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URC Daily Devotion 10th May 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 10/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

1 Timothy 3:1-13

The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way— for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. Reflection In preparing this devotion I refreshed my memory around some of the descriptions in the New Testament about how the early Church was organised.  There is plenty about relationships within the community, and about how the early Christians were expected to behave, but relatively little about how it might be led.  Peter clearly has a leading role in the opening chapter of Acts, but as the Church grew it must have developed new models of leadership with some being called to lead, not just follow.  These verses from 1 Timothy (which probably wasn’t written by Paul) set out some of the qualities that such people should have - though, depressingly, the prominent role of women in the Gospels and other parts of the New Testament seems to have been airbrushed out.

These verses refer to Bishops (or ‘overseers’ in some translations) and Deacons (or ‘servants’). Frustratingly, there are no job descriptions attached for us to check whether the duties the URC Manual assigns to Elders are aligned to either role!  But most of the characteristics seem to work well for us.

Having been a serving Elder for the last 18 years, I am struck by the contrasts with leadership roles in my life as  a civil servant; there is more listening in being an Elder, for example - listening for God, listening to each other, listening to the wider congregation.  Unlike a leadership position at work, being an Elder isn’t a promotion, it is simply another form of service. And unlike any promotion exercise I’ve ever run, potential candidates tend to reflect long and hard before allowing their names to go forward!

Let us pray for those we call to be Elders that they may feel able to accept this call to serve God and their local churches in this ministry.

Prayer

We give thanks for our Elders;
faithful women and men
who answer the call to serve.
May they be kind
and constructive in challenge;
concerned and supportive in care;
bold and inventive in mission.
We pray that they may know
the value of their service,
feel able to lay their responsibilities down at the right time,
and unlock the gifts and service of others,
so that together we may build the Kingdom of God. Amen.

Today's Writer

Gordon Woods is an Elder of St. Columba’s URC, Oxford.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 9th May 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Romans 16:1-2 

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. Reflection
Supporting the local church
 
‘Some are called to the Ministry of Word and Sacraments’ and some to ‘the ministry of church related community work’. So says the URC’s Basis of Union (paras 21 and 22). The first of those roles helps the local church to shape its worship, its pastoral life and its outreach. The second role enables congregation and local community to work together for justice and the common good.

Phoebe might have done well in either of those roles. She had a key position in the local church as a ‘deacon’. That word suggests both humble service – someone who’s not afraid to roll their sleeves up – and also a position of trust and respect.

She appears to have been the carrier of the Letter to the Romans. So she might have been asked to talk about its message with Christians who received it. ‘What’s Paul getting at? Does he tell other churches about these things? What difference have these ideas made to your life?’ I wonder if Phoebe was an off-the-cuff theologian, who could talk with others about God in unrehearsed yet serious and searching ways. That’s quite a gift, but we continue to need people who can do it well.

She was generous too, as a ‘benefactor’. Phoebe found ways of supporting others, and providing for them, whether with her goods or with her deeds. She may have been one of those early Christians who opened their home for the church to meet, who shared food with those who had too little, who noticed the sick and struggling.

Phoebe could navigate the complex waters of human relationships and leave other people feeling encouraged and helped. She had the confidence of church members at Cenchreae (a port in Greece). She had the nerve to travel and connect with a different set of people in a new place. As she went, she carried a message, to make people think deeply and help them to trust in Jesus. I thank God for Phoebe – and for you, if you do any of these things today.
 

Prayer

Generous God, help me to be like Phoebe:
 open and kind, when others are in need;
 practical, when there’s a task to be done;
 confident, in finding my feet
 somewhere new;
 respectful and helpful,
 among people of all kinds.

And help me to notice
the Phoebes around me,
 to honour them, help them
 and learn from them.

In the name of Jesus Christ
the servant King. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd John Proctor is a member of Downing Place URC, Cambridge, and General Secretary of the URC.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 8th May 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 08/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Isaiah 6: 1-9

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’ And he said, ‘Go and say to this people: “Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.”
Reflection The call of Isaiah is a favourite of many of those who recognise that they are called by God to service in any capacity. In the context of wonderful, pivot-shaking worship in the Temple, the Lord himself appears and asks ‘Who will go for us?’. Often we end our reading with Isaiah’s response “Here am I, send me”.

The word “I” appears, meaning Isaiah, eight times in this passage and it is easy to be blinded by this personal account into thinking that any call from God is all about ‘me’. “Here am I. Send me.” It could be all about ‘me’.

But in fact the really amazing parts of this account are all about God – his robe, his seraphs, his glory. Only once God has got the attention of Isaiah is he able to cleanse and commission him. And then the work of ministry begins – to go to the people and tell them the message God is giving them. It’s a rather odd message, that points to the destruction of the land and the punishment of the people. Only after all that will there be a time of hope. Yet however discouraging at first sight, this is God’s message to God’s people voiced by God’s prophet.

A Methodist colleague of mine is very fond of asking the question, ‘For whose benefit is this ministry?’  If when we are considering the purpose of our lives we cannot truly answer ‘For the service of God and the benefit of God’s people’ then perhaps we need to read the sixth chapter of Isaiah again – and get past the part which is all about ‘me’.
 

Prayer

Dearest Lord,
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for reward
save that of knowing I am doing Your Will.
Amen.

St Ignatius Loyola

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead is currently serving as South Western Synod Moderator.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 7th May 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 07/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 10.1

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. Reflection It’s odd, isn’t it? The Lord didn’t appoint seventy rabbis and send them to synagogues. No, he appointed ‘others’ and sent them to every town and place where he himself intended to go. It’s almost as though he knew that there were people living their lives, getting on with day-to-day things, that needed ministering to. Of course, He didn’t explicitly say DON’T go to the synagogues, and I’m sure that was often their first port of call, but also the workplaces, homes, shops, street corners. He didn’t ask His disciples to limit their ministry to designated places of worship, He asked them to go to where people were.

I wonder how those seventy felt as they got to their town or place? Nervous? Excited? Scared? They weren’t lone operators, they had someone else on their team but, still...sent out into the world. What was their mission? Was it entirely practical - you know: arrange accommodation, maybe put up a few posters? Or was it about beginning ministry, doing the groundwork, sharing the Gospel?

Did He send out complementary teams? A great preacher with a healer? A fantastic teacher working alongside a miracle worker? A wise old head with an energetic young firebrand?

Or did He just pair folk up randomly and ask them to use whatever skills they had to do the best they could in meeting the needs they found in the places they went to?
It’s almost as though Jesus trusted them. Just like He trusts us. To make a positive difference in whatever way they could, in whatever way we can, to people that were there. To people that are here. Wherever that may be. Not just in our churches.

Prayer

Lord, it sometimes feels as though
we are the lone voice
crying out in the wilderness.
We know that you are with us
yet sometimes the task, our mission,
feels overwhelming.
Help us to feel your presence. 
Help us to use our gifts. 
Help us to be strong in our faith
So that the work we do in Your name
may help Your kingdom come,
Your will be done.  Amen.

Today's Writer

Leo Roberts is the Children and Young People’s Officer for the North Western Synod.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 6th May 2019 Vocations 1

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 06/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th May 2019 Vocations 1 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 3:23-29

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Reflection For many years, people have argued about the wearing of school uniform, and one of the most potent arguments in favour is the fact that school uniforms cause all children to appear equal.

Paul begins this chapter of his letter by rebuking the Galatian church, but ends, as so often happens, with some good news - we are now one in Christ Jesus.  One of the major causes of this is Baptism, something which hopefully links us all. Even a denomination such as ours, with strands coming from various traditions, contains a dispersed leadership often with confusing titles, but we are all one. We all believe the same thing, and we all are one in Christ.  The Sacrament of Baptism has given us a uniform, which despite our differences in background, upbringing, and race, make us equal, not only sharing the joy of that equality, but making us as one with the persecuted Church.

I remember many years ago having access to a dressing up box at school. I found a jumper I liked, and wore it constantly for a few weeks. The fact that it was far too large for me and I kept tripping over didn’t matter.

The miracle of our baptism is that Jesus gives us a uniform that is neither too big nor too small. His intention is not to trip us up, nor indeed, to restrict our movement. It is something we should wear with pride, not only among our Christian friends, but among those who aren’t yet believers.

Prayer

Father God, help us to wear our uniform with pride. You have made it to fit each and all of us, and as we go about our daily business, teach us to use what we’ve been given through Baptism for the benefit of our church, and indeed, all people with who we come into contact. Amen.

Today's Writer

David Reynolds is a serving Elder at Cores End URC in Buckinghamshire.

Bible Version

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


 
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Vocations

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 05/05/2019 - 18:30
96 Vocations View this email in your browser

Vocations

Dear <<First Name>>

In the URC we observe Vocations Sunday on the 4th Sunday of Easter - this year that falls on next Sunday, 12th May.  In order to help us reflect on this we have prepared 7 devotions on the broad theme of vocations - recognising we are all called.

One of our new writers, David Reynolds who serves as an Elder at Corrs End in Buckinghamshire, reflects on baptism as the starting point for all Christians.  Leo Roberts, the Children and Youth Development Officer for our North Western Synod reflects on our call to serve in the world whilst the Moderator of the South Western Synod, Ruth Whitehead, reflects on servanthood - as our basic approach in the world.  Some are called to specific tasks of leadership and John Proctor, our General Secretary, reflects on this whilst Gordon Woods, an Elder at St Columba’s in Oxford, reflects on Eldership, I reflect on the conciliar decision making process that is used, particularly, in the calling of ministers and CRCWs.  Susan Durber, Minister of Taunton URC and Convenor of the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Committee, helps us reflect on the sense that we all have multiple vocations. Finally, John Ellis, an Elder and former Moderator of General Assembly, reflects on the universal theme that time, and roles, come to an end.  
 
We hope that these reflections help you focus on your calling - maybe you are exploring a call to join a church, become an Elder or candidate for ministry; maybe you are already in a role and wonder about about how it may develop or if it’s time to let it go - and we hope that you pray that all of us discern and follow the callings we have.  



with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 5th May 2019

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

Psalm 95

1 O come, let us joyfully sing to the LORD;
To the Rock of salvation let us raise our voice.
2 Let us come before him expressing our thanks;
Let us with loud singing praise him and rejoice.

3 The LORD is the great God, King over all gods.
4 The earth’s deepest places he holds in his hand;
The heights of the mountains belong to the LORD.
5 The oceans are his, and he formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow humbly and worship the LORD;
Let us kneel before him, our Maker, in prayer.
7 For we are his people and he is our God;
He shepherds and feeds us in his loving care.

Today if you hear and attend to his voice,
8 Don’t harden your hearts as you did on the way;
In Meribah’s desert you quarrelled with me,
You tested my patience at Massah that day.

9 Your fathers provoked me and tested me there,
Although they had witnessed the works I had done.
10 With that generation for forty long years
My deep indignation continued to burn.

I said, “They’re a people whose hearts go astray;
They do not acknowledge that my ways are best.”
11 And so, in my anger, I stated on oath,
“I swear that they never shall enter my rest.”

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Walther here.
 
Reflection In ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ Jim Hacker is told that on his orders the nuclear button will be pressed. Asking if anyone will argue, and assured they won’t, he gulps and says, ‘Blimey!’ Sir Humphrey replies, ‘It's your job and you wanted it, Prime Minister.’ It’s a sort of ‘be careful what you ask for’ moment.

And such is Psalm 95. It begins with praise that’s more exuberant than our translation suggests. The opening ‘come’ is more like ‘let’s get going!’; its ‘sing’ is really ‘shout’, and ‘come before him’ suggests life-shaping encounter. As Beth Tanner has it, ‘This is praise using all the force and power that the human body has.’ Perhaps there’s an allusion to that phrase Jesus borrows from the Hebrew writings, that we are to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength. And why? Because God is creator and shepherd; God makes and God saves. So much is this God ‘the King over all gods’ that the devout worshipper is led to bow down, to kneel and to pray.

However, in the best traditions of ‘be careful what you ask for’, this whole-hearted praise invites consequences; such an ‘encounter’ with God doesn’t leave us where it found us. The worship we offer is meant to be reflected in the way we live. And the Psalm suggests God’s disappointment that that is not always so: ‘You tested my patience’, ‘your fathers provoked me’. Moreover, the Psalm closes with that divine disappointment: ‘they shall never enter my rest’. When we tell God of our worship, God longs for our service. It’s a chicken and egg thing.

I first sang this Psalm at Matins; it’s the Venite. Perhaps the so-called Chorister’s Prayer, offered Sunday by Sunday in the vestry, echoes exactly what Venite urges.
 

Prayer

Bless, O Lord, us thy servants who minister in thy Temple;
grant that what we sing with our lips
we may believe in our hearts
and what we believe in our hearts we may show forth in our lives,
to the honour and glory of thy holy Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 4th May 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 04/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 21 7 - 37

They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’  And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them. ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’  Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.  So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.  Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly,  like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called.  And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.
Reflection Passages like this make us uncomfortable with this emphasis on signs of the end of time.  The types of Christians who focus on passages like this also make us uncomfortable with an emphasis on redemption coming after suffering.  We might just cope with readings like these in Advent when we try and think about the Second Coming but it is a topic we like to push out of our heads.

The Early Church didn’t have that luxury.  They lived with persecution in a hostile culture.  The peace of Rome was really military oppression - as the Jewish people found out when Jerusalem (was) surrounded by armies and then they knew that its desolation had come near.    In this, the Early Church looked to Jesus for their hope, believing he’d come again and set all things right.

We still live with wars - not rumours of them as our 24/7 news cycle mean we don’t rely on rumours but on striking images of devastation from around the world.  We still live with persecution - not in the West where the worse that happens to the Church is a pernicious indifference - but in Asia one in three Christians experience persecution.  

I hope those who are persecuted now find hope in Jesus’ promise to be with them, to help them witness and the promise they will not perish but gain their souls.  I hope passages like this make us work harder for political change in our world where no one is persecuted for what they believe, how they live, or who they love.
 

Prayer

O God,
whose words do not pass away,
but give life and endurance,
free us from the traps of life,
help us to see what passes in our society
and give us the grace to change the world,
through Jesus Christ,
in the power of the Holy Spirit,
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is a Minister in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster serving Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 3rd May 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 03/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 21:1 - 6 

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury;  he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them;  for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’ When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said,  ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’ Reflection
Almost as a tag on line to this intriguing story, Jesus mentions the unimaginable; one day, the Temple - the permanent and literal house of God will be no more. The beautiful work of artisans, the innumerable sacrifices and dedications to God, the holy atmosphere, the historical community focal point, God's presence, all gone. It's an unthinkable situation.
What would the destruction of the Temple have meant to the woman who gave all that she had to the collection box? Deep sorrow and loss? Bitterness? Relief? Freedom?
We don’t know why the woman put in all that she had. Was it because: she loved God;  she loved the Temple; she was able to place her well being in God's hands; or because, whilst being watched by those with plenty, she felt ashamed not to?
Can you imagine a time when your church is no more? For many out there this will already be a painful reality, or one close enough to touch. What does church mean for you? Is God’s presence limited to those 4 walls, the beauty in the building, that group of people, the rituals you share together, the weekly meetings and activities, the history of prayers made in that space?
In this story we see the frailty of our need for religious security. Whatever reason the woman gave all that she had to the Temple, the resulting vulnerability surely meant that her very life was in God’s hands; perhaps, in her poverty, she already knew strength in that reality. Perhaps the destruction of the Temple would be easier for her to comprehend than for those who measured their very worth by their relation to it.
The Temple was eventually destroyed, but around about the same time, word of God’s love in Jesus was spreading to the ends of the earth. God goes before us, each day, into every place. Go out and seek God, seek resurrection in the darkest of places – and maybe even in the Church.
 

Prayer

Omnipotent God,
was the woman in this story,
brave, or foolish, or faithful
when she gave all that she had
to the Temple?
God can you make me all three for you?
Brave enough
to let go of those physical things I cling to,
foolish enough
to trust your strength in my vulnerability
faithful enough
to work out your love in all that I do,
Amen

Today's Writer

Liz Kam, Church Related Community Worker, Levenshulme Inspire.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 2nd May 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 02/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 20: 27 - 47

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless;  then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.  Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him another question. Then he said to them, ‘How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son?  For David himself says in the book of Psalms, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’ Reflection Set alongside the challenges from the Chief Priests and Scribes in the text comes this discourse with some Sadducees.

According to Josephus they were a small but influential group many being placed in prominent positions within the Temple structure. Their existence was dependent on Temple life and no trace can be found of them following its destruction when Jerusalem was conquered.

One of the Sadducees’ defining strands was that they only considered the Torah to be scripture and this led to their doctrinal view that there could be no resurrection as they found no such reference within the Books of the Law.

This group asked Jesus a loaded question based on the Leverite Law which was intended to protect inheritance and property.

Jesus dismisses the conundrum simply by refocussing the need for marriage in God’s realm then quoting from the Torah offers the Sadducees new insights  - God the God of the living Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The question of resurrection asked and answered.

I come back frequently to the vehicle for the teaching.  Like a terrier I can’t let go of the widow’s experience in this story, however hypothetical, the notion of multiple bereavements, the loss of seven husbands, whatever the basis of those relationships, and the cumulative nature of grief overwhelms me.

Whilst seven life partners may be unusual the experience of multiple bereavements is not. This is the experience of older people and indeed many congregations made up of predominantly older members.  It is the experience where people share a life limiting illness or indeed are experiencing some form of disaster or war.

We also know that there is a risk with suicide that it may appear in clusters including within familial groups. A fact that calls for evermore sensitive postvention.

Whilst we have become increasingly more sensitive to the needs of people experiencing grief I feel we have much to learn in order to offer support to those whose experiences of loss are cumulative.
 

Prayer

Loving God there is simply nothing that we can do which allows us to step outside that circle of love you have for us.

Be with us today, whatever our experience, whatever our expectations for the day

Bring us integrity and growth
through learning
Bring us solace and healing when we struggle with loss and despair
God of life bring us hope.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Helen M Mee, Synod of Scotland

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 1st May 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 01/05/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st May 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 20: 20 - 26

So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor.  So they asked him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’  But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, ‘Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?’ They said, ‘The emperor’s.’ He said to them, ‘Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’  And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent. Reflection They watched him – the “they” being the scribes and chief priests - whilst they sent spies, first to flatter and then to ask questions. Jesus, of course, had another audience, for the people were following this rabbi who promised new ways of living and an end to the misery of occupation and oppression.

The spies had been carefully chosen, people able to seem plausible, to ask questions which looked as though they had confidence in Jesus’ teaching whilst at the same time having the intention of turning the adoring crowds against him.
The question seemed simple enough, we might say deceptively simple and the answer was quite clear even if not the one the spies expected. In both the question and the answer are layers of possibilities. There were issues here of political and religious power struggles and like many questions then and now, the important thing was to determine which were the central issues.

In our Statement of Nature Faith and Order we declare “In the things which affect obedience to God the Church is not subordinate to the state but must serve the Lord Jesus Christ …… “. But it isn’t as easy as two tick lists headed, loyalty to God and loyalty to Caesar.

There are decisions, priorities and loyalties in there which require us to examine our response to any of the complex issues of our day, homelessness, Universal Credit, violence, to name but a few. If we observe what Jesus did in these circumstances, we find he understood the hidden agenda, and identified the central issue.

In the complex world in which we live, our prayer must be for wisdom to spot the “spies” who will flatter and then undermine us, and for discernment to judge what is at stake in any given situation.
 

Prayer

Compassionate God,
in a world in which it seems
as though nothing is simple
we pray for wisdom to recognise
the messages we can trust
for discernment
to understand the situation
and for commitment
to act in accordance with the values
of justice and peace
demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen

Today's Writer

Val Morrison, Hall Gate, Doncaster. Former Moderator of General Assembly

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 30th April 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 30/04/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th April 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 20: 9 - 19

He began to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time.  When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.”  But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’ When they heard this, they said, ‘Heaven forbid!’  But he looked at them and said, ‘What then does this text mean: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’ When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people. Reflection Frank Sinatra is one of the 20th Century’s most celebrated artists. Famously, Sinatra popularised the song “My Way” in 1969 which became an anthem for individualism in Western culture:

I've lived a life that's full
I've traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way


This is a song for the road, seemingly inverting Jesus’ own journey metaphors, asserting the individual’s right to self-determination and choice.

Today we find Jesus crashing into such mind-sets. Individual autonomy is nothing new, and we meet Jesus clashing with a group of religious heavies who believe in the right to flex their spiritual muscles as they see fit.

Jesus’ defense is rooted in his identity as the Son of God, the culmination in a series of prophets God had sent to call the tenants of Israel to account.

The Temple leaders tried to trap Jesus, demonstrating their belief that they would have the last word. Jesus’ response - that he is the “cornerstone” which held the ultimate authority - confounded them to plot a murderous response.

Likewise, we too can mistakenly fall into the fallacy that we have the last word. We desire to go our own way in life. A misinformed response could warp the pilgrim life - the road that Jesus calls us to. It’s a journey of tough adventure, but one where we are seeking to follow Him. When we start asserting our own rights, we risk going off route.

We are invited to travel with Jesus, being comforted and guided by the Prince of Peace. He has the ability to up-end any life which asserts the right of individual autonomy. In love, he invites us to take the pilgrim  which celebrates journeying in companionship with fellow pilgrims.
 

Prayer

O God,
may we remember
that we do not have the last word
in our affairs.
May we be mindful of the friends
and family who journey with us.
May your peace ravel with us.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Daniel Harris is an ordinand at Westminster College and Student Minister at St Neots URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 29th April 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 29/04/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th April 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 20: 1 - 7

One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders  and said to him, ‘Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?’ He answered them, ‘I will also ask you a question, and you tell me:  Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ They discussed it with one another, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say, “Why did you not believe him?”  But if we say, “Of human origin”, all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.’ So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’ Reflection I’ve recently started watching a YouTuber called Bunny. Bunny has two channels and lots of other social media, and she primarily does the following: makeup tutorials, makeup “swatches”, testing of children’s toys for value for money/entertainment, unboxing mystery boxes/packages/blind boxes/blind bags...now if I’m talking a language that is just words, I promise you can Google the terms for clarity.  

You are probably wondering where we are going and what does a Texan named Bunny have to do with Jesus teaching in the Temple, well it's like this: the first thing that endeared Bunny and her YouTube channels to me was the fact that she NEVER swears and she finds cool words to express her emotions. One of these words is “Sassy”, if you don’t know what sassy is, the dictionary definition is: “lively, bold, and full of spirit, cheeky”.  

Now when I read this passage where Jesus is basically calling the Pharisees out, in my mind I imagine him being very sassy, he has had enough of the Pharisees being all letter of the Law but not genuine followers and he isn’t going to take their nonsense. The Pharisees realise that Jesus’ sassiness has basically backed them into a corner and they won’t win either way so they fake an answer which also bites them because Jesus responds with more sassiness and tells them he won’t answer their question.

Growing up being cheeky was not an attribute that was praised in my family, but sometimes, you have to be sassy because it is the only way to diffuse situations that are heading towards conflict, I am aware that this can aggravate a situation, but sometimes it's worth taking the risk. As church, I think we sometimes get ourselves worked into knots and conflict when if someone had taken the risk and been sassy the situation may never have become so tense. So I dare you, be Sassy.
 

Prayer

Creator God
It is good to be reminded
that you created us to be
people of liveliness, fun and joy.
Give us courage to be cheeky,
fun and sassy;
to lighten moods and spirits
of those we encounter,
recognising that we often do not know what people are going through.  
Amen.

Today's Writer

Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, CRCW

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
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URC Daily Devotion 28th April 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Sun, 28/04/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th April 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 94

1 O LORD, the God of vengeance,
O righteous God, shine forth!
2 Arise, condemn the haughty,
O Judge of all the earth.

3 How long will evildoers,
O LORD, be jubilant?
4 They pour out wicked boasting;
their words are arrogant.

5 O LORD, they crush your people,
oppress your heritage;
6 The widow, stranger, orphan
they murder in their rage.

7 They say, “God does not notice;
the LORD has closed his eyes.”
8 Take heed, you senseless people;
fools, when will you be wise?

9 Do you think the Creator,
who gave mankind the ear
And made the eye for seeing,
can neither see nor hear?

10 Does he who guides the nations
not punish them for wrong?
To him who gives instruction
does knowledge not belong?

11 All human thoughts are futile;
to you, LORD, they are known.
12 You bless those with correction
to whom your law is shown.

13 In troubled times you grant them
relief from their distress,
Until a pit is opened
to punish wickedness.

14 The LORD will not abandon
the folk who are his own;
His heritage, his chosen,
he never will disown.

15 For justice will be founded
once more on righteousness,
And all right-hearted people
approval will express.

16 Who will arise to help me
against the wicked one?
Who will stand up to aid me
when other help has gone?

17 Unless the LORD had helped me,
I’d soon have passed away
To dwell in death’s dark silence
far from the light of day.

18 When I said, “LORD, I’m slipping,”
your love came to my aid;
19 Your help gave joy and comfort
when I was so afraid.

20 Can God accept a tyrant
who issues harsh decrees,
And brings upon his subjects
oppressive miseries?

21 Against the righteous people
the evildoers plot;
To execute the guiltless,
such is their wicked thought.

22 But as for me, my refuge
is in the LORD Most High;
God has become my fortress
and on him I rely.

23 God will repay the wicked
the evil they have done;
The LORD our God will surely
destroy them every one.


You can hear this sung to the tune Coleshill here.
 
Reflection Do you prefer a terrifyingly vengeful God or a pathetically unobservant one?
Evil doers, the Psalmist suggests, rely on God’s eyes being closed to the many abuses suffered by the vulnerable, here represented by oppressed and murdered widows, strangers and orphans. The Psalmist, on the other hand, is confident that the LORD will live down to “his” well-known reputation for vengeance: “God will repay the wicked for the evil they have done; the LORD our God will destroy them every one.”

Some of the time, perhaps most of the time, I don’t want God to destroy anyone, not even evil doers. On other occasions, seeing what some people do to others, my blood boils and I’d lose little sleep if bad things happened to bad people.

My heart is willing but my capacity to exact vengeance is limited, so it’s a relief to put it all into someone else’s hands. But who will arise to help me against these wicked ones? Will it be the Psalmist’s God of vengeance or am I stuck with the evil doers’ hands-off, eyes-closed, emotionally detached deity?

It’s neither. For me, reading these verses with Christian eyes, God’s character is neither neglectful nor vengeful. God is very aware of the deeds of evil doers and the suffering of their victims. And yes, by way of a cross, God has arisen to help them against the wicked ones, not by vengeance but through destroying wickedness itself.

Will people who perpetrate evil survive the destruction of their wickedness? I don’t know. Can God’s passion for justice really be satisfied as well as God’s capacity for love? I don’t know. For now, I put my trust in God who sees and acts, though not necessarily in the ways I expect.
 

Prayer

Thank you, God,
That in Jesus we encounter you;
Neither vengeful nor neglectful,
But at work to rid this world of wickedness.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Trevor Jamison, Minister, St Columba’s URC, North Shields.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion Easter Saturday 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Sat, 27/04/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Easter Saturday 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 19: 11 - 27

As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.  So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten pounds, and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.”  But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to rule over us.” When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading.  The first came forward and said, “Lord, your pound has made ten more pounds.” He said to him, “Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.” Then the second came, saying, “Lord, your pound has made five pounds.” He said to him, “And you, rule over five cities.”  Then the other came, saying, “Lord, here is your pound. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” He said to him, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow?  Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.” He said to the bystanders, “Take the pound from him and give it to the one who has ten pounds.” (And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten pounds!”) “I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.”’ Reflection When ordaining a new Elder in a local church recently I used this parable as the Gospel reading (the version in Matthew is one of the readings recommended in the URC Worship Book).  At first glance, this parable seems to urge us to use our skills, capabilities and experiences to further God’s kingdom on earth. This is a useful and often-cited explanation for this parable.  The trite saying, ‘use it or lose’ comes to mind to reinforce the message that we all have God-given gifts and talents the we are duty bound to exploit for God’s purposes.

In preparation for the service of ordination and induction I studied all the recommended readings and was struck by a number of recurring themes, such as, humility, service and sheep-tending.  Considering these themes gave me a different slant on the parable. While building up our own ‘wealth of talent’ (for God’s purposes, not ours) is important, what seemed even more important (for those in any form of leadership roles) was building up the wealth of talent in the ‘flock’.  Tend my flock we are told. This parable points out to all Elders, old or new, that we are to use our skills and capabilities to develop and encourage those around us. To enable others to become more talented and more fruitful. For Elders (and other leaders), this parable is not just about developing our God-given skills, it is about developing the wealth of talent in the whole Christian community.
 

Prayer

Lord, we thank you for the wealth of gifts you have showered on your children, and continue to do so.

We are grateful that we see your servants use these gifts day by day to further your kingdom.

I pray that through your grace you will continue to inspire all in leadership roles to nurture those around them, giving them the skills and confidence to do even more in your name.

Amen
 

Today's Writer

Alan Yates is the Immediate Past Moderator of General Assembly and an Elder in Trinity URC, High Wycombe.

Bible Version

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

URC Daily Devotions - Fri, 26/04/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Easter Friday 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 19: 1 - 10


He entered Jericho and was passing through it.  A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich.  He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’  So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’ Reflection The URC isn’t the type of church that dwells overly on sin - though I suspect some of our forebears were more exercised by personal sin than many contemporary Christians are.  Some of those who have gone before us would have grumbled if the minister was seen going to a house of a notorious sinner so we shouldn’t be too harsh on those in today’s passage.  

Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus changed his life.  This was not only a spiritual experience but a conversion that cost him dear - he gave half his possessions to the poor and paid back four times what he had gained through fraud.  Zacchaeus’ radical repentance is a response to Jesus’ radical refusal to judge.

I wonder what the contemporary equivalent would be.  This is more than being radically inclusive, more than singing “All are welcome” more than congratulating ourselves on how progressive we are.  Jesus took the risk by going from what was comfortable to what was provocative. He went to Zacchaeus - the chief tax collector of the hated Roman occupiers.  Jesus took the risk of being seen with a collaborator and that risk paid off. What risks are we prepared to take in our lives for the sake of the Kingdom?
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
friend of prostitutes and tax collectors,
irritant of the holy,
curse of the self righteous,
bless us with your courage,
drive us out to unlikely places
and uncouth people
that we may be heralds of your Gospel.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is a minister in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster serving churches in Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton.  

Bible Version

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

URC Daily Devotions - Thu, 25/04/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Easter Thursday 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 18: 31 - 43
We loop back to the sections we skipped in Holy Week.

Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’  But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. As he approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard a crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’ Then he shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’  Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.’ Immediately he regained his sight and followed him, glorifying God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God. Reflection For the third and last time, Jesus spells out to the disciples what they can expect when they reach Jerusalem.  He speaks with a deep sense of commitment. It is almost as if he himself were the suffering servant evoked by the prophet Isaiah.  He could scarcely be more explicit. He must be crucified before he is glorified as the risen Christ. But the disciples cannot understand.  What Jesus says to them will not make sense till after the resurrection. For the moment, uncomprehending, they fade into the background.
And now we have a glimpse of the fulfilment of God’s purposes.  As Jesus carries on to Jericho, he passes a wayside beggar. We don’t know the man’s name.  He is blind. He is aware of a throng of people going by, senses that something is up, hears someone says: “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by”.  The solemnity of the moment is not lost on him. In a flash of revelation, he cries out to Jesus, hails him as Son of David, and asks not for alms, but for mercy.  This is the time he has been waiting for, the time when a Davidic king would bring healing to the blind, the lame and the deaf. Again and again, the blind man calls out.  Jesus stops, commands bystanders to bring the man forward, and restores his sight with a word. It is a sign. Through Jesus Christ, God is bringing healing, joy and hope to the world.  And the man? he follows Jesus, glorifying God, and all the people sing Hosanna!

As we followers of our risen Lord sit with the beggar, in a world mired in suffering and sin, are we not called to live and speak in such a way as to bring ever nearer God’s rule of righteousness and peace?  And are we not also called to rejoice at signs of the fulfilment of our hopes?
 

Prayer

Ever living and ever loving God,
Give me grace so to follow
in the steps of Jesus
that I may see all things
in the light of your purposes.
So may I rejoice today in your worship
and find gladness in singing your praises.

Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Fleur Houston is a retired minister and member of Macclesfield and Bollington URC

Bible Version

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

URC Daily Devotions - Wed, 24/04/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Easter Wednesday 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 24: 50 - 53

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;  and they were continually in the temple blessing God. Reflection What a great ending to his story, as Luke tells us Jesus’ last journey began at Bethany and ended in heaven. Why Bethany? Clearly, a special place for Jesus, it is thought a community of Galilee folk lived there, home from home for Jesus, as they spoke his dialect, and shared stories of the north. Bethany has been identified as a centre for healing, sufficient distance from the ‘holy’ city – Simon the Leper lived there. How closely Jesus identified with people struggling with ill-health and handicap, with the terrible poverty and exclusion this caused. An Essene hospice was in Bethany, the last place to rest for pilgrims on their way to the temple, just as Jesus rested there. Profoundly, from Bethany Jesus began his last entry into Jerusalem, so now, his return marks a redemption of that journey of sacrifice and death to hell itself, into a journey of freedom and joy to heaven itself.

One last connection - Jesus’ friends lived there, Mary, Martha, Lazarus. I see him looking from a distance at their home, just making sure they were well, before he left this final time. Like many, I struggle with goodbyes, which only become good experiences, when I know those I am leaving will be well, and they can let me go, knowing we are safe in God’s hands. A helpful description of heaven, knowing all is well because we are all safe in the hands of God, hands that ‘flung stars into space to cruel nails surrendered’ (Kendrick). At Ascension they come together in Jesus, human, divine, earth and heaven. Luke began his story with everyone praising God, young and old, shepherds and angels! No wonder the story ends with everyone invited to join the praise! But Luke will write again, for what goes up must come down – God has not deserted us, the Holy Spirit is coming!
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we praise you for
your journey into the fullness of God,
shares God’s presence with us all;
your humanity and divinity are one,
shares that closeness to God with us all;
your being set free from the struggle of human life
shares that peace and love with us all.
For you promised –
“Lo! I am with you always
even to the very end of time.”

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Kevin Watson, Moderator of the Yorkshire Synod

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion Easter Tuesday 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Tue, 23/04/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Easter Tuesday 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 24: 36 - 49 

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’  And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ Reflection I guess one of the biggest challenges for the disciples was the need to ‘see’ the risen Christ. Hearsay was not enough. Instead, there needed to be sight of the risen Christ. The Corpus Christi was something that needed to be experienced in person. He needed to be seen to be believed – even eating fish to prove it.

In the shadow of Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection Feast fades, children return to school and the normality of our lives begins to return. We return to our daily jobs and routines, which seem a million miles from the celebration of new life at Easter. The idea of seeing the risen Christ seems as far away from us now as the idea did to those first disciples.

Today we reflect the Body of Christ through the Church – the body of believers gathered around the cradle, cross and campfire. But, unlike those disciples, we cannot encounter the risen Christ in the bodily sense, with once-pierced hands reaching out towards us, but we can experience the risen Christ in other ways, both in and out of the Church: through our reading and study of Scripture; through our relationship of prayer and discernment; and through our engagement with the broken, hurt, damaged, remorseful, neglected and ostracised in the world.

As our ‘normal’ routines return, we can remember that the risen Christ encounters us in many ways, seen and unseen. And yet our Easter experience of the risen Christ gives us the duty to believe and to respond: to go out from our places of worship – our own Jerusalems – and witness to what we have seen and what we know of the promise of the resurrection. For when we do that, we can let others see the risen Christ alive in our lives and in the Church. 

Prayer

Risen Christ
in the ways that we encounter you,
in scripture, prayer and the other,
help us believe in all that you promise
and inspire us to share your good news
in word and deed. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is the Trust Secretary for the Yorkshire Synod.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion Easter Monday 2019

URC Daily Devotions - Mon, 22/04/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Easter Monday 2019 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 24: 13 - 35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,  and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’  He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.  Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’ Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.  They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.  They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Reflection It was the era of “How many roads must a man walk down” when I first realised you didn’t have to “go forward” at a Billy Graham convention to declare your faith, as my Sunday school teacher had, because there were many other roads. (Later, I realised the answer is “42”. With apologies to those who don’t know that joke.) For one man, possibly many, the answer was Jericho road, or maybe “up a tree”, for another it was Damascus road while for others it was the “road” rowed across a lake.   For Mary, maybe for many, it was a voice saying her name - that moment of contact with someone concentrating solely on you.

Afterwards, there is that moment of “how did I not know”, which becomes the story you always tell.  Followed by the relief when you realise others have similar moments of recognition. You, I, am not the only one who somehow failed to recognise someone so obvious until s/he had to use a well known gesture, phrase or look.  In modern Britain it’s easy to think you might be the only one, ever, to become Christian, and the relief of meeting others who think the same is thrilling. Telling the story is how we discover others of faith and share it with those who have yet to recognise a faith.  

How many times had the followers of Jesus watched and listened as Jesus shared a meal, saying the familiar berakah “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, …”.  Something they had always shared, in many places, now becomes that point of information and recognition. In the meal by which we recognise Christians round the world, whatever the language, sharing bread and wine has the same effect, whatever road we have taken.  
 

Prayer

Blessed are you, Lord our God,
who gives to each the attention
that allows everyone
to walk the way to faith.
Thanks be to you, who gives us times when we can tell our story of faith,
that others may hear and know
that you are the Lord our God,
Lord and father to all.  
Blessed be God forever.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Browning, Retired minister and member of Thornbury URC

Bible Version

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


 
You can update your email address by clicking here.

 

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