URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 4th November

Sat, 04/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 11: 1 - 43

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,

‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’

But when Jesus heard it, he said,

‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples,

‘Let us go to Judea again.’

The disciples said to him,

‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’

Jesus answered,

‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’

After saying this, he told them,

‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’

The disciples said to him,

‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’

Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly,

‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’

Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples,

‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’


When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus,

‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’

Jesus said to her,

‘Your brother will rise again.’

Martha said to him,

‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’

Jesus said to her,

‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

She said to him,

‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately,

‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’

And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him,

‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said,

Where have you laid him?’

They said to him,

Lord, come and see.’

Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said,

‘See how he loved him!’

But some of them said,

‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said,

‘Take away the stone.’

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him,

‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’

Jesus said to her,

‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’

So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said,

‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’

When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice,

‘Lazarus, come out!’
Reflection Scientists believe that the Universe is self-consistent, that is, that every event which occurs does so in accord with a set of rules commonly called the Laws of Physics or Natural Laws. At any point in history, we may not know all the rules and some rules may be probabilistic so that more than one outcome is possible. But rules are rules. When something comes along that seems to violate these rules, the scientist needs to consider whether or not their understanding of the rules is correct, or if a new set of rules needs to be formulated to resolve this violation. That’s how quantum mechanics came about in the early 20th Century for example.

Occasionally, an extremely unusual, possibly unique, event occurs which might be difficult if not impossible to explain within the current framework of natural law. Depending on its nature, some people may refer to the event as a miracle, especially if the event is one of healing or some such. However, the scientist may eschew the word miracle, agreeing with philosophers like Hume that as a matter of principle miracles cannot occur, so that all such events will ultimately be explicable in rational terms.

Thinking about miracles is at present an active field of study in science and religion circles, with scientists and theologians seeking to shed light on the subject. Believer scientists may seek to invoke the somewhat spooky world of quantum mechanics as the vehicle for divine action and theologians like Pannenberg and Nichols suggest that miracles happen when God chooses to act in the world but that this action is expressed in the context of faith and prayer.

Bringing Lazarus back to life is an event which may be described as miraculous. The focus of faith and prayer is Jesus himself through whom the miracle is mediated. The nub of the passage is then Jesus’ firm emphasis on the glory of God and not the act itself.

Focussing our lives in prayer and on the glory of God revealed in Jesus may result in miracles, although they may be less spectacular!
 

Prayer

(pause for reflection between each line)

Wonderful God
open my eyes
to the everyday
miracles
in life.
Focus my life
on Jesus
that I too
may be
a mediator
of your
action
today.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon.  He is a member at Upton-by-Chester 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 3rd November

Fri, 03/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 10:  22 - 42

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.  So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,

‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.’

Jesus answered,

‘I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me;  but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.  What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.  The Father and I are one.’

The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied,

‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’  

The Jews answered,

‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.’

Jesus answered,

Is it not written in your law, “ said, you are gods”?  If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods”—and the scripture cannot be annulled— can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’  

Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying,

‘John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’  

And many believed in him there.
Reflection Many years ago I knew a Christian minister who had been asked to pray for a sick person. Her brother lived in one of the villages he ministered in and she had been very sick for many years.  The sister concerned lived in a nursing home due to her condition which was caused by a drug she had taken for many years damaging the sheath surrounding the nerves.  This meant that she could not be still; her arms and legs were in constant motion and in turn this meant she hadn’t slept for seven years nor could she feed herself.   I’m told she wanted to die but agreed to my minister friend, together with a sister of the ill woman, praying for her.   My friend tells me they spent quite some time in pastoral conversation and then prayed with the laying on of hands.  Of course nothing happened but on their way out the minister suddenly felt angry about the condition of this poor woman and asked to pray again.  She accepted the offer.  Of course still nothing happened but my friend now, mysteriously, felt peace in his heart.  However two weeks or so later, he met the brother who had first begged him to pray for his ill sister.   The brother told him with tears running down his cheeks that his sister was fully well.  She was sleeping and feeding herself, she said she now was happy to be alive and they were taking her out into the park in a wheel chair whilst her muscles got their strength back.  She hadn’t been outside in many a year.   The brother also told my friend that people would begin flocking to the church he cared for as a result, but you know what?  Not a single person came to the church even though the family were well known in the village.

Perhaps that’s something of what Jesus faced.  Recorded here in John 10 we have our friends the Jewish religious leaders saying on the one hand “Go on then prove yourself!” And on the other hand “ It doesn’t matter what “works” you do we already know you’re not from God!”  People believe what they want to believe and disbelieve what they want to disbelieve.  C.S.Lewis once wrote “Experience proves this, or that, or nothing, according to the preconceptions we bring to it” (God in the Dock pg 12).   It was and is so often the case that the poor and the marginalised are the ones who seem to have the acutest hearing when it comes to the voice of Jesus .  “My sheep hear my voice”. This was Jesus’s explanation for why the religious leaders, lay and ordained could not believe that he is “God's Son” even though they were witnesses to the works Jesus did.  Such a belief did not match their “preconceptions” even though their prophets were often called “gods” because they bore the word of God to the people.  We are not immune, we too can be deafened by our preconceptions and we all have them.  God longs us to hear the good news that we are God’s and “No one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand for the Father and I are one.”   John here as so often, making explicit what is heavily implicit in the three other gospels.
 

Prayer

Merciful and gracious God, may we always be attentive to your voice, whether it comes to us as a still small voice whispering in our inner being, or through a church service or a friend, or from whatever source.   Thank you that in your Son, Jesus, we find our true security and our true home.  
We pray today for all who do not have the security of decent jobs, or homes to live in both in the UK and abroad.  

We pray particularly for refugees  who have risked life and limb to find a safer and better place to live only to be met with hostility in many European countries especially our own.  We pray for a change of heart for the UK government , that the hearts of those in government may soften towards children and adults fleeing war, famine and persecution.  

In the name of the Great Shepherd and Lover of humanity, God’s own Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Meek is the Moderator of the  East Midlands 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 2nd November

Thu, 02/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 10: 1 - 21

Jesus said:

‘Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.  The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.   The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.    When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.    They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’    

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them,

‘Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.   The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.   The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,   just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.’

Again the Jews were divided because of these words.  Many of them were saying,

‘He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?’  

Others were saying,

These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’
Reflection Before coming into URC ministry I was a teacher, completing my teacher training at St. John’s College, York (now York St. John University) and the motto of the college was, and I believe, still is “Ut vitam habeant et abundantius” – that they may have life and have it more abundantly; drawing upon John 10:10. It was an excellent word for our training which, in those far-off times (the sixties) was supposed to prepare us to teach people who would have shorter working hours and more leisure in which to discover for themselves a fullness of life. Ironically, of course, the reverse has turned out to be true; people either work very long hours or have no work at all, and as for abundant life . . .

But John 10:10 remains very special for me: always the words challenge me to consider just what is life in all its fullness? Does it lie in wealth or health? Both would have come into it for Jesus’ hearers, and still must, surely, for living a full life in extreme poverty or when profoundly ill – mentally or physically - is not impossible but very hard. For many a full life lies in possessions; in travel. For many fullness of life is found in relationships.

But if we look at the image of the shepherd which Jesus uses here, a competent shepherd looks to the whole life of the sheep. He or she makes sure they have good grazing and water and are physically healthy; worries about their safety and works hard for and with them and notices when they are happy or not because their contentment actually matters. This matters to all good keepers of any animals. My late father had a friend who kept free-range turkeys and chickens; one evening, on a trip around an agricultural college we were approaching the poultry sheds, which weren’t impressing him. “But,” he muttered gloomily, “I have to admit the hens sound happy.” How did he know? From the way they were clucking, which to me sounded like – well, just hens clucking. The good farmer really understands the creatures under his care, even if no-one else does!

Is there a clue there as to the meaning of ‘abundant life’?

For me, it is life in which we do care for the body and for the mind, but in which we also maintain a curiosity about life as it is and as it can be even while finding a contentment in the here and now; in which we have the security of being understood and loved by God, and it brings a deep desire that all people should know fullness of life – and a deep desire to work towards that.

But that’s just me. Where do you believe fullness of life lies for you, and for the world?
 

Prayer

Loving, living God,
our newspapers, televisions, radios, Internet
show us a world in which millions live highly restricted lives
and it is too easy to look away.
As Jesus the Good Shepherd knows and understands his sheep,
help us, by the guiding of the Holy Spirit,
to ever seek the good of others,
in prayer and in action
that one day all may indeed find life in all its fullness;
the life that Jesus brings.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Crofton is a retired minister living near Durham.

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 1st November

Wed, 01/11/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st November Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 9: 1-41

As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him,

‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

Jesus answered,

‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.  We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’  

When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him,

‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which means Sent).

Then he went and washed and came back able to see. The neighbours and those who had seen him before as a beggar began to ask,

‘Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?’  

Some were saying,

‘It is he.’

Others were saying,

‘No, but it is someone like him.’

He kept saying,

‘I am the man.’  

But they kept asking him,

‘Then how were your eyes opened?’  

He answered,

‘The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and said to me, “Go to Siloam and wash.” Then I went and washed and received my sight.’  

They said to him,

‘Where is he?’

He said,

‘I do not know.’

They brought to the Pharisees the man who had formerly been blind. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes.  Then the Pharisees also began to ask him how he had received his sight. He said to them,

‘He put mud on my eyes. Then I washed, and now I see.’

Some of the Pharisees said,

‘This man is not from God, for he does not observe the sabbath.’

But others said,

‘How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?’

And they were divided.

So they said again to the blind man,

‘What do you say about him? It was your eyes he opened.’

He said,

‘He is a prophet.’

The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight and asked them,

‘Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?’

His parents answered,

‘We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind;  but we do not know how it is that now he sees, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.’

His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. Therefore his parents said,

‘He is of age; ask him.’

So for the second time they called the man who had been blind, and they said to him,

‘Give glory to God! We know that this man is a sinner.’

He answered,

‘I do not know whether he is a sinner. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’

They said to him,

‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’

He answered them,

‘I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?’

Then they reviled him, saying,

‘You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.’

The man answered,

‘Here is an astonishing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will.  Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’

They answered him,

‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you trying to teach us?’

And they drove him out.

Jesus heard that they had driven him out, and when he found him, he said,

‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’

He answered,

‘And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him.’

Jesus said to him,

‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’

He said,

‘Lord, I believe.’

And he worshipped him.  Jesus said,

‘I came into this world for judgement so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.’

Some of the Pharisees near him heard this and said to him,

‘Surely we are not blind, are we?’

Jesus said to them,

‘If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see”, your sin remains.
Reflection This passage of scripture throw up profound issues.  Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem and the passage begins almost casually: “As he walked along…”  And yet it is as if Jesus expected to meet this man.  Clearly he and his disciples know something of him, because they knew that this man was born blind, therefore they must have met him before; Jerusalem was after all a very small city.   The disciples here show that they share with all of their generation the superstitious belief that anyone with disability must have sinned to be that way and if their disability was inherited, then it must have been his or her parents who sinned against God.  Tragically there are still those in the church who hold this superstitious view.  The disciples were certain of this which is why they ask the question of Jesus " Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The answer they expect is a clear and simple “Parents or him”.  Jesus’ reply demonstrates that whilst he was very much rooted in first century Palestine, he was also a man out of his time.   His reply reminds me of what he said about those who died in the disaster of the Tower of Siloam ( same place name as the pool, interestingly).   Jesus’s reply in one sense is altogether modern: “ Neither his parents nor he sinned…..” Yet Jesus takes it beyond busting superstitious nonsense and sees in this moment a Kairos moment, God’s moment.  Not only is this man innocent of the charges laid against him and his parents but also he has a key part to play in God’s purposes.  His healing not only reveals that Jesus is sent from God, but also that it is so often the case that the blind can truly see and the sighted are often blind.   

The reaction of the religious authorities here is what we’d expect.  As an aside where we read the word “Jews” here, let us be clear.   The author of John’s gospel means the Jewish leaders and authorities, not all Jews.  Passages like this have been used to justify anti-semitism quite wrongly and quite wickedly.  So the religious authorities do not like what has happened.  They cannot see the good news because they cannot see past their interpretation of the law of Moses nor their right to interpret it.  This imposter, Jesus of Nazareth, is usurping their God given role in society and it won’t do!   Isn’t it awful, even frightening what legalism and pride can do?  Both can blind us to what God is doing.  Here both lay people, the Pharisees, and ordained people , “the Jews” ( at least in my interpretation) are guilty of this.   The man’s poor parents are grilled and are terrified, but the healed man is then found and he tells what he knows.   He becomes a teller of the good news himself!

So, let us always treat those with special needs with great compassion and more than that, let us listen for what God is saying to us through them for these sisters and brothers can often be more “sighted” than those whose bodies work as they ought.   Let us also not fall into the trap of the Pharisees and the Jewish Leaders, in other words let us be attentive to what God is already doing amongst us and where God wants to lead us.  Let us never write something off because “ It’s not the way we do things here!”   Too many churches have been killed by such legalism and close mindedness!
 

Prayer

Praying in the tradition of Stephen and Origen:

Lord Jesus, thank you for the love you showed to the man born blind.  Thank you that you took him seriously and treated him as fully beloved of God.  Thank you too for the risk you took to yourself in healing him on a sabbath day and in doing so, revealing your Father’s glory.  We pray today for all who have special needs, that our society will cherish them and that they and we together may see more and more of your love at work in our lives.   For those who are harshly judged in church and out of church we pray.  Lord Jesus help us to see with eyes of compassion and not the eyes of the legalist.  In and through even us ,may your glory be revealed that many more people may come to know you and know they are loved by you.  We pray too for the churches we belong to, that our churches may be ever open to the leading of God and never dismiss works of God amongst us, even when they are surprising and not what we are used to.  Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Meek is the Moderator of the East Midlands 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 31st October

Tue, 31/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 31st October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Martin Luther
Reformer, 1546

Martin Luther was born in 1483 at Eisleben in Saxony and educated at the cathedral school in Magdeburg and the university in Erfurt. He joined an order of Augustinian hermits there and was ordained priest in 1507, becoming a lecturer in the university at Wittenberg. He became vicar of his Order in 1515, having charge of a dozen monasteries. His Christian faith began to take on a new shape, with his increasing dissatisfaction with the worship and order of the Church. He became convinced that the gospels taught that humanity is saved by faith and not by works, finding support in the writings of St Augustine of Hippo. He refuted the teaching of the Letter of James, calling it 'an epistle of straw'. Martin sought to debate the whole matter by posting ninety-five theses or propositions on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg on this day in the year 1517. The hierarchy chose to see it as a direct attack on the Church, which forced Martin into open rebellion. The Protestant Reformation spread throughout Germany and then Europe, many seeing it as liberation from a Church that held them in fear rather than love. Martin Luther died in 1546, having effected a renaissance in the Church, both Protestant and Catholic.

Jeremiah 1. 4–10

The Lord said to me,   

“I chose you before I gave you life, and before you were born I selected you to be a prophet to the nations.”

I answered,

“Sovereign Lord, I don’t know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say that you are too young, but go to the people I send you to, and tell them everything I command you to say.  Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Then the Lord reached out, touched my lips, and said to me,

“Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak.  Today I give you authority over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
 
 
Reflection You probably do not need reminding that today is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, if you did, consider yourself reminded! I am sure we do not need to think too hard about the impact that Martin Luther made when he nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg on this day five hundred years ago.  Like Jeremiah he wouldn’t have then known the impact of his ministry.  

In the passage the part that stood out for me was “Listen, I am giving you the words you must speak”. In isolation this sounds authoritarian, but Jeremiah is panicking because he does not have the words to speak. Instead of authoritarianism, is it not provision? God’s provision for Jeremiah’s journey.

Can we not see that through Jeremiah and Martin Luther’s lives, the impact just one individual can make?

To understand our gifts and the impact that God wants us to make, it needs to be fuelled by listening…unless we can listen to God, how do we know what God has in store for us?

God will have different paths for each of us, because the thing is, there is only you, that can be you. There is no-one else in the world that can do that, and I don’t think if you were not here, that God would fill the you shaped hole, because no-one else could travel along your path.

So, let us then embrace ourselves, with humble and confident gratitude and prayerfully discern our future, knowing that with God, all things are possible!

I have often been comforted by the prayer of St Teresa of Avila, when she so powerfully helps us to understand that whatever limitations we see – God does not. I pray therefore that we look above our own barriers and see the horizon God has given us.

Prayer

Christ Has No Body
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Today's Writer

Lee Battle is an ordinand at Northern College and member of Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC in Chorlton, South Manchester.

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 30th October

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 8: 31-59

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’  They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’

Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever.  So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.  I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word.  I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’

They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.  You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’  Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.  Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.  You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?  Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’

The Jews answered him, ‘Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?’  Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honour my Father, and you dishonour me.  Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge.  Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’  The Jews said to him, ‘Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.”  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, “He is our God”, though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word.  Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.’  Then the Jews said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.’  So, they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Reflection What is “truth” and what is “freedom”? These are two questions begged by this passage, and both raise live issues for our day.

Truth is a significant theme in the Fourth Gospel where we not only find such phrases frequently on the lips of Jesus but also Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”  There have been innumerable, disheartening, instances of politicians in the UK, the USA and elsewhere claiming that their assertions are truthful and factually correct when their statements twisted facts and were untruthful, if only by omission and distortion – economical with the truth, indeed. Within this passage the reliance of the Jews on Abrahamic descent was true insofar as it reflected their confidence in being on the right side with God, but their conclusion from such reliance was negated by their failure to recognise and accept Jesus as coming from the Father.
        
It can be difficult, and for some people seemingly impossible, to accept that what they have been told to be true is in fact wrong. We find this among Christians who have grown up within fellowships dependent on narrow interpretations of either Scripture or the teachings of their Church. We once had an Elder who was dogmatic and decisive in expressing his views; another Elder challenged him, “Don’t you ever change your mind?” The response was instant, “Never” – a response that all too accurately reflected his attitude and revealed his personal tragedy.
        
And Jesus said, “the truth will make you free.” When we have the courage to face up to the truth, accepting where we have been wrong or in denial about ourselves or others, then we are offered freedom, but how are we to understand what that means?
        
The writer of our Gospel was steeped in both Jewish and Hellenistic (Greek) religious thought and was able to use such learning to develop and advance Christian understanding. For Jews the Law was truth and the study of the Law made people free – the greater and deeper the study, the greater the freedom. In the Hellenistic world the Stoics taught that people could obtain freedom by regulating their lives in accordance with the ultimate divine authority of the Logos. For Jews truth brought a total reliance on the Law and freedom from worldly concerns; for Stoics it meant deliverance from ignorance and error. Christians can benefit much from both approaches and here in the Gospel we find that ultimate freedom is deliverance from sin, born again to a new life with our Saviour, fully accepted of children of the Father without needing specific human ancestry.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
the Way, the Truth and the Life;
strengthen and guide us to live in your Way,
growing in our understanding of your Truth
and so finding the Freedom of those
whose lives are grounded in your love and peace:
trusting in your power we pray:
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Revd Julian Macro is a retired minister and member of Verwood 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 29th October

Sun, 29/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 21
 

O LORD, in your strength how the king is exultant!
How great is his joy in the triumphs you bring!
To him you have granted his heart’s deepest longing;
you answered the plea from the lips of the king.

You welcomed him richly with blessings of goodness;
a crown of fine gold you have placed on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave him it freely—
abundance of days, that his years should not end.

Through triumphs you gave his renown is exalted,
and you have bestowed on him splendour and grace.
You surely have granted him blessings eternal;
you filled him with joy by the light of your face.

For the king puts his trust in the LORD high above;
unshaken he stands through the LORD’s steadfast love.

Your hand will lay hold upon all your opponents;
your right hand will seize all the foes in your path.
You’ll set them ablaze with your glorious appearance;
you’ll swallow them up in the fire of your wrath.

From earth you will utterly wipe out their offspring.
They plot wicked schemes, but will never prevail.
Because when you aim with your bow at the ready
you’ll make them turn back and their courage will fail.

Be exalted, O LORD, in the strength of your arm;
we will praise your great might to the sound of a psalm.

You can hear a Free Church sing this to the jolly tune Exultation here.
Reflection The Psalms, together with Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, are known as Wisdom Books.  Psalm 21 is one of the collection of poems or songs, composed over centuries, that were set to music and sung by Jewish worshippers at home, on the road during pilgrimages to Jerusalem and in the Temple. More than half of the psalms are associated with David (who may have written some of them) while the rest were inspired by him or dedicated to him.

There are many songs of thanks to God. Psalm 21 gives praise for a royal victory. The Psalm is addressed directly to God who has answered the king’s requests for long, lasting life, giving him strength and blessings. The king rejoices in his victory and the crown of gold, fame and majesty that he has received, as a gift from God.

We are reminded, by today’s reading, that we can likewise speak directly to God with our requests for healing, forgiveness, peace of mind or courage to take the next steps in our pilgrim life.

The psalmist petitions for the destruction of God’s enemies. We must put our trust in God to deal with “enemies”, as God sees fit . God will secure our deliverance and, in God, we shall come to know the joy of the divine presence. Psalm 21 speaks of the security that God’s unfailing love brings to the king and so, also, to us in the face of struggles. The strength and persistence that ultimately leads to victory will depend on our turning to God in open, honest prayer.

We may not know when or by whom Psalm 21 was written or the king whose praises to God we read here but we can take his approach as our example to believe and trust in God.

Prayer

Dear God,
we open our heart’s desires to You,
asking You to meet our needs
and answer our requests,
as You see fit.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Pamela Dowling served as an Elder at the former St. John’s URC, Forest Hill. London.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms (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 28th October

Sat, 28/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 8: 13-30

Then the Pharisees said to him,

‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’

Jesus answered,

‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgement is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father  who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’

Then they said to him,

‘Where is your Father?’

Jesus answered,

‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’

He spoke these words while he was teaching in the treasury of the temple, but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come. Again he said to them,

‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’

Then the Jews said,

‘Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come”?’

He said to them,

‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’

They said to him,

‘Who are you?’

Jesus said to them,

‘Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’

They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said,

‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.’

As he was saying these things, many believed in him.
 
Reflection Questions, Questions, Questions!

This is the longest and angriest argument between Jesus and his opponents, and you can almost feel the tension and frustration rising in Jesus’ voice. The opponents question Jesus’ intention, his relationship with God, and his identity, and in return Jesus challenges their authority as Jews.

The root of the matter is one of truth. Jesus gives thoughtful and clear explanations and illustrations of the truth about God, and by the last verse ‘many believed in him’.

The two points to remember in this reading; firstly that John is writing to an early Christian community and need their personal questions answered; but in some ways, you cannot isolate this reading from the rest of the Gospel writings and themes in John. This conversation is really harking back to the question that Moses asks God in Exodus, ‘who are you?’ and God replies ‘I am who I am?’

Secondly, many people in today’s world, whether it be friends, family, work colleagues, children, regular church goers or those who have never attended church apart from a funeral, ask the same questions to us as Christians ‘who is this God you adore and follow’. The question is easily asked, the answer though can be challenging for us as disciples of Jesus, where some of us may be struggling with our faith. To speak about why and what we believe in is testing for some people. To express into words what we feel, is a difficult task.

How can you capture the essence of God?

The God who gives us strength when we may feel frail;
the God who loves us even though we may feel unloved;
the God who calls to us to follow even though we may want to turn away and run.

Once I had a friend whose faith shone from her face and eyes, she lived out her faith with passion for she loved every human being she came across. She lived out her faith in truth, not by eloquent words, but by her actions and her demeanour.

We may not have the clarity of words and eloquence of Jesus, but we must always be true to ourselves and to God.

Wherever we are on the path of discipleship, let us all shine with light of Christ, then when people ask the question who is God for you, they may follow on with … I want what you have in your eyes...Love.
 

Prayer

Treasure us Lord,
When we feel stretched to talk about our faith;
a faith that sometimes feels frayed at the edges,
a faith that sometimes feels fragile as a bubble blown about in the wind,
a faith that can transport us to shifting sands or a solid foundation.
In these times,
bless us with your Spirit
that is truth;
bless us with your Grace
That is unmeasurable;
bless us with your Love
seen on the Cross and in the new life of the Resurrection.
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is the minister at Fleet and Beacon Hill Hindhead URCs in the Wessex Synod.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 27th October

Fri, 27/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 8: 12

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” Reflection Jesus calls himself “the light of the world” and promises the light of life to all who follow him. The occasion when he said this, in St John’s Gospel, makes it all the more vivid. Jesus had come to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles, which commemorated the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness when, guided by a pillar of fire at night, they could see how important was light. The lamps were lit when darkness had fallen and suddenly the crowds saw such bright light that it was said to illuminate every street in Jerusalem. That very moment was the one chosen by Jesus to assert that he was the light of the world; that the light was not in the great candelabra but was present in God’s son, living his life among people. Here he is claiming to give the light of life, while always acknowledging his dependence on God, to know his will and to do his work always.

We all appreciate that light is utterly different from darkness. It shines out to conquer gloom, reveal a situation or show the way. Jesus said his followers too were lights for the world, their good deeds would shine out for the glory of God (Matthew, ch.5, vv.14-16). Behind his followers at all times is the perfect love and justice of God the Father. All this we take on as we try to be followers of our Lord Jesus. St Augustine expressed his conversion as “a light flooded my heart and all the darkness of doubt vanished away.”

It can be hard for us to recognise and maintain the light of Christ within us. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul describes Christians as like plain pottery jars that hold a candle. Our lives may look ordinary but we contain  the light of Christ. The same God who said, “Let there be light.” has now placed the light of Christ in our hearts. What a gift!

Many years ago, my family and I were on holiday on the Atlantic coast of south-west France. In many small churches, if 2 francs were placed in a slot machine, the whole altar lit up for a limited time. It was immediately transformed into a gilded pattern of images. What had been dark and difficult to see became a sharp image lit to give beauty and inspiration.

Unfortunately 2 francs, or its modern equivalent, won’t fill us with instant light. We have to work hard to achieve this. Jesus’ description of himself as “light of the world” is significant. Light is the most revealing thing in the world – it shows people things as they are – as Jesus did. Light is the greatest guide on an unfamiliar path and we have no greater guide than Jesus.

There is also an unconquerable quality in light – not all the darkness in the world can extinguish the smallest light. As we try to follow Jesus, we can move out of darkness into light, to live in and through the Light. We put our money in the slot as we read the Bible, pray and contemplate, and all is light. An interesting aspect is that we don’t do this in isolation. When money is put in the slot, the altar lights up and I am not the only one to see it. Everyone in the church at that time cannot help but share in the wonder of the light. As Jesus said, “God’s people are like a light for the whole world.” We should learn to let that light shine out to others. It must be shared.

Perhaps there has never been a time like now when the world is in such need of God’s light. May we persevere in attempting to be a light for the whole world; and perhaps to bring just one more person to share in the light and know God.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you are the light of the world.
Those who follow you have the light of life.
We remember all people who live in darkness,
who experience despair and times of depression.
Help us to bring friendship which brings light.
Inspire us to speak of hope which scatters darkness.
Lighten our darkness, we pray.
Kindle a flame in our hearts.
Amen

Today's Writer

Hilary Jackson is a lay preacher in the NW Synod, now living in North Yorkshire.

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 26th October

Thu, 26/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 26th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 8: 1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them,  they said to him,

"Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"

They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them,

"Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her."

And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus straightened up and said to her,

"Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She said,

"No one, sir."

And Jesus said,

"Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again."
Reflection I have enjoyed many walks along Northumberland’s beautiful beaches, and during each walk I have been mindful of how each successive high tide wipes the beach smooth and clean with the earlier moated sandcastles, bunkers and deep holes gone: all the nascent civil engineering, artistic flair, creativity and imagination - all smoothed out of existence, along with the intertwined traces of foot and paw prints: defying Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetic image of great lives leaving footprints on the sands of time – all gone!
Today’s reading speaks powerfully of God’s mercy, love and forgiveness, and reminds us that ours is a God of new beginnings.  Jesus is teaching, but is interrupted by scribes and Pharisees bringing a woman caught in adultery.

He does not react straight away, but writes with his finger on the ground, in the dust and sand.  What was he writing? Why does the Gospel writer choose to focus on this small activity twice, when the force of the narrative lies elsewhere?

After writing, Jesus stands up, and speaks, turning the spotlight in front of everyone gathered there onto the scribes and Pharisees themselves.  The impact of Jesus putting their behaviour and attitudes on display is electrifyingly unbearable for them, as one by one they peel away, unable to bear being scrutinised as closely as they were prepared to publicly scrutinise this woman.  Their hypocritical tyranny is laid bare, Jesus literally stands up to them and exposes them for what they are, before crouching down again to continue writing quietly in the sand.

Whatever marks he made, whatever words written, they would have been quickly obscured and swept away by the footprints of many.

Eventually Jesus is left alone with the woman. In a short dialogue, she receives her challenging benediction: just as her accusers have gone and not persisted in their condemnation, Jesus refuses to condemn her, but adds, ‘do not sin again.’

The tide sweeps the beach clean.
 

Prayer

Loving God,
We thank and praise you for your amazing grace.
Help us when we doubt that you are a God of new beginnings.
Help us when the tide of your love mercy and grace
cannot come in and sweep the beach clean quickly enough for ourselves or others.
May we choose our powerful words with care,
and stand up to those who tyrannise and bully
the weak and vulnerable for their own ends.
May our ears and hearts always be open
to your challenging benediction.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Herbert is the Moderator of the Northern 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 25th October

Wed, 25/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 25th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 7: 37 - 52

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out,

"Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,  and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' "

Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  When they heard these words, some in the crowd said,

"This is really the prophet."

Others said,

"This is the Messiah."

But some asked,

"Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?  Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?"

So there was a division in the crowd because of him.   Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.  Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them,

"Why did you not arrest him?"

The police answered,

"Never has anyone spoken like this!"

Then the Pharisees replied,

"Surely you have not been deceived too, have you?  Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?  But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed."

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked,

"Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?"

They replied,

"Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee."
Reflection Galilee was definitely not on the radar when it came to the widely held expectations of where the Messiah would physically become apparent;  the religious establishment were threatened by Jesus’ ministry. Today’s reading references this twice.  Just when we think we have God sorted and packaged, clearly delineated and fathomed, we discover how wrong we are to try and limit, and comprehend, and hold, such divine mystery.

Expectations are a powerful influence in life, best acknowledged and managed carefully and deliberately.  We all hold many expectations both of ourselves and others.  In our own lives we can either rise to expectations, or they can weigh heavily upon us. They have the power to both uplift or disable our lives.  The same is true regarding our projected expectations of other people and situations.  It is so easy to get it wrong, and most helpful when we get it right.

So much of the Christian’s life is about expectation, as we view our experience of life through the lens of God’s love.  And it is so easy to get it wrong when it comes to our expectations of where ministry lies in the life of the Church; our expectations of worship; our expectations of what resources we need to be and do Church; our expectations of where God’s kingdom is rooted; our expectations of where God’s Spirit is active; our expectations of where true treasure can be found – even in people like you and me despite our frailty and faults, and occasional disillusionment along the way!  After all, as we read again and again in the Bible, and discover along The Way, and, as unpacked in 1983 in the book by Gerard Hughes S.J., ours is a God of Surprises.  Thanks be to God!
 

Prayer

God of Surprises,
Keep us aware of positive and negative expectations in life.
Help us to encourage and affirm those around us,
Especially those who are very different from ourselves.
When it comes to expectations within ourselves of ourselves,
help us to remember we are loved by you,
and find release and inspiration secure in that knowledge.
And when we are surprised by new revelations of the extent and power of your loving presence, contradicting our own expectations,
may we be delighted by that continually expanding appreciation
of your presence and glory in life.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Herbert is the Moderator of the Northern 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 24th October

Tue, 24/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 24th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 7: 31 - 36

Yet many in the crowd believed in Jesus and were saying,

“When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?”

The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering such things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent temple police to arrest him. Jesus then said,

“I will be with you a little while longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will search for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

The Jews said to one another,

“Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will search for me and you will not find me’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”
 
Reflection From the Ephesus file - a contemporary midrash!

Coalitions, I reflect, often bring strange bedfellows, each contemptuous of the other’s perspective.
Not, surely, marriages made in heaven.
No hint of a backhander here though, differences in belief set aside;

Priest and Pharisee bound by a mutual…
Well what? Mutual fear or even hatred?
And of what? The man or the confusion in the public square,
in the psyche of the people, in the retaliation of the Empire – holy and Roman?

Perhaps, I muse,
if we search,
if we screw our eyes up tightly enough we may just catch a glimpse of a wise
woman hurrying past on the corner.
Or is that simply folly?

We see the tussle between heart-felt conviction, that no Messiah could do more
and the head-strong checklist of the signs that would herald just such a Messiah.
All crosses here, no ticks

They are nameless these courtesy chiefs, one by one deposed by Rome
(could they be cried Comey or Priebus?)
but they send their all-bark- and-no- bite men,
beefeaters before their time and place
guarding ceremony, tradition and empty cells,
to effect an arrest.
But, when origins and destinations are beyond expectation
and heads are ruling our hearts
we are left with, but an empty enigma.
 

Prayer

Creating God who breathes life into us.
Help us to recognise you in each and every breath that we take.
Your inspiration, our respiration.
Help us to take a moment to breathe.
A moment that is permissive, allowing us not to engage our knowledge without
taking heed of your tugs on our heartstrings.
Help us to grow in authenticity moment by moment.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Helen M Mee is minister of Granton United Church in Edinburgh and Convenor of the Assembly Equalities Committee.

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 23rd October

Mon, 23/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 23rd October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 7: 25-30

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying,

‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’

Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple,

You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.’

Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. Yet many in the crowd believed in him and were saying,

‘When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?’
Reflection Sometimes we forget how confusing the events surrounding Jesus were to both his followers and those around him; we have two millennia of interpretation, but they were simply faced with a strange man making extraordinary claims. So it's no surprise people often didn't know what to make of him , and this passage includes a debate on whether Jesus really could be the Messiah. Some people think he can't be, because they know where he is from - presumably Nazareth - and the origins of the Messiah will be more mysterious.

We often define ourselves by where we are from, and it's often one of the first questions we might ask someone we've just met. We've all met people who are living far away from where they were brought up but still think of that place at home. Many people make new lives for themselves in a new town or city, or a new country, sometimes through choice, sometimes through circumstances they can't control. Some people of course are forced by politics or war to make a new home elsewhere, even as they long to return.

So where does Jesus come from, and where does he think of as home - Nazareth, Bethlehem, heaven? In this passage, he tells us he has been sent, but doesn't say who by or where from. Is he an exile, able to say, as the great Woody Guthrie once sang, 'I ain't got no home in this world any more'? Or, as the Messiah, is at home everywhere he goes, on earth as in heaven? And are we, as Christians, at home both everywhere and nowhere; called to be apart, and yet always at home because Jesus is with us?
 

Prayer

Gracious God
we pray for people who feel they have no home
and for those who are building new lives
far from the places they come from.
We pray we will all find a home where we feel safe and comfortable,
yet not too comfortable to respond to
your often disruptive and disturbing call.

Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Nick Jones is Minister at Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough.

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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Apologies - here's the correct link

Sun, 22/10/2017 - 17:51
96 Apologies - here's the correct link View this email in your browser

Apologies

Dear <<First Name>>

I am sorry but the link I sent this morning didn't work!  If you wish to see how to link the Daily Devotions to your church website you need this link

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Linking Daily Devotions to Church Websites

Sun, 22/10/2017 - 08:30
96 Linking Daily Devotions to Church Websites View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions & Church Websites

Dear <<First Name>>

Please excuse this message if you don't have anything to do with your church's website - feel free to delete it!

A few weeks ago I pass on a link from iChurch showing how church websites which used WordPress could link to the Daily Devotions.   We soon became aware that the programme we'd used to put the Daily Devotion onto the site often omitted both the reading and the writer! 

Rebecca Gudgeon from iChurch and Walt Johnson, who maintains the NW Synod site and writes for us, have come up with a very simple method of linking the Devotions to websites - I suspect it will work on other, non WordPress based ones too.  The information is here

You can see how it looks on the Shawlands site - you just need to scroll down (from the Devotion itself) to see it all.

If you embed this on your site please do let me know how you get on!

with every good wish

Andy

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 22nd October

Sun, 22/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 22nd October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 20
 

May the LORD answer you when you cry in distress;
May Jacob’s God keep you, whose name you confess.
May God send assistance from his holy place,
And grant you from Zion support by his grace.

May God keep in mind every sacrifice made;
Accept on the altar your offerings laid.
And may he fulfil the desire of your heart—
Success to each one of your plans to impart.

With joy we will shout when your victory’s won;
We’ll lift up our banners in God’s name alone.
And so may the LORD hear your earnest request,
And answer your prayèrs as seems to him best.

Now truly I know that the LORD from above
Protects his anointed in covenant love;
From heav’n in his holiness God hears his cry,
And saves by the pow’r of his right hand on high.

In horses or chariots some trust for defence,
But the name of the LORD is our strong confidence.
They’re brought to their knees, while in strength we arise.
O LORD, save the king! Hear and answer our cries!

You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the tune St Denio (Immortal Invisible) here. Reflection Psalm 20 is a dangerous worship song.  Is it a battle cry?  Is it a prayer of intercession?  Depends on who is singing it and where it is being sung.
  • Imagine any G7 leader singing this Psalm to his or her fellow citizens.  The Psalm suddenly reeks of the decay of colonialism or of a destructive form of nationalism.
  • Imagine an Eritrean Orthodox priest whisper this Psalm prayerfully as he is huddled in a prison cell, interceding on behalf of his congregation who are in hiding from an oppressive government.  The Psalm suddenly speaks of a faith and of a trust in God that few of us in the UK can comprehend.
According to Scripture, Israel has been both a strong regional player and an oppressed, occupied land.  Was this psalm written in a time of prosperity as a way of proclaiming Almighty God’s rule?  Or was it written as a prayer on the eve of battle as a strong military ‘superpower’ threatened Israel?

A few of things I’ve noted:
  1. This is a prayer of one believer/follower for another that comes from a place of ‘distress’ and of a relationship with Almighty God through faithful worship (stanzas 1 &2)
  2. Any ‘victory’ belongs to God, is because of God, and is on God’s terms (stanza 3)
  3. The Psalmist has faith that God will protect His anointed and hear their cries for help (stanza 4)
  4. Any confidence we have should be in the name of Almighty God, not in our own military might, talents, number of social media ‘likes’, positive newspaper headlines, or strength of our currency (stanza 5)
But I wonder - how do you sing Psalm 20?
  • Imagine singing this Psalm over a friend having chemotherapy
  • Imagine singing this Psalm to a friend in jail for burglary and possession with intent to sell
  • Imagine singing this Psalm with your new neighbour who is seeking asylum from a war raging in his/her homeland
  • Imagine a friend singing this Psalm with you with whatever difficulty you are facing

What are you praying for in each imagining?

What would a ‘victory’ worthy of the name of Almighty God look like?

What is the truth of this Psalm that transcends the details of any context?

Imagine you are a follower of Jesus and you are singing this Psalm in your church to other followers of ‘the Way’.  How would this Psalm sound as it is sung in your church?  In your community?  In your workplace?  In your school?  In your home?

Triumphant?  Colonial? Militant? Nationalistic? A heartfelt prayer? An intercession for others? An assertion of faith? A declaration of the power of Almighty God?  An expectant hope?

How do you sing it?  And wherever you sing it, what would a ‘victory’ worthy of the name of Almighty God look like?

Prayer

I’d invite you to pray this Psalm, adapting as appropriate, over a ‘distressing’ situation that needs the power of God.

Today's Writer

Angela Rigby is an ordinand at the Northern College and a member of Christ Church URC in Haydock, St Helens.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS.
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URC Daily Devotion 21st October 

Sat, 21/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st October  Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 7: 14-24

About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach. The Jews were astonished at it, saying,

“How does this man have such learning  when he has never been taught?”

Then Jesus answered them,

“My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own. Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him. Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?”

The crowd answered,

“You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?”

Jesus answered them,

“I performed one work, and all of you are astonished. Moses gave you circumcision (it is, of course, not from Moses, but from the patriarchs), and you circumcise a man on the sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man’s whole body on the sabbath? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
Reflection The people marvel at Jesus. They recognise not just that he is learned but that the learning he shares is special. And they say so. Many of us would become big headed and show false modesty but in Jesus there is true modesty. He is clear these words come from God and the Spirit will enable those who are seeking to God’s will to hear the truth in them.

True modesty in the face of praise is hard enough but rather than basking in glory Jesus confronts previous (and possibly spoken again) criticism. Facing criticism and neither avoiding it nor exploding in anger requires inner peace. Jesus has that peace because he knows he has listened to the one who sent him. Jesus knows that whether people like or dislike his teaching says more about the listener’s relationship with the creator than his oratory. He can only do this because he has listened.

When we face criticism, or rebuke it is easy to avoid or to fight. It is also tempting to think that we are like Jesus and so being opposed is a marker of the truth of our position. We know Jesus was right, it is harder to be sure about ourselves. Taking time to attune ourselves to kingdom values makes it more likely that we will be able to discern when criticism is valid and when it is not. Taking time to attune ourselves to Kingdom values will help us engage in right ways with those who criticise us. If, a big if, we can engage with those who criticise us with calm, inner peace, and discernment then we might both learn and grow closer to being the people God wants us to be.

The inner peace we need to behave with such Kingdom values requires us to work always at listening for God and seeking peace; without that practice we will fail to deal appropriately with difficult times.
 

Prayer

God of peace,
Strengthen me in the face of opposition,
Calm me when I criticize other people,
Enable me to avoid fight or flight in the face of criticism
Help me to practice peaceful ways of speaking to others
Help me to smother hateful words in love.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Martyn Coe is minister in the South Lakes Group of Churches, Cumbria.

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 October

Fri, 20/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 7: 1 - 13

After this, Jesus traveled in Galilee; he did not want to travel in Judea, because the Jewish authorities there were wanting to kill him.  The time for the Festival of Shelters was near,  so Jesus' brothers said to him, “Leave this place and go to Judea, so that your followers will see the things that you are doing.  People don't hide what they are doing if they want to be well known. Since you are doing these things, let the whole world know about you!” (Not even his brothers believed in him.)

Jesus said to them, “The right time for me has not yet come. Any time is right for you.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I keep telling it that its ways are bad. You go on to the festival. I am not going to this festival, because the right time has not come for me.”  He said this and then stayed on in Galilee.

After his brothers had gone to the festival, Jesus also went; however, he did not go openly, but secretly.  The Jewish authorities were looking for him at the festival. “Where is he?” they asked.

There was much whispering about him in the crowd. “He is a good man,” some people said. “No,” others said, “he fools the people.”  But no one talked about him openly, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities.
Reflection As a Communist I find that my comrades and I are frequently criticised by ultra-leftists for being too timid, too reformist and not sounding the rallying cry of immediate revolution at every opportunity.  We answer that we must respond to the material realities of what is happening and what we might be expected to do to move events forward. Heroic defeats are of no use to the working class.

At first reading, this Scriptural passage suggests a similar and major hesitation on the part of Jesus. It sits in the middle of an extended wave of market research conducted by Him as to who folks think He is.  In Chapter 6, his self-description as the Bread of Life polarises opinions; Peter gets it but the Gospel also reports that many disciples have had enough and walk away. In the rest of Chapter 7, His references to the promise of living water and His references to being the Messiah again produces acceptance, ridicule and anger in equal measure.

So it is probably not surprising, from a purely human perspective, that Jesus appears reluctant to go the Temple to celebrate the festival as his followers had urged him. More baffling, is His subsequent decision to travel to Judea incognito, seemingly sneakily listening in to what the people were saying about His claims.

I think what we see here is different concepts of time and hence the Kingdom. For Jesus’ remaining disciples, locked into chronological time, it was all about the now and making great statements in the present, however unprepared people might be to really hear them – and so respond.

For Jesus, divinely inspired, time was measured in terms of Creation’s proximity to and readiness for the Kingdom. In John 7, we see Jesus acutely aware that his audiences’ hearts are by and large far away from the Kingdom and who He really is. More work and words are needed to bring them closer.

We, therefore, must temper our impatience with how slowly God’s will seems to us to be working out. But we musn’t just sit back. Indeed, Jesus’s followers continued with their determination to go to the Temple.

As V I Lenin wrote “there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”


All will be fine in God’s own time.
 

Prayer

Lord


Give us the certainty to trust You
When the Kingdom seems as far off as ever

Give us the patience that comes with faith
When others want to charge into Heaven now

Give us the courage to witness to You
When others question Your vaulting love for us

Give us the alacrity of action and thought
When the Kingdom is revealed for an instant!
Amen

Today's Writer

Paul Simon is an Elder at Hadleigh URC in Suffolk.

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 Octobrer

Thu, 19/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th Octobrer Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 6: 67-71

So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.’ He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him. Reflection We identify ourselves with Peter. We have not been perfect disciples, so are glad Jesus was forgiving when Peter failed lamentably, but we have been faithful church members for years. If we have been asked to fulfil leadership roles locally or more widely, the fantasy is reinforced. If someone reminded us about grisly martyrdom we might be slightly less keen, but we are certainly not Judas. It is the family down the road with two cars who have allowed themselves to be corrupted by money, not us.

Actually there are twelve disciples in the story. Where are the rest on the spectrum? Almost certainly not a simple linear hierarchy with Peter nearest Heaven and Judas nearest Hell. Ten other characters struggling with the new worldview Jesus has just set out for disciples, with radical new yardsticks for faithfulness. Ten characters each struck by different implications of what Jesus has been saying. Some wanting to analyse the theology, some wondering about the action points. Each one still with the potential to grow as a Christian disciple or gradually to fall away.

So in fact a group much like your local church and mine. Doomed to division and decline if some have decided they are the only ones really in touch with God; still with the possibility of being beautiful and extraordinary if all are looking to learn from each other and grow in discipleship.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
Holy One of God,
You have the words of eternal life.
Give to us the right words today to build up and not break down
To be Peter at his best and not Peter at his worst
To notice the Judas in ourselves
To share with the companions you have given us.
So that together we journey on
Walking the Way toward a discipleship
            that changes us
            the Church
            the World
Amen

Today's Writer

John Ellis is Immediate Past Moderator of the General Assembly and Church Secretary within the Tudeley and Five Oak Green LEP in Kent.

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 October

Wed, 18/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 6: 41 - 66

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said,

“I am the bread that came down from heaven.”

They were saying,

“Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered them,

“Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying,

“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them,

“Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.  When many of his disciples heard it, they said,

“This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”

But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them,

“Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said,

“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.
Reflection This is one of those passages where we hear of Jesus saying words which shock and offend. I chose to look at this passage precisely because I have found it hard to grasp. I’m guessing that many other people have too. It turns out we are not alone – John records in this passage that some of those who heard Jesus speak were offended! We can imagine them saying “Who does he think he is?” “The bread come from heaven?” They certainly took offence at the very suggestion. But then it got worse: Eat his body! Drink his blood! “This teaching is too difficult!”

Jesus speaks of something gruesome: eat his body, and the word means to munch, to chew thoroughly, even noisily; drink his blood – but no Jew is to eat or drink anything with its life-blood in it! Our passage connects us to the Last Supper, and to Holy Communion. I have a confession to make: I really struggle when people serve the bread and wine and say “This is the body of Jesus; this is the blood of Jesus’” when what I can see is clearly a piece of bread or a wafer, and a cup of wine or juice. My struggle with today’s passage is that Jesus' words are clearly about physical eating, digesting, and drinking. We cannot get away from that. But Jesus’ body has never been physically eaten, nor his blood physically drunk.

Some of those who heard Jesus speaking, taking his words literally, were offended, and some of his followers turned back. Jesus, however, frequently used literal language and descriptions to describe spiritual truths. So what spiritual truth is in our passage? I found a suggestion that - when eating and drinking we choose take into ourselves something which is outside us, and then it becomes part of us. If we take this as a description of living out faith, then Jesus in whom we put our faith, wants us to reach out and take Him to ourselves, actively and purposefully. Perhaps reminding us that His prayer for us is that we may be one with Him, just as He is one with the Father.
 

Prayer

Jesus, bread of life;
help us to admit our struggles,
and help us to wrestle with your words,
Jesus, living bread;
we thank you that you are always
reaching out to us, in many ways.
Help us to respond to you;
help us to learn how put our faith in you,
more and more, and in many ways.
Jesus, bread of life;
we thank you that your prayer for us
is that we may be one with you
as you are one with the Father.
Help us to learn how to become one with you,
more and more, and in many ways.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Annette Haigh is the minister of the Goyt and Etherow Pastorate in Derbyshire.

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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