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URC Daily Devotion

URC Devotions - Sun, 23/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Psalm 7
  O LORD my God, my refuge is in you;
Deliver me from all those who pursue,
Lest, lion-like, they tear ferociously,
While there is no one to deliver me.

O LORD my God, if such a thing I planned,
And if the guilt of sin is on my hand—
If I have wronged the one at peace with me,
Or without cause have robbed my enemy—

Then let my foe pursue relentlessly
That he may vent his hateful spite on me,
And let him trample me into the ground;
So will my honour in the dust be found.

Arise, O LORD, in wrath against my foes,
Against the rage of all who me oppose.
Awake, my God, let justice now abound
For all assembled nations gathered round.

Rule over all the nations from on high;
Your justice to the peoples, LORD, apply.
According to my righteousness judge me;
Look, O Most High, on my integrity.

O God of righteousness, you are the one
Who searches deep the heart and mind of man;
Bring to an end the wicked’s violence
And be the righteous one’s secure defence.

My shield and confidence is God Most High
Who saves the upright when to him they cry.
God is a judge who does what’s right and fair,
And every day his wrath God will declare.

If it should be that God will not relent,
He’ll fashion sword and deadly armament,
And he will bend and string his mighty bow
From which his fiery arrows forth will go.

The one who evil in his heart conceives
Gives birth to lies and no reward receives.
He digs a hole, he scoops it with his spade,
Then falls into the very pit he made.

His scheming will recoil on him instead;
His evil will descend upon his head.
I’ll thank the LORD who acts in righteousness;
I’ll praise the LORD Most High; his name I’ll bless.
This works well to the tune Slane which you can hear here or to Eventide which you can hear here  Both are recordings of congregations singing the Psalm. Reflection I write this as I prepare to leave Manchester - my home for the last 20 years - to take up a new ministry in Glasgow.  Leaving is bitter-sweet.  There are many good memories of Manchester and many friends here who have been important parts of my journey over the years.  Some of these friends are those who have fled to the UK to find sanctuary and many of these are Muslims who have found a freedom here than they would ever have found at home.  
 
I write just a few days after the devastating bomb which killed and maimed children and adults leaving a pop concert.  People around the world have been appalled and I have been amazed at the outpouring of grief, friendship and a sense of unity in the last week in Manchester.  My Muslim friends are as devastated as my Christian and non-religious friends and the desire to do something to mark this tragedy has led to a plethora of vigils and a huge shrine in a square in the city centre where flowers have been left and prayers said.  One of the most powerful images was of a Jewish woman praying together with a Muslim man at this makeshift shrine; something which should not be extraordinary at all has touched so many of us.
 
Our Psalm today - both suggested tunes for it work incredibly well - reminds us that in God we find our refuge.  The first lines are especially pertinent as we think of those for whom, at the Manchester Arena, there was no one to deliver them from the evil that tore into them.  
 
As the people of Manchester have processed this dreadful event we have found ourselves seeking to bridge divides, work across cultural and religious difference and show that hatred, violence and evil are never the last word.  The “I love Manchester” signs going up everywhere serve as icons of the idea that love trumps hate.  Even in our darkest hour God is to be found in the love rising up over the hate.
  Prayer O God of righteousness,
you are the one who searches deep the heart and mind of humanity;
bring to an end the wicked’s violence
and be the righteous one’s secure defence.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev'd Andy Braunston is a minister in the Synod of Scotland's Southside Cluster and coordinator of the Daily Devotions Project. Bible Version   (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 22nd July

URC Devotions - Sat, 22/07/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 12: 12-19 As soon as he realised this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying. When he knocked at the outer gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer. On recognising Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.” Meanwhile Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the gate, they saw him and were amazed. He motioned to them with his hand to be silent, and described for them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he added, “Tell this to James and to the believers.” Then he left and went to another place. When morning came, there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. When Herod had searched for him and could not find him, he examined the guards and ordered them to be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there. Reflection Here we find a down to earth relaying of the facts following Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. One can also detect something of a sense of humour in the account. I wonder, however, if it may also be the sheer gravity of the matter which touches our hearts most and therefore our lives. I have often thought of the young girl, Rhoda, as not perhaps being taken for whom she was, a valuable member of the household. Some commentators have even suggested that she was mentally deficient. If she was of sound mind - which is probably the more likely scenario - then those inside should have taken more notice of her insistence as she told them who was outside the gate. She certainly does act as somebody who is persistent, persevering and not prone to giving in easily, even when misunderstood.

We do need to remember that the people who were within the house were meeting especially to pray, seeking for God’s intervention in this problem which they had. Peter was being held in prison for no other reason than his faithful testimony of the life of Jesus within him. Yet his life was in extreme danger, James having already been killed at this time of persecution towards believers. There is a real truth here that so often we can be praying about a situation or a person and then, when the answer to that petition arrives we find it hard to accept, or even deny that it has happened.

Doesn’t this challenge us to respond aright to the blessings which other people may relate to and experience for themselves? Sometimes we may not always react graciously when others are blessed. There can be a sour grapes mentality at times. I am not hinting that people wanted Peter to remain in jail and be in danger of losing his life. However, we do need to be careful to ensure that if we are praying then we will at least expect to see an answer to such, maintaining a childlike trust towards the God to whom we are praying.
  Prayer Loving God, you know us so well,
Our thoughts and actions, and the motives behind them.
Help us Heavenly Father
In those times when we let fear overtake faith,
To remember that when we pray, you do listen
Acting for our best in every situation,
That you alone may have the glory, and we may
experience you to be our ever present help.
As we pray help us to be expectant people
Ready to receive graciously, the answer to our prayers.
Amen. Today's Writer Verena Walder is a Lay Preacher and Elder at Tabernacle URC in Mumbles, South Wales 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 21st July

URC Devotions - Fri, 21/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 12: 1-11 About that time King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He had James, the brother of John, killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (This was during the festival of Unleavened Bread.) When he had seized him, he put him in prison and handed him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him.

The very night before Herod was going to bring him out, Peter, bound with two chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while guards in front of the door were keeping watch over the prison. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his wrists. The angel said to him, ‘Fasten your belt and put on your sandals.’ He did so. Then he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ Peter went out and followed him; he did not realize that what was happening with the angel’s help was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. After they had passed the first and the second guard, they came before the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went outside and walked along a lane, when suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’
  Reflection Mostly when we look at this passage we ignore the beginning and move straight onto the part where Peter is in prison and his miraculous escape. Perhaps too, if you are like me, you find yourselves singing the verse of Wesley’s famous hymn “And can it be” where “my chains fell off”.

This is to be rather unfair to James, the brother of John. He, of course, is one of the sons of Zebedee and we learned his name very early on in the story of the Gospels as he and his brother are two of the earliest disciples to answer Jesus’ call.

Another famous name crops up - Herod, there were lots of them. The last we heard of a Herod was as one of the players in the drama of the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. That was a different one, Herod Antipas; this is Herod, sometimes called Agrippa I, and confusingly his son, Herod Agrippa II appears later in the book of Acts. One thing the Herods all had in common was cruelty and ruthlessness. They were the Kings of the Jews, friends of the Romans, and jealous of their position.

The timing was interesting. We don’t know how long after the death of Jesus this was but it takes place at Passover, bringing an extra frisson to the story. Luke is nothing if not a good story teller, who points out parallels without labouring the point. Obviously killing Jesus has not killed his teaching nor the idea that he was somehow the real king. Trouble is still brewing so Herod tries an experiment. He has James taken and killed with a sword.

If James were guilty of blasphemy, he would have been stoned like Stephen but by the use of the sword, this shows that James’ execution is a political act. There is no uprising, in fact the people seem pleased, so Herod goes for a bigger fish- Peter. The conditions that Peter was kept in should have meant there was no chance of escape and, as soon as Passover is over, Herod means to give the people what they seem to want, the death of Peter.

What happens is nothing short of a miracle, or the most complicated system of bribery and fixing that seems equally impossible. What soldier would face the anger of Herod? It is so unbelievable that Peter himself can’t believe it and it is only when he finds himself outside the iron gate in a little lane that he realises it isn’t a vivid dream. Luke’s description of Peter’s escape is so matter of fact that it highlights the dreamlike quality.
The rest of the Christians have been praying fervently for Peter’s release and when it happens, it is unbelievable. Does this resonate with us and our attitude to prayer? Do we pray, thinking secretly, it won’t happen? There are many similarities between us and the early church: our faith is often confused; we are not sure what to do for the best. Here the answer is simple - trust God and he will work miracles.   Prayer Lord,
We so often pray to you and don’t really expect an answer,
Help us to recognise your answer to us
whether it is yes, no or something completely different
Help us to put our trust in you
and surrender our futures into your hands
for you know us better than we know ourselves.
Amen Today's Writer Chris Eddowes is a Lay Preacher and elder at St George’s, Hartlepool 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 20th July

URC Devotions - Thu, 20/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 11: 27-30 At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. Reflection By the time you read this the general election may already be a distant memory, but as a I write campaigning is in full swing. Just yesterday there was controversy when a politician suggested that the typical users of food banks are not people 'languishing in poverty' but those with temporary cash flow issues. How we respond to and help people who are hungry, and the reasons why they are hungry, are still questions for us to consider. There are many factors – conflict, economic systems, inequality, climate change – and it can be hard to know how we should address these problems.
 
These same questions are also reflected in today's reading from Acts. It's such a brief story that it's natural to want to fill in the gaps and ask questions. There's debate among commentators over what events this refers to, and we don't get much detail to go on. When exactly did this famine happen? Was there a gap between the prophecy and the reality, or did it follow very quickly? The answers to these historical questions are not clear. But what is clear is that, when the church in Antioch hears that their brothers and sisters in Judea are in trouble, they immediately want to do what they can to help. They send relief to the Judean church, hoping to protect them from hunger. We can see this as the church putting into action Jesus' commandments to love another, and to 'feed my sheep'.
 
Our churches today also often work to prevent hunger, whether through support for a food bank in the local community, or by raising money for organisations such as Christian Aid who work across the world. In doing so, we are helping to build the Kingdom of God; but to do that effectively, we need to go further than the church in Antioch on that particular occasion, helping not only our fellow Christians but all who are in need.   Prayer Gracious and merciful God,
we know that there are many in our world who go hungry,
and we pray for them all;
we pray not only that they will they be fed,
that famine will be replaced by plenty,
but also that unfair systems that lead to poverty
can be replaced with justice.
 
We pray for the work of all aid organisations
and other groups who set out to help people in need,
and build a world where all will know your abundant gifts.
We ask too that you will guide us to do what we can
to make that vision a reality.
Amen.
  Today's Writer The Rev’d Dr  Nick Jones is Minister at Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough in the Mersey 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 19th July

URC Devotions - Wed, 19/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 11: 19-26 Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, and they spoke the word to no one except Jews. But among them were some men of Cyprus and Cyrene who, on coming to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists also, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord. News of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called “Christians.” Reflection “Meanwhile, the Spirit is busy getting on with things, out there in the world”, so begins Loveday Alexander’s exquisite commentary on this passage. And so the Spirit does - inspiring the greats of the Early Church and equally so, many unnamed evangelists. For it is anonymous believers who take the next momentous step in the spreading of God’s word. After the stoning of Stephen and the following persecution, they are scattered to places like Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, capital of the Roman province of Syria and the location of our story. Initially they speak only to Jews. But some, from places as far away as North Africa, also speak to the Hellenists, the Gentiles. A great number become believers and the Gentile church of Antioch is born. What marvellous things can happen when ordinary people get involved, just because the news is too good to keep to themselves.
 
News reaches the church in Jerusalem and they send Barnabas over. Acts 4:36 tells us that he was a Levite from Cyprus called Joseph. The apostles named him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement” and here we can see why. Encouragement is indeed his middle name. He rejoices at the grace of God at work in others, he encourages the young believers to remain faithful and he discerns what they need. And then he remembers Saul, the firebrand from Tarsus with his gifts of preaching and teaching. He brings him over to Antioch and the year he spends with the new believers becomes a turning point in the life of the church. Barnabas shows us that the work of the spirit is as much about discerning and nurturing the gifts of others as it is about doing the frontline work. We need the people who can do things - as well as the people who discern and recognise their talents in the first place!
 
In Antioch the disciples were first called Christians. The people of the Way are getting a distinct identity - the people who belong to Christ. What that identity entails is shown by Barnabas and the new believers: their lives are marked by grace, goodness, faithfulness, devotion and generosity. May we still be known for that today.   Prayer Gracious God,
for those who by their faithful living
encourage us and nurture us,
we give you thanks and praise. Today's Writer Francis Brienen is Deputy General Secretary (Mission) 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 18th July 

URC Devotions - Tue, 18/07/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th July  table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 11: 1-18 Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him,   saying, ‘Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?’   Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying,   ‘I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.”   But I replied, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”   But a second time the voice answered from heaven, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven.   At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were.   The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house.   He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, “Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter;   he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.”   And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning.   And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”  If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’ Reflection Christian mission often leads us into uncharted territory. As we cross boundaries, how do we remain faithful to God? In this passage from Acts, Peter is being called to account by the Jerusalem church for eating with Gentiles. He had infringed the dietary laws (Lev. 20:24-26). Now these were important identity markers, they distinguished Jews from others and they were a symbol of their faithfulness to God. But a Christian community composed of Jews and Gentiles had to eat together, and Peter felt impelled by God to ignore some of the requirements of a kosher diet for the sake of fellowship. As an observant Jew, he was clearly horrified at the thought. But he realised that God was summoning him to cross the boundary between the Jewish and Gentile world in the interests of Christian mission. And his vision was sealed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon his Gentile converts.
 
We too are called to develop the tradition we have inherited in forms that are culturally sensitive and appropriate to its context, to enable Christians and those who become Christians to grasp the faith and to live it out creatively. But as we applaud the breaking down of walls of partition, we know from the letters of Paul that table-fellowship remained a bone of contention for the early church (eg. Gal.2:11-12). And there remain for us today some lingering questions. In the process of transformation, was something of value lost? What did repudiation of this key identity- marker by Christians mean for relations with Jews? Have boundaries been redrawn? If so, what are the consequences?   Prayer Living God,
May your bright intoxicating energy fall upon your Church;
that we may be filled with joy and boldness,
faithfully to proclaim the gospel to a needy world,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour, Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Fleur Houston is a retired minister and member of Macclesfield & 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 Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 17th July

URC Devotions - Mon, 17/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 10: 44-48 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles,  for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,  “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. Reflection This passage continues to astound me.
 
It doesn’t astound me that God’s Spirit falls upon all who heard the word preached by Peter. Pentecost teaches us that God’s Holy Spirit falls upon an array of people of many tongues and backgrounds. It teaches us that the Holy Spirit fills the people with abilities to speak to one another about God’s grace and love. It teaches us that the Spirit’s gifts can be shared equally among all those who hear.
 
It’s not astounding that God’s Holy Spirit would rest upon those who have heard the Word preached.
 
But rather, what is astounding is the response of the ‘circumcised’ – the people of faith who were with Peter. They ‘were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit has been poured out even on the Gentiles.’  They were a people who could not understand that the Spirit might actually be about more than just those who filled the pews and already called the local Synagogue their own. They were unable to see how it might be possible for God’s Spirit to touch those who weren’t already in the family. They were astounded that God’s action might not actually be restricted to their own blinkered expression of faith.
 
It’s not astounding that the Holy Spirit can be received by all who hear the Word. It’s not astounding that the message of the gospel is one of love and compassion and community and welcome.
 
But what astounds me – and I continue to see it in the Church – is the idea that what we expect, as people of faith, is that God’s grace, mercy, peace, and love to be confined to our ways of doing things and our type of people. I’m not astounded that God might speak to people through pop music or sports or visiting an art gallery; but I am astounded that we don’t do more to help people who have the encounter with God’s Holy Spirit to know that they too might be part of God’s communion.
 
We may not be withholding the welcome of the Church in the way Peter’s ‘circumcised believers’ might have wished, but are we really doing enough to look beyond our own ways of doing things and our type of people to see and respond to how God Spirit is speaking to the world?   Prayer Astounding God,
who speaks beyond our imaginings,
help us to open our eyes
to the remarkable ways you speak to all who hear your word
and open our hearts to the astonishing acts of witness that come from your Spirit.
Astound us so that we might see in others the gifts that come from you
and welcome into your family those who have received of your Holy Spirit. Amen
  Today's Writer The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is the minister of St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton and Northern Synod Minister 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 16th July

URC Devotions - Sun, 16/07/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th July table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Psalm 6 
  LORD, in your wrath rebuke me not;
In anger do not chasten me.
Have mercy, LORD, for I am faint;
LORD, heal me in my agony.

My soul with anguish is distressed.
O LORD, how long will you delay?
Turn to me, LORD, and free my soul;
In steadfast love save me, I pray.

No one in death remembers you;
Who from the grave can give you praise?
My groaning weakens me; at night
My bed is drenched with tears always.

My eyes grow weak with tears of grief;
They fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, you evil crowd!
The LORD has listened to my woes.

The LORD has heard my prayer for help;
The LORD has listened to my plea.
My enemies, disgraced and shamed,
Will turn back from me suddenly.
You can hear a congregation sing this to the tune Soldau here.  It can also be sung to the grand Welsh tune Llef which you can hear here. Reflection Tangled times

When it rains, it pours. When one part of our being gets out-of-joint, everything else feels the strain. Sickness of body disturbs peace of mind. Tiredness unsettles our temper. When we are ill-at-ease with ourselves, we stop trusting other people. Then isolation makes it harder to hold onto faith. And on, down the spiral, until we forget how it all started. Where was the cause, and what is the consequence? The whole experience feels like one big tangle of misery.

Welcome to the Psalms, or at least to a good number of them. Individual laments, some call these – prayers for troubled times, for dog days, discouragement and darkness. Psalms of disorientation is another label. Fog has fallen, life’s landmarks have been taken away, and direction is impossible to find.

Part of the trouble in Psalm 6 is other people, ‘foes...evil crowd...enemies’. What these people had done, we never find out. Put another way, which came first, the sickness or the aggro? The writer’s inner distress, or the outer dispute? What was cause and what was consequence? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. The value of this psalm goes beyond the precise situation that led to it. It speaks in the tangles and trials of our days. It serves those seasons when one mishap has followed another, and all of life has become painful and disjointed.

On those days, a psalm such as this talks for us and with us. It puts words into our perplexity, and offers understanding when we have ceased to understand ourselves. It witnesses that other believers have walked this way before, and so God has been here too. God has answered prayers like this one. God has made a difference in situations of this kind. So God can reach into your pains, laments and disorientations, and into mine. Prayer God of our dis-locations,
    when we find ourselves in the wrong place,
    in our circumstances, and in our spirit ...
God of our dislocations,
    when the pieces of our life
    have ceased to fit together well ...
Move us on, we ask,
    mend us, re-make us.
But while we wait
    with things as they are now,
    thank you for understanding,
    and for being big enough
    to handle the situation with us.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Today's Writer The Revd John Proctor is a member of Emmanuel URC, Cambridge, and General Secretary of the URC. Bible Version   Sing Psalms! Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 15th July

URC Devotions - Sat, 15/07/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 10: 34-44 Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality,   but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.   You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.  That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:   how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.   We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;  but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,  not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.   He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.   All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’ While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. Reflection Peter has come to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles – to Cornelius and many (v27) relatives and friends (v24).

Imagine being amongst those visitors – his wife maybe, a niece, or the barely-adult son of a hanger-on. Have you come willingly, or has the wealthy household head summoned you? Do you know why you’re here? Certainly there’s an atmosphere of anticipation, excitement even, emanating from Cornelius.

The man’s talking and what’s this!? Who are the people of Israel? (I thought that nation had disappeared centuries ago.) Somebody called ‘Jesus’ is Lord! (Be careful chum, that would be Caesar.) Not another message of ‘peace’! (The last thing we want is more Pax Romana that was gained through intolerable violence.) Baptism! (what’s that when it’s at home?) He’s droning on but my mind is already a wandering turmoil.

Now let’s ask if church newcomers feel like this – or children and young people. Do they understand our language, the way we do things, and why certain traditions are important to us when we don’t pay attention to what’s important to them? Why is everyone standing up? Why is this music so dull? Why has everyone dipped their heads when the woman at the front is talking? And why is everyone so much more joyful over coffee?

We want new people to come amongst us, but do we want them to be ‘like us’ or are we willing to embrace what they have to give to us? Look at the final verse of this passage – it’s my favourite verse in Acts … while Peter was still speaking God’s own Spirit interrupted him and got on with her work. We need to take care that what we want to say and do isn’t standing in the way of, or putting people off, letting God work amongst them just as much as with us.   Prayer Help us, interrupting Spirit,
to discern what is truly of you and what of ours we are holding onto so tightly.
En-courage us, en-heartening Spirit,
so we can understand and embrace the new that you drench us with.
Humble us, Holy Spirit of the Living God,
until it is your work we spend our time and efforts on …
… we ask this in the Name of him
who returned to the Father
so that You might emerge amongst us and for us.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Dr Rosalind Selby is the principal of Northern College in Manchester. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions 14th July

URC Devotions - Fri, 14/07/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 10: 1- 33 In Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, as it was called.  He was a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God.   One afternoon at about three o’clock he had a vision in which he clearly saw an angel of God coming in and saying to him, ‘Cornelius.’   He stared at him in terror and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ He answered, ‘Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.   Now send men to Joppa for a certain Simon who is called Peter;   he is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the seaside.’   When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his slaves and a devout soldier from the ranks of those who served him,  and after telling them everything, he sent them to Joppa. About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray.   He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance.  He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners.   In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air.   Then he heard a voice saying, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’   But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.’   The voice said to him again, a second time, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’   This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven. Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate.   They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there.   While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Look, three men are searching for you. Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.’   So Peter went down to the men and said, ‘I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?’ They answered, ‘Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.’   So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging. The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him.   The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends.   On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshipped him.   But Peter made him get up, saying, ‘Stand up; I am only a mortal.’   And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled;   and he said to them, ‘You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.   So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?’ Cornelius replied, ‘Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me.   He said, “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.   Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon, who is called Peter; he is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.”  Therefore I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.’ Reflection The story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius marks an important point of transition for the early Christian community. Now Gentiles are to be included in the Church. Cornelius is one Luke’s friendly Roman centurions, the equivalent of a modern warrant officer, part of the Italian Cohort living in Caesarea. He is devout, fears God, generous with his money and he prays to God, but he remains uncircumcised.

Like the conversion of Saul which is repeated this story is clearly important to Luke for it is a story he also repeats. Peter recounts what happened after facing criticism from circumcised believers (Acts 11:-1- 18) and it is further alluded to by Peter in a controversy over the admission of Gentiles (Acts 15:6-11).

Both the main characters in the story have a spiritual experience reinforces the experience of the other. Cornelius has a vision of an angel who tells him to send for a man named Simon. While Peter is on a roof and falls into a trance and sees heaven opened and a large sheet containing all sorts of creatures that are considered unclean or profane. These are things the Peter has never eaten. Three times he has this dream which leave him puzzled. Then the messengers from Cornelius arrive and Peter goes with them together some fellow believers from Joppa to the home of Cornelius.

Peter has recognised that he breaking a fundamental principle that a Jew should not normally associate with a Gentile. The food laws require a Jew and a Gentile not to share table fellowship. On the other hand he also took on board the message of the vision he had received, if no food was unclean then no person was unclean. Peter felt able to mix with Cornelius as he could with any Jew.

Cornelius’ prayer has been answered.

The story is often headed in commentaries as “the conversion of Cornelius” but as a number of theologians point out Peter is also converted. The event leads to a radical change for the Church.
Lesslie Newbigin uses this story in discussion of dialogue between religions. In dialogue the Christian partner makes their own faith vulnerable and certainly “must be ready to face the possibility of radical reconsideration of long-accepted formulations” (The Open Secret, Lesslie Newbigin, SPCK 1978, p.210).

Very often the Church sees itself as carrying Christ to the world. It is not often that it considers the opposite may happen, the story of the Cornelius and Peter is a two way exchange.   Prayer Gracious God,
this universe is created and loved by you.
You came to us as one of us,
in Jesus of Nazareth.
Your Holy Spirit remains active in your creation.

We thank you for the depth of your love.
We thank you for the Church
an agent of your Kingdom,
but may we ever be alert to your ways in the world.

May we learn what you are about,
and what you want of us,
through being alert to people around us,
through our imagination,
and through observing our world and our environment.

May we be open to change
according to the leading of your Spirit.
In Christ’s name.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Dr David Whiting - Minister Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership. 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 13th July

URC Devotions - Thu, 13/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 9: 36-43 Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.  At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.  Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, ‘Please come to us without delay.’  So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.  Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up.  He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.  This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.  Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner. Reflection Peter is in demand, visiting believers, spreading the word and healing those in need.  But then he gets a call, an urgent call, a believer has died.  You would think this call was less urgent, Tabitha was already dead, “nothing more can be done for her, but her friends, I am sure, would appreciate a visit, so please come if you have the time”.

You sense there is something special about this woman, we are told a little of her good works; and she must be important for she is named, and it is two men who come to persuade Peter to drop everything and come with them.  Indeed, we learn more about Tabitha and how much her loss will affect those who knew her, especially the widows.

What were they expecting from Peter?  Had his reputation as a healer caused optimism amongst the believers that even a woman prepared for burial could be brought back to life?  Or were they just hoping for someone with a bit of gravitas to lead the mourning and so they were eager to show him just what she had done for her community?

Her loss appears to be keenly felt by those closest to her ‘the widows’, and we can only imagine their sense of loss, there were no safety nets for widows at the time – Tabitha is gone, what will they do, how will they survive.

Yet, not for the first time, death does not have the final say.

We need to be careful when speaking of healing stories – people coming back to life is not normal.  If she can be healed, why not others?  

Yes, Tabitha had an important social role in her community, but she also had an important role as a disciple.  Her ministry to the women is an example we can all take note of.

How do we minister to the marginalised and forgotten in our own communities; and how do we value those who offer such ministry?   Prayer Loving Lord,
We live in a society where there are safety nets for those in need;
yet there are many who still fall through the cracks.
We pray for those who rely on food banks and other charities like Starter Packs;
we also remember those who make the policies which seemingly condemn people to poverty.
May they, and we, recognise your face in all whom we meet
and do everything in our power to ensure justice is served for all people, everywhere.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Branwen Rees is Minister  of Port Glasgow and Greenock East URC’s in 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 Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 12th July

URC Devotions - Wed, 12/07/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 9: 32-15 Now as Peter went here and there among all the believers, he came down also to the saints living in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, for he was paralyzed.  Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed!” And immediately he got up. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. Reflection Well, here’s a curious little story! It is told almost as an aside. There was Peter, seemingly almost aimlessly wandering about amongst the believers. Was his journey to Lydda planned or did he wander in here by accident? Did he know Aeneas was ill? Did he intend to heal him or did this just happen too in a “since-I’m-here-I-may-as-well” sort of way? Lots of questions but very few answers.

We know almost nothing about the place and even less about the people but this man is nevertheless remembered by us 2000 years later, at least by name.

As someone who likes to have things planned I am intrigued by the notion that this was an unplanned detour, and an unexpected encounter – what does it say to us? For those of us who like life to be planned and controlled it is good to remember that God may have other ideas and plans. He may suggest to us that we should take a course of action (a detour if you like) and that leads us to an encounter which we might not have had if we had followed our planned journey. Even in those circumstances, of course, we may still miss the point of our change of plan. One of the few things we can be sure about in this story of Peter is that he saw an opportunity to heal in the name of Jesus Christ. Aeneas’s status doesn’t matter, what matters is that he was healed, his expected future as a paralyzed man was overturned. No-one whatever their status is immune from the need to be healed at some point in their life and it may be that you are the one to take that detour and do that healing, physical or spiritual – transform a life in the name of Jesus and you will be following a good example   Prayer Compassionate God,
guide our footsteps
and amongst those we meet in our daily lives.
open us to the possibilities for healing.
May all we do be in your name.
Amen Today's Writer Val Morrison is an elder in Hall Gate United Reformed Church, Doncaster 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th July

URC Devotions - Tue, 11/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino    
Father of Western Monasticism, c.550 Benedict was born in Nursia, central Italy, around the year 480. As a young man he was sent to study in Rome, but was soon appalled by the corruption in society and withdrew to live as a hermit at Subiaco. He quickly attracted disciples and began to establish small monasteries in the neighbourhood. Around the year 525, a disaffected faction tried to poison him so Benedict moved to Monte Cassino with a band of loyal monks. Later in life Benedict wrote his Rule for Monks, based on his own experience of fallible people striving to live out the gospel. He never intended to found an 'order' but his Rule was so good that it was disseminated and widely followed, becoming the model for all western monasticism. Benedict died at Monte Cassino in about the year 550.  1 Corinthians 3. 10-11  According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.     Reflection No one would be more surprised than Benedict to find his name still revered 1500 years after his death. His modesty, quiet wisdom and occasional good humour were the personal foundations on which he developed his Rule” - a concise management textbook on how to run a good monastery. “Like a skilled master builder” Benedict laid the foundations for the monastic life of Western Europe at a time when his world was in danger of descending into chaos - physical and spiritual. We don’t have many URC monasteries, and even fewer URC monks, so why bother with Benedict? Two reasons: his Rule helped to build a community of prayer, learning and spirituality housed in buildings of such beauty that many of them still remain to move our spirits to this day. Without Benedict it would have been chaos which ruled, rather than the order and discipline he brought to Christian experience, which also survives to this day. From this foundation springs the commitment to “prayer and work” which was his recipe for the Christian life, whether it was in a monastery or not.  He was a skilled master builder indeed, and one who never sought to make his mark a matter of personal prestige, because he understood by whom the foundations had been laid on which we are all called to build our lives. Prayer Gracious and Holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
diligence to seek you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you,
a heart to meditate upon you
and a life to proclaim you;
Through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

A prayer of St Benedict Today's Writer The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister in the Northern Synod and a member of Kenton URC, Newcastle Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 10th July

URC Devotions - Mon, 10/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 9:31  Things calmed down after that and the church had smooth sailing for a while. All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—the church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully. Reflection Can you hear that?
. . .
Nothing.
 
Like being surprised by carless silence on a busy city street, there are moments of blissful quiet. I like to imagine that for some people they are more than moments – days, weeks, months in which there is nothing urgent to be done except to get on with flourishing. Is that what Jesus meant when he spoke of life in all its fullness (John 10.10)?
 
So often we live in the other kind of full life, the kind in which we rush from task to task, being surprised by the emerging crisis, with moments of stressful worry. That was also the life of the earliest churches, who were persecuted and suspected churches. That worry filled life was also that of the Israelites as they endured slavery and then went into the wilderness to seek a place of safety. God knows full well this life we often lead.
 
In the poem “The Bright Field”, R.S. Thomas imagines realising that in a moment of stillness he has seen the field of hidden treasure worth selling a kingdom for (Matthew 13.44-45) but has let the moment pass him by. The poet determines that life is not about hurrying, running to stand still, or anxiously chasing the future (I paraphrase for copyright reasons, so please seek out the original). It is about these moments that catch us and take our breath away:
 
[turning] aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.  
(The Bright Field, R.S. Thomas)      Prayer For the duration of a breath in, and breath out, hold a silence. With the breath that follows, thank God for such moments, however transitory. When you are ready, go on your way. Today's Writer The Rev Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is minister to the URCs in Darwen and Tockholes. Bible Version   Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 9th July

URC Devotions - Sun, 09/07/2017 - 06:00
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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Psalm 5
  O LORD, give ear to what I say;
think on me as I sigh,
And listen, O my King and God,
As I plead earnestly for help,
because to you I cry.

At dawning of the day, O LORD,
you listen to my plea;
As morning light returns again,
I lay before you my requests
and wait expectantly.

For you are not a God who will
in evil take delight;
With you the wicked cannot dwell,
Nor can the proud and boastful stay
one moment in your sight.

You hate all those who practise wrong,
and liars you destroy.
These are the ones the LORD abhors—
All who go thirsting after blood
and who deceit employ.

But by your mercy and your grace
to your house I’ll draw near;
I will bow down in reverence
Towards your holy temple, LORD,
and worship you in fear.

LORD, lead me in your righteousness
or I will go astray
Because of all my enemies;
Make straight the path in front of me,
and guide me in your way.

No word that issues from their mouth
can anyone believe;
Destructive thoughts control their heart.
Their throat is like an open grave;
their tongue speaks to deceive.

O God, declare their guilt; let them
by their own schemes be caught.
Expel them from your presence, LORD,
For in committing many sins
rebellion they have wrought.

But let all those who flee to you
rejoice with confidence;
Let them at all times sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them
and be their strong defence.

So those who truly love your name
will give a joyful shout.
Surely you bless the righteous, LORD;
Your favour keeps them safe from harm
and shields them round about.
You can hear a congregation sing this to the haunting tune Binney here.  It can also be sung to the tune Orlington which you can hear here. Reflection Prayer is a passionately engaged activity. It was Peter who taught me that many years ago. Peter suffered with schizophrenia  and during his homeless years marched from London to the town in which I then lived. He said that as he marched, prayers were squeezed out of him like toothpaste. ‘Not your churchy prayers’ he said. Ever since, I have wondered about the prayers of a desperate heart.

Thus here in the psalmist’s cry, we are reminded of the persevering, trusting call of the human pilgrim to the God of moral purpose. As day dawns, the psalmist cries out for God to vindicate himself. Despite that very human experience of seeing wrong flourish in many different ways whilst the innocent suffer, the cry is still uttered God save the people, Lord, not crowns and thrones but people.

Whilst the destruction of liars and wrongdoers, may not echo the tones of forgiveness, it may be understandable in less insulated contexts in which brutality seems set to triumph amid a smokescreen of lies and half truths. Prayer Lord of all,
quicken within me
a longing to see your kingdom come
in the many places which you draw to my attention.
Help me to pray with patience and perseverance,
in the sure knowledge that you will hear and answer.
I rejoice in you
to whom the world looks in hope.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Richard Church is the Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) and a member of Islington URC. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 8th July

URC Devotions - Sat, 08/07/2017 - 06:00
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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 9: 26-30 When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.  But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.  So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.  He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him.  When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Reflection Earlier on in chapter 9 we read that Saul has been converted by his dramatic experience on the way to Damascus. However, when he tried to join the disciples they would not let him, it was understandable, as a short time earlier Saul had been violently opposed to them. It was Barnabas who provided the crucial role of ‘go between’ to bring the convert Saul and the established Christians together. This resulted in Saul (who became Paul) becoming a great servant of Christ and a huge influence on the church, then and indeed now.
 
This passage has much to teach us especially in relation to Barnabas, of what a crucial role reconcilers, encouragers play. Today, at the Emirates stadium, London there is the ‘Justone’ event, it is hoped that thousands of Christian will do a Barnabas act of encouraging ‘just one’ non-Christian friend to go to the event with them. It is hoped that these friends will hear the Christian message and respond positively, then there is often the need for another Barnabas type act of helping those who have responded to the gospel to be integrated into a church where they can be ‘let in’, welcomed so that they can grow in faith.
 
There are many other ways in which we need to be reconcilers and encouragers like Barnabas which there is not space to go into here. It is especially poignant if we reflect upon Damascus in Syria where Saul was converted and the situation there now.   Prayer Dear Lord,
we thank you for Saul’s conversion
and for Barnabas’ part in his story.
We give you thanks that people
in our own time
continue to respond to you as Saul did.
We pray that some will do so today at the ‘Justone’ event.
We also pray that we can all be like Barnabas
in encouraging and reconciling.
We also continue to pray for Syria,
that there may be people
who encourage peace and reconciliation in that troubled land.
In Jesus name, we pray,
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Andrew Willett is an Evangelism and Renewal advocate for GEAR and local URC minister. 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 7th July

URC Devotions - Fri, 07/07/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardBottomImageContent{ padding-bottom:9px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageGroupBlockInner{ padding-top:0 !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageGroupBlockOuter{ padding-top:9px !important; padding-bottom:9px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; 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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 9: 20 - 25 And immediately Saul began to proclaim to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ”He is the Son of God.” All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. Reflection Some volte-face! Some mind change! Once an opponent, now an advocate, apparently, and an enthusiastic one. What to make of it all? Confirmed, actually, in his Jewishness, but now with a deeper understanding of its meaning and destiny, Saul was treading a dangerous and unfamiliar path in that Damascus synagogue.

Nonetheless, although no great orator by his own admission, Saul was clearly convincing. Spell-binding oratory can blind us to the inadequacy of the case being put. Powerful speeches can persuade where the content otherwise would not. Saul’s case surely relied on its content and not on its delivery.

Saul was clearly a divisive figure. His message convinced some, but threatened, alienated and scandalised others. Although he attracted followers, many Jews regarded him as a dangerous subversive who had to be dealt with. Things came to a head, and he had to be got out of Damascus for his own safety. This is the stuff of adventure films, this lowering in a basket - but it’s hardly a dignified withdrawal.

Oratory is a great gift in the hands, or mouths, of the good and public-spirited, but it carries a menace when used by the unscrupulous. On the other hand, advocacy of the good can threaten not only those seeking to us harm and evil, but also those excessively wedded to the status quo. We who seek to advance the good have to stand up and be counted, and we may have to carry the bruises on our journey.   Prayer O Lord God,
Give us discerning minds,
But not that negative cast which casts innovation cynically aside.

Give us the wisdom to see the path ahead,
And to avoid those attractive alternative sidelines.

Give us the courage to lead others to positive living,
And the humility, ourselves, to follow wise leadership where we find it.

Give us the resolve to follow wisdom, wherever it may lead,
And the character to avoid folly,
And the insight to discern the difference. Today's Writer Ed Strachan is a Lay Preacher, Elder and member of Heald Green URC in Cheshire. 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 6th July

URC Devotions - Thu, 06/07/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 9: 1- 19 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest  and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.  For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.  The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.   In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”  “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem.  And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,  and after taking some food, he regained his strength.Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. Reflection A few years ago, a colleague and I were encouraging a young adult to become a Christian. Shortly after he agreed   to come to faith, it seemed that all hell broke loose around him. His health problems seemed to get worse, he lost his job and divorced. When he asked us why all that was happening  and whether he made the wrong decision, we could only offer him the reassurance that God and the church family were standing alongside him both practically and spiritually. When we had the same conversation two years later, his life was almost back to normal and he was much stronger in faith.

I have often been puzzled by why  Almighty God allowed Saul to fast and to be blind for three days before being prayed for and baptized? It is not uncommon for God’s people to be humbly broken by God before being spiritually equipped and send out. Saul’s self-righteousness, pride, misguided zeal, status and resistance had to be broken the hard way. This trial probably enabled Saul to truly die to self before being born-again. It appears that painful seasons of brokenness and unexplained suffering may be precursors of great blessings from the Lord. I can personally testify that some of my greatest personal blessings have been preceded by long seasons of unbearable pain, grief, weariness and even unexplained ‘disabilities’. Overtime, I have been learning not to fully despise those seasons or try to explain then away. I have rather been challenged to bear the cross of grief and shame and wait with hope. I understand hope here as the joyful expectation of great things to come.

Ultimately, Saul had to experience a ‘deep’ death to self. Hence, Saul must feel what it means to truly be ‘dead’ before experiencing the delight of new life in Christ.  Although we may not all recall such sense of ‘ deep’ death before committing to Christ,  it seems that ‘deep’ death,  whether gradual or dramatic has the potential  to enable a radical  and ‘deeper’  transformation. Such ‘deep’ death is also likely to give us the impetus, zeal and passion to enable others to come to faith.

That deep death to self may happen at many stages of our faith journey and  reminds me of the words of John 12.24-25: ‘Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal’ (Message translation)   Prayer Faithful and transforming God,
help us be captives so that we may be truly free,
prompt us to lay down our weapons so as to take Yours,
enslave our weak and poor hearts into your matchless love,
keep our power faint and low till we learn to humbly serve,
assist us in deeply dying to self so that we may be fully equipped,
make our desires  yours, so that they may truly  belong to us,     
and lead us daily  so that we may lead in the world according to your will.
Amen

Inspired from  the hymn ‘make me a captive, Lord’  by George Matheson Today's Writer The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze is Minister of Marlpool, Eastwood and Langley URCs in Derbyshire.
. Bible Version   THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 5th July

URC Devotions - Wed, 05/07/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th July table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 8: 26 - 40 Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
 
‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
    so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.’
 
The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.  As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. Reflection I could spend my time expounding many traditional opinions here, but instead, I want to share two things that struck me when I was reading a number of commentaries around this passage.
 
The first was the observation by the Rev’d Dr Mona West (a Queer theologian) that the Ethiopian Eunuch passage shows us someone who like each of us, struggles to make sense of Scripture. I know there are many passages, chapters and books of the Bible that I struggle with and many where I cannot see where my place is in it. I am also aware that I am not alone in this, but that at any point in time there will be many people struggling with making sense of the Bible.
 
The second thing that struck me was a comment from a blog post by the Rev’d Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran priest. Nadia talked about the “tent of God” and how we become possessive over it when in actual fact it’s God’s Tent!
 
We don’t always feel that there is a comfortable fit between ourselves and Christianity, or ourselves and our local church, but maybe if we stopped and wondered if there were others who felt this discomfort even more acutely because of “x, y, z”. This means that some folk might not want to talk to them, sit with them, shake their hand, etc, etc, the list goes on. Maybe if we would recognise that the tent isn’t ours and that the passage about the Ethiopian Eunuch reminds us that we all have a place in the story of God, and that even when we wrestle with scripture the overarching message is always that God loves us we would maybe try and be more open and embracing of those we see as other, so that they stop being “the other”.
 
So I challenge you to look around and come alongside someone who is struggling with Scripture or where their place is in Scripture and remember that God’s Tent is bigger than we might be comfortable with and that offers us space to grow too.   Prayer Abundant and Overflowing God
You have a place and a space
For each of us in Your Story.
 
Help us to always remember
That the tent is Yours
And that the Gift of Grace
You extended to us
Is also extended to those
We might not personally
Be comfortable with.
 
With Your Spirit
Enable us to be as open
As the Ethiopian Eunuch
Was to Your Word in
Our lives.
 
Amen. Today's Writer Kirsty-Ann Mabbott is a Church Related Community Worker at St David’s Church in Wales and Bettws 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th July

URC Devotions - Tue, 04/07/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th July table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 8: 9 - 25 Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great.  All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.”  And they listened eagerly to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.  Even Simon himself believed. After being baptized, he stayed constantly with Philip and was amazed when he saw the signs and great miracles that took place.

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit  (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus).  Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money,  saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”  But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!  You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God.  Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.   For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.”  Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

Now after Peter and John had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news to many villages of the Samaritans. Reflection Simon is a fascinating character, isn’t he? Is Simon’s conversion genuine? Does Philip condemn him for wanting to purchase the right to distribute the Holy Spirit, or merely warn him? Is Simon’s request for prayer sincere or some form of protective self-interest?

This is the gospel spreading “from Jerusalem, through all Judea and Samaria, to the ends of the earth" (1:8). The Holy Spirit is sweeping the most unlikely and alarming people into God’s embrace through Jesus. This is the beginning of “grace-run- amok”  Good News for the whole world – and the challenge to the church then and now is, “Are your hearts open enough to keep up?”

There is no need to assume that Simon’s conversion was any less real than Philip’s other hearers. The key has got to be Simon’s relationship with the spiritual powers.

Philip proclaims Jesus as the Messiah - “God’s Liberator”. The Messiah’s job was to free the people from all the powers and forces that kept them in chains. They wouldn’t distinguish between Roman occupation, demon possession, illness or disability – and neither does Jesus in the gospel stories. Philip’s ministry in Samaria mimics Jesus’ in Galilee, and gets the same dramatic, joyful response.

What Simon has not realised is that there is a connection between religion, economic exploitation, and power. Luke’s gospel is full of stories of Jesus being angry at the way in which religion is used to exercise power over the poor and vulnerable. And here, when Simon is confronted by the Holy Spirit, he sees immediately a way of getting wealthy and powerful.

Peter calls it “gall of bitterness and chains of wickedness”. Jesus talks about Mammon (rather than money). It’s the addictive power that chokes compassion and makes it apparently okay to live at the expense of others. It is able to pervert the very best in us – including our faith. It is a remarkable spiritual power, and it is the very opposite of the Holy Spirit.

Could Simon’s prayer request be a desperate recognition of his own captive helplessness? Would we recognize it in ourselves?   Prayer O God,

There are many who pray far more desperately for the coming of your Kingdom than I do.
They beg you for daily bread because they go to bed hungry.
They pray to be delivered from oppression and exploitation.
They long for people who look and behave like you –
who see their desperation and are moved to tears of compassion or a burning anger
that will not let them rest while things stay as they are.

Fill me with your Holy Spirit, I pray,
that my own heart will overflow with your compassion,
that I will find the courage to stand up against injustice,
that I will make a Jesus-shaped difference to my world.

Grant, by your grace, that I will be the answer to the prayers of the very least
and proclaim with my life as well as my mouth
that Jesus is the Messiah.

Amen. Today's Writer Lawrence Moore is a church mission and discipleship consultant, and attends Worsley Road United Reformed Church in Salford 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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