You are here

URC Daily Devotions

URC Daily Devotion

Fri, 03/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Friday 3rd April - 5th Station - Simon of Cyrene helps carry Jesus’ Cross

Unison Sieger Koeder
St Mark 15: 21

They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus.

Reflection

He was a countryman, not a city dweller, who had come to celebrate the Passover and, probably bemused, joined the spectators watching the condemned criminals being forced to carry the cross-pieces from which they would hang in crucifixion. What was Simon thinking when, with no warning, he was dragged from the crowd and made to carry that heavy burden?
Mark names Simon and names his sons which leads us to think that they would have been known to Mark’s first readers, presumably as members of the early Christian church community. May we assume that watching Jesus as he went to his death had such an effect on Simon that he linked up with the followers of Jesus? If so, what can we all learn about the effect that meeting Jesus, our living Lord, can still have, what effect the lives and example of Christians, including us, can also have on others?
Simon did not volunteer to “take up the cross and follow Jesus” (Mark 4. 34) but was forced to do so, he had no choice. Together with other groups the UK’s Churches’ Investors’ Group has done much vital work to highlight the fate of those compelled, tricked or coerced into modern slavery: young people, often from Asia or Africa and deceived by false promises, who find themselves tricked and coerced to work in slave-like factories in their own countries or nail bars, car-washes, cannabis farms, brothels and such like in the UK and other western countries. Are we sure that none of our expenditure reinforces this exploitation and degradation? We may all like bargain prices, but who pays the real cost, or don’t we want to know?
Simon, Alexander and Rufus are part of our history: what do we know about those who are part of our contemporary world?

Prayer

Gracious God, we thank you and honour those who have accepted the call to take up their cross and follow Jesus without knowing all that this would involve.
We also give thanks for those who commit themselves to the liberation of all who are forced into modern slavery, praying that captives may be freed and justice prevail through the power of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ: Amen.
-->

Today's writer

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


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 2nd April 2020

Thu, 02/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd April 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Thursday 2nd April 4th Station
Jesus meets His Mother




“No Words” Sieger Koeder

St Luke 2: 34-35

Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed  so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

Reflection

Sometimes there are “no words.”  Mary knew from the moment she accepted the invitation to bear a son that he would be different.  How many people are asked to be the vessel for God’s child? She and Joseph welcomed the Magi, and she treasured all they said in her heart.  She took her son the Temple, and heard Simeon speak of Jesus’ world-changing role. She invited Jesus to help at a wedding and saw a miracle. She listened to him. She watched as he was lead to his death. She loved him, but there were no final words to express her love or her grief.  An embrace and a willingness to journey with him to the foot of the cross where all she could offer. Sometimes there are “no words.”  

When our beloved partner is dying; when our child is struggling with addiction, when our friend loses their job, when something happens out of the blue, out of our control, and is outside our comfort zone, there may be no words.  No words to comfort us, no words that help us cope, no words that help us make sense of the situation.

But, even in that tough space there is love.  There is God. There is a hug, a listening companion who promises to journey with us through the pain.  God is present in the toughest times, in community, in silence, in a friend.

Sometimes there are no words, but a ministry of presence and an ability to stand with us in the pain, and  the promise of love no matter what we face. When there are no words, the ability to stay when others flee makes all the difference to the one in need.

Prayer

Loving God, we thank you that you are with us no matter what we face in life.  We thank you for those people who support us with their loving presence, who can be silent with us when words cannot take away our pain.  When it is our turn to stay with those in need, we ask that you give us courage to be present, to listen and to love them through their grief and loss to a place of wholeness.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Martha McInnes, Minister, Cardiff and Penarth Group. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 1st April 2020

Wed, 01/04/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st April 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Wednesday 1st April
3rd Station Jesus Falls for the First Time


“Cornerstone” Sieger Koder

Isaiah 53: 5-7

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.

Reflection

As you look into the sleep-deprived face of the father who is burying his child he asks the question you fear the most, “Why has God allowed this to happen?”. There is no answer that will satisfy that question, heal that soul in torment, or bring peace where there is no peace. The only honest response is “I do not know – and I dearly wish I did”.

But here in Isaiah we hear an answer to a related question “where is God when suffering happens?” – for Isaiah tells us that the servant of God is right at the heart of the suffering – wounded, crushed, bruised, oppressed and afflicted. God’s servant bears the burden of all that is wrong with the world, and somehow heals God’s people.

And when we read this description we think of Jesus and the suffering he bears.

Sieger Koder’s painting seems to show Jesus not only bearing the weight of the cross-piece on which he will die, but also weighed down by the people in the upper part of the painting – who seem to be indulging in every vice imaginable. Jesus is bearing the consequences of every sin, he is the victim of every torment, he is the ultimate suffering servant.

God does not protect us from suffering. But he does not abandon us to it either. In Jesus Christ, God takes our suffering, shares it, shoulders it and ultimately transforms it through the power of resurrection.

We do not understand this bearing of our sin and our sorrow, but we given thanks to God for it. It is the gift of grace and the only thing that makes the pain of life worthwhile, and brings eternal life and peace.

Prayer

God of grace,
When we cry out to you in our pain
Help us to hear the whisper of Jesus our Lord:
“ I am here beside you”.
Lend us your strength, we pray
Shoulder our burden, our sin, our pain
and transform it through your undying love.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead, Moderator, South Western Synod & member at Taunton URC. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion  31st March 2020

Tue, 31/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  31st March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
The Rev’d Dominic Grant, minister, Trinity URC Wimbledon

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Tuesday 31st March
2nd Station Jesus Takes Up His Cross 



“Embrace” Sieger Koeder

St John John 19: 17

Carrying the cross by himself, Jesus went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

Reflection

“... by himself...” The phrase may seem incidental; but place it alongside our accumulated remembrance of Jesus' journey to Calvary, and it stands out as a striking detail. Wasn't there another who carried the cross for Jesus?

Well, later in this sequence of Devotions we will indeed encounter Simon of Cyrene; but in John's Gospel, he's nowhere to be seen. Is it too fanciful to wonder whether John has heard or read the story about another cross-bearer and has said NO! - as if there is a note of quiet defiance in his affirmation that Christ carried the cross by himself?

It is elsewhere in John's Gospel that we find the key to unlock this conundrum. Earlier – before the street-theatre of his entry into Jerusalem, just at the time when tensions between Jesus and the religious authorities had been starting to intensify – John records that Jesus spoke of himself as the Good Shepherd, the one who would lay down his life for the sheep.

And there he said:

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” (John 10:17-18)

No-one will take his life from him; he carries the cross by himself.

Perhaps that goes some way to explaining the intriguing title of today's painting by Sieger Koeder. With bloodied hands, Jesus is bold to meet with an EMBRACE the cross on which he will be lifted.

Therefore come to him, when you are weighed down with burdens of hidden guilt or unresolved pain. For though “we accounted him stricken, struck down by God and afflicted”, even so “he has borne our infirmities, and carried our diseases.” (Isaiah 53:4)
He carries – our cross – by himself.

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you have trod our path,
even under the terrible weight of a cross.
And in your love, you invite us
to take your yoke, and a burden that is light.
So give us grace and courage
to walk your way.
Amen.
  -->

Today's writer

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


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 30th March 2020

Mon, 30/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
Pat Stannard, Elder, Muswell Hill URC

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Monday 30th March
1st Station Jesus is condemned by Pilate



Surrender Sieger Koeder

St Matthew 26: 57. 27: 24

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered….So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood;  see to it yourselves.’

Reflection

This episode in its entirety has had repercussions to the present day. A priestly-inspired mob elected to send the pesky preacher Jesus to his death. The later narrative that Jews in general were responsible became a reason – or excuse - for extensive persecution over many centuries. The anti-semitic line has now been picked up by other interests in the Western world. As I write, Jewish properties in London have been daubed with graffiti reminiscent of the kind seen in the lead up to the Holocaust.

Pilate too has been castigated. Washing his hands to appease his conscience over issuing the death sentence to a man whom he believed innocent of a capital crime is seen as abject surrender.

Am I alone in feeling some sympathy for Pilate? Governor of a tricky territory widely regarded by his contemporaries as the armpit of the Roman empire, he had already (according to such history to be found outside the scriptures) endured several run-ins with Jewish leaders, leading to reprimands from Rome. Faced with a potential riot and the likelihood of another bloodbath, he caved in to what probably felt like the best of two bad jobs.  

We may think that we would have had more moral courage. Maybe – or maybe not. We live in an age when the voice of the angry mob is louder than it has ever been in history. Through both old and new media we are subjected to lies and “fake news”, hate politics and threats. Sorting out the truth from the lies takes effort.

“What is truth?” Pilate is said to have asked Jesus (John 18: 38). As followers of Jesus, we are called to seek out the truth, and to speak and act for what is right and not just what is expedient – and maybe to stand up to the crowd.
 
Prayer

Lord,
When we face crises of conscience,
let us remember the words of the hymn:
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour.
 Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

Pat Stannard, Elder, Muswell Hill URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

Stations of the Cross

Sun, 29/03/2020 - 18:00
96 Stations of the Cross View this email in your browser

The Stations of the Cross

Dear <<First Name>>

As Lent enters its last stages we move, in our Daily Devotions, to the Stations of the Cross.  These devotions have fascinated artists for over 400 years as they trace the journey Jesus took from Pilate's court to Golgotha.  The accounts in the Gospels are supplemented with pious legend and so we reflect on Jesus' meeting His Mother, Veronica wiping his face and falling three times in addition to the aspects of the story we're more familiar with.  Most Catholic Churches and many Anglican or Episcopalian churches have the Stations up around the walls, many artists have created their own.  This year we will be aided in our reflections with the art of Fr Sieger Koeder - a German Jesuit priest and artist.  His Stations are stunning and I hope they, along with the Biblical readings and reflections will aid us on our final two weeks of Lent.  

An additional opportunity for worship during Holy Week will include an audio visual version of the Stations - clips from Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, mixed with classical music and reflections all bound together in one video and broadcast via YouTube will be made available on Wednesday in Holy Week.  I will email you about this nearer the time.

I hope you are keeping well and your spirits are good in the midst of the difficult times we are living through.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

--> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Sunday Service from the URC for 29th March

Sun, 29/03/2020 - 09:45
96 Sunday Service from the URC for 29th March View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

-->
worship for challenging times
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
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, you will see a large red arrow above the track simply press that to start or again to pause it.  This should open in a new window allowing you to click back to this window to read the transcript.  
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
Sunday 29th March – The Rev’d Phil Nevard
 
Today’s service was developed by the Rev'd Phil Nevard minster of Kingsteignton URC in South Devon
 
Introduction
 
Welcome.  My name is the Rev’d Phil Nevard and today’s service comes to you from my (tidier) half of the study that I share with Lythan.  In my heart I will be leading this worship with my lovely congregation at Kingsteignton URC in South Devon.  We are delighted that you are joining us today. One advantage of a recorded service is that you can pause the service at any point.  If you haven’t already done so, I’d suggest pausing me now and making sure there is nothing immediate you have to attend to that will take you away from this time of worship.  You might want to settle yourself with a moment of quiet before hitting play again.  There! 
 
Call to Worship   please join in with the words in bold
 
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:              Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty
                        (Reginald Heber 1783 – 1826)
 
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
 
2 Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore thee,
casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
cherubim and seraphim falling down before thee,
which wert, and art, and evermore shalt be.
 
3 Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide thee,
though the eye of sinful folk thy glory may not see,
only thou art holy; there is none beside thee
perfect in pow'r, in love, and purity.
 
4 Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession & assurance of pardon
 
Holy, Holy Holy! Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee
 
The confident song of a well-known hymn
The slightly hesitant song of a chorus we haven’t heard before
The triumphant song of the organ with power and depth
The song that makes our spirit dance at the sharing of good news
The silent song in a minor key as we hear of those who grieve
The song of hearts being lifted as we offer our lives to God in worship

Holy, Holy, Holy! All the saints adore thee
Casting down their golden crowns…


A tide of worship reaching back through the ages
and sweeping ahead to the future
A sea of witnesses gone before – we add our voices to theirs
Casting down our golden crowns…
laying before God what belongs to God
Our time, our wealth, our energy, our life
Our hospitality, our devotion, our generosity
The choices we face, the opportunities that come our way

Holy, Holy, Holy Though the sinful human eye
thy glory cannot see


You do not hide from us – our sin clouds our vision
You do not hide from us – our sin deafens our ears
you do not hide from us – our sin deadens our hearts
We are blind to your glory, deaf to your voice and cold in your presence
Change us through our worship, warm our hearts, enliven our spirits
make us one in worship and service one with you, one with each other

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty
All thy works shall praise thy name


Take us beyond an hour of worship to a life of worship
Take us beyond a hymn of praise to a life of praise
Take us beyond a prayer of dedication to a life of dedication
Take us beyond these walls to be your people in the world
Joining all your creation – in earth and sea and sky –
In one great song of Praise!
 
Loving God, the words of our hymns and our prayers
bring us face to face with an uncomfortable truth:
our daily living and our hourly choices
do not match what we sing or pray.
Too often the words feel like vague and hopeful aspirations
which we will never quite live up to.
We KNOW we have fallen short
and we are fairly sure we will CONTINUE to fall short.
 
Loving God, forgive us.
 
(moment of silence)
 
Yet, here are words you may trust;
here are words you may cling onto;
here are words which can free you from the paralysis of guilt;
here are words that offer you a way forward;
here are words that send you unburdened back out into the world:
 
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”
To all who turn to him, he says: “Your sins are forgiven.”
He also says: “Follow me.”
 
Prayer for illumination
 
We are about to listen for God’s Word.  Notice I said “listen for” and not “listen to”.  God’s Word is not simply words, not even words written in a special book or read in a Sunday voice.  God’s Word is not simply text to be read and studied.  God’s Word isn’t a thing to be looked at even listened to.  God’s Word is something that HAPPENS.  One of the ways God’s Word happens is when the words we are about to hear connect with our minds and our hearts and change our living through the power of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why we pray before we read, and that’s why listening for God’s Word can be a risky business!
 
So we pray:
 
Calm us now, O Lord, into a quietness that heals and listens.
Unlock the doors of our hearts;
open the shutters of our minds;
that we might hear Your voice
and be bathed anew in your Light.   Amen.
 
Readings
 
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NRSV)   
 
The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.   He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.  I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’
 
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.  I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:  Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,  and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’  I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
 
Then he said to me, ‘Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”  Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’
 
 St John 11:1-45  (NRSV)
 
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,  after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
 
Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’  After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.  Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.  For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples,‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
 
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb for four days.  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,  and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.  When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him. Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,  and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,  the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.  The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep.  So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
 
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’
 
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
 
Sermon
 
Before I begin the sermon, I am very keenly aware that there are many of you sitting there feeling a bit unsettled because we haven’t had the notices yet (or if you’re listening in Northern parts – the intimations!)  So here they are:
 
  • The Guild is cancelled
  • All our services are cancelled
  • the Games Afternoon is cancelled
  • Messy Church is cancelled
  • The monthly how to secure the china-cupboard steering group meeting is cancelled
  • all the Easter events and services are cancelled
  • We don’t need any volunteers for the flower rota because flowers are cancelled
 
Life feels a bit like that now, doesn’t it – everything is cancelled because everything is falling apart around us.  It feels like we’re in the middle of some uncontrollable and totally unpredictable whirlwind that is picking up the interconnected bits of our lives and flinging them around randomly!  Today we heard Ezekiel’s vision of a valley of dry bones and then John’s account of the raising of Lazarus.  Both of those readings have memorable phrases that might easily find ourselves repeating today:
 
From Ezekiel, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”
 
and from John, on the lips of both Martha and Mary: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 
Psalm 130 is also set for today, and we will return to that in our prayers later, but Psalm 130 also speaks words that we might be tempted to repeat sometime in this coming week:
 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
 
In the midst of this whirlwind, what might God be saying to us?  I want to open up two possibilities for you to consider today and through this week.  I will offer some brief thoughts and reflections and then a question to encourage you to connect what I have said to your own particular circumstances.  Some music will play to mark some initial thinking and praying time, but I hope you will carry the questions through the week.  Maybe you could phone someone in your church who you would normally have this kind of a conversation with and discuss your thoughts together.  Or maybe, if you are an internet-savvy person, you could find a way to connect to others who are also using these recorded services and share your ideas about what God might be saying to you.
 
So, here’s the first one. 
 
Ezekiel goes out of his way in describing his vision to tell us just how dry those bones were.  It wasn’t JUST a valley of bones, it was a valley of DRY bones.  It was like those compulsory scenes from the old cowboy films where the camera pans across the horns of a bleached, dry, skull separated from a long-dead cow – the idea is to create a sense of arid lifelessness.  These bones that Ezekiel described are LONG dead – they are SO dead that they are brittle and crumbling – there is no chance at all of life within them.
 
In the early church this passage was at the centre of a serious disagreement about life beyond death and whether this would include what we experience as our bodies or not.  Christians argued strongly that we would need our bodies, whilst the Gnostics longed for the day when the “soul” could be set free from its bodily prison.  It was a fierce argument and probably not one that you or I are having today very often.  It became particularly sharp as Christians were martyred in amphitheatres.  How (literally) chewed up and digested could a human body become before God could not reconstitute it for a bodily resurrection?  Tertullian suggested that the more hard-wearing bits, the bones and the teeth, would sprout a whole new body and it would be fine, but the Romans got hold of this idea and would decapitate martyrs, burn the bodies and then float anything left down the Rhine in order to “rob the dead of their rebirth” and kill off the idea that martyrs would be rewarded with resurrection.  Not even God could resurrect a body after all that!
 
I appreciate this is perhaps a little bit more grisly than you might have been expecting, but the great truth of Ezekiel’s vision and the arguments in the early church community is that God’s answer is clear.  Can God bring new life EVEN when this happens – when bones are totally dried, when bodies are totally destroyed – when life as we know it has stopped happening – can God bring new life EVEN THEN??
 
God’s answer is emphatically YES!  YES!  YES!
 
You have probably guessed my first question! 
 
Complete the sentence as creatively as you can: “My own spiritual life is as dry as a _____________.”    How might I use this unexpected gift of time as an opportunity to nourish my spiritual life and bring new life to my discipleship?”
 
(music for reflection)
 
And here’s the second.
 
I always find it difficult to focus the mind with John’s Gospel.  He writes in a way that prompts questions at every point, his is a very different style to Mark where Jesus suddenly does this then immediately goes over there and does that and before you know it the story is over!  In John’s gospel there is no shortage of meat to chew.

You might want to revisit the text during the week and dwell on some of the puzzles.  You might want to reassess your ideas about Thomas who, in this passage, sounds more like Brave Thomas, or Reckless Thomas than he sounds like “Doubting Thomas”.  Or you might like to dwell on the quite disturbing idea that Jesus deliberately delays his visit to a dying friend.
 
For now, though, I’d draw your attention to the powerful emotional content of this story – summed up in what quizmasters know as the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.”  Jesus weeps because Jesus loved Lazarus.  Not the “agape” love that John is so fond of using, “selfless, self-giving love”, but “philia” love, the common Greek word for ordinary friendship between people.
 
At one of the Prime Minister’s early press conferences (which seems like a long time ago now), Mr Johnson told us, “...many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time. “  There will be lots of Marthas and Marys weeping over the death of their Lazaruses.  There will be lots of Marthas and Marys trying to make sense of their loss and maybe asking, “if Jesus had been here, this would not have happened.”  It’s not a new question to ask, but it is still a very powerful one, how can stuff like this happen if Jesus is alive in the world, or if God really cares about us?
 
Romans 12:15 famously calls us to “weep with those who weep”.  Here, Jesus does just that – he weeps with those who weep.  He weeps genuine, real, gut-wrenching tears as he feels the grief as sharply as they do.
 
I have to confess that I still retain a little bit of disappointment at what happens next.  It has always niggled me that this was an opportunity for Jesus to show how to be around those who grieve, how to respond, what to say or not to say, how to bring comfort.  He makes a good start by weeping with them, sharing their grief, but then he goes and raises Lazarus from the dead.  In my less spiritual moments, and I have to be honest here, I think “There’s a typical bloke.  He can’t sustain being alongside a grieving person for long before he has to go and do something practical to fix the situation.  Only in his case it’s something practical that the rest of us cannot expect to do often – he fixes the situation by raising Lazarus from the dead!  Thanks for the tip, Jesus!
 
Of course, my hang-up here is simply because I am stubbornly not grasping the full complexity with which John writes.  John is trying to show us BOTH the solid, touchable humanity of Jesus, the Jesus who cries real tears – AND the mind-bending truth that Jesus is truly ONE with God.  John is trying to tell us that in this weeping human Jesus lives the Christ, a living sign that the promises of God about life conquering death are not to be fulfilled long in the future, but are here and now and seen in this story.
 
Ultimately, the message is not that different to the message of Ezekiel’s vision, and we should not be surprised because the same God is at work.  The life-giving breath of God is already at work conquering death with new life.
 
These are all big questions, and maybe, like mine, your head is now hurting with the sheer scale of this story!  So, my question looks like a smaller question, but it really isn’t, not if you give the question the chance to take root and bear fruit in the ways you respond to a grieving world.
 
Who was the last person over whose death you truly wept?  Can you remember the things that those around you said/didn’t say or did/didn’t do that brought you moments of peace, comfort or joy?  Can you imagine how you might begin to offer those moments to someone else who grieves, even with the restrictions we may face at this time?
 
(music for reflection)
 
And now, as Paul very nearly wrote to the Philippians, “to all the saints in Christ Jesus in homes of United Reformed Church members and beyond: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”   Amen
 
Hymn:      As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams
                Nahum Tate (1652-1715)
 
As pants the hart for cooling streams
when heated in the chase,
so longs my soul, O God, for Thee,
and Thy refreshing grace.
 
2 For Thee, my God, the living God,
my thirsty soul doth pine;
oh, when shall I behold Thy face,
Thou Majesty Divine?
 
4 God of my strength, how long shall I,
like one forgotten, mourn,
forlorn, forsaken, and exposed
to my oppressor’s scorn?
 
5 Why restless, why cast down, my soul?
Hope still, and thou shalt sing
the praise of Him who is thy God,
thy health’s eternal spring.
 
Affirmation of Faith  please join in with the words in bold
 
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!
 
Prayers of Intercession  (drawing on Psalm 130)
 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of those who are anxious and fearful,
those who cannot shake that feeling of dread
that has fallen across their lives.
Hear the voice of those who have seen long-prepared plans fall apart,
those who are now finding it hard to see what their next step should be,
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of those who are working day and night
to bring relief to those affected,
those who don’t know when opportunity for rest will come.
Hear the voice of those who now have no work and no income,
those who worry how the bills will be paid
or whether their business will survive.
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of politicians who are expected to provide answers,
those who are bewildered by events and dealing with issues
they have never imagined.
Hear the voice of service managers
trying to keep stretched systems running,
those trying to respond to needs that far outstrip supplies.
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of teenagers who have worked so hard
for exams they may never sit,
those who are afraid that their future prospects will be damaged.
Hear the voice of children who watch the adults around them,
those who may seem unaware but who are deeply affected by the stress of those around them.
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!
Hear the voice of those
who were only recently flooded out of their homes,
those who had everything taken from them
and have nothing to fall back on.
Hear the voice of those who live from doorway to bench,
who have no protection,
those who cannot find a safe and warm place to self-isolate and be fed.
 
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.

 
And when we have watched and waited,
and our list of petitions has exhausted us,
may your voice be very clear to us.
Speak to us with your voice of hope and grace;
speak to us with you voice of wisdom and truth;
speak to us with your voice of love and compassion;
speak to us with your voice of challenge and calling;
And, having heard your voice, we will find new ways to follow you.  Amen
 
Our Father….
 
Offertory
 
If you look outside your window you will see that we have used the latest satellite and digital tracking technology to deliver a drone carrying an offertory bag to your front door, this will then be diverted back to your home church.
 
Actually, we haven’t!  But the offertory is an important part of our tradition of worship – it’s one of the few places where we all agree we should stand up suddenly and confuse the visitors! 
 
It might be that your church has already thought about this, in which case you might want to take this moment to put some cash into your freewill offering envelope and put it somewhere safe until it can be collected.  You might also want to remember any local charities that are special to you.  All of the events where they raise money or collect donations have been cancelled.  Many of them find themselves with less money, more work and fewer workers to do that work.  You might want to think about how you might reach out to them with some support.
 
A prayer:
 
Loving God, you give to us beyond measure, you give to us without counting the cost.
 
Accept whatever giving I can offer and use it that life may flourish and your Kingdom come.  Amen.
 
Hymn:               Through all the changing scenes of life
                          Nahum Tate (1652-1715) after Psalm 34: 1-4, 7-9
 
 
Through all the changing scenes of life,
in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
my heart and tongue employ.
 
2 Of his deliv'rance I will boast,
till all that are distressed
from my example comfort take,
and charm their griefs to rest.
 
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me;
with me exalt his name;
when in distress to him I called,
he to my rescue came.
 
4 Fear him, ye saints,
and you will then
have nothing else to fear;
make you his service your delight,
your wants shall be his care.

Blessing: 
 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)
 
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
in the name of Christ. Amen.
 
 
 Sources, Copyright and Thanks
 
Hymns are public domain. 
 
For All the Changing Scenes of Life was recorded for Songs of Praise, Maddy Prior sang As the Hart and Holy, Holy, Holy was recorded by the Hymns Project/Parkway Worship Ministry.
 
The reflective music for the sermon came from the Perfect Light Reflective Meditations for Piano (CD) Austin Kershaw & Kevin Mayhew Ltd.
 
Music reproduced under the terms of the URC’s various licences.
 
Thanks to members of Barrhead URC, John Wilcox, Liane Todd, and Kathleen Haynes for recording spoken parts of the service. --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion  29th March 2020

Sun, 29/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  29th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
The Rev'd Dr Rosalind Selby is principal of Northern College in Manchester and a member of Didsbury URC

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Sunday 29th March
Psalm 142

1 I cry for mercy to the LORD;
To him I lift my voice in prayer.
2 Before the LORD I bring my plea;
To him my trouble I declare.

3 Each time my spirit faints in me,
You are the one who knows my way;
For in the path on which I walk
A hidden snare for me they lay.

4 Look to my right hand and take note:
There is not one concerned for me.
I have no refuge; no one cares
For me in my adversity.

5 I cry aloud to you, O LORD:
“You are my hiding place in strife.
You are the one sustaining me;
You keep me in the land of life.”

6 LORD, listen to my cry for help,
For I am in extremity.
Save me from those who seek my life,
Because they are too strong for me.

7 So that I may give thanks to you,
From prison’s darkness set me free.
The righteous then will gather round,
Because you’ve shown your love to me.

Reflection

I’m touched by the trust implicit in this prayer. Clearly the Psalmist has experienced God’s sustaining and the life-giving ‘hiding place’ in which she has been upheld in the past.  This prayer is offered in expectation that God will hear her cry now.

I’m also moved by the metaphor of the prison.  Prison, I have learned, is not a place where hope is often experienced, or trust is easily built. Our national life uses the prison system to punish, remove ‘dangerous’ people from society, keep others safe, and to rehabilitate.  True rehabilitation is rare and there is little care for younger offenders. Suicide rates for those suffering mental ill health in prison are appalling.

Is this Psalmist in the sort of despair that a young, mentally ill lad might be, who is just old enough to be in an adult prison? or feeling imprisoned?  We hear of arrests and imprisonments that make us reflect: green protesters by their hundreds; Hong Kong democracy demonstrators; British citizens in Guantanamo; and, not so very long ago, in Northern Ireland where nearly 2,000 people were interned for their political beliefs without a trial.

I DO NOT suggest who is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in ANY case, I merely reflect on an absence of a Psalmist-like hope in the prison system. If there is no hope for either release, or newness of life through rehabilitation, does a ‘system’ dehumanise? and who do we expect to act? and who is crying out and making voices heard?

This Psalmist has both hope and experience of God’s justice. Jesus’ ‘Manifesto’ (Luke 4:18- 19) promises “release to the captives”.  Do we say that both Psalm and manifesto are ‘only’ metaphors for an experience of moving to ‘quality of life’ in Christ? Let us also raise prayers and voices on behalf of just, decent and hope-filled attitudes and behaviours towards those for whom our government is responsible.

Prayer

O God! 
Hear your children when they cry out,
when their despair feels like imprisonment.

O God! 
Hear the prayers of those unjustly imprisoned, 
and bring your justice to liberate them.

O God! 
hear the cries of those in prison because of their crimes,
bring new hope, 
and challenge us all to
speak out on behalf of humanity.
In the name of the one who brings release to the captives we ask it. Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev'd Dr Rosalind Selby is principal of Northern College in Manchester and a member of Didsbury URC. Copyright
Sing Psalms! (C) The Psalmody and Worship Committee, the Free Church of Scotland
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 28th March 2020

Sat, 28/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
The Rev’d Branwen Rees, East Wales Regional Minister

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Saturday 28th March
 
O Sacred Head Sore Wounded (Passion Chorale) RS 220
Paul Gerhardt (1607-76)

O sacred Head, sore wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down;
O royal head surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown;
O Lord of life and glory,
what bliss 'til now was thine!
I read the wondrous story,
I joy to call thee mine.

2 What thou, my Lord, hast suffered
was all for sinners' gain:
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
By this thy bitter Passion
Good Shepherd think on me;
vouchsafe to me compassion,
unworthy though I be.

3 For this thy dying sorrow,
O Jesus, dearest Friend,
what language shall I borrow
to thank thee without end?
O make me thine forever;
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love to thee.

4: Be near when I am dying,
and show thy cross to me
that I, for succour flying,
may rest my eyes on thee.
My Lord, thy grace receiving,
let faith my fears dispel,
that I may die believing,
and in thee Lord, die well.

You can hear this hymn here.

St Mark 15: 17

And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him.

Reflection

I have always wanted to preach on a hymn but never had the courage. Yet hymns can contain wonderful words and images – words and images we may find easier to understand than some Scripture and for me, this hymn is one of them.  It speaks to what scares us most as humans, death. We are mortal; we have a finite time on earth and yet we don’t like to think about it, let alone talk about it. We almost pretend that we will live forever, but despite medical advances - we won’t!

We know we are not worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus yet still, Jesus died for me, he died for you; he died your annoying neighbour, he even died for that person in church you really don’t like.  But it’s not just that Jesus died, it’s what went with the dying – the torture, the mocking, the ridicule and the abandonment by his friends and by God too.

To an extent. Jesus death was a result of power politics and the Romans, well, they may mock his Messiahship - dress him as a pretend king in purple with a crown; they may even hail him as if he were Caesar, but still Jesus goes to his death as God’s anointed.

Jesus’ death provides a ‘permanent covenant between God and humanity that can never be broken’ (The New Interpreter’s Bible) because of that, we can sing, ‘My Lord, thy grace receiving, let faith my fears dispel, that I may die believing, and in thee, Lord, die well’.  With faith and hope we can die well knowing that there is a far better life ahead of us than we have already experienced, a life lived in the presence of our Creator God and our Risen Saviour.

Prayer

Lord of life and glory,
It is hard to think of our own death,
yet we know that we can live life now thanks to your death.
As we approach this Eastertide, 
let us not be too hasty to avoid Good Friday, 
instead let us sit with your death Lord Jesus, 
meditating on the reality of its horror and pain, 
but still knowing that death will lead to new life.  Amen -->

Today's writer

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


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion  27th March 2020

Fri, 27/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  27th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
Gordon Woods, Elder, St. Columba’s URC, Oxford

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Friday 27th March

My Song is Love Unknown (R&S) 207
Samuel Crossman (1624 - 84)

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour's love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh, and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But oh, my Friend,
My Friend indeed,
Who at my need
His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then "Crucify!"
Is all their breath,
And for His death
They thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
he gave the blind their sight.
Sweet injuries!
Yet they, at these,
themselves displease and ‘gainst him rise.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay.
Yet cheerful He
To suffering goes,
That He His foes
From thence might free.

In life, no house, no home,
my Lord on earth might have;
in death, no friendly tomb,
but what a stranger gave.
What may I say?
Heaven was his home;
but mind the tomb 
wherein he lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King,
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend,
In whose sweet praise
I all my days
Could gladly spend

You can hear, and see, this hymn be sung here.

Isaiah 53

Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities
    and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
    struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
    crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
    and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
    Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
    and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
     Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
    The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

Reflection

It is hardly original to observe that a great poet can capture a thought in a few words that might take much longer to express in prose.  I’ve long thought that Crossman captured something simple and striking not only about Christ’s ministry on earth, but about our Christian calling in the phrase “Love to the loveless shown / That they might lovely be.”  But to turn great poetry into a great hymn (or even bad poetry into a good hymn - lots of scope for discussion there) you need a talented musician, and I suspect Crossman’s verses would have been unknown not only to me, but many readers of this Devotion, had it not been for the twentieth century composer John Ireland.  His tune ‘Love Unknown’ seems to me to capture the melancholy and loneliness of Christ’s passion so well, with the flexibility to respond to the changing mood of the poetry as it is sung.

I wonder what drew John Ireland to these verses.  Did the loneliness of the Passion had a particular resonance for him?  His brief marriage was annulled unconsummated, and his private papers and biographers suggest he was a gay man at a time it wasn’t possible for him to form a relationship with someone he loved. 

Our Scripture reading is the fourth ‘Servant Song’ from Isaiah, which is variously interpreted as a prophecy about Israel, or the Messiah.  It picks up key themes of the Passion, and is at once both familiar and troubling - do we agree with Isaiah that God would want to crush anyone with pain?  And I’m not happy with a ‘jam tomorrow’ theology that those who suffer in this world will be rewarded in the next. This is a reading to wrestle with, rather than gloss over due to its familiarity.

Prayer

Lord, 
we give thanks for the poets and musicians who help us explore, 
by looking at our faith through different eyes.  
We pray that they may be inspired by your Gospel 
to strengthen us in faith and service, 
and to challenge us to see familiar texts anew.  
Help us to step out of our comfort zones of familiar words and music, 
and open ourselves to new possibilities in our Christian lives.
Amen -->

Today's writer

Gordon Woods, Elder, 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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

Sunday's Coming

Thu, 26/03/2020 - 09:41
96 Sunday's Coming View this email in your browser

Sunday's Coming

Dear <<First Name>>

Welcome to all our new subscribers.  Since last Thursday over a 1,000 of you have subscribed.  I hope you are finding the daily prayer and reflection helpful.

As you know each Sunday we are sending out the transcript and recording for a Sunday service.  This week the service is led by the Rev'd Phil Nevard and we hope his humour, thoughtful preaching and excellent hymn choices will help lift all our spirits.  After clicking on the link to listen you should be able to click back to the email to follow the transcript.  This might be easier on a laptop rather than a phone or tablet.  

There were a few teething problems last week...

first, please do add this address to your contact list and, if your email programme has one, a safe sender's list.

second, if you don't get a Devotion one morning please check your spam or junk folder before emailing to ask where it is!

thirdly, I am going to send out the service at 9.45 so that everyone has it ready for a 10am start.  Of course you can listen earlier or later if you wish, but there is something nice in all listening to it at the same time.  The earlier send out time is because the email programme we use sends it out in batches and some folk got it a little after 10 and emailed in to ask where it was!  You can also see the material, after 9.45 on Sunday at devotions.urg.org.uk as the material is also posted there but you will probably find it easier to read via your email.

Finally, two people commented that when trying to listen via a phone - one person on an iPhone and another on an Android, they were prompted to download Microsoft One Drive.  The recording is hosted on OneDrive.  Most people don't need to download the OneDrive App and we're not sure why some are asked to.  If this happened to you then go to the App Store (on iPhones) or the Play Store (on Android) and download the OneDrive App.  It's free.

I hope we continue to worship and pray together throughout this lockdown and the pandemic and that, by doing so, we continue to build up our community and give expression - in perhaps a new way - to that old idea of the Communion of the Saints bound together in worship and praise.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

--> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

URC Daily Devotion  26th March 2020

Thu, 26/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  26th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
The Rev’d Ian Gow, Minister, Eltham URC

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Thursday 26th March



We Turn to God When We Are Sorely Pressed CH4 393
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Tune, Eventide)

We turn to God when we are sorely pressed;
we pray for help, and ask for peace and bread;
we seek release from illness, guilt, and death:
all people do, in faith or unbelief.

We turn to God when he sorely pressed,
and find him poor, scorned, without roof and bread,
bowed under weight of weakness, sin, and death:
faith stands by God in his dark hour of grief.

God turns to us when we are sorely pressed,
and feeds our souls and bodies with his bread;
for one and all Christ gives himself in death:
through his forgiveness sin will find relief.

You can hear the tune, Eventide, here.

St Luke 9: 57 - 62

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’  To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’  Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

Reflection

The German Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, paid the ultimate price for his faith and opposition to the ideologies of Hitler when hung at Flossenburg concentration camp on April 9th 1945.  Bonhoeffer held that the Church, "had to share in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world" if it were to be the true Church of Christ.  A similar price was paid by the Polish Catholic priest Maximilian Kolbe, put to death at Auschwitz in 1941.  Closer to home, my late Jewish mother’s father, who had received the military cross during the First World War fighting for Germany, perished at Auschwitz.  Her great grandmother was shot at Theresienstadt. The Holocaust enigma remains an insoluble mystery for Judaism.

Our passage today from Luke as to the cost of following Jesus needs to be understood in the context of the “black and white” tonality of first century Rabbinic Judaism.  Contrary to expectation, Jesus did not concentrate on the adventure of discipleship; its opportunities for personal growth, travel and evangelism; rather the tough, unconditional choices that would have to be made.

Any current organisation can only attract employees and promote company business by successful marketing strategies but candidates’ success remains complex; as seen in Lord Alan Sugar’s “The Apprentice!”

Travelling in obedience to God’s call is one of the central tenets of Luke’s Gospel; following Jesus is not easy - something the three “would be followers” in the text learned to their cost.

The lessons to be taken from this passage are that we should not base our security in material possessions alone but in our relationship with God; our priorities have to be assessed. Secondly that we should keep our earthly ties in perspective; continuing to respect our allegiances to our loved ones but prepared to live our lives in obedience to God. Finally, that in following Jesus we must be true to our word, refuse to be distracted and give our lives wholeheartedly to him.  

Prayer

Teach me your ways, O Lord;
make them known to me.
Teach me to live according to your truth,
for you are my God, who saves me.
I always trust in you. Amen

Psalm 25: 4-5: (GNB) -->

Today's writer

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


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion  25th March 2020

Wed, 25/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  25th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
The Rev'd Geoffrey Clarke.

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Wednesday 25th March

At The Cross Her Vigil Keeping CH4 387
13th Century

At the cross her vigil keeping
stood the mournful mother weeping
where he hung, the dying Lord.
for her soul, of joy bereaved,
bowed with sorrow, deeply grieved,
passed the sharp and piercing sword.

2. Who, on Christ’s dear mother gazing,
pierced with anguish so amazing,
born of woman, would not weep?
Who, on Christ's dear mother thinking
such a cup of sorrow drinking,
would not share her sorrows deep?

3. For his people's sins chastised,
she beheld her son despised,
scourged and crowned with thorns entwined,
saw him then from judgement taken,
and in death by all forsaken,
till his spirit he resigned.

4. Jesus may her deep devotion
stir in me the same emotion,
fount of love, Redeemer kind,
that my heart, fresh ardour gaining,
Near thy cross, O Christ, abiding,
and a purer love attaining,
may with thee acceptance find. 

There are many versions of this hymn - here is a good Plainsong version of it.  The words differ slightly from those above but it's the same meter.

St John 19: 25

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Reflection

As a child we sang from The Methodist Hymn Book (1933) and I cannot recall an occasion when #185 (this hymn) was used.   There is a Free Church tendency to minimise (if not entirely omit) the place of Mary.   As we contemplate the manger, our eyes, hearts and minds are drawn to the One who is God incarnate.  Similarly, as we gaze upon the Cross it is the One crucified who is the focus of our devotion. Yet in both of these scenes Mary, his mother, is part of the ‘picture’. Her presence at the Cross prompts Jesus to commend her to “the disciple whom he loved” with the words, “Here is your mother” and “from that hour the disciple took her into his own home”.  (John 19: 26-27)

Here in this hymn – and the Gospel scene that inspired it – we see the ultimate heartache borne by Mary.  It captures the tragedy and sadness of the scene: Who, on Christ’s dear mother thinking such a cup of sorrow drinking, would not share her sorrows deep?  Whilst our gaze is, rightly, is drawn to the One crucified we might also ponder his mother as she represents the countless number of parents, children, partners and friends who keep vigil beside the suffering of their loved ones.   Helpless and powerless, we experience a pain akin to “a sharp and piercing sword”.  

Any consideration of Mary will ultimately point us to her Son.  Mary points us to Jesus. We keep vigil beside her and, gazing upon him, know both God’s sacrificial love and the cost of that love - both for the crucified One and his grieving mother.   As we gaze, let us pray for a measure of her faithfulness and willingness to keep vigil with those who suffer and, with her, direct the gaze of all towards the One crucified.

Prayer

O God,
help me to stand with Mary at the foot of the cross:
that I might appreciate
the breadth and depth of your love.
 
I hold before you today
all who keep vigil beside those who suffer or are dying:
may they know comfort and strength in their heartache.
 
May those who suffer for their faith
find courage and resilience.
 
Inspired by the example of Mary
may I enable others to see you.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Revd Geoffrey Clarke, Minister of The Crossing (Methodist/United Reformed Church), Worksop & Wales Kiveton Methodist Church. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion  24th March 2020

Tue, 24/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  24th March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
The Rev’d William Young, Minister, Essenside URC Glasgow and Morison Memorial Clydebank

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Tuesday 24th March

Lifted High On Your Cross CH4 386
Ian Cowie (1923-2005)  Tune Pulling Bracken

Lifted high on your cross,
drawing all folk, drawing all folk;
lifted high on your cross,
drawing all folk to you.


Down you came to live among us
part of your creation,
knowing poverty and sorrow
sharing each temptation.

On the gallows there they nail you
God despised, rejected;
deep within your earth they hide you,
till your resurrected.

Light and love pour down upon us
healing, recreating;
you relive your life within us,
all life consecrating.  

The tune, Pulling Bracken is a Scottish folk tune which you can hear here.  The Iona Community set their hymn Dance and Sing All the Earth to the same tune.

St John 12:24

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Reflection

In charismatic circles, “lifting Jesus up” has a tradition of meaning ‘praising God with great vigour’.  Most times, that implies corporate praise within the safe walls of a tabernacle rather than where Jesus’ true “lifting up” occurs: outside.

The Greeks sought Jesus, thinking perhaps the best way would be to enquire within. Their answer was an affirmation that suffering and vulnerability brings reconciliation.

Nature’s best work seems to be in letting go of life in order to make room for life. In a time of climate emergency, a cracked open seed is a small sign that we have (maybe) a little time left to save the planet.  If the seed remains uncracked, insular in the ground, it is dead to the world, and the world is dies without it. So it must crack open to give life.

Insular spirituality, no matter how charismatic, does not draw us to the truth of Jesus’ passion. Jesus brings the world toward the cross in suffering akin to the most vulnerable on earth. We are brought toward Jesus to be his body on earth.

“Without your wound, where would your power be?” is an Angel’s question to a bruised physician in Thornton Wilder’s alternative play about the pool of Bethesda called The Angel that Troubled the Waters. “In Love’s Service, only the wounded soldiers can serve.”

Church members and ministers alike carry wounds and hurts.  Painfully too many recent stories in Christianity involve clergy who experience burnout.  Mental illness is rampant in the clergy community as it is in our world.

If the Church can cultivate a space where wounds and tears are welcome, those wounds may turn into stories and testimonies of God’s love and care. Those testimonies need time to grow. Many need time and space in the soil. They need a community without judgement so that healing can spring forth new life. This is the practice of resurrection.

As William Cullen Bryant wrote, “Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again.”
 
Prayer

Give us the courage to be unashamed:
of ourselves, of Your message, of You.
As You draw us to you in your suffering,
may our wounds call us to service, passion, and resurrection.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d William Young, Minister, Essenside URC Glasgow and Morison Memorial Clydebank. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion 23rd March 2020

Mon, 23/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 23rd March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/URC)

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Monday 23rd March


Here Hangs a Man Discarded CH4 385
Brian Wren 
Tune Shrub End  (Passion Chorale works well if verses are doubled)
© Stainer and Bell 1975

Here hangs a man discarded,
a scarecrow hoisted high,
a nonsense pointing nowhere
to all who hurry by.

Can such a clown of sorrows
still bring a useful word
when faith and hope seem phantoms
and every hope absurd?

Yet here is help and comfort
for lives by comfort bound,
when drums of dazzling progress
give strangely hollow sound:

Life, emptied of all meaning,
drained out in bleak distress,
can share in broken silence
our deepest emptiness;

And love that freely entered
the pit of life's despair,
can name our hidden darkness
and suffer with us there.

Christ, in our darkness risen,
help all who long for light
to hold the hand of promise,
till faith receives its sight.

There is only one version of this on line to Passion Chorale which you can hear here.  You can hear the first verse set to Shrub End here.

St Luke 23: 44 - 49

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land  until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.  But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Reflection

Today we stand as his friends and ‘acquaintances’, at a distance, watching. With 2000 years of separation it can be hard to see the view Luke places before us, but we are, perhaps, brought close by our own experiences of loss.

Are faith and hope absurd phantoms in the face of death and pain?

Is life emptied of all meaning, drained out by times of bleak distress?

Is there hope to be found during national and global injustices?

Wren’s hymn asks us to consider how we view this discarded man; as scarecrow, a nonsense, a clown?

Standing and watching this scene, viewed through our own lives of complex human suffering, we can be forgiven for descending to our own hidden depths as we suffer with him. We can be forgiven for seeing a discarded, hopeless nonsense with no hopeful word to say in our time.

And yet.

We stand here as his friends, in the knowledge of what is to come.

From this place of darkness, the light of Christ burns still.

In this place, where we feel separated from God by our suffering, the curtain is torn in two.

He who seems like a clown, laughs in the face of hopeless death and dances with us in the potential of light-filled freedom.

Prayer

Loving Christ,
as we stand, watching,
dwell with us in our suffering,
hold us when we are overcome and find no hope,
inspire us to stand as friends, with all who suffer,
and fill us again, with the joy of your ever-shining light.
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). Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

Sunday Service from the URC for 22nd March 2020

Sun, 22/03/2020 - 10:00
96 Sunday Service from the URC for 22nd March 2020 View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

-->
worship for challenging times
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
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 if you wish.
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 22nd March
 
Today’s service comes from the Spire Church, a Methodist and United Reformed Church local ecumenical partnership at Farnham in Surrey.  The service is led by the Rev’d Michael Hopkins.
 
Call to Worship
 
Come to the God who loves you.
Come to the God in whose presence you are welcome.
Come, for God is inviting you to worship.
Come, rejoicing, for God is faithful and just.
 
Let us worship God.
 
Hymn  Now Thank We All Our God
              Martin Rinkart (1586 – 1649)
 
Now thank we all our God
with heart, and hands, and voices,
who wondrous things hath done,
in whom His world rejoices;
who, from our mother's arms
hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
 
O may this gracious God
through all our life be near us!
With ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
preserve us in His grace,
and guide us in distress,
and free us from all sin,
till heaven we possess.
 
All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son, and Spirit blest,
who reigns in highest heaven,
Eternal, Triune God,
whom earth and heav’n adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be, evermore.
 
Prayers and the Lord’s Prayer
 
Let us pray
 
God our Parent,
we gather to open our hearts to you,
trusting that you will welcome us with open arms. 
We come to worship you.
 
You are the one who leads us through times of trial;
the one who supports us in sorrow and struggle;
the one who is beside us when all is bleak.
Holy One, we praise You.
 
God our Shepherd, we confess that we often lose our way.
Sometimes we follow like sheep
and end up in places that we should not be.
At other times we choose our own paths
and end up hitting a dead end.
 
In a moment of quiet,
we bring before you
those things we have done in our straying
and ask that, in your mercy,
you will bring us back on track.
 
Silence
 
Thank you, God, that you have forgiven us and set us free. 
May we come to walk your path once again.
We accept your loving forgiveness,
and we pray together as Jesus taught us:

Our Father..
 
Scripture Reading  St Luke 15:11-32 (NIV)
 
Jesus continued: 

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine

in that whole country, and he began to be in need.   So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.   ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
 
Hymn   Who Would True Valour See
            John Bunyan 1628 - 1688
 
Who would true valour see,
let him come hither;
one here will constant be,
come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent
to be a pilgrim.
 
Whoso beset him round
with dismal stories
do but themselves confound;
his strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
he’ll with a giant fight,
he will have a right
to be a pilgrim.
 
Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
can daunt his spirit,
he knows he at the end
shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away,
he’ll fear not what men say,
he’ll labour night and day
to be a pilgrim.
 
Sermon
 
If the truth is told, I’ve always struggled with this story.  We often call it the prodigal son, and that choice of title sets off the problems for me.  So often, I’ve heard and read, we’re to rejoice at the younger son coming home.  My problem is that the younger son is such a nasty piece of work that human nature makes it almost impossible for me to feel much sympathy for him.
 
And then we move on to the older son, who displays loyalty, hard work, and sheer graft, and I think many of us feel some considerable sympathy for him.  After all, the kinds of people who work hard in churches are loyal and hard working.  However, the older brother is a bit too judgy and moralistic for me to have much sympathy for him either.
 
So, I find myself not really liking either of the main characters, which is why I’ve always struggled with this story, and found it hard to made much sense of it, until I thought about it a bit more.  In the book Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey listens to a number of different policemen all give their own theory of how a crime was committed in turn, and then he says, “You are all wrong, but one of you is less wrong than the rest.  Still none of you has got the right murderer, and none of you has got the whole of the method right, though some of you have got bits of it.”
 
That’s roughly how I feel about much of what I’ve read that tries to make sense of today’s story.  I dug a bit deeper, and now think the two sons are there to represent two different kinds of people, and I now think the idea is that they’re both wrong, for very different reasons. 
 
These two brothers each represent a different way to be alienated from God, and a different way to seek acceptance into the kingdom of heaven.  I think that what Jesus is doing here is trying to shatter our categories.  As well as the destructive self-centeredness of the younger brother, we also have the judgy older brother wanting to claim the moral high ground.  I think that Jesus is saying that both the irreligious and the religious can be spiritually lost, both life-paths can be dead ends, and that we humans need to think more carefully about how we connect with God. 
 
When Jesus was preaching to crowds of people, it’s important to remember that in general, religiously observant people of the time were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him.  But church isn’t quite like that now. 
 
The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones.  The licentious and liberated, or the broken and marginal, avoid church, which makes me fear that churches might be more like the older brother than most of find comfortable.
 
Jesus offered us two brothers, I think to demonstrate two different ways of missing the mark: one overly irreligious, and one overly religious.  Our Western society is so deeply divided between these two approaches that we can barely see any other way to live now.  If we criticize or distance ourselves from one, everyone assumes that we have chosen to follow the other, because each of these approaches tends to divide the whole world into two basic groups.  The moral conformists say: “the immoral people — the people who ‘do their own thing’ — are the problem with the world, and moral people are the solution.”  The advocates of self-discovery say: “the bigoted people — the people who say, ‘We have the Truth’ — are the problem with the world, and progressive people are the solution.”  Each side says: “our way is the way the world will be put to rights, and if you are not with us, you are against us.”  If we allow that kind of division to creep into our thinking then we’re falling into the two sons that Jesus showed us.
 
Jesus the storyteller deliberately leaves the elder brother in his alienated state.  The younger son enters his father’s feast, but the older son does not.  The lover of prostitutes is saved, but the man of moral rectitude is still lost.  Wow!  We can almost hear the Pharisees gasp as the story ends.  It was the complete reversal of everything they had ever been taught.
 
Did the older son want the same thing as his brother?  Was he just as resentful of his father as the younger son was?  Did either son love their father for himself, or for his goods and money?  Is not Jesus using these two sons to remind us that we can rebel against God by keeping all the rules diligently as much as by breaking them?
 
I think one of the points of this passage is about making it clear that sin isn’t about breaking a list of rules.  Jesus shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviours can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person, because sin isn’t just breaking the rules, isn’t really about breaking the rules, it’s about putting yourself in the place of God, just as both brothers sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.
 
Both were wrong, but both were loved.  The good news is not religion or irreligion, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservatism or liberalism.  Nor is it something halfway along a spectrum between two poles, it’s something else altogether: everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognise this and change.
 
The danger for the older brother is that he will be trapped by his own bitterness, anger eventually becoming a prison of his own making.  When we see the attitude of the older brother in the story, is it perhaps a sign of why the younger brother wanted to leave in the first place?  Everybody knows that the Christian gospel calls us away from the recklessness of the younger brother, but do we realise that it also condemns the judgy moralistic older brother?
 
So what might this parable be saying to us?  Don’t try to put ourselves in the place of God!  Forgiveness is free and unconditional to the perpetrator, but it’s costly to the forgiver.  Forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer, if the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.
 
This story that Jesus tells is about the story of the whole human race, and Jesus was reminding us that God promises nothing less than hope for the world.  Our human race is a band of exiles trying to come home, and so this story is about every one of us.
 
Jesus holds out hope for ordinary human life, for each person.  Our future is not an ethereal, impersonal form of consciousness. 
 
We can come to God, and our loving heavenly Father will meet us and embrace us, and we will be brought into the feast.
 
The feast is the end of Jesus’s story, and I think this has four things to tell us about God’s love:
 
  1. God’s love is an experience – Jesus came to bring joy and celebration, a festival.
  2. God’s love is material - this material world matters.  God hates the suffering and oppression of this material world so much, that he was willing to get involved in it and to fight against it.  Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opium of the people - it’s more like the smelling salts!
  3. God’s love is Individual.  God doesn’t love us because we are beautiful; we become beautiful through God’s love.  Through God’s love our stinginess can become a reorientation to generosity.
  4. God’s love is communal.  No reunion, no family gathering, no wedding, no other significant social event is complete without a meal. 
If we get trapped in the sensual way of the younger brother or the ethical way of the older brother, both only lead to spiritual dead ends.  Throughout life, most of us fall into these traps from time to time, but God’s love is bigger than that, calling us, challenging us, to recognise that at a deeper level we need to acknowledge God at the heart of our lives, calling us to take our part in a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus, a place where we can try to grow ever more into his likeness.  This is God’s love which is broad like beach and meadow, wide as the wind.  This is God’s love enfolds the world in one embrace, which grasps every child of every race.  This is god’s love which gains final triumph, which reigns over all the universe.  
 
And a little shadow of this limitless love of God is what can see reflected in the very best of our human love, those from whom we have known the love of a mother.
 
Prayers
 
God, you are father and mother to us, an ever-loving parent, more faithful than we can even imagine.  Thank you for life and living, even when we are weary and worn-out.  Thank you for challenge and change, even when we seek safety and security. 
 
Thank you for playfulness and pain, even when we seek moderation and mild-living.  Thank you for companionship when we are lonely. 
 
Thank you for calling when we are settled.  Thank you for creativity when we are uninspired.
 
Bring us to newness of life as your people.  Bring us to wholeness of life from out of its fragments.

Bring us to fullness of life from your communion in and with us.
 
We lift to you our families, God:

our nearby ones with whom we share our homes and our lives, our loved ones whom we see rarely because they live away, and our disaffected ones whom we see rarely because they have disagreed with us.
 
Be with them when we cannot be there: give them wise guidance when they will not heed us, keep them safe when they are beyond our protection, and mend our attitudes if we become obstacles to your good plans.

We lift to you our church, God:

Each of us who seek to make sure we do everything we can to be welcoming and helpful, those who support us and are encouraged by us, and our building that serves as a witness to your presence among us.
 
Pour your Spirit of unity and peace on us:
help us discern your guidance and show us new ways of bringing your love and healing to our community.
 
We lift to you our nation, God:
the politicians who represent us,
those who maintain justice,
those who provide us with many services,
and all who work to keep us supplied
with all the good things we have.
 
Help us to express proper care and concern for everyone, that people of all sorts and conditions may have their fair share of the good things you give us.
 
We offer you these, and all our prayers, God, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.
 
 
Hymn  And Can It Be?
           Charles Wesley 1707 - 1788
 
And can it be that I should gain
an int’rest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
 
He left His Father’s throne above,
so free, so infinite His grace;
emptied Himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’tis mercy all, immense and free;
for, O my God, it found out me.
’tis mercy all, immense and free;
for, O my God, it found out me.
 
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
 
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness Divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
 
Dismissal and Blessing
 
The service has ended. 
Go in peace and joy,
and the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
is upon you and all God’s people,
near and far,
today, tonight and forever, Amen. 
 
We thank Michael for devising the service and Jonnie Hill and Fay Rowland for recording some of the spoken parts at very short notice. 

Hymn lyrics are public domain, the music in the podcast is delivered subject to the terms of the URC's various licences.
--> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion's Housekeeping

Sun, 22/03/2020 - 09:43
96 URC Daily Devotion's Housekeeping View this email in your browser

Our Resources

Dear <<First Name>>

Over the last week we've had around 1,000 people sign up to the Daily Devotions so I thought it would be helpful to cover a few housekeeping things.

Firstly, welcome to our new subscribers.  I hope you find the daily reflections and Sunday service a useful resource in trying times.  

From time to time the various email providers get more embracing in their spam filters.  You should add this email address to your contacts as that will help.  If your provider has a Safe Senders' List add this address to that too.  If you don't get a Devotion one morning do check your Spam folder before emailing me to ask about it.

If you change your email address you can do that by pressing the "update my preferences link" at the bottom of each email.  

Some of you have asked if it's ok to print off the Devotions to give to people who aren't on email - yes of course but you may prefer to print booklets which we prepare for just this purpose.  If you'd like this please sign up to the  booklet list here and drop me a note to say you've done it if you wish the next few booklets which have already been sent out.

I'm often asked if Devotions can be put in church newsletters - yes of course but please credit the writer and Daily Devotions from the URC.

Finally, some of you have asked if you can have the Sunday worship material ahead of time to distribute orders of service and the recording either on CD or memory sticks to those who don't have email.  I will be sending out, on Tuesday, material for 29th March, Palm Sunday and Good Friday and, thereafter, I hope to send just one email a month with the following month's material on.  This will create less work for local church contacts.  If you'd like to have that material you can sign up to the early bird list here.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC 

 

  

--> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

URC Daily Devotion  22nd March 2020

Sun, 22/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  22nd March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
John Collings, Lay Preacher, Member of Rutherglen URC

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Sunday 22nd March
Psalm 141

1 O LORD, I call to you.
Come quickly! I’m in need!
And, when I cry to you for help,
to my appeal give heed.

2 Like incense may my prayer
before your face arise—
The raising of my hands be like
the evening sacrifice.

3 Keep watch, LORD, on my mouth
and guard my lips, I pray;
4 Let not my heart to evil thoughts
be drawn and led astray.

Keep me from taking part
in what the evil do;
Let me not taste their choicest food,
lest I be false to you.

5 A righteous friend’s rebuke
will be a soothing balm;
Such blows, in kindness aimed at me,
will never do me harm.

Against the wicked’s deeds
I make my constant prayer;
6 Their rulers will be thrown from cliffs,
and they will perish there.

The wicked then will know
my words were spoken well.
7 Like ground that’s ploughed, their bones are strewn
before the mouth of hell.

8 But now, O Sovereign LORD,
on you I fix my gaze;
Do not deliver me to death—
you are my help always.

9 Protect me from the traps
the wicked set for me,
10 And let them be ensnared themselves,
while I instead go free.

Reflection

The Psalm starts with a cry to God in prayer.  David is asking God to stop him being drawn into false arguments. 

It can be easy to say something in the heat of the moment especially when, like David, we feel under pressure from our enemies.  David had experienced many adversities and in 1 Sam 24 we read how David did not take an opportunity to hurt Saul despite many people encouraging him to do so.  Instead, by not harming Saul, David gained respect from Saul. When we read the newspapers, or look at social media, we see people trading insults and virtual hatred of those with opposing views.  Rather than being drawn into this, as Christians, we should pray that we are free from evil thoughts.  

Sometimes we may see a friend doing or saying something that is wrong and we can rebuke them as long as we do it in love and let it be “a soothing balm” (v5).  As you read this we will probably still be in post Brexit negotiations. This has brought out so much division and we should be looking to be that soothing balm.  

How do we decide what to do and when?  I was given the list of Devotions and chose to write about this Psalm because today is my birthday.  Birthdays can be a time of excess and overindulgence, but the Psalmist reminds us to “Keep … from taking part in what the evil do” (v3).  We can celebrate and enjoy the good things of life, but we must not let anything come between us and God. 
 
If we trust God He will protect us from the wicked and we will instead go free to rejoice in Him.

Prayer

Loving God,
like David I Cry to you,
watch what I say and think,
correct me when my thoughts are wrong,
let me be a soothing balm amidst strife
guide me to speak and think the truth
despite what others say, think or do.
Let me be a beacon of truth for you
Amen -->

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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

URC Daily Devotion  21st March 2020

Sat, 21/03/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion  21st March 2020 View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward
Jonnie Hill, Ordinand at Northern College and member of Chorlton Central Church

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Saturday 21st March
 
The Servant King
Graham Kendrick (b1950) © 1983 Thank You Music

From heaven you came helpless babe
Entered our world, your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live

This is our God, The Servant King
He calls us now to follow Him
To bring our lives as a daily offering
Of worship to The Servant King


There in the garden of tears
My heavy load he chose to bear
His heart with sorrow was torn
'Yet not My will but Yours, ' He said

Come see His hands and His feet
The scars that speak of sacrifice
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered

So let us learn how to serve
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other's needs to prefer
For it is Christ we're serving.

You can hear this hymn here.

St Luke 22: 39 - 46

He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’  Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.  In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.’

Reflection

The opening line of Graham Kendrick’s song The Servant King could almost locate us in the season of Advent or Christmas. Yet the song could hardly be called a modern carol given that the journey from ‘heavenly babe’ to death is a pretty swift one. 

Growing up in the evangelical tradition, I sang this song with gusto throughout much of my early worshipping life. As worship songs go, it is one I’m still happy to sing – not because of theology or anything so lofty, but because of the honesty of human emotions evoked by its words. 

Gethsemane, at the foot of the Mount of Olives, surely was a ‘garden of tears’ when the weight of what lay ahead for Jesus bore down heavily upon him. For me, I’m not sure there is a clearer picture of Jesus’ humanity elsewhere throughout the Gospels. Who of us in Jesus’ position would not have felt similar and asked that the cup be taken from us? 

Like Jesus’ contemporaries who expected the Messiah to overthrow Roman rule, I suspect many of us too crave the triumphant and powerful image of God found in many contemporary worship songs.  Who wouldn’t want a God who rescues and saves us from the suffering imposed by our enemies? And yet, the story of our God made flesh is not one of conquest and victory, but of sacrifice and service. 

I wonder if Jesus’ life of sacrifice and service would meet the criteria for the social media phenomenon of ‘living your best life’. I suspect not. Nevertheless, Jesus’ call to follow him in love, sacrifice and service is as true now as ever. How will we respond? 

Prayer

Servant God,
In humility you came to us as Word made flesh, 
You who created the heavens and earth
showed us the way of love and sacrifice. 
Help us to follow you, 
and to live our best life in service, 
and for the sake of the Good News.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

Jonnie Hill, Ordinand at Northern College and member of Chorlton Central Church. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

Sunday's Service

Fri, 20/03/2020 - 09:09
96 Sunday's Service View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

-->
inspiration in your inbox
--> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend
Sunday's Service

Dear Friends,

over the last few days we have prepared worship for Sunday morning.  We are grateful to the Rev'd Michael Hopkins, minister of the Spire Church in Farnham, for preparing and recording a service so quickly.  It will be sent out to you, via email, at 10am on Sunday morning.  When you get the email you will see a large "click here" text at the top.  If you click there a new screen should appear with a direct link to the recording of the service.  At the bottom of that screen is the forward arrow symbol which you need to press to hear the recording.  If you then leave that playing and go back to the first window you will see the text of the service.  Simply scroll down to keep up.  There are three hymns to join in with and we've chosen well known, and uplifting ones, as we think this week we could all do with a bit of joy!  Don't worry if you'd like to take part in the service a bit later - we chose 10am as that is when many churches meet - just listen to the recording whenever you wish.

Worship for Sunday 29th March is led by the Rev'd Phil Nevard and worship for Palm Sunday and Good Friday by myself.  The Rev'd Dr John Bradbury leads worship for Easter Sunday and this will include a chance to share bread and wine together - for that service it would be good if you have some bread and wine (or grape juice) ready before we start.    We have a team of people developing the services and will send these out every week in addition to the Daily Devotions which come every morning.  The services will continue until we can return to public worship again. 

This week we have also created a separate mailing list for people who would like advance copies of the service to print and burn to CD to give to people who don't have Internet Access.  It is too late now to get this material for Sunday but if you would like to distribute this to others in your church in future weeks please sign up here.

We hope you find these resources useful and, in this worrying time, find some peace.  Our General Secretary, John Proctor recently wrote this prayer which I found very useful.  I hope you do too.

Lord Jesus,
In the midst of a storm, You said, ‘Peace be still.’
Bid our anxious fears subside,
sustain your Church in faith, hope and love,
bring our nation through this tumult,
grant wisdom to those with heavy responsibilities,
and healing and hope to those who are infected. Amen



with every good wish


Andy

The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Daily Devotions from the URC --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails? You can

update your preferences

or

unsubscribe from this list.

 

Pages