Jesus made is the only means of our being forgiven, no action on our part can achieve such a redemption. John places this redeeming action as being available to all people right across the whole world. Later in this letter, chapter three, John goes on to describe what he means when he writes about sin. He makes it clear what is the nature of sin and what has be done about it through Jesus’ love for humanity.

Prayer

Compassionate God,
we still prefer our ways
rather than yours.
We still haven’t learnt from our past mistakes
so we seek your forgiveness
open our hearts and minds
to truly worship you. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Colin Hunt worshipping at Hutton & Shenfield Union Church, Essex

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 6th June 2019

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 1: 5 - 10 

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. Reflection This is a familiar passage for many of us because it is often a go-to text for prayers of confession (see, for example, Rejoice & Sing no.3). We are all sinners, and if we claim not to be we are lying to ourselves - being Christians doesn’t stop us being as flawed as any other group of people. And yet God loves us all, and so if we confess our sins we will be forgiven, because God is faithful and just. Which is of course wonderful good news and a magnificent statement of God’s all-encompassing grace.

The only problem is that a little later in the same book the author ‘John’ – whoever that might have been – writes that those who abide in Christ do not commit sins, and in fact anyone who commits sin has not really known him. (1 John 3.6) So which is it? Are we sinners who are forgiven, but carrying on making mistakes, or does becoming a true disciple mean leaving sin behind?

There are arguments worth exploring about whether these statements can be reconciled or not, but on the face of it this seems to be a huge contradiction. Should this bother us? Perhaps. On one level, it’s a reminder of the dangers of taking any one verse from scripture out of context and without considering how it fits into the bigger picture. But going further, wouldn’t it be more surprising if, in explaining the wonders of God’s revelation, none of the writers of scripture ever got confused or contradicted themselves? Accused of inconsistency, the American poet wrote "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." That’s true of all of us, and is certainly true of Scripture.

Prayer

Gracious God,
we accept that we make mistakes.
Sometimes we deliberately act
to hurt others
and sometimes we stand by
when other are in need.
We ask you,
in your justice and faithfulness,
to forgive us,
and we resolve
to follow your ways more closely
and to forgive others for their faults. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Nick Jones, Minister, Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 5th June 2019

Wed, 05/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 John 1: 1-4

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. Reflection When we moved to a new area and found that we needed to find some tradespeople to do a number of jobs that we could not do ourselves, what did we do? We could have looked at Yellow Pages or some other directory, or Checkatrade which claims to have unbiased reports on local firms. However, we chose to ask around – people at our new church and our neighbours, those who seemed to us to have similar interests and standards. In this way we looked for personal recommendations (or even warnings) which would be so much more significant than the other sources of information available to us, and we were very grateful for the guidance thus received from trustworthy sources.

Such is the witness, indeed the personal recommendation that John gives as he introduces his pastoral guidance, “our theme is the Word which gives life” as the Revised English Bible puts it. He could share personal experience and wanted to do so in a way to which his readers and hearers could relate.

How effective am I, are we, at sharing personal faith in ways to which our contemporaries can relate? The fault may have been mine but over the years there have been a few times when I have cringed at some of the testimonies I have heard from seemingly over-earnest Christians – but at least I could understand what their witness was about; too often I suspect that my witness has been bland at best, or even apologetic, so that others could be forgiven for not understanding how important my Christian faith is to me.

When it is relevant to a situation shared personal experience from those whose credibility we trust is so effective when we can report with John, “what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands” – and as in so many ways, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Prayer

Gracious God, we give thanks for those whose witness and example has helped us on the path of faith, and who by have helped us find Jesus as our personal Saviour. May we have the courage and sensitivity needed to give to those who trust us the witness and example that will help them find their personal faith.   Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, Member of Verwood URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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Devotions on 1, 2 and 3 John

Tue, 04/06/2019 - 18:30
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1,2 & 3 John

Dear <<First Name>>

I hope you found the series looking at the Lord's prayer helpful - it's always good to think about a prayer we use week after week, often day after day.  We are grateful to Michael Hopkins for spending so much time in preparing that series.  

For the next few weeks a variety of people with different perspectives and from a a range of places in the URC are reflecting on the letters known as 1,2 and 3 John.  These are, generally, thought to have been written by the same person though scholars disagree as to who that person was. The first, and longest, of the three reads rather like a sermon designed to encourage faith possibly in the aftermath of a church split.  The second is to an “elect lady” maybe one who hosted, or led, a church in her home, the final gives warnings about one excommunicated from the Church. Whilst written almost 2,000 years ago they look at themes still relevant in our lives now.

I hope you find these helpful in your own spiritual journeys.

Remember if you prefer to receive the Devotions in paper format - or would like to print them off for printing.  The link to sign up for the Booklet list is here.  We always get generous feedback about the Devotions and the impact they have and it was very encouraging to hear the following comments reported to a minister:

"I'm following those Daily Devotions. The series on the Lord's Prayer that's happening at the moment is really good. Usually I read them on my phone but one day had so much stuff I printed it off to read it at work.  I was looking at it at my desk as I had a cup of coffee. The lad on the next desk asked me what I was reading. I explained about following the Daily Devotions. He replied that it was like his daily online visit to "BetFred". I suggested he have a read to see if it was the same. He said that the difference seemed to be that he did BetFred by himself whereas the Daily Devotions meant that you were part of a community, which was good. Next I was in the ward where our Muslim occupational therapist was chatting with one of the patients, a young man who has recently returned to churchgoing. She is fasting for Ramadan and they were discussing the similarities and differences between Christianity and Islam, and asked for my opinion. We talked about stories in common between the Bible and Quran, different views of Jesus, and, then, about prayer practices. By this point my "BetFred" colleague had come along and joined in, insisting that I go and get that bit of paper about the Lord's Prayer, which we then all discussed.  My colleague suggested half-seriously that perhaps he would carry on with BetFred but give a proportion of all winnings to charity."

This seemed to me to be a brilliant example of living as a disciple in our daily lives and I was impressed by how the simple tool of a Daily Devotion helped in that.  By phone or paper, do use the Devotions to help not just your own spiritual journey but also as an act of witness to the God we adore.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  
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URC Daily Devotion 4th June 2019

Tue, 04/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

The Lord’s Prayer

St Matthew 6: 9-13

Jesus said, ‘Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
Combined Reflection & Prayer
When we pray “Our Father in heaven”, we sense God in busyness, creativity, workplace frustrations, laughter and tears, conflict and peace-making, the beauty of the sunrise and sunset, and ask God to open our eyes to glimpses of heaven.  
 
When we pray, “Hallowed be your name”, God calls us to worship, to sing and dance, to shout and proclaim, and to give praise to his name.  
 
When we pray, “Your kingdom come”, God calls us to be his servants, his love in the world, furthering his Kingdom, and we ask God to show us how to serve.  
 
When we pray, “Your will be done”, we ask each time, what is God’s will for his people, his world, for me?  We listen for God’s voice, showing us the path to follow. 
 
When we pray, “On earth as in heaven”, we’re asking to live God’s will in small everyday acts, and in the ways we respond to God’s call.  
 
When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”, we remember that God provides for our needs, our food and shelter; that God gives us strength, wisdom and knowledge so we may share his gospel, so that we may live and work his good news.  
 
When we pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”, we ask God to forgive us for those perplexing times, when we doubt God’s wisdom or love; for holding back when we should step forward; for remaining silent when we should speak.  We ask God to forgive those who hurt, doubt, or overlook us. 
 
When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation”, we ask God to help us not to be tempted to separate action from prayer, nor prayer from action; not to give way to complacency, undue fear, arrogance, nor timidity.  We ask God to grant us patience to test our sense of calling with humility and the wisdom of others.
 
When we pray, “But deliver us from evil”, we ask God to help us to keep to the path that leads to him, and to avoid patterns of living that keep us from him.  
 
When we pray, “For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever”, we are trying to serve God, to partake in the growth of his kingdom.  
 
When we pray “Amen”, we’re asking that it may be so in our lives.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 3rd June 2019

Mon, 03/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

...…now and forever, Amen

Revelation 22:20-21

The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.
Reflection Sometimes in church, you may hear someone shout, or more often mutter, "Amen."  It means “so be it”, and it’s a Biblical way of saying, "This is true." When we end the prayer with “Amen,” it’s not only a great moment when we signal our assent to the Lord's Prayer, but it’s also a final affirmation that this is true.  Here is truth, but it’s not just a set of propositions to which we assent, but a spoken embodiment of the truth that we see in Jesus.

In a prison camp in World War Il, on a cold, dark evening after a series of beatings, after the hundreds of prisoners had been marched before the camp commander and harangued for an hour, when the prisoners were returned to their barracks and told to be quiet for the rest of the night, someone, somewhere in one of the barracks began saying the Lord's Prayer.  Some of his fellow prisoners lying next to him began to pray with him. Their prayer was overheard by prisoners in the next building who joined them. One by one, each set of barracks joined in the prayer until, as the prayer was ending with, ”Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory," hundreds of prisoners had joined their voices in a strong, growing, defiant prayer, reaching a thunderous, “Amen!"  And then the camp was silent, but not before a new world had been sighted, signalled, and stated.

Wherever, since the day that Jesus taught us, this prayer has been prayed, even in the darkest of days, the worst of situations, prisoners have been set free, the blind see, the  lame walk, the poor have good news proclaimed to them, and a new world, not otherwise available to us, has been constituted. In teaching us to pray, Jesus is making us more truthful, more faithful.  Jesus is making us his disciples. In praying, our lives are being bent away from their natural inclinations, and towards God. 

Prayer

Amen! 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 2nd June 2019

Sun, 02/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 99

1 The LORD reigns from his throne on high,
let all the nations quake;
He sits between the cherubim,
so let the whole earth shake.
2 Great is the LORD on Zion hill,
exalted over all.
3 Upon his great and holy name
let all the nations call.

4 The King loves truth and equity,
established by his might;
In Jacob you have done for us
all that is just and right.
5 Exalt the LORD our God with us;
let all the world abroad
Before his footstool worship him,
for holy is the Lord.

6 Moses and Aaron were his priests,
Samuel called on his name;
They called upon the LORD their God
and he replied to them.
7 He spoke to them and gave his law
out of the cloud from heaven;
They kept the statutes and decrees
which he to them had given.

8 O LORD our God, you answered them;
you were to Israèl
A loving and forgiving God,
but judged their sins as well.
9 Exalt and praise the LORD our God;
come, worship him alone.
The LORD God on the holy mount,
he is the Holy One.

This Psalm works well to Kingsfold (I heard the Voice of Jesus Say) which you can hear here Noel (It came upon the Midnight Clear) here . 
 
Reflection



Zlatan Ibrahimovic, during his brief stint at Manchester United




This is an enthronement Psalm, celebrating God as King (v1).  The One who rules the world is none other than God! This is full-blown “shock and awe”: the proper response is to “tremble” (v1); “praise” (v3); “extol and worship” (vv 5,9).


This is dangerous stuff for God’s human subjects: God is “holy” - “separate”; “morally and spiritually excellent” – and we are not.  God as King gets to make and enforce the rules that govern our lives. Israel had plenty of experience of bad kings and gods who enslaved them (the Babylonian gods).  It was at least possible to check the power of a human king – he will eventually die, or can be killed – but when the King is God, we are utterly at his mercy … forever! So the power question is crucial: how will this power be deployed? Whether or not God’s rule is Good News depends entirely on God’s disposition towards us.

The key is v4.  The “Mighty King” is a “lover of justice and equity”.  The world under God’s governance is a safe and life-giving place to be – especially for weakest and most vulnerable. The Lord’s holiness does not issue in hostile separation from the world, but in intimate relationship.  God’s rule is not about some cosmic-sized ego trip (Zlatan!); it is about ensuring “life in all its abundance” (cf John 10:10).

How does this relationship work?  Not by royal diktat! The pattern is clear in v6b: Israel cries, and God answers.  The Most High is a God who hears the cries of people in trouble and pain (Exodus 2:23-5).  God yearns for Israel in compassionate love; God’s power is deployed for their salvation.

The Psalmist declares that God’s power and rule are Good News.  He echoes the words of Graham Kendrick: “This our God, the Servant-King! He calls us now to follow him: to yield our lives as a daily offering of worship to the Servant-King!”
 
 

Prayer

God our Father,
may your name be hallowed.
Bring your Kingdom:
let your will be done here on earth.
Give us the food we need
to survive another day.
Forgive the wrong we do,
as we freely forgive the wrongs done to us.
Keep us from situations
that might destroy our trust in you.
Deliver us from all
who resist your Kingdom.
The Kingdom, the power
and all the glory belong to you alone! Amen.

Today's Writer

Lawrence Moore, Mission & Discipleship consultant, Worsley Road URC

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 1st June 2019

Sat, 01/06/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st June 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

...and the glory…

St John 12: 27-28

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’
Reflection In John’s Gospel Jesus spoke about the hour of glory quite often, but plenty of people misunderstand that because Jesus was talking about the Cross.  One way of thinking about the Cross is thinking that God was showing us how much God loved us. Some people manage to show quite a lot of that love in their lives, such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta who shone with glory in her work with the poorest people of that city.  Sadly, many of us might not be the inspiration to millions that she was, but God’s challenge to us is to reflect just a little bit of God’s glory in what we do.

In one of the historic statements of faith in our Reformed tradition, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question and answer is this (noting that that the usage of language in the seventeenth century is different to the twenty-first):

Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

The United Reformed Church expressed a similar intention in its Statement of the Nature, Faith, and Order of the United Reformed Church (1990) when it said:

Source, Guide, and Goal
of all that is:
to God be eternal glory.

May it be so, through us, with God’s help.
 

Prayer

The glory is yours, eternal Christ.
‘Glory’ is not flamboyant show,
jewels sparkling,
processions of majesty and pomp,
marble halls and kneeling multitudes
Glory is a child laid low in manger,
a listening teacher and a shy healer,
a criminal’s cross and borrowed grave
and an unproved resurrection
built alone on questing faith.
The glory is yours, eternal Christ.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 31st May 2019

Fri, 31/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 31st May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

...the power… 

St Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’ Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’ Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Reflection At the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus was led into the wilderness, and the devil offered him all that this world can give.  It’s worth paying attention to what the devil offered, and what Jesus rejected. Jesus was offered only good things: economic power, spiritual power, and political power.  Isn’t feeding the poor a good thing? Don't we come to church to refresh our spiritual batteries? Don't we believe that Christians ought responsibly to exercise political action for good in our democracy?

Jesus rejects them all, even though the devil backs up everything he says with quotations from the Bible.  These powers, economic, religious, and political, are the devil's to entrust to others as he pleases, and Jesus clearly rejects this.  Accepting any of these powers apart from God is what makes them wrong, because outside God they aren’t being used for good. Just consider how many of us have too much bread, and how religion is a major cause of war.

Jesus fed the hungry crowds because they were hungry, not to enslave them to him.  Jesus performed miracles not to harnessing divine powers for himself, but as sign of God's power breaking into the world.  Jesus exercised power for good, but not with the means and methods of the world's kingdoms. Unlike our politics, Jesus refused to use violence even for certain good ends.  How Jesus engaged with power in his life, shows us what God means by power, what power ought to mean for us.
 

Prayer

The power is yours, eternal Christ.
Power’ is not oppression;
with victims meekly bowing,
or fleeing for their lives.
Power is foot-washing,
love enabling love,
talents released
and new life reaching upwards
The power is yours, eternal Christ.  Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of the Spire Church, Farnham, Elstead URC, and serves as Clerk of the General Assembly.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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