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URC Daily Devotion 8th October 2019

Tue, 08/10/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th October 2019 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Philippians 1: 12 - 14
 
I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word  with greater boldness and without fear.
 
Reflection
The Apostle Paul is imprisoned. He was probably already in Rome though some scholars suggest that he was still in Ephesus when this letter was written. While Paul had deliberately, and willingly, used his Roman citizenship to achieve a transfer to the heart of the Roman Empire, we can be sure that his fellow Christian leaders and followers were distressed and disturbed that he was in prison and would, in all likelihood, be condemned to death; for them this was bad news.

Paul assures them that what had happened had actually helped to spread the Gospel; as he had written to the Romans (8:28)  “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.” We can accept this in theory, but how easy is it to accept it in practice?

Circumstances, for example in health, relationships and life opportunities, for others and for ourselves, can turn out very differently from our hopes and expectations.

How do we respond when this happens? Even if we feel able to move on ourselves in the face of such disappointments and worse, it is so hard for sensitive people to accept that the suffering of others is “working together for good.”

But Paul found that the example he gave and the opportunity to witness given to him in prison could be viewed positively and actually increased the confidence of his fellow Christians.

So, while not being insensitive to the problems and suffering of others, let us pray that God will give us the insight and strength to use whatever setbacks befall us as opportunities to witness to our faith and confidence in God’s love and power.

Prayer

Through all the changing scenes of life,
   in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
   my heart end tongue employ.
Of his deliverance I will boast,
   till all that are distressed
from mine example comfort take,
   and soothe their griefs to rest.
 
N Tate and N Brady, from Psalm 34
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, retired URC Minister, Member of Verwood URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 7th October2019

Mon, 07/10/2019 - 06:00
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Monday 7th October

Philippians 1:1 - 11

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you,  because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now.  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel.  For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Reflection

There’s a post that comes up periodically (and repeatedly) on social media entitled ‘Very British Problems’ which pokes gentle fun at our embarrassed approach to life, worrying unnecessarily and awkwardly about things that really don’t need to be worried about!  

But another of the characteristics associated with our British mores that is valued still is politeness - a characteristic that, sadly and heartbreakingly, seems to have gone out of the window in many circumstances following the Brexit Referendum.  

But politeness is far from a solely British characteristic and one that is clearly evident in all Paul’s letters, even in his one to Galatian churches where he is about to set off both barrels of criticism.  He starts by writing, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ …”

But it’s about more than politeness, it is about that word that is in both this and the Galatian letter, not to mention elsewhere in bucket-loads of Paul’s writings.  It is about Grace.  

Approach people with grace and faithful love (characteristics that are massively evident in the works of God and in the words and actions of Jesus), and there is a more than average likelihood that they will listen, take on board what you say and act in, yes, a grace-filled and loving way.  As Paul began his letter, that is what he was hoping anyway, so that the Philippians will indeed gather the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.  

As we begin to explore this beautiful, and beautifully written, grace-filled letter, may we gather some of that harvest too.

Prayer

God of grace, love and peace, 
may we learn to control our urges to interrupt, 
criticise and / or take umbrage.
As we greet, initiate and share all we know of 
and understand about Jesus,
may we do so with mountains 
of that same grace, love and peace.
Amen 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark is the Minister of the Bridport & Dorchester 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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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The Letter to the Philippians

Sun, 06/10/2019 - 18:00
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The Letter to the Philippians & the New Template
 
I hope you found our reflections on the Book of Romans useful and that they helped you understand that Epistle better.   

I also hope you like the new template that is now being used consistently after a few trial runs.  We're told it's easier to read and we have put various links at the top of each email - the first two allow you to Follow the Daily Devotions on Facebook and Twitter - just click the link.  The third takes you to the Podcast - once you click this you are taken to the Devotions website where, on a computer, you will see the Podcast at the top, on phones or tablets it appears at the bottom.  

The next set of links allows you to share the Devotion on your own Facebook Feed, Twitter Account or to forward to a friend.  Remember, if you find these Devotions helpful then your friends may too!  

You can change your email address or switch between plain text or Devotions which look more like webpages by following the link at the bottom marked "update your mailing preferences".  Finally you can unsubscribe by the final link at the bottom.  If you inadvertently unsubscribe you have to add yourself again via devotions.urc.org.uk

Finally, some details about our next series which takes us through the Letter to the Philippians.  This letter is generally assumed to have been written by the Apostle Paul at some point around 50 AD.  Scholars think - due to changes in tone and style - that it is made up of fragments from three other letters. It seems clear that Paul wrote it when in custody and many believe he wrote it from Rome.  Paul greets the church and remains cheerful despite his impending sentence of death. He reminds his readers they don’t need to be circumcised - ie to obey the Jewish Law - and urges them to sort out the, inevitable, problems in their fellowship. 

We hope that the collection of reflections we have will continue to inspire you in your own journey of discipleship.


with every good wish


Andy Braunston
Editor, Daily Devotions from the URC
 
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URC Daily Devotion 6th October 2019

Sun, 06/10/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th October 2019 View this email in your browser

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Sunday 6th October

Psalm 117
 
1 Praise the Lord, O all you nations;
all you people, sing his praise.
For his love is great towards us;
his commitment lasts always.
He is faithful now and ever.
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Regent Square here or to Westminster Abbey here.

Reflection

Psalm 117 forms the shortest chapter of the Bible but it is a little gem of praise. It emphasizes that God’s covenant relationship is with “us” and with “all nations”. Martin Luther wrote a long commentary upon these two verses on the grounds that they were basic to our understanding of the love of God. “As I see it,” Luther declared, “the whole book of Acts was written because of this Psalm.”

On 3rd July, St.Thomas’ Day I was privileged to attend two powerful acts of worship in London when members of the Guys and St.Thomas’ Hospital chaplaincy team were welcomed to both the Community of the Cross of Nails and its new interfaith sister network, Together for Hope. The latter is a network of faith based and secular organisations who inspired by the story of Coventry Cathedral, share a common commitment to work for peace, justice and reconciliation.

The congregation included Jews, Buddhists, Christians and people representing the Muslim, Sikh, Humanist and Hindu commnities. The second ceremony, opposite the Houses of Parliament, was followed by a moment of praise when there was a release of doves on the river bank, signifying peace and healing.

Prayer


For love which heals wounds,
we will stand.
For generosity which opens space for hope,
we will stand.
For nurturing, which builds a culture of peace,
we will stand.
For compassion, which seeks the best for all,
we will stand.
For respect, which enables us to love with difference,
we will stand.
For humility, which allows healthy relationship with others,
we will stand.
Together for hope,
we will stand.

Together for Hope -A Pledge for Transformation
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Mary Taylor, Minister, Crookham United Reformed Church including Flodden Peace Centre, a partner of the international Cross of Nails linked to Coventry Cathedral 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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 5th October 2019

Sat, 05/10/2019 - 06:00
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Saturday 5th October

Romans 16

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae,  so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.

Greet Prisca and Aquila, who work with me in Christ Jesus, and who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert  in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked very hard among you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys.  Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Greet my relative Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; and greet his mother—a mother to me also.  Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offences, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.  For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good, and guileless in what is evil.  The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Timothy, my co-worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my relatives.

 I Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord.

Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the city treasurer, and our brother Quartus, greet you.

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages  but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.

Reflection

Too many people these words may appear to be just a list of names, like a genealogy which some of us may well have grappled with in other places within Scripture. Perhaps even like a Christmas card list, with little seen or heard from people other than this annual remembrance. However, to Paul these were genuine people who had featured in his life and whom he knew, loved, cared about, and prayed for. These really meant something to him and held particular spiritual depth and significance.

The study of names and the meaning which each one possesses is fascinating. They speak of actual people, rather than just empty words on a page, written centuries ago. People and their individual personality DO matter so much, leaving their imprint upon our hearts. Who still remembers their first Teacher at School, or Sunday School? Their first “best friend” or even first boyfriend or girlfriend?

These names meant something to Paul who wrote fondly about them. They are people he loved, illustrating importantly that people are of the greatest value to us, as they are to God. Later on we read of Paul’s concern for these known and loved people to be vigilant concerning those who would cause a break in the beauty of such relationships, through causing disharmony and opposition. However, this is nipped in the bud as the reassuring ability of the God of peace is given pre-eminence.

Oh that we too valued our friends in the faith as much as Paul did. Sadly all too easily there can be negativity rather than love and a sad lack of acknowledgement of the true value of our friends. Those who stand by us in times of adversity and pray for us should be the ones for whom we should earnestly be seeking God’s rich blessings.

Prayer :-

Jesus, the Name higher than any other,
which means so much to us who believe.
Emmanuel, God with us, Pearl beyond all price.

Thank you for our friends who have a special place in our hearts,
and have been given to us by yourself.
May we love, treasure, respect them and faithfully
uphold them remembering them as your special gifts to us,
Praying for their good as you have shown us by example.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

Verena Walder     Lay Preacher and Elder     Tabernacle URC, Mumbles. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th October 2019

Fri, 04/10/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th October 2019 View this email in your browser

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Friday 4th October

Romans 15: 22 - 32

This is the reason that I have so often been hindered from coming to you. But now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you  when I go to Spain. For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a little while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints;  for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things.  So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain; and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,  by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf,  that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,  so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.


Reflection

The world that Paul knew was much smaller than ours, and time was much more compressed too. This first generation of believers had been expecting all things shortly to come to an end, though some will certainly have recalled Jesus’s words  that “the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations” (Mark 13.10). As the years are ticking by, I sense that Paul is checking up on himself and the scope of his own ministry. And like many of us, he probably wonders if he could have done more.

Here he is reflecting on how far he has been, and how far there is yet to go. He began the letter by expressing the hope that he would soon be able to visit his readers in Rome – a surprising ambition as he is usually concerned only with churches that he has founded himself, “so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation”. Then he knows that there are promises to keep, which will mean first travelling back to Jerusalem, with the money that others have been collecting for the “mother church”.  Jesus’s disciples realise that they are never completely free agents: we may try to make plans, but there are always new challenges and demands on our time.

But now Paul discloses one further ambition – to go to Spain, which is of course in his world as far anyone can go. This is not an item on an ageing man’s bucket list, nor is the journey contemplated just for the satisfaction of saying “from Jerusalem as far as Illyricum... and even further”. Paul is thinking about what faithfulness to the Gospel may now be demanding of him – to take the good news to earth’s very extremity.

But so far as we know, he never made it to Spain. God’s plans and ours do not always coincide.

Prayer

Help us in our life journeys
to follow your directions
to be ambitious only to carry out your will
and to know the fullness of Christ’s blessing
in the company and service of his people.   Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John Durell    Retired minister Member of Waddington Street URC, Durham Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 3rd October 2019

Thu, 03/10/2019 - 06:00
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Thursday 3rd October

Romans 15: 14 - 21

I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters,  that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless, on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God  to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God.  For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news  of Christ. Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,

‘Those who have never been told of him shall see,
    and those who have never heard of him shall understand.’


Reflection

When parents evening came around, I, as a child, made sure I booked appointments with the teachers I knew wouldn’t give such glowing reports right in the middle of one’s I knew who would. It was kind of like a constructive criticism sandwich and it meant my parents started and ended the evening hearing wonderful things about me and not focusing on the negative!  I’m not sure how well it worked but this the tactic Paul employed in this part Romans. 
 
Having never met them before, Paul wrote of how he heard positive things about them, how they were full of goodness and able to instruct one another.  He was, however, also keen to point out that he had to oppose some of their strongest prejudices in order for them to be true to the message of the Gospel. In this section of Romans Paul shows the interest that he had in the welfare of these people he had never met. 
 
When we care for one another, we want to be building each other up.  Sometimes, however, we need to be prepared to have difficult conversations. Paul explained that he will only speak of what Christ has accomplished in his own life. We can be all too ready to exploit one another’s struggles when really, we struggle in this area ourselves. Paul brought something to the attention of these people, out of genuine care,  because he had dealt with it in himself . There is no sense of judgement here, only a deep concern for the welfare of the people and the sharing of the Gospel. 
 
Prayer 

Gracious God, help us to have the wisdom to know how to approach difficult conversations for the sake of your Gospel. Let us not be judgemental but to approach things in a loving way seeking your guidance at all times. In Jesus name. Amen 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Josh Thomas,  Minister of Petersfield and Liss URC with the Beacon Church Bordon 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 2nd October 2019

Wed, 02/10/2019 - 06:00
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Wednesday 2nd October

Romans 15: 7 - 13

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
    and sing praises to your name’;

and again he says,

‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;

and again,

‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
    and let all the peoples praise him’;

and again Isaiah says,

‘The root of Jesse shall come,
    the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Reflection

For weeks we have been immersed in Paul’s closely argued theology.  In today’s passage he repeats his conviction that Christ is for Jew and for Gentile, and he quotes the Old Testament in support of this understanding. 
 
But it is the first and last verses that make my heart sing.  There is enough challenge and encouragement in these words to last a lifetime, let alone just today!
 
“Welcome one another … just as Christ has welcomed you” (v.7)
 
For the Christians in Rome, and in the context of this letter, this meant welcoming one another across the Jew/Gentile divide.   What does it mean for you? Who is it that you or I might be inclined to avoid or dismiss, but in fact are to welcome? Our welcoming of those God brings us into contact with day by day is to be of the same depth and generosity as Christ’s welcome of us.
 
And lest we be discouraged as we face up to the gap between our intention and our practice, we have in verse 13 a glorious benediction to bless us in the coming hours of this day. 
 
When I consider the little church in the hostile capital of Empire that was Rome, I find this blessing truly remarkable.  Not only did they exist in a threatening external environment, but this letter indicates serious tensions within the community itself.  Yet Paul’s calls on God to fill them with joy, peace and hope. It is an expectant prayer that springs from the writer’s own experience. 
 
So may it be for us on this ordinary autumnal Wednesday.  Whatever each of us is facing today, personally or more widely as a community, God is the God of hope, who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, makes real for us hope in abundance.  
 
Prayer
 
Thank you, Lord, for welcome.
Help us, today,
to understand more deeply
that at the heart of everything
is your welcome, for us, and for everyone.
And so fill us with all joy and peace in believing.
 
Thank you, Lord, for hope,
hope which is rooted in You.
We hold before you situations where hope is hidden …
God of hope
make us today
people of hope and of welcome.
 
Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Gwen Collins, retired minister, member of Avenue St Andrews URC, Southampton 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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 1st October 2019

Tue, 01/10/2019 - 06:00
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Tuesday 1st October 

Romans 15: 1 - 6

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’  For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection

Yes, the strong should help the weak, of course they should!  It's common sense isn't it? This is one of those principles which seems so right - until we try to figure out how it might work in practice.

In the business world, weak might be a bottom line with very small numbers, or very large, but negative, numbers.  Strong might be fingers in big well-known pies. In the sports world, strong might be having rich owners, expensive players at the top of their game, huge publicity budgets.  Weak might be the local cricket team living from hand to mouth, with players giving up their free time not only to play, but to maintain the cricket field and pavilion.

So what about the church world?  Strong could be a large congregation on Sunday mornings, it could be a large reserve fund to provide for those "rainy days" and weak could be the opposite of those measures.  

However, a church can have either, or both, of those features but still be weak if its focus is on protecting the status quo and pulling up the drawbridge of self-preservation.

And a church can be strong with a small congregation, and with no reserve funds available, if that church has a vision  which has been prayerfully discerned and which gives it the confidence to step out in faith and join in God's adventure even if the risks look insurmountable.

Prayer

Father, help us to see our strengths as you see them and help us to use those strengths to help others, be they individuals or fellowships, who have not yet found or accepted your strength and encouragement. Help us also to see our weaknesses as you see them, and be willing and able to accept help from others to overcome our weaknesses and to give you the glory. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Sheila Coop, Minister at Macedonia URC, Failsworth and Oldham Town Centre Chaplaincy 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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 30th September 2019

Mon, 30/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 14: 13 - 23

Let us therefore no longer pass judgement on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.  If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble.  The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Reflection
In his book, Being Disciples, Rowan Williams writes of what Christian faith and discipleship can offer Western society, where everything is a matter of personal preference and my human rights are paramount.  He describes 2 principles: firstly, we are each of equal value to God, and secondly, we are all dependent on one another.  These principles are consistent with this passage.
As we are each of equal value to God, and as God loves each one of us, then we need to love one another and help each other.  If I make someone struggle in their faith by the way I live, I am not showing love to that person. Paul speaks of food and drink, and today’s stumbling blocks might also include other matters, such as styles of worship or how we dress in church.  To build up our church community, we need to think of our brothers and sisters and how our behaviour affects their conscience – so if we visit a church where shoulders are expected to be covered, we should cover our shoulders, even if we are convinced that Jesus has no objections to bare shoulders.
We are dependant on one another for mutual support – for both giving and receiving, so that we are constantly building each other up in our faith, and setting each other free to respond to God’s calling, rather than putting stumbling blocks in each other’s way by judging others’ behaviour unfavourably.  We are not the ones to set standards of ‘holiness’ for ourselves or others – we need to leave the judging to God. 
As we walk the way, we need to consider not just our own journey, but also how our journey impacts on the journeys of others, so that together we grow as followers of Jesus.
 

Prayer

Father, we often blunder on our way, with little thought about how we affect others by what we do or say.  Help us to live with love and consideration for our fellow disciples, so that as a body of Christ, we are one with you.  Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Sue Cossey, Synod Pastoral Adviser, Bristol

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 29th September 2019

Sun, 29/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th September 2019 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 29th September

Psalm 116

1 I love the LORD because he heard my voice;

He listened when I cried to him for aid.
2 I’ll call on him as long as I shall live,
Because he turned to hear me when I prayed.

3 The cords of death gripped and entangled me,
Upon me came the anguish of the grave;
With grief and trouble I was overcome.
4 Then on the name of God I called: “LORD, save!”

5 The LORD our God is kind and full of grace;
Both righteous and compassionate is he.
6 The LORD protects all those of childlike faith;
When I was in great need, he rescued me.

7 Rest, O my soul; God has been good to you—
8 For you, O LORD, have saved my soul from death,
My feet from stumbling and my eyes from tears,
9 That I may live for you while I have breath.

10 I trusted in the LORD, and then I spoke;
I said in anguish: “I am sorely tried”.
11 And in the very depths of my dismay,
“All men are liars—every one!” I cried.

12 How can I thank the LORD for all he’s done?
13 With gratitude salvation’s cup I’ll raise;
14 I’ll call upon his name, and will fulfil
My vows to him before his people’s face.

15 The LORD holds dear the death of all his saints.
16 Hear me, O LORD! I am your servant true;
I am your servant and your handmaid’s son,
And from my chains I have been freed by you.

17 Thank-off’rings I will sacrifice to you
And call upon the name of God the LORD.
18 When all his people in assembly meet,
With joy I will fulfil my solemn word.

Before his people I will keep my vows,
19 Within the courts of our God’s holy place,
Within the city of Jerusalem.
Unto the LORD alone be all the praise!
 
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this, from v5,  to the lovely tune Eventide here.

Reflection

Father, I cannot tell a lie” – the famous admission of George Washington that he had felled the cherry tree – was of course a lie, a fabrication. The question posed by the BBC TV panel show. ‘Would I lie to you?’ seems almost rhetorical. Whether we care to acknowledge it or not, lying is part of our standard discourse. Is lying inherent? Are we programmed to deceive? Of course, we offer mitigation – Are white lies really lies? How about the re-assuring lie, the convenient lie, the kindly lie, the lie that resolves the situation …?

We are tutored from childhood to believe that lying is a Bad Thing.
My teacher told me I should never tell a lie
Because a lie will bring your troubles sure as pie (but I like pie!)
It’s an awful thing to do
And it's true as true is true,
You'll get caught and then you'll start to cry …
you're much better off to never tell a lie.
Not even sometimes.
Remember, never never tell a lie. (
InsideOut A Cappella)

But we do.

Yet, even if there is truth in ‘all are liars’, it’s a dangerous presumption. The Psalmist speaks ‘in my haste’, a knee-jerk reaction, a defensive response, the starting assumption, perhaps even a default position. It’s opposite is trusting. Which creates for better community, more positive relationships, less suspicion? If lying is the norm, many will follow the norm; if trust, then trust is built. There’s a saying in an old Icelandic code: ‘So shall every word be, as it is spoken’ (13th century Jónsbók). Being trustworthy and seeing the other as worthy of trust go hand in hand.

Prayer

You, O Lord, I trust.
It’s other people about whom I’m not so sure.
Often, I play ‘safe’ and treat others with suspicion.
Help me to trust not only you but my neighbour.
Amen
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Jack Dyce is Emeritus Professor of Nordic Theology at the Scottish United Reformed and Congregational College and a member of Port Glasgow URC Copyright
Sing Psalms! © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
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URC Daily Devotion 28th September 2019

Sat, 28/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 14: 1-12

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables.  Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgement on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.  If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall give praise to God.’
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Reflection
The issue of what food was considered 'proper' would have been very controversial in the Early Church. I can imagine the heated arguments in their equivalent of Church Meetings! Whilst this debate over correct ways of eating may not be familiar to us today, the problems differences of opinion can cause is not.
 
I’ve always valued that the URC Basis of Union specifically mentions respecting personal conviction and have seen this best in practice when my own congregation discussed supporting same sex marriage back in 2016. As important as these major debates are, however, I don't think Paul was just talking about the 'big stuff'.
 
There is much in our church life that we can have an opinion on. Which songs we sing, which version of the Bible is used, all the way down to which biscuits are served with the coffee before or after the service. Whilst it is important to examine the way we do things (and indeed to overhaul them from time to time!), what Paul is cautioning against is something different. He is trying to ensure we don't use our own standpoint to judge the character of the people who hold a different view. There is the reminder that it is God, not us, who judges what is 'right'.

Of course, in practice it's never easy. Our principles are often long-held and anything that pressures us to allow even a little wiggle room can cause us to react in ways that we aren't proud of.
 
This passage is a reminder that sometimes, in the midst of it all, we need to take a moment to consider the bigger picture – that what is important, above all else, whether in our churches or elsewhere, is a life in service to and praise of God.
 

Prayer

God of debate and discussion.
When faced with differences in practice or approach, give us understanding and tolerance in place of judgement.
Help us to work together to discern your guidance in how we should worship, serve, and live together in our shared walk of faith as a community of believers and friends.
Amen
 

Today's Writer

Katrina Clifford, Elder, Trinity United Reformed Church, Wimbledon

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 27th September 2019

Fri, 27/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 13: 11 - 14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers;  the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy.  Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Reflection
I prepared this reflection a day after my birthday.  I’ve reached that time of life where birthdays seem more of a countdown that a milestone!  The sense of urgency to make the most of what’s left is exacerbated by friends’ talk of bucket lists and carpe diem.  Paul also conveys a sense of urgency in his words in Romans 13 as there was an expectation that the Second Coming was imminent, and was getting closer by the day … and so we are urged to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’.

It appears that the practical teaching given to converts in the Early Church was designed to be easily memorised, like a simple form of catechism.  To ‘put on’ is one such memorable catchphrase which encouraged early Christians to behave like, or copy, Jesus. Out of interest, and remembering my little grey catechism I had as a boy growing up in the Catholic church, I searched for the latest catechism.  This is no longer a document meant for easy memorization: it is 1425 pages long! Let us retain and enjoy the simplicity of Paul’s message, which after all is credited with initiating Augustine’s conversion. Go on, put on the Lord Jesus Christ again, before the countdown ends!
 

Prayer

Father God, we do have a natural tendency to over-complicate things.  
We confess that we take your simple message of love and encase it in frills and wrappers that disguise its truth and distract us from its purpose.
We pray that you will give us the wisdom to be simple, and the focus to be effective as we put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Today's Writer

Alan Yates, Immediate Past Moderator of General Assembly and Convenor of the Education & Learning Committee.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 26th September 2019

Thu, 26/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 26th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 13: 8 - 10

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’  Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Reflection
With Jesus, people wondered which elements of the Law through which Israel lived in covenant together with God were the most important. Jesus drew out two essentials; love God and love your neighbour (St Matthew 22:35-40). Now Paul takes the second of those and uses it to sum up all of the commandments. Love takes priority and acts as the ultimate proof of holy and righteous living. In love all else is fulfilled. It’s a theme he echoes so powerfully in 1 Corinthians 13. Discipleship finds its deepest demonstration in pure love. Of all the Holy Spirit’s gifts, love reigns supreme.

There is so much beauty here, so much demand, so much possibility. Paul follows Jesus in letting the Law become small enough to sum up in a few words, and simultaneously so big that it embraces everything and everyone. We discover our true vocation as the children of God to be love. Paul begins this little passage speaking of what we ‘owe’. We should owe nothing and yet, because our obligation becomes love, we will live with an unpayable debt. For love embraces everyone and means giving to everyone everything they might need to flourish, doing no wrong to others, living gently with all.

Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018 caused the stir it did, perhaps, because he took the world’s hand and dove into the depths of love. He invited us to delight in love’s power. We can. We can let love define us, our churches and our impact upon creation. We must. We must let love transform us, from the inside out, daily. No bold initiative, no project, no scheme, no programme, can top what God will do when we let love define and reveal our discipleship
 

Prayer

In love’s name you came amongst us, God who gives us all.
In love’s name you claimed us as your own;
revealed your will,
caught us up into your way. 
Now you give us another day.
Let love be our gift to receive and give;
love of ourselves,
love of all we meet,
love of creation’s fragile glory.
In Jesus’ name,
who loved beyond limit.
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Neil Thorogood, Principal, Westminster College, Cambridge.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 25th September 2019

Wed, 25/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 25th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 13: 1-7

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval;  for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.  For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due. Reflection
Civil law affects every aspect of our daily lives: the height of our neighbour’s hedge, the Highway Code, tax obligations, knife-crime, domestic abuse… Civil law and punishments for infractions have been, and are, part of every society.

For the most part, we are probably glad of the civil order we have in the UK. Elsewhere, good people suffer the injustices of corrupt officials and discriminatory laws. 

This passage from Romans does not occur in the three-year Sunday Lectionary cycle; nevertheless, throughout history, these verses have been abused to coerce people into obedience to unjust regimes. Ironically, in this letter, Paul was most likely writing about the Roman authorities, the very same by whose laws he was executed around 10 years later.

The Statement of the Nature, Faith and Order of the URC makes clear the distinction of government of Christ’s Church and the government of the state, and it goes on to say: “Civil authorities are called to serve God’s will of justice and peace for all humankind, and to respect the rights of conscience and belief.”

How can we respond to this? Jesus says to us: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” His call to us is to get involved!

Those involved in law and order are required to swear an oath upon enrolment. As a magistrate, our Judicial Oath includes these words: “I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”

What else can we do? We can pray. Pray for the police who bravely put themselves in harm’s way. Pray for the judicial office holders who sit in judgement: judges, magistrates, jurors and tribunals’ judiciary. Pray for probation and prison officers who work to rehabilitate and reform offenders. Pray for victim support workers.
 

Prayer

Lord God, Your Word alone lights the paths of justice.
We pray for all who administer justice…
For all whose profession or expertise is the law…
For the police and all who sustain order in our land…
May they fulfil their duties to the good of all people.
Grant them Your Spirit of discernment and of love.
We hold before You the victims of crime and injustice.

O Lord, hear our prayer: and let our cry go unto You. Amen
 

Today's Writer

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

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 24th September 2019

Tue, 24/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 24th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 12: 9 - 21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;  love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.  Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Reflection
Most of us have learned how to ‘pretend’ to love others, how to speak kindly, to avoid hurting other people’s feelings and appear to take an interest in conversations. We maybe even skilled in pretending to ourselves to be moved with compassion, when we hear of other people’s needs, or become indignant when we hear of injustice. But God calls us to real love and real compassion, and that takes hard work.

Today’s verses summarize the real core of Christian living. The rhythm and verses are an echo of the Old Testament words written in Proverbs, together with the Sermon on the Mount; a list of do’s and don’ts for the early Christian convert.

Christians are not exempt from the pressures and stresses of daily living; however, Paul reminds us of the qualities that sets us apart as Christians.. These qualities more than ever, still hold true for us today in the 21st century. We live in an age of litigation, lawsuits, incessant demands for legal rights, political unrest, broken promises, and broken relationships and Paul’s demands seem impossible for us to live by. A sceptic would say they are!

However what holds this portion of Romans together is the commitment to Love. We often pride ourselves in recognising the person that is not genuine, who utters eloquent words, yet are empty and shallow. The context can vary, but the reflection of true love and honesty can shine from the heart and eyes of the hearer and the speaker.  We cannot fool God! 

We think that the letter of Romans is all about doctrine, or justification by faith. Here, though, as Paul is beginning to head toward the conclusion of the letter, we see once again that the Christian life for him is all about faith working through love.

Let love be genuine!
 

Prayer

Lord, who said it is easy being a Christian?

It takes a lot of hard work and determination,

and yes we often fail at the first hurdle.

However….Rejoice !

For your love for us never falters,

is always steadfast;

Your faithfulness for us never diminishes,

is always strong;

Your compassion for us, never wanes,

is always constant;. 

 

In each sacred moment,

May the prism of God’s love illuminate our lives.

Now and always

Shalom


 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Dillon, Minister, Fleet URC and Beacon Hill Hindhead URC Wessex Synod.

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 23rd September 2019

Mon, 23/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 23rd September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 12: 3-8

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith;  ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. Reflection
This is such a rich passage with so many life-giving truths for our age:
-   Not thinking of ourselves too highly.
-     Remembering that we are one body; one humanity.
-   Rejoicing in our diversity.
 
Driving around Croydon today, I will encounter drivers who believe they are the most important people in the world, with the most urgent tasks to fulfil and a divine right to get ahead of me. I, of course, never fall into this trap of thinking of myself so highly(!?). We all know that driving under the influence is illegal, but how about driving without sober judgement?
 
We can be fooled into thinking that some of us are lesser than others: migrants described as ‘rats’ in a tunnel, the disabled as ‘invalid’ (and on and on). Once we’ve judged and dehumanised our brothers and sisters, it is an easy step to blaming them, to hating them, to treating them terribly. Before we know where we are, we have rejected God’s love for all. Our ‘one body’ is destroyed by ‘my’ body.
 
The image of the body with its many parts, is really helpful. The tiny homogeneous boxes of what society considers to be attractive, valuable and successful, are a lie. They suit the advertisers bottom-line, but they reduce us to a grey shadow of our colourful God-given selves.
 
God creates us as one people with unique gifts that can be used for good or ill.
As we go about our lives today, consider:
How often are we inflated by our reduction of others?
How often are we deflated by society’s raising of others?
 

Prayer

Loving God,
as we tread the fine line between rejoicing in your creation of us and the temptation to place ourselves higher than others, help us to celebrate the wholeness of humanity and to use our uniqueness and diversity in such a way that we value others and believe in ourselves. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/URC)

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 22nd September

Sun, 22/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 22nd September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Psalm 115

1 Not unto us, LORD, not to us,
but do thou glory take
Unto thy name, ev'n for thy truth,
and for thy mercy's sake.

2 O wherefore should the heathen say,
Where is their God now gone?
3 But our God in the heavens is,
what pleased him he hath done.

4 Their idols silver are and gold,
work of men's hands they be.
5 Mouths have they, but they do not speak;
and eyes, but do not see;

6 Ears have they, but they do not hear;
noses, but savour not;
7 Hands, feet, but handle not, nor walk;
nor speak they through their throat.

8 Like them their makers are, and all
on them their trust that build.
9 O Isr'el, trust thou in the LORD,
he is their help and shield.

10 O Aaron's house, trust in the LORD,
their help and shield is he.
11 Ye that fear God, trust in the LORD,
their help and shield he'll be.

12 The LORD of us hath mindful been,
and he will bless us still:
He will the house of Isr'el bless,
bless Aaron's house he will.

13 Both small and great, that fear the LORD,
he will them surely bless.
14 The LORD will you, you and your seed,
aye more and more increase.

15 O blessèd are ye of the LORD,
who made the earth and heav'n.
16 The heav'n, ev'n heav'ns, are GOD's, but he
earth to men's sons hath giv'n.

17 The dead, nor who to silence go,
GOD's praise do not record.
18 But henceforth we for ever will
bless GOD. Praise ye the LORD.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland Congregation some of this to the lovely tune Land of Rest here.
 
Reflection
Psalm 115 invites us to consider in whom we put our trust: ourselves, human constructs, or God?
 
There are many reasons to trust ourselves. Driving, for example. What right have we to get on the public highway if we do not trust our own ability to do so? Or if we are nurses, how can we presume to care for others if we don't trust our abilities? Similarly, there are all sorts of human constructs in which we can trust. The manufacturers of our cars, for instance, are to be trusted for the vehicles’ safety. And what of our hospitals? They are amongst the most sophisticated of human constructs. There are countless reasons to trust them, and to be grateful for them.
 
In verse 8, though, the Psalmist suggests we risk becoming like what we trust. So, if we put our trust in the powerful, we might hunger to be in control If we put our trust in the rich, then we might lust after wealth.
 
So it is that this Psalm urges us to put our trust in the Lord, ‘our help and shield’ (verse 9). Moreover, if Christian people put their trust in God as God is in Jesus Christ, then they increase the possibility that they will grow in Christlikeness. That way, in the words of a URC Prayer after Communion, our love is God’s love ‘reaching out into the life of the world’. Striving to make that sort of difference in this era of polarised politics is more than worthwhile. We should, though, make sure that we don’t take the credit, but keep singing the beginning of the Psalm, ‘Not unto us, Lord, not to us, but do thou glory take.’ 
 

Prayer

Lord,
we trust you as you are in Jesus -
that you regard us
not according to our failure,
but according to your forgiveness;
not according to how we went astray,
but according to how you save us.
 
And may that love define our love for each other.
 
We seek no credit, no glory for ourselves,
but rather for you and for you alone,
through that same Jesus Christ, Amen
 

Today's Writer

The Revd Nigel Uden, of Downing Place URC, Fulbourn URC and Stetchworth & Cheveley URC in Cambridgeshire and a Moderator of the General Assembly.

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URC Daily Devotion 21st September

Sat, 21/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 12: 1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,  by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual  worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Reflection
Sacrificial living and non-conformist outlook.  Both are counter-cultural, costly, demanding, and do not necessarily come easily or naturally to us. 
 
The word “sacrifice” can all too readily be used when, in fact, at best we are referring to “inconvenience” rather than any significant costly gift.   Being challenged to present our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” underlines the fact that in every decision and choice we make we are willing to place our commitment to Christ and neighbour before our own comfort or desire.   Inevitably we may want to place limits on our generosity and to negotiate deals that leave us with some measure of comfort but those who respond to the call to sacrificial living must be ready – inspired and energised by the One who gave his all – to forget limits and conditions.   In the words of Horatius Bonar: Fill thou my life, O Lord my God, in every part with praise, that my whole being may proclaim thy being and thy ways.  Praise in the common things of life, its goings out and in; praise in each duty and each deed, however small and mean.  (Horatius Bonar, 1808-1889)  
 
Non-conformity – being wise and strong enough to risk standing out from the crowd and against the tide as and when we discern that it is right to do so.   We risk making ourselves unpopular. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one example of faithful non-conformity – standing up against the sinister forces of Nazism (and paying the ultimate price for doing so).   In his book, Costly Discipleship, he writes, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate …  Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a [person] will gladly go and sell all that [they have].”  
 

Prayer

Fill every part of me with praise;
let all my being speak
of thee and of thy love, O Lord,
poor though I be and weak.
 
So shall no part of day or night
from sacredness be free;
but all my life, in every step,
be fellowship with thee.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke, Minister, The Crossing (Methodist & United Reformed Church), Worksop & Wales Kiveton Methodist Church.

Bible Version

 
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URC Daily Devotion 20th September 2019

Fri, 20/09/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th September 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Podcast

Romans 11: 25 - 36

So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,

‘Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’
 ‘And this is my covenant with them,
    when I take away their sins.’

As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors;  for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy.  For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!

‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counsellor?’
 ‘Or who has given a gift to him,
    to receive a gift in return?’

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen.
 
Reflection
This present age is preoccupied with ‘fake news’ and an approach to truth which proclaims ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’, without worrying, in any depth, about what the basis of truth might be.

The passage from Romans continues with Paul’s struggles with the complexities of faith and the issues of his day. Can the Israelites just be condemned for their hardness of heart? No, for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. As God has been with their ancestors, so God is with the Jewish people of Paul’s day.

It’s not just a matter of Gentiles being saved and Jews being condemned. Rather, the conclusion that Paul comes to is that, in fact, all have shared in disobedience, so all may share in God’s mercy. In Luther’s classic expression we are all ‘both sinners and righteous’.

Paul concludes his wrestling with the question of what the truth is about Jews and Gentiles with a doxology. In doing this, he points to the way in which truth contains a mystery beyond human comprehension.  At the heart of God lies a mysterious ‘otherness’, in the presence of which the only response is humility in the face of God and praise to the glory of God.

And yet, God is also the one who is revealed in the incarnation, and who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is daily present in each part of human life.

Truth is a gift, into which I can grow, not a commodity which I can own. The truth of God is based on the mercy of God, revealed in love in Jesus Christ. Paul’s writing in Romans is an attempt to interpret the Gospel for the Church. 

But at the end of the day he points, not to himself, but to the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God.
 

Prayer

O God, I give thanks for Your mystery and Your presence.
You are other than me, yet You are close to me.
Forgive me when I claim to hold the truth on my own.
Grant me day by day the humility to see that truth lies with You.
May I grow in your love and grace
As I grow, may I give you the glory.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, retired URC minister, Chair of the Society for Ecumenical Studies.

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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