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URC Daily Devotion 7th March 2021

2 hours 56 min ago
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Sunday 7th March
Taste and see, taste and see 
the goodness of the Lord.
Oh, taste and see, taste and see 
the goodness of the Lord, of the Lord.


1 I will bless the Lord at all times.
Praise shall always be on my lips;
my soul shall glory in the Lord;
for God has been so good to me. 

2 Glorify the Lord with me.
Together let us all praise God's name.
I called the Lord, who answered me;
from all my troubles I was set free. 


3 Worship the Lord, all you people.
You’ll want for nothing if you ask.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
in God we need put all our trust. 

James E Moore © 1983 GIA Publications Ltd

You can hear this Psalm sung here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHv35gKTK9M

Reflection

To food and beverage companies, a “blind taste test” can be an important tool for research and recipe development. Participants are asked to taste two near-identical products from competing brands, without knowing which is which, and say which one they prefer. It's also - if discerning cola drinkers and 80% of felines are to be believed – a well-used marketing technique!

Today's Psalm is a song of witness: affirming an intention to praise God always, the singer testifies to God's readiness to rescue and provide. And this gives rise to an invitation, which our paraphrase-setting conveys well: “Together let us all praise... In God we need put all our trust... Taste and see!” Indeed the full text of Psalm 34 expands upon the good things in store for those who answer the invitation: freedom from shame (v5), protection from foes (v7, 21), answers to prayer (v15, 17).

In my encounters with this Psalm, I've tended to associate “Taste and see” with that idea of marketing – the confident tone of a TV advertisement voice-over, or even the free trial period offered by online subscription services. Just give it a try, and we're confident that you'll quickly be won over – that sort of thing. 

Thinking about it, though, I'm not so sure that's what the Psalm is trying to say. The Hebrew word used here for “taste” is less about evaluating, more about experiencing. We're invited to taste, not in order to choose between competing options, but rather in order to discover the reality of God's presence.

And Psalm 34 would have us know just how immediate God's presence really is. Testimonies may be heard, signs may be seen, but such things are still external to us, and we perceive them from afar. Yet God does not remain far-off: God reaches right into our experience, not just perceived but tasted!

And in Jesus, God has come among us; flesh and blood become the place of divine encounter. 

Prayer

God of sound and sight, God of touch and taste,
God incarnate, hallowing this world:
be magnified in our theories and our thoughts;
be blessed in our praises and our prayers;
be honoured in our choices and achievements.
And above all, and in all,
be present in our today
and all our tomorrows.
Amen.
 
.
 
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Today's writer

Rev’d Dominic Grant, minister, Barnet URC and St Andrew’s Chesterfield Road URC.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 6th March 2021

Sat, 06/03/2021 - 06:00
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Saturday 6th March

St Mark 12: 18 - 27

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying,  ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise;  none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died.  In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.  And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”?  He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.’
 
Reflection
 
On September 13th 1982, Princess Grace of Monaco was killed in a car crash.  The accident captured the attention of the world with 100 million people watching the funeral. Grace Kelly had become something so magical, enigmatic, and perfect, that people could not believe that she was anything other than angelic; goddess like.  Public perception and reaction was similar to that after the death of Princess Diana in 1997 when a nation mourned for the angelic figure that had ascended to glory. When words fail, music fills the void as illustrated in Elton John’s ballad, “Candle in the Wind”. 

When human beings in their millions try to come to terms with the loss of a beloved public icon it is not unnatural for them to imagine that, in some way, they have become angelic. In reality although there is nothing in the Bible to support this view.

The Sadducees were a small but prominent, wealthy Jewish sect, who did not believe in resurrection, angels or spirits, unlike their Pharisaic counterparts. (Acts.23:8).  Their intention was to demonstrate the absurdity of the resurrection, assuming that in resurrection life human relationships will continue unchanged, as they are in this present life; a concept denounced by Jesus in his retort that in resurrection life there will be no marriage; on the contrary, men and women will be like angels.

The illogicality of the Sadducean question was that they failed to appreciate that the Old Testament did, in fact, teach the resurrection and that God has the ability to accomplish it. God’s original intention in creating humankind, a perfect unity of body and soul, was to ensure that future resurrection allowed the Abrahamic covenant to be fully restored in fellowship and blessing with Him.

Prayer

Loving Father, thank you so much that we can look to the future with peace and confidence. We place ourselves in your hands and trust you for all that is to come. Amen
.
 
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Today's writer

Rev'd Ian Gow, Minister, Eltham 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 5th March 2021

Fri, 05/03/2021 - 06:00
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Friday 5th March

St Mark 12: 13 - 17

Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.

Reflection

“Render unto Caesar”, it’s one of those phrases which has passed from the Bible in common speech. We use it when we sigh and fill in our tax returns. At least this year we know it’s doing good, supporting our wonderful, but woefully overstretched, NHS. And it’s good (both for giver and receiver) to give some of our cash to benefit others.

The trouble is, Jesus wasn’t talking about giving. That word ‘render’ is not very helpful. The Greek is apodidomi, meaning to give, pay or (and here’s the relevant one) pay back.

In many ancient cultures, and in our own not so very long ago, the monarch owned everything. Really, everything. That’s why Queen Elizabeth I could go on a grand tour and stay at any noble’s home she chose, eating, drinking and moving on without any thought of payment. Everything was hers anyway. The nobles were only looking after it on her behalf. Anything they ‘gave’ her was just giving her back her own stuff.

Mind you, I don’t suppose it felt like that when they’d been used to spending their groats and sovereigns however they liked and then the actual sovereign comes by and demands a reckoning. (Didn’t Jesus tell a parable about that?)

And so it was with the Roman tax money. It was all Caesar’s anyway, said Jesus, it had his picture and inscription, so paying taxes was just giving him back his own stuff.

And what about rendering unto God? When I ‘give’ to God, do I think of it as giving, or giving back? The time that I have is from God. The money I have is from God. The job I have, the family I have, the house I have, the health I have, the opportunities I have, all are from God. But it’s easy to forget. It is all God’s anyway and I’m just giving him back his own stuff.
 
Prayer

Yours, O Lord,
    are the greatness, the power,
        the glory, the victory,
            and the majesty.
For all that is
    in the heaven
        and on the earth is yours.
All things come from you,
    and of your own
        have we given you.
Amen.
 
(from 2 Chronicles 29)
 
 
 
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Today's writer

Fay Rowland, author and graduate student of Wesley House, Cambridge, worshipping with Christ the King, Kettering.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Prayers in a Pandemic

Thu, 04/03/2021 - 14:25
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Prayers in a Pandemic

Dear Friends,

this week's prayer was written by the Rev'd Elzabeth Grey King and is now live on the URC website here.

with every good wish


Andy --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th March 2021

Thu, 04/03/2021 - 06:00
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Thursday 4th March

St Mark 12: 1 - 11

Then he began to speak to them in parables. ‘A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watch-tower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard.  But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.  And again he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted.  Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed.  He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, “They will respect my son.”  But those tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”  So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.  What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.  Have you not read this scripture:

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
 this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is amazing in our eyes”?’

 When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So they left him and went away.

Reflection
 

I love this parable in which Jesus characterises the sinful state of the nation and warns of terrible consequential judgements.  It also speaks to us today. We need to believe in Jesus Christ for our salvation.

The parable is full of symbolism. The fence, protecting against intrusions from wild animals and thieves, symbolises everything that distinguishes the Jewish nation from the rest of the world. The press symbolises the Tabernacle and later the Temple of Jerusalem, while the wine denotes the divinity of the worshippers flowing from the Temple as they worship God. The tower represents Jerusalem, built on a high place with God watching over and providing protection.

The Jews are the tenants, chosen by God, while the Landowner is God who led and nurtured the nation out of Egypt and into the promised land after 40 years in the desert.  On reaching the promised land, however, God watches in dismay as his beloved nation flouts His laws and does not produce the fruit, He so longs to receive from them. 

The servants are the prophets, kings and priests sent by God to teach the people to bear fruit. But they were beaten, insulted and even killed.  Even the beloved son of the Landowner was killed, representing the nation rejecting Christ and having him crucified.      
             

Jesus uses the vineyard to symbolise the nation. His message to those who rejected him was that God would remove the responsibility that He gave them because of their unbelief and sinful nature. Indeed, Jesus passed this responsibility to the Church gathering around the 12 apostles at Pentecost.

The vineyard landowner, God, cares for all of us.  We are His children and his tenants. It is our responsibility to produce fruits for our Christian living in our family, church, workplace and society as a whole.
 
Prayer

Heavenly Father we thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ to teach us how to live our lives in your vineyard, since we are all tenants in your Kingdom. We pray for wisdom to discern your message that we can only truly enjoy the blessings of the vineyard when we live according to God’s commands.  Amen!
 
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Today's writer

Mathias Tchatchoua, Lay Leader, Stow Park Church URC/PCW (LEP), Newport, South Wales.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's coming

Wed, 03/03/2021 - 15:45
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service looks at Jesus overturning the tables in the temple. It will be led by The Revd. Helen Everard. Helen is a minister in Wessex Synod and is current chaplain to the Moderators of General Assembly. Hymns this week include Sing for God's Glory, Marty Haugen's Bring Forth the Kingdom, Living God, Your Joyful Spirit and John Bell's Jesus Christ is Waiting. One of my all-time favourite songs, not that I chose it! The words are very emotive and give us a clear message of going out into the world doing good and fighting for justice.

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 blessing,

Dan

Dan Morrell
Editor, Sunday Services for Daily Devotions from the URC -->

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URC Daily Devotion 3rd March 2021

Wed, 03/03/2021 - 06:00
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Wednesday 3rd March
 

St Mark 11: 27 - 33

Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him  and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.’  They argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say, “Why then did you not believe him?”  But shall we say, “Of human origin”?’—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet.  So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’

Reflection

We’ve all encountered those people who ask questions, not because they’re interested in our answers but because they want to pick a fight, shout the loudest, get their point across. It’s often hard to know the best way to respond. Sometimes we simply need to hear them, let them know they have been listened to - ‘Allow them their thoughts’ as I read recently, and then go our way in as much peace as we can manage.

I am impressed that Jesus kept on engaging with people who were simply trying to trip him up, entangle him, get rid of him. And I am grateful. The endlessness of his patience reassures me. 

These past months, we’ve all been challenged by authority telling us to stay home, stay away from friends and family. We’ve been overloaded with conspiracy theories, some significantly  loopier than others but still believed in by some. Truth and authority matter. We have seen what happens when people do not accept authority, the results of democractic elections, scientifically based guidance. We’ve had to choose who we will  believe and what, as a result, our responses will be. And then live - or die - with those results.

Jesus offered the Sanhedrin a step in the right direction - towards recognising God at work in John the Baptist and in Himself. That they had to ask the question revealed their blindness to the God they claimed to serve. Bound up with jockeying for power, position, all the administration of Temple worship - so much busy busyness - had they simply lost sight of a God who preferred kindness and mercy, truth and justice to any amount of barbecued meat?

Prayer

Open our eyes to see where You are at work. Challenge us when our traditions, politics, vested interests stand in the way of what You are doing. Give us courage to accept Your authority for our lives and wisdom to test all other claims against Yours. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Dorothy Courtis, Lay Preacher, Thurso URC
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  2nd March 2021

Tue, 02/03/2021 - 06:00
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Tuesday 2nd March

St Mark 11: 20 - 25

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.’  Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.  So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. ‘Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.’

Reflection

The story of the fig tree took place when Jesus and his disciples were traveling from Bethany to Jerusalem as he entered the Passion Week. Approaching Jerusalem they saw a fig tree with signs of fruit-bearing. But getting closer, they realised that the tree bore no fruit and there was no sign of figs growing. Disappointed by this deceitful appearance, Jesus cursed it. The next morning as they went out, they saw that the fig tree had withered. Peter drew Jesus’ attention to it. Jesus responded by teaching a lesson about how with faith and prayer we can do extraordinary things. He further emphasised the necessity of forgiveness. Proverbs 24:29 admonishes us not to revenge. And this was emphasised in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:12 – “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Forgiveness is pardoning the offense of others so as to reconcile and restore a good relationship with them. To be able to do this, we need the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God. In this time of COVID-19, my prayer is that you may forgive those who sin against you in the bond of love, peace, and unity! Amen!

Prayer

God, you call us into your presence; to be present with you and with one another. We pray that you grant us hope, peace, and comfort so that our faith in you may remain so firm and strong. We pray all this in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! Amen!
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Confidence Bansah, Minister of St. George’s Hemel Hempstead and Christ Church Hatfield
 
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  1st March 2021

Mon, 01/03/2021 - 06:00
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Monday 1st March
 
St Mark 11: 15 - 19

Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves;  and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.  He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”?
    But you have made it a den of robbers.’

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

Reflection

It seems amazing sometimes how differently people can react to what is going on around them.  They read and hear and see things in opposite ways. Of course, it all depends on where you are standing and what your life experiences have been like.  Do you see life from a place of comfort and privilege or one of vulnerability and pain? Last year’s Black Lives Matter protests challenged us all to look again at where we are coming from and the attitudes and assumptions ingrained within us.

Jesus’s dramatic protest action in the temple raises just such a variety of reactions among those involved.  For the sellers and money changers his actions must have caused outrage.  For those exploited by the Temple systems, it must have raised a cheer.  For the religious leaders it caused fear – and fear is perhaps one of the most potentially destructive emotions around.  Fear can lead people to do inhuman things – to remove what they fear, rather than to ask themselves why they are afraid.  The leaders felt threatened and their response was to plot to destroy the troublemaker.

The ordinary people – the whole crowd – were ‘spellbound.’ It’s perhaps not the most literal of translations (with its overtones of magic) but suitable all the same (with its sense of childlike wonder).  What holds you spellbound?  Is it even possible in our tired and cynical times?   – In his history of the world, the great novelist and atheist H J Wells described Jesus as ‘like some terrible moral huntsman digging humankind out of the snug burrows in which they had lived’ and humanity as dazzled by ‘the white blaze of the kingdom’ Jesus proclaimed.  Are we spellbound, dazzled, brought to our knees by this Jesus who speaks even now, pointing to a better way?

Prayer

Lord Jesus we are dazzled by your light,
exposing the wrong in our world and our hearts,
stirring up hope and renewing vision,
a vision of justice and inclusion for all.
Help us to stand with you
in your love-filled struggle
for the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.   
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev'd Terry Hinks, Minister of Trinity, High Wycombe and Cores End URC
 
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday Worship for 28th February 2021 - The Revd. Jenny Mills

Sun, 28/02/2021 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
United Reformed Church Daily Devotions Sunday Worship
28th February 2021

The Second Sunday in Lent
The Rev’d Jenny Mills – Secretary for Education and Learning
 
Introduction
 
Hello- Welcome to worship today, Sunday 28th February.  I am Jenny Mills, I am a Minister of Word and Sacraments currently serving as Secretary for Education and Learning for the United Reformed Church. I began in the role between lockdown 1.0 and 2.0 in October 2020.
 
I am recording this from Newport Pagnell, famous for its service station, and also for being a place where there was a dissenting academy to train ministers in the 1800s. This academy became part of Cheshunt college, which in turn became part of Westminster College, Cambridge. A noble claim to fame!
 
As I record this, I have family on Zoom calls and hope you do not hear them in the background- such is the joy of online meetings and gatherings in a family home!
Come, let us worship God
 
Call to Worship
 
People of God, on this wilderness journey, what will you eat?
The word of the Lord is our daily bread.
People of God, in this time of temptation, how will you live?
Our faith is in the faithfulness of God.
People of God, at this kingdom crossroad, whom will you serve?
We worship the Lord our God alone.
 
Hymn       God of grace and God of Glory
H E Fosdick 1878-1969
 
God of grace and God of glory
on you people pour Your power.
Crown Your ancient Church’s story
bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour.
 
2: Lo!  The hosts of evil ‘round us
scorn our Christ, assail His ways!
From the fears that long have bound us
free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the living of these days,
for the living of these days.
 
3: Save us from weak resignation
to the evils we deplore;
let the gift of thy salvation
be our glory evermore.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
serving You whom we adore,
serving You whom we adore.
 
4: God of grace and God of glory
on your people pour Your power.
Crown your ancient Church’s story
bring its bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
for the facing of this hour,
for the facing of this hour. 
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Assurance of Forgiveness:
 
God of grace and God of glory.
You are the divine, the almighty, the Lord of all.
You created and love all that is.
You created and love us all,
just as we are, without exception.
Not because we deserve your love,
not because of what we have done.
but because you are God.
You know us,
know the things we like and value about ourselves,
the things we struggle with and dislike.
You know the ways we behave,
our thoughts, words and actions.
And still you love us, unconditionally.
Gracious God,
may we truly absorb, believe and appreciate this,
worship and praise you,
and seek to live our lives for you,
through the power of your Holy Spirit
and following Jesus’ example.
 
And yet, despite all we can profess to understand and all we commit to do, we fail to truly live as people who are blessed by your love.
We limit you.
We box you in.
We make up rules and processes that keep you away from others.
We live in ways that directly contradict your ways revealed through Jesus.
We falsely convince ourselves that you have favourites and like some people more than others.
We elevate ourselves to the ‘good’ pedestal whilst knocking others down, judging them and finding them wanting and then make excuses and justifications for our words and actions. 
We look at ourselves through rose coloured spectacles and look at others from positions of power and arrogance and pride.
We think of ourselves more than others and live with unchallenged prejudices and hate.
We are guilty of failing to act to bring justice and peace,
we are guilty as individuals and as members of humanity.
So often we do not even do it consciously.
So often we do not even know we are doing it.
So often we do not even see what we are doing.
And yet we fall short.
 
Help us to take steps closer to you,
to be a truer reflection of Christ in how we live in this world.
Help us Lord to stop and reflect:
on our words and actions, our attitudes and ways.
Reveal again to us your compassion, your justice, your will and way.
Help us turn from the self-absorbed and insular, to focus on the wider world and on others.
May we be seen as light and love, not judgment and condemnation.
 
Gracious God, forgive us our sins and help us turn again to you
knowing we are loved and forgiven.
Jesus said: ‘Come to me all you who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest’.
We come,
we bring our burdens,
lay them down
and seek that rest.
Let us then help others, forgive others, love others,
and forgive ourselves,
in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Loving God,
open our eyes, hearts and minds to your joy, light and love
as we listen for your Word brought to us in these words.
May we respond to your call
and step out in your name,
living out the love we have heard and reflected on.
Amen.
 
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
 
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
 
God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.  I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’

Romans 4: 13-25

For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.
For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’)—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become ‘the father of many nations’, according to what was said, ‘So numerous shall your descendants be.’  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’  Now the words, ‘it was reckoned to him’, were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.
 
Hymn       To Abraham and Sarah
Judith Fetter, 1984
 
To Abraham and Sarah
the call of God was clear:
“Go forth and I will show you
a country rich and fair.
You need not fear the journey,
for I have pledged my word
that you shall be my people
and I will be your God.
 
2:  From Abraham and Sarah
arose a pilgrim race,
dependent for their journey
on God’s abundant grace;
and in their heart was written
by God this saving word:
that “You shall be my people
and I will be your God.”
 
3: We of this generation
on whom God’s h and is laid,
can journey to the future
secure and unafraid,
rejoicing in God’s goodness
and trusting in this word;
that “You shall be my people
and I will be your God.”

Sermon
 
What words stood out for you in today’s readings? What images? What did you hear that made you think? The wonder of the Bible is that, even if we have heard the same reading many times, each time we hear it we hear something different, something new. And while it is helpful to have people to offer reflections and words on the Lectionary readings, we must never forget that God gave us all the ability to hear, discern and respond to the words of Scripture ourselves.
 
For me, the words ‘promise’, ‘faith’ and ‘faithful’ stood out. Abraham was encouraged to be faithful and through his faithfulness and the faithfulness of his descendants, we have the encouragement that through faith we, too, are part of God’s promise.
 
Abram was old, very old. He had had experienced God’s word to him on many occasions and had lived according to God’s will and yet in this reading, we hear, God appeared to Abram and did something new, massive, life changing, transformational and enduring. God chose him and made a covenant with him, a lasting covenant, an everlasting covenant that still has ramifications today. God’s promise to one man and one woman grew and grew and became possibility, opportunity and blessing for many. And because of that covenant, we are here, listening, reading and reflecting on God’s Word still today.
 
God did not put any limitations on what was going to happen. God didn’t choose the strongest or the best, God didn’t choose the likeliest candidate: God chose an old man. We don’t have to look far to see that this was, and is, God’s way. God still chooses those whom society may consider the unlikely, the least and the lost.
 
God chose Abram, then God renamed him. God acknowledged who Abram was and, to signify the new beginning, changed his name. He was known and he was named and Sarah too. Powerful stuff. How do we experience the story of Abraham, the father of our faith? We revere, we hold him up as an example of solid faith. In Romans we heard that Abraham did not weaken in faith, that he did not distrust and that he hoped against hope. And yet in the next verse in our reading, verse 17 in Genesis 17, Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself: ‘can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?’ What we see here is a fallible human being. A man who was open to question, to challenge, to feel uncertain.
 
God’s promise to Abraham seems impossible. And yet what did he have to do? Walk before God and be blameless! Not a great ask, some may say- but we already know Abraham and how his treatment of Hagar, his wife’s slave girl, was awful and so God’s word was a challenge to him. God also made it clear that the covenant was something that was two-sided: Abraham and the people of Israel had to keep their side of the bargain by practising circumcision. And this was a massive issue for the post-exilic people of God and went on into the Epistles in the New Testament, where we hear of the struggles of the people of God who believed they were being unfaithful if they did not demand circumcision of all. The added complexity of covenant related to circumcision and then the idea of the land as perpetual holding brings us into increasingly difficult territory. This is what the Bible does- it challenges us! It is not an easy read! My offering here is that we cannot use the Bible as an instruction manual but are to read it as a narrative of God’s relationship with humankind and the growing understanding and revelation of that relationship. The risk we run if we do not see it as a collection of books written by ordinary people is that we allow it, not to challenge and change us, but to perpetuate and excuse poor behaviour and we do so in God’s name. We can look at history and see how things that were widely accepted in society, and were condoned and supported using biblical texts, are no longer considered appropriate: slavery, the vilification of unmarried mothers, the refutation of divorce, the condemnation of same gender relationships or the prejudice towards different races and the acceptance of white supremacy. Condemnation, criticism, triumphalistic narratives of hate or hurt have no place in God’s kingdom.
 
And so, as we move on in time and in narrative to the words of the letter to the Romans, the story of God’s covenant through Abraham and the people of God is taken on and transformed by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus: the covenant with God continued not because of the actions of anyone, but because of the faith of the people. The faithfulness of the people matters more than sticking to the letter of the law. Being trumps doing. And so it endures.
 
Faith is believing in an all-loving God, it is an understanding of God’s will and way being made real in the world through Christ and through human beings and it is trusting the divine presence of God to guide, uphold, enable, inspire and help us to live well as we seek to bring God’s kingdom here on earth. As we learn more, as God is revealed in new and exciting ways, it becomes clear that God’s love is unchanging but God’s interaction with humankind develops and grows and so does our understanding of society and what needs to change.
 
Abraham was named, known, loved and sent out to grow the kingdom of God.
 
We, too, are known, named, loved and called to go out and grow the kingdom of God.
 
Not by preaching limitations and narrow boundaries, but by sharing the extravagant, transformational, abundant and life giving love that was shared with humankind in the promises to Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses; in the promises brought in Christ to the disciples and given to the people by the apostle Paul and those writing in his name.
 
As we make our Lenten journey, as we walk the road to Jesus’ crucifixion and consider, once again, the sacrifice he made for us and for the whole of humanity, may we continue to consider how our faith impacts our daily lives, how we can use that faith to change the world around us, seeking to follow God and live blameless lives . May we also endeavour to share the promise and blessing of our faith so that others may find fulness of life, inspiration, hope, peace, joy and love and strength, all made possible by a covenant God. Amen.
 
Hymn:               God who sets us on a journey.
Joy Dine (1937 – 2001)
 
God who sets us on a journey
to discover, dream and grow,
lead us as you led your people
in the desert long ago;
journey inward, journey outward,
stir the spirit, stretch the mind,
love for God and self and neighbour
marks the way that Christ defined.
 
Exploration brings new insights,
changes, choices we must face;
give us wisdom in deciding,
mindful always of your grace;
should we stumble, lose our bearings,
find it hard to know what’s right,
we regain our true direction
focused on the Jesus light.
 
End our longing for the old days,
grant the vision that we lack –
once we’ve started on this journey
there can be no turning back;
let us travel light, discarding
excess baggage from our past,
cherish only what’s essential,
choosing treasure that will last.
 
When we set up camp and settle
to avoid love’s risk and pain,
you disturb complacent comfort,
pull the tent pegs up again;
keep us travelling in the knowledge
you are always at our side;
give us courage for the journey,
Christ our goal and Christ our guide.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in this world—
which some seek to control, but which others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust: our world belongs to God!
 
From the beginning, through all the crises of our times,
until His Kingdom fully comes, God keeps covenant forever.
our world belongs to God!
 
We rejoice in the goodness of God, renounce the works of darkness,
and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for our world belongs to God!
 
As committed disciples, called to faithful obedience, and set free for joyful praise, we offer our hearts and lives to do God's work in his world, for our world belongs to God!
 
With tempered impatience,  eager to see injustice ended, we expect the Day of the Lord. And we are confident that the light which shines in the present darkness will fill the earth when Christ appears for our World belongs to God!
 
Intercessions
 
Loving God,  our world can be beautiful, supportive, united, thrilling and joyful. Life can be enriching and easy, simple and untroubled. And for these times and these experiences, we give you thanks. For the times when life is easy and each step is an exciting adventure, we give you thanks. For the times when happiness and peace and faith come easy, we give you thanks.
And yet, life in this 21st century world so often feels like a storm: like the rain obscuring our vision and stopping us from rational responses, like the cold chilling us and making us moan, like the wind blowing us from place to place as we are tossed around at the whim of others, and then the overwhelming floods that make it almost impossible to carry on daily life, making it hazardous and difficult. Life in this broken and troubled world becomes tough, exhausting, isolating and hard. We live in a world where we can struggle for glimpses of you.
 
And yet, Gracious God, we know you love everyone and everything that you have created. And we know that you are as saddened by the devastation, pain and conflict in this world as we are. You are the God who wills good for your world, and you work through, in and with us. Help us to listen for the promptings of your Holy Spirit calling us to step up and step out, for the inspiration needed to change and the resilience to keep that change going.
 
We bring to you now those places, people and situations around the world who are affected by the storms of life. Those who are experiencing the worst this world has to offer, who feel abandoned and forgotten. The anxious and the broken, the fighting and the fearful, and all those whose lives feel hopeless. In this time of quiet we offer the words of our hearts.
 
(Silence)
 
Loving God, life is sometimes so hard.  When it is and we are in need, may we risk being vulnerable and reach out to ask for help.
May we also seek to find ways to help each other, love, support, assist and care for each other, however, whenever and wherever that is possible.
 
We believe that you can do things beyond our imaginings, influencing change and bringing love, in places and people so often neglected or ignored.
All these prayers we offer in Jesus’ name, who showed us what love is and what relationships can be and we pray as He taught us saying:
 
Our Father…
 
Offertory
 
God calls us to share what we have and to do so with a willing heart.
 
Loving God, we come giving thanks for your love in our lives and the blessings we find in being  joined together in community, whether online, on the airwaves or on paper.  We offer our thanks and our lives to you, that our time and money, our gifts and talents
may be used to glorify you and  enable your kingdom to flourish here on earth.  In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
 
Hymn:      Peace, perfect peace      
                  Words and Music: Kevin Mayhew
 
Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ our Lord.
Peace, perfect peace, is the gift of Christ our Lord.
Thus says the Lord, will the world know my friends,
peace, perfect peace is the gift of Christ our Lord.
 
Hope, perfect hope…
Joy, perfect joy….
 
Blessing
 
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
And may the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be with us, those we love,
those we are yet to love
and those we struggle to love.
Now and forever, Amen
 
Sources and thanks
 
God of grace and God of Glory - H E Fosdick 1878-1969 Sung by Sanctuary Choir, First Methodist Church, Houston, Texas.
To Abraham and Sarah - Judith Fetter, 1984. Unknown church choir on Youtube
God who sets us on a journey - Words: Joy Dine (1937 – 2001)  © The Revd Mervyn Dine. Reproduced with permission Sung by Michael Schoepe accompanied by Paul Dankers Sunday, October 4th, 2020
Peace, perfect peace - Words and Music: Kevin Mayhew. Performed by a Primary School Choir for the BBC’s Come and Praise CD
 
Call to worship from Feasting on the Word
Affirmation of Faith taken from Stanzas 1 and 2 of Our World Belongs to God - a contemporary testimony of faith available in the worship edition of the Psalter Hymnal of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC Publications, 1987; 1-800-333-8300; www.FaithAliveResources.org).
 
Organ Pieces
Ein Feste Burg (“A mighty fortress”) by Max Reger. (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)
Nun Danket Alle Gott – Marche Triomphale (“Now thank we all our God”) by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)
 
Both pieces played by, and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill. http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to John Cornell, Anne Hewling, Marion Thomas, David Shimmin, Karen Smith and Alison Jiggins for reading various spoken parts of the service.
 
Thanks to the choir of Barrhead URC for the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Sun, 28/02/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 28th February
 
Psalm 33
 
Rejoice, you righteous, in the Lord,
in song your voices raise;
awake the psaltery and harp,
lift up God's name in praise!
For by God's word the heavens were hung;
God laid the sea and land,
and all that fills the firmament
were made at God's command.

Let every nation, every land
unite with one accord,
and humbly lay their heart-felt prayers
in awe before the Lord.
How happy are God's faithful ones,
how blest God's chosen heirs,
for surely an inheritance
of glory shall be theirs!

Behold, God's ever-watchful eye
sees through our dark despair;
the arms of grace encircle us
with strong, yet tender care;
the hope of all the ages past,
that sets at peace our fears,
God's mercy and God's steadfast love
shall follow all our years.

Michael Morgan © 19099 Faith Alive Chr. Res.

You can hear this sung to Immortal Invisible here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxp2GAtDj20
It also works well to Ellacombe

Reflection

Sometimes, dear pray-er, I take Scripture words as I read them.  As if they were written in the place they are read, in the time in which they are being read, I read as if they are speaking directly into this time. I know they come from other times for other people and the authors probably didn’t guess them to last this long.  But they are with us still. 

I read and rejoice in God’s name and creation, no matter how much we understand or how it happened.  I read on, certainly wishing that every nation could unite in one accord in prayer.  I’m not sure how chosen we are, but I grasp a sense of peace, if not happiness, in being faithful.

Stanzas one and two accepted with mystery behind them, I dwell with the third. I believe that these words of profound trust and faith remain alive and speak to us now because they are true in an eternal, purposeful way. We can all name, with a little digging, when we were peaceful and expected otherwise.  We can look back to see when we survived and didn’t assume we would, we can bear to see that hope shocked us alive when we least anticipated it.  That we are alive, reading and praying is in some measure an account of God’s watchful eye in our despair, God’s encircling grace and tender care. That we pray at all is a sign of hope that our fear may become peace.

In these challenging days when all which seems steady and eternal is rocked to the core, we can take heart from our act of praying, linking ourselves with each other and our eternal God.  We will be carried into peace by the very God-ful hope we have.
 
Prayer
Dear God, I praise you that I am even praying.
You have pulled me through, made me see, made me cry as we all feel so much for each other.
Let me believe with childlike simplicity that you simply Are.  Here with us.
Renew my hope and my commitment to carry that Spirit hope - a torch into the world in which you place us.
 
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

 Revd Elizabeth Gray-King, Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba’s URC Oxford  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Sat, 27/02/2021 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 27th February
 
St Mark 11: 12 - 14

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.  He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it.

Reflection

Jesus was hungry. I’m not sure that’s a state we often associate with Jesus. Yet, if we really believe he was fully human (as well as the Son of God) then it follows he must have gone through the whole set of human experiences, which includes hunger. He wasn’t above or beyond such every day, flesh and blood concerns. Perhaps whoever put him up in Bethany didn’t have enough food to spare to give him a good breakfast, and he knew he had a busy day coming up. This hunger even seems to make him grumpy – he looks for figs on a tree despite knowing it’s not the right time of year, then curses the tree for not having any fruit, a symbolic action that we see the results of a few verses later.

We can all identify with feeling hungry. We’ve all come home after a long day ready for our tea, or looked forward to having a biscuit or two at elevenses to tide us over until lunchtime. A little hunger makes the coming meal all the better. Many of us, though (including me) will have been lucky enough to have never experienced real hunger, and have never had to worry about being able to afford to feed ourselves. That of course is not the case for many people in our world, including many in our own communities, as seen by the growth of food banks. The economic crisis caused by the pandemic has made this even worse. If as a society we hungered more for righteousness than for consumption the food banks, which treat the symptoms rather than the underlying cause of hunger, might no longer be needed. That would truly be a step towards building the Kingdom.

Prayer

Gracious God, we give thanks for the gift of Jesus
and we give thanks for his hunger,
both for food and for justice. 
We give thanks too for the food we eat, 
and pray that we can learn to share
the abundant resources you have given us
to build a word where nobody goes hungry.
 
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Today's writer

Rev’d D. Nick Jones, minister, Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Fri, 26/02/2021 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Friday 26th February
 
St Mark 11: 1 - 10
 
When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples  and said to them, ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it.  If anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” just say this, “The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.”’  They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it,  some of the bystanders said to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’  They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it.  Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it.  Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields.  Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

‘Hosanna!
    Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
    Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Reflection

Jesus shows some divine knowledge when He tells His disciples that they will find a colt near the entrance of the village.  They had not been to the village, but He knew it was there.  While that may be surprising it is the reaction of some of the residents that is even more remarkable.  When the disciples said they were taking the colt because the Lord needed it, they let them take it.  They demonstrated total trust in the words the disciples spoke.  Do we show the same trust today?  Do we believe, without question, what we read in the Bible?

The disciples took the colt to Jesus and put cloaks on it to make some sort of saddle.  As He rode towards Jerusalem some people threw their cloaks on the road, others threw leaves.  What a demonstration of adoration.  We all have heard the story of Sir Walter Raleigh demonstrating his admiration for Queen Elizabeth by putting his cloak over a puddle.  These people were throwing their cloaks on the road for the Messiah to ride over.  As they did this, they shouted out the truth and acknowledged that Jesus was coming in the name of the Lord.  He was their hope, they were expecting great things, perhaps including freedom from the cruel Roman rulers.  We are also looking for freedom, freedom from wondering which tier we will be in next week or how many are allowed into a church service.  We all want freedom from this pandemic.  The good thing is that just like the people Mark wrote about, we can look to a higher authority.  No matter what is happening we can shout Hosanna, as we look to Jesus who we can trust to save us from anything that the world throws at us.

Prayer

Loving God
We ask that You show us your power by taking away our fears and worries.
Forgive us for the times we have doubted you and help us to put our total trust in you.
As we look to a future that might be like the old normal or might be a new normal help us remember that you are our eternal unchanging God.
We put our trust in you and ask for your help to tell others that you still love us.
In Jesus name we pray
Amen
 
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Today's writer

John Collings, Lay Preacher, Rutherglen URC
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Prayers in a Pandemic

Thu, 25/02/2021 - 12:22
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Prayers in a Pandemic

Dear Friends,

our Daily Devotion writers have been asked to write prayers to help us through these strange times.  Each Thursday a new prayer will be published here

https://urc.org.uk/prayers-during-the-pandemic

which we hope will give voice to the many different emotions we are all feeling.

Do check back each Thursday - I wrote this week's prayer, more will appear in the weeks to come.

best wishes

Andy --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

Thu, 25/02/2021 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Thursday 25th February 
 
St Mark 10: 46 - 52

They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ And they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Take heart; get up, he is calling you.’  So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.  Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘My teacher,  let me see again.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

Reflection

This story is a turning point in Mark’s narrative.  Until this point Jesus’ ministry has focused on healing and teaching.  At the gates of Jericho, he heals a blind man. He leaves Jericho, setting off towards Jerusalem and the ending of his life.  

This story is a turning point for the other characters.  Bartimaeus is a blind beggar, waiting at the gate in Jericho with some dim hope of healing.  When he hears Jesus is nearby hope grows and he calls out.  He isn’t going to be quiet—this might be his moment.  Jesus does hear him.  He calls Bartimaeus to him, and asks what he wants.  Bartimaeus asks and is healed.  From this point he begins a life of following Jesus. This story is a turning point for Bartimaeus—he moves from being a blind beggar to being a follower of Jesus.  Bartimeaus would probably tell and retell this story for the rest of his life—this life-changing moment. 

In this story the crowd  began by trying to silence Bartimaeus, but then they change their tack and tell him to get up and go to Jesus.  The crowd turns from baring access to Jesus to opening the way to Jesus.  This was their turning point—from being a movement that kept the story inside their circle to a community with open boundaries.  It was, perhaps, the moment they truly heard the call of the broken world and found a way to bring that brokenness to God.

What was our pandemic turning point?  What story will we tell about God’s work with us in the past year?  Were the last 12 months a time when we were forced to stop, to listen to cries for healing,  to bring people to God for healing?   Have we changed direction?  Is our re-newed calling to to less use of fossil fuels, to being anti-racist, to listening to the cries of those who need love and healing, to being healed ourselves?  What is your pandemic turning point story? 

Prayer
Healing God, open our ears to listen for your calling.  Open our ears to hear the cries of those who need healing.  Give us courage to ask for healing.  Give us faith to trust your call.  Give us the words to tell the story of our healing and our calling to new directions. Amen.
 
 
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Today's writer

Rev’d Martha McInnes, Minister, Cardiff and Penarth Pastorate
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's coming

Wed, 24/02/2021 - 16:15
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service, the second in Lent, is led by The Revd. Jenny Mills. Jenny is the Secretary for Education and Learning at the URC. Based in Church House but currently, of course, from home in Newport Pagnell. This week's service takes the theme of promise. As we look at the story of Abraham and Sarah. Hymns include God of grace and God of glory, Judith Fetter's To Abraham and Sarah, God who sets us on a journey, and Kevin Mayhew's Peace, perfect peace.

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 blessing,

Dan

Dan Morrell
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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.  

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Podcasts

Wed, 24/02/2021 - 12:20
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Podcasts

Dear Friends,
 
for some time we have been recording the Daily Devotions and, each morning, a link is sent out, marked Podcast in the section above, which people can click and then hear the recording of the reading, reflection and prayer.  Now it is possible to listen to the Podcasts directly through your normal Podcast provider or via your Smart Speaker.  

I should say that I am not an expert on Smart Speakers and can only go on what has worked.  If this doesn't work for you I'm not able to help so please ask someone younger and more technically proficient!  But if you say:

"Alexa play the podcast of the URC Daily Devotion"  or

"Hey Siri, play the podcast of the URC Daily Devotion" or 

"Hey Google, play the podcast of the URC Daily Devotion"

(choose whichever greeting makes your Smart Speaker work!) you should get today's Devotion. 

You can also get it to play the previous devotion by using the word "previous."

On Sundays it will play the Service, if you want the Devotion you will have to tell it to play the "previous Daily Devotion".  It seems using the word "Podcast" is key but I suspect Smart Speakers will adapt after a few uses and learn what it is you are asking for.  

The Podcasts are also available on Spotify (just manually find the Podcast section) and various other Podcast providers as well as by clicking the link on the top of each email.

We hope that these new ways of listening will make the Devotions more accessible.

With every good wish


Andy
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URC Daily Devotion - Wednesday 24th February 2021

Wed, 24/02/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Wednesday 24th February

St Mark 10: 35 - 45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.’  And he said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’  And they said to him, ‘Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.’  But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’  They replied, ‘We are able.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;  but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.’

When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. So Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant,  and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.  For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Reflection

I remember when my children were very young; they used to squabble continuously about who got the first choice on anything.   Sound familiar?  In many ways it is just the same with adults.  Some of us are more competitive than others, some more power-hungry (we all know someone who cannot bear to lose at Monopoly), but we each have within us the lurking desire to be better than someone else.  It is right to tell people when they have done a good job, and we all like to have our effort and achievement recognised but when we seek power and recognition for their own sake, the healthy “Well done, mate. Good job.” can become an unhealthy obsession.  Now, it’s not a bad thing to want recognition for something done well, in however small a way but in its worst excesses, we can become obsessed with status, power, authority.

Actually, we don’t have to do that. We do not have to strive for these things, and that’s not because we already have them, nor because we really do deserve them. It’s because we really don’t deserve them. You fear that you are not good enough? You’ve not. Neither am I.

It is because there was once, someone who truly did deserve all approval, all respect, all admiration, all love, because he was good enough. He was already acceptable. And his love is big enough that he will let us all become acceptable. We get to take his ‘good enough’ as our own. Why? Because we deserve it? I don’t think so!  

When we realise that we cannot ever make ourselves acceptable we can simply say ‘thank you’ to the only one who can exchange our worthlessness for his worth. Jesus the carpenter – who fixes things.  And when we are content that our worth in God’s sight is not earned by good works or approval from those around us, then we can be happy to take the humble position that Jesus did.
That’s good enough for me!

Prayer

My Father,
Please teach me to find my security
in knowing that you love unlovable me 
in seeking first your kingdom and righteousness 
in striving for the ultimate reward of being your good and faithful servant
through your son, my Lord and example.

Amen

 
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Today's writer

Ann Barton - Lay Worship Leader, Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 23rd February 2021

Tue, 23/02/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Tuesday 23rd February

St Mark 10: 32 - 34 read by Christopher Whitehead

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him,  saying, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles;  they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.’

Reflection

Mark paints a picture of Jesus walking steadily towards Jerusalem with his disciples trailing behind. We are told that they were both amazed and afraid.

Presumably they were amazed at Jesus’ instance on going to Jerusalem, despite warning them for a third time that he would suffer and die at the hands of the authorities based there. It’s no wonder that the disciples are afraid both for Jesus and for themselves.

Fear is a recurring theme in the bible. ‘Do not be afraid’ is possibly the most frequent commandment. More positively folk are often encouraged to believe, have faith, or trust.

It was Jesus’ absolute trust in his father that had made him ‘set his face towards Jerusalem’. However, that would not be enough to take away from the terrible consequences of following that path.

Faith can give us the ‘sure and certain hope’ that we are doing the right thing. It can give us strength to carry on, even in the most difficult of circumstances. It can even help us to have an outwardly calm approach, because we know what we are doing and why.

Nevertheless, we can still be afraid of the consequences. Like Jesus we can sweat drops of blood, and suffer greatly as a result of following our chosen path, even, in extremis, crying, ‘My God why have you forsaken me?’

So let’s cling to the sure and certain hope and to the leading that God has given us, and let’s not be afraid of fear itself. We are human and we know that our faith will not remove the pain and difficulties ahead, nevertheless our faith tells us that with God’s help we will be able to deal with them.

Prayer

Living and loving God.
We believe, help our unbelief.
Open our eyes to the paths that you would have us walk.
Hold us in our fear, and strengthen our trust,
that we might set our faces towards your kingdom,
regardless of the difficulties on the road ahead.
Thanks be to God

Amen. 

 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Jacky Embrey, Bolton & Salford Missional Partnership Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 22nd February 2021

Mon, 22/02/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 22nd  February  2021

St Mark 10: 17 - 31 

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.  You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.”’  He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’  Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’  When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’  And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’  They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’  Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’

Reflection

Discipleship is difficult … but the good news is that it’s not just down to us!

At first it seems that Jesus is dealing here with an ingratiating and perhaps malign sycophant.  So Jesus pricks his puffed up bubble and reminds him that religion has a hard practical side. It is not about giving flattering praise but doing God’s will.

In the exchange that follows events take a different turn.  Jesus senses the man’s sincerity – he has tried to keep the Law all his life and has come to realise that this is not enough. Now Jesus warms to him and answers his original question with the seriousness it deserves. He invites the man to follow him. But the path of discipleship is costly and, in the man’s case, in order to lay up treasure in heaven he must sell all his possessions. It proves too daunting a sacrifice.

This sends tremors of dismay within the on-looking disciples.  The discipleship gauntlet set down is forbidding. It is not about wealth as such but rather “complete inner detachment from worldly things … to put one’s trust in God and rely on him as the sole source of security and well-being” (Nineham).

Gulp! … with the bar set so high how can anyone be saved?

Then, we hear the great news! “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”  This verse heralds what became the core of Paul’s teaching. If we are to be saved it is not by our own efforts alone but through the grace and unlimited power of God. 

So, at the heart of this reading are two truths about discipleship, which are in creative tension with each other. On the one hand, it involves constantly renewed, striving dedication. On the other hand, such efforts will not themselves be sufficient as the kingdom is a gift of grace from God … for whom all things are possible.

Prayer

Lord, I strive to put you at the centre of my life,
to rely on you as my bedrock
my foundation and security.
But, I know I am weak;
I let other worldly treasures
divert me from the path of discipleship.
By the light of the cross,
show me again the way,
so that through your grace
I may arrive safely home.
Amen.

 

 

 

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Today's writer

Professor Graham Handscomb, Convenor of the URC Stepwise Task and Finish Group and a member of Christ Church URC, Chelmsford.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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