URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion Friday 30th October 2020

Fri, 30/10/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 30th October 2020 - Hebrews - More on Redemption

Hebrews 2: 10-18

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,

‘I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, 
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.’
And again,
‘I will put my trust in him.’
And again,
‘Here am I and the children whom God has given me.’

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.  For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Reflection

Eight  words: “Like his brothers and sisters in every respect”  [verse 17]. Yet so significant. Years of doctrine and dissent, creeds and Christology, argument and antagonism and theology on an industrial scale – so much packed into so short a sentence. Who is this risen Jesus? Is he just a ghostly spirit or flesh and blood? Is he for real here and now? The questions have been debated for centuries and the answers are central to the truth or otherwise of the Gospel. The author of Hebrews put it to his fellow Greek speaking sophisticates quite simply – “He too shared in our humanity”.

They lived in a world where they believed angels and devils, principalities and powers ruled under God, and often made a mess of it. The ultimate beauty and perfection of creation was spoilt. That’s why bad things happened. We don’t believe in that anymore. We believe in GDP, Market Forces, global warming and social revolution, and all the nonsense tomorrow’s tricking and treating will bring when it is saints we should be remembering, not ghostly apparitions. The world is still in a mess and not the better place we believe it could be. Into the middle of this imperfection comes the perfect figure of Jesus Christ: conceived, born, crucified, dead and buried – and then risen, not as a ghost or a spirit or an angel, but as a flesh and blood human being like the  rest of us. In sharing our physical humanity he affirms that God rules and redeems the human race, and Christ is still one of us despite the mess we make of it. Eight  words in eight short verses, affirming that he is the way, the truth and the life - and that’s salvation in a nutshell.
 
 Prayer
 
Come my way my truth my life
Such a Way as gives us breath,
Such a Truth as ends all strife,
Such a Life as killeth death.
                                                George Herbert -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister and member of St Andrew’s URC Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 29th October 2020

Thu, 29/10/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 29th October 2020 - Hebrews - Redemption from Christ

Hebrews 1: 5 - 9

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    or mortals, that you care for them?
 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
    you have crowned them with glory and honour,
subjecting all things under their feet.’

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them,  but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

Reflection

How many churches talk about angels these days? Admit it: to most of us sophisticated and rational human creatures, angelology in our churches is one of those irrationalities we hide under the rugs. Yet in the 21st century angels still matter to people. From pop songs calling their lover “angel” to the ubiquitous cards, angels continue to hold sway over our subconscious, religious or not.

In the Abrahamic religions, angels have historically been the basis of wars and at the same time markers of our interconnectedness.

The loved one who describes their deceased beloved as an “angel” or that they have been “taken up to the angels” is particularly present in times of grief. Angels have not lost their ability to change the course of events and to impress our imagination. Many have a closer connection to an angel than they will have to God.


The writer of Hebrews is neither challenging or encouraging a belief in angels. He is distinguishing Jesus from an intermediary messenger. We now have a direct line to God through Jesus.

Hebrews has been called more of a sermon than a letter, and I once heard a pastor in Nashville define preaching as “braggin’ on God”. I like that definition. We don’t know who wrote Hebrews, but I feel their passion and joy in this commentary on Psalm 8 and when the writer proclaims that Jesus comes to us, not as an angelic being, but as one of us. In spite of us, God’s plan is fulfilled through Jesus for us. The writer is braggin’ on our dark-skinned Palestinian liberator. Theologians call it “high Christology”; my pastor in Nashville would say the writer is gloating on tiptoe!

It is the passion and joy in our proclamation and maintaining close proximity to our experience and identity with Jesus which allows the church to persevere. Jesus must always be the main attraction!

Prayer

We look to other thrones to lead us, and far-away beings to love us, when The One who will truly save us meets us where we are.  Be our King, Jesus. But more importantly, be our Kin, Jesus. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Revd William Young, pastor, Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington DC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

Wed, 28/10/2020 - 15:45
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

This Sunday’s service is the first edited by myself, Dan. But the service is being led by our very own Revd. Andy Braunston! So you have both of us to blame for any issues this week. This Sunday is All Saints Day so we'll be looking at those who have gone before us, living model lives for us to take inspiration from. Hymns include the classic, rousing For all the Saints, Ken Naylor's How Shall I Sing That Majesty, Isacc Watts' Jesus Invites His Saints to a well-known tune and Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones.

This service will include Holy Communion. So please, if you wish, have some bread and wine at hand so we can share together.

The service will be sent out, as normal, at 9.45 on Sunday morning for a 10am start.  If you have any problems receiving it please read on for advice.

with every blessing,


Dan


Dan Morrell
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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 28th October 2020

Wed, 28/10/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 28th October 2020 - Hebrews - An Exhortation

Hebrews 2: 1 - 4

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.  For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty,  how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him,  while God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, distributed according to his will.

Reflection

At the end of this passage we get a wonderful summary of what we might call God’s self-revelation. God has been revealed to humanity both in the person of Jesus Christ and in the testimony of those who encountered Jesus in the flesh (recorded for us in the Gospels), and we can see God today in the gifts we are given by the Holy Spirit. God is not far off and distant, but close to us. However, I’ve missed something out here that troubles me – signs, wonders and miracles. Are miracles a problem for modern Christians? They certainly can be. If we insist that a belief in miracles is necessary to be a Christian we force people to make a false decision between believing in God and believe in science. If we define a miracle as an event which breaks the scientific rules of the universe* then I’m certain I’ve never witnessed one, and I’ve never come across a convincing account of a miraculous event. For me – and you may well believe something different – miracles are not a part of my faith. Insisting on the literal truth of the miracles in scripture means reading the gospels as straightforward history, as journalism rather than poetry. What if we read the miracle stories as theology packed with deep symbolism, stories which explain Jesus to us rather than relate a literal truth? For myself, I believe that there is a God who knows and loves me and was born on the earth as a vulnerable human being, and that in itself is absolutely miraculous enough without, like Alice, adding more impossible things to believe before break God is always beyond our complete understanding. (If you are reading this before breakfast, I hope you enjoy it.)

*See David Hume, ‘Of Miracles’ - Section X of An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. https://davidhume.org/texts/e/10

Prayer

Loving God,

we give thanks to you today, and all days,
that you came to pitch your tent among us,
to show us that you love us.
We give thanks for the gifts we receive from you
and remember just how amazing and miraculous is your grace.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Nick Jones is minister at Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 27th October 2020

Tue, 27/10/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 27th October 2020 - Hebrews - The Son Above The Angels

Hebrews 1: 5 - 14

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

‘You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you’?

Or again,

‘I will be his Father,
    and he will be my Son’?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’

Of the angels he says,

‘He makes his angels winds,
    and his servants flames of fire.’

But of the Son he says,

‘Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever,
    and the righteous sceptre is the sceptre of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’

And,

‘In the beginning, Lord, you founded the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands;
they will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like clothing;
like a cloak you will roll them up,
    and like clothing they will be changed.
But you are the same,
    and your years will never end.’

But to which of the angels has he ever said,

‘Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?

Are not all angels  spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Reflection

“You know how Jesus is the Son of God and the son of Mary?” The four-year-old at my church is in a questioning mood. “So that means he is a demi-God like Hercules!”  No amount of argument dislodges the little one from his newly formulated theory today, but he’ll understand given time.

The Hebrews reading this letter love Jesus; they are impressed by him, honour him, and follow him. But still they need to be shaken out of the idea that Jesus is an angel. Perhaps it is hard for us to imagine Jesus as ‘just another angel’ or angel-in-chief, but a 2nd century Jewish-born Jesus follower would know that the angels of Genesis 6 are described as sons of God. They might know well the variety and apparent hierarchy of angels in the Bible. They might know that angels are unable to eat food (see Judges 13 and the book of Tobit). Gospel-writer Luke seems to know these angel traditions and is very careful to show how Jesus, even once resurrected, eats and drinks unlike the angels (Luke 24:41-43).

We can assume that these Hebrews are also deeply aware of the monotheistic claim that our God is the only God, a jealous God, who does not share the status of God with any other. The writer wants them, and us, to understand that Jesus, as Son of God and heir of God, is sharing God’s throne – that God and Jesus act as God together. To summarise these verses is to undersell them, but the thrust is that Jesus is above every angel, is seated on God’s throne (not below it), and is eternal. Like God. Being God. With God.
Perhaps these arguments seem strange today, if it is some time since you first became convinced that Jesus is more than a prophet, not merely a good man, and more interesting than Hercules. Imagine sitting down with a child who wants to understand what Jesus is – how would you answer?
 
Prayer

In this hymn prayer, first translated to English by D. T. Niles, the chant “Saranam” means finding refuge and surrendering to God. For the tune and a modern translation see https://music.churchofscotland.org.uk/hymn/573-saranam

Jesus, Saviour, Lord, to thee I fly;
Saranam, Saranam, Saranam;
thou the Rock, my refuge that’s higher than I:
Saranam, Saranam, Saranam.
In the midst of foes I cry to thee,
from the ends of earth wherever I may be;
my strength in helplessness, O answer me:
Saranam, Saranam, Saranam.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr ’frin Lewis-Smith is a healthcare chaplain in Salford and a member of Tonge Moor URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 26th October 2020

Mon, 26/10/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 26th October 2020 - Hebrews - The Final Revelation of God’s Glory

Hebrews 1: 1 - 4

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son,  whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Reflection

The letter to the Hebrews is a one-off surprise book of Scripture.  

No introduction, no greetings, no information about who is writing it or why it's being written?  Not really a letter at all, really?  Just ‘bang’ straight into the text, the argument, the message. 
 
And what a message!  It’s almost as if the writer hasn’t got the time or patience for such niceties and just wants to jolly well get on with telling the reader about the main and sole topic of the letter i.e. Jesus?

The book is effectively a bridge between the apparently very different Covenants recorded in the Old and New Testaments, with that same Jesus portrayed as the new, better and perfect Covenant … and then excitedly, though methodically and logically, telling us how God’s Covenant is fulfilled in Jesus.  

The one who is the ‘very imprint of God’s very being’ is portrayed as the  absolute supreme person in all the holy writings that make up our Scriptures:  Greater than Moses and the other Prophets, superior to Angels, higher than any High Priest … and how the death on the cross was a greater-that-ever-before and a once-and-unrepeatable Sacrifice.  

Welcome to the breathless excitement of the Letter to the Hebrews!

Prayer

As we start our journey into the writer’s understanding of your Son, Jesus the Christ, may our hearts and minds be opened to the mystery, wonder and glory of you as Creator and Covenant-setter, Saviour and ever-present Comforter.  Amen 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark is the URC Minister within the Dorset South and West Circuit Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Worship for Sunday 25th October 2020

Sun, 25/10/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 25th October 2020
 
 
The Rev’d Jayne Taylor
 
Introduction 
 
Hello, my name is Jayne and until recently I was minister to three churches in the Cotswolds. At present I’m on Sabbatical and speaking from my home in Cirencester.
 
Call to Worship 
 
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
 
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.

Gather Us In
Marty Haugen 1982 © GIA Publications
 
Here in this place, new light is streaming,
now is the darkness vanished away.
See, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you  in the light of this day.
Gather us in the lost & forsaken,
gather us in the blind & the lame.
Call to us now, and we shall awaken,
we shall arise at the sound of our name.
 
2: We are the young our lives are a mystery,
we are the old who yearn for your face.
We have been sung throughout all of history,
called to be light to the whole human race.
Gather us in the rich and the haughty,
gather us in the proud and the strong.
Give us a heart so meek and so lowly,
give us the courage to enter the song.

3: Here we will take the wine and the water,
here we will take the bread of new birth.
Here you shall call your sons and your daughters,
call us anew to be salt for the earth.
Give us to drink the wine of compassion,
give us to eat the bread that is you.
Nourish us well, and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.
 
4: Not in the dark of buildings confining,
not in some heaven, light years away,
but here in this place, the new light is shining;
now is the Kingdom, now is the day.
Gather us in and hold us forever,
gather us in & make us your own.
Gather us in all peoples together,
fire of love in our flesh and our bone.
 
Prayers of Confession and Forgiveness
 
Loving Gracious God. You are the one true God, there is no other, almighty Creator, merciful Christ, everlasting Comforter. You alone are worth our worship. Everything we have, everything we experience, everyone we know comes from you.
 
Yet Lord, we acknowledge our ungratefulness and confess that we all fall short of your purposes for us. If we say we are without fault, we deceive ourselves and, we deceive you. And Lord we accept responsibility for the consequences of sin in this world, for all the pain and the suffering, for all the injustice. 
 
We admit that we have hurt others, sometimes deliberately, and by doing so, have hurt you. We have also contributed to the pain and suffering of others by our silence and our inaction. 
 
Lord, we cry out to you for forgiveness. And even though we don't deserve your love and your forgiveness, you give it to us. Help us to accept your forgiveness, your gift of grace given freely to us. We thank you and praise you because at the very heart of your character is love. 
 
And that love was shown to us by and through your son, Jesus Christ, and as he taught us, so we now pray…
 
Our Father…
 
Readings
 
Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18   
 
The LORD said to Moses, speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
 
'Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly.
 
'Do not go about spreading slander among your people.' Do not do anything that endangers your neighbour's life. I am the LORD.
 
'Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so that you will not share in his guilt.
 
‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.
 
St Matthew 22:34-46
 
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
 
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:  ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’  He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,  “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’”?
 
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
 
 
Brother, Sister Let Me Serve You
Richard Gillard (b 1953) © Integrity Music Inc
 
Brother, sister, 
let me serve you;
let me be as 
Christ to you;
pray that I may 
have the grace 
to let you be 
my servant too.
 
2. We are pilgrims 
on a journey,
and companions 
on the road;
we are here to 
help each other
walk the mile 
and bear the load.
 
3. I will hold 
the Christlight for you
in the night time 
of your fear;
I will hold my 
hand out to you,
speak the peace 
you long to hear.
 
4. I will weep 
when you are weeping;
when you laugh 
I'll laugh with you;
I will share your joy 
and sorrow,
till we've seen this 
journey through.
 
5. When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony,
born of all we've known together
of Christ's love and agony.
 
Sermon
 
I guess we all have our own image of what Jesus is like. To many, he’s white, European looking with shoulder length brown hair and piercing blue eyes. I guess all of us see Jesus as we think he ought to look. 
 
I remember spending time in India a few years ago, and on one occasion I ventured into a Hindu Temple. The first thing my eyes laid upon was a picture of Jesus. It was the Sacred Heart painting, if you know what I mean. Here was a very Western-looking Jesus surrounded by very Indian imagery.  It was quite a shock. 
 
Today I hope I can challenge some of our assumptions about Jesus; his mission and his character. 
 
To put the Matthew reading in its context, we should really start in the previous chapter. Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, on a donkey, crowds cheering, palms waving. And what’s the first thing he does? He confronts the moneychangers in the temple courts, overturns their tables and tells them to get out.
 
Surely not gentle Jesus, meek and mild, as the hymn goes…
 
He starts healing and preaching and the chief priests and elders confront him. “"By what authority are you doing these things?” they ask. In other words, “Just who do you think you are?” 
 
Jesus responds with three parables that directly attack their leadership. He tells them to their faces that the Kingdom of heaven will be taken away from people like them and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 
 
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…
 
The Pharisees try to trap Jesus by asking him if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. If he says it is right to pay taxes, then they will accuse him of betraying his people by agreeing to finance the Roman oppression. If he says it is wrong to pay taxes, he will be charged with tax evasion and sedition. What does he do? He asks them to show him a Roman coin and asks them whose face is on it. They have a coin, Jesus doesn’t. 
 
The coin bears Caesar’s image, of course, probably Tiberius, and the inscription would have read: "son of the divine Augustus" They are immediately undone by showing him that they are carrying around an idol, dedicated to a son of a god. Jesus tells them to render, literally to pay back to Caesar what is his and to render to God what is rightfully his. What is Caesar’s, his taxes, what is God’s, everything, our whole lives.
 
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…
 
Next, the Sadducees try to trap him with a question about resurrection and the afterlife, they didn’t believe in it, and he silences them.
 
Then the Pharisees have one more go at him, that’s where we come in. You can see a pattern emerging here, I hope?
 
They ask him, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Sounds like a reasonable question to ask you might think? But we know that they’re trying to trap him, so what are they playing at?
 
In order to understand that, we have to think about just who the Pharisees were. They were a Jewish group who believed passionately in the Law, or Torah, and its application in every circumstance. In this respect, Jesus could easily have been part of that group. But they sometimes took this to extremes, and applied the Law as legal requirement, rather than as a gift of love from God. 
 
Remember in John’s gospel, it was the Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus asking him whether she should be stoned. Their response would, no doubt, have been at odds with Jesus’.
 
So, if you had to pick one Law which was the greatest, then loving God seems like a pretty safe bet, doesn’t it? 
 
It comes from Deuteronomy and is commonly called the Shema: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might". Every Jewish person would memorise the Shema as a child.
 
The Pharisees were obviously expecting this answer, so why was it a trap? I believe they were ready with a reply. I think they were going to say something like, “we love God by obeying all his commandments – why don’t you? Why do you challenge us? Do you not love God?”
 
But before they have the chance, Jesus tells them what the second greatest commandment is. It is to “love your neighbour as yourself”, which comes from our Leviticus reading. 
 
Jesus goes on to say that all of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. In other words, without love for others as well as love for God, adherence to all the other laws was futile. In their endless arguments over which law took precedent over another in particular situations, they had left out the most important – love. And in the words of Peter, “love covers a multitude of sins”. It was a stinging attack on them.
 
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…
 
As if that wasn’t enough, Jesus then asks them a question. Now this is bad news, for them at least. Whenever Jesus asks someone a question, you know that he is going to challenge their worldview.
 
He asks what seems to be a straightforward question, “whose son is the Messiah”. They reply that he is the son of David. Their assumption is that the Messiah would be like a warrior king, another David, who would lead them in battle against the Romans to free them from oppression. 
 
Jesus then gives a reply, which gets a little lost in translation but bear with me. 
 
Jesus quotes Psalm 110, a Psalm attributed to David, as saying “the Lord said to my Lord”. 
 
The point is that the first of the two Lords is God. But if the first Lord is God, then who is the second Lord in this verse?  It cannot be a second god, because the Hebrew Bible makes it clear that there is only one God.  It cannot be David's son, because David would never refer to his own son as Lord.  The only possibility, then, is that the second Lord of Psalm 110 is the Messiah of God, who is not David's son but David's Lord, someone greater than David.  
 
Therefore, the Pharisees, these highly trained religious experts who tried to embarrass Jesus, are wrong when they answer that the Messiah is David's son.
 
This all sounds very technical and dry to us, but to the Pharisees it would have been an absolute bombshell. Could they be wrong about Messiah? It’s no wonder that from that day on, we are told, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
 
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild…
 
The story doesn’t end there. If you read the next chapter of Matthew there is a section which is often described as the seven woes,  because it’s a withering attack on the Pharisees in which seven times Jesus starts, “Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees”. In six of these outbursts, the next word is hypocrites! His charge is that they say one thing and do another, that their faith is skin deep, in other words.
 
You see, if we are to love God, then that love has to be real. And if that love is real, then it will naturally overflow into a love for our neighbour. In Luke’s account of this scripture, Jesus is asked “Who is my neighbour”, and goes on to give the parable of the Good Samaritan. Our neighbour is not only the person who lives next door to us or even those people we like. Anyone who is in need is our neighbour and is to be loved.
 
I believe there are Pharisee-like people, as Jesus saw them, in the Church today. These are the people who delight in declaring who is in and who is out of the kingdom of God. People who will sing ‘all are welcome’ in the church, when they mean ‘people like us’ are welcome in the church.
 
It’s important, I think, that we see people as God sees people, and we need to see God in others; those from all the corners of this earth, those who society looks down upon, and sees as being ‘less’. Only when we can do that can we say that we truly love the lord our God with all of our heart, our soul and our mind.
 
Lord of Creation
Jack Copley Winslow (1882-1974)
 
Lord of creation, to you be all praise!
Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways!
Your glory and might are beyond us to tell,
and yet in the heart of the humble you dwell.

2: Lord of all power, I give you my will,
in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfill.
Your bondage is freedom, your service is song;
and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.
 
3: Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind,
rich truth that surpasses our knowledge to find.
What eye has not seen and what ear has not heard
is taught by your Spirit and shines from your Word.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
 
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
 
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.
 
This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen.
 
Offertory 
 
Loving God we thank you for the many blessings you give us. We owe you everything we have. Help us to in turn to give back a token of your love for us in the giving of our time, our efforts and also in our offering, as we seek to love our neighbour as we do ourselves. May our money be used wisely, we ask, in Jesus’ name. Amen
 
Intercessory Prayers
 
Gracious God,
as your Jesus reached out to those on the margins,
so now in our prayers we do likewise:
We pray for all who have little love in their lives
those who are lonely and isolated,
those who are addicted and feel trapped,
those who grieve and mourn,
those whose relationships have been shattered.
 
Loving God,
We pray for those who love things which are unhelpful
those who worship their wealth or possessions, and where greed has taken over,
those who find love only in the approval of others, in flattery, or in power,
those who can only love themselves
those for whom bitterness and hatred reign
 
Compassionate God,
We pray for those who give totally of themselves for the sake of others
those who are persecuted or outcast
those who face prejudice because of the colour of their skin, 
those who face discrimination because of their gender 
those who face harassment for their sexuality
 
Merciful God,
help us to strive to see others as you see us, 
help us to reach out in love to our neighbour
help us to live as Christ would have us live 
help us to walk the way of Jesus
As we ask these things in his name, Amen.
 
When I needed a Neighbour
Sydney Carter © 1965 Stainer & Bell,
 
When I needed a neighbour,
were you there, were you there? (repeat)
 
And the creed and the colour 
and the name won't matter,
Were you there?
 
2: I was hungry and thirsty,
were you there, were you there?
 
3: I was cold, I was naked,
Were you there, were you there?
 
4: When I needed a shelter
Were you there, were you there?
 
5: When I needed a healer,
Were you there, were you there?
 
6: Wherever you travel, I'll be there, I'll be there.
Wherever you travel, I'll be there.
And the creed and the colour And the name won't matter,
I'll be there.
 
 
Blessing
 
May the God in whose image we are made,
Strengthen us in our struggle,
Embrace us in our weakness,
And inspire us with hope for a different future:
As we work, separately and together
For the freedom of the whole creation.
Amen 
 
Sources, Copyright and Thanks
Sources
 
Call To Worship from Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary from the Presbyterian Church of the USA
Affirmation of Faith from selected sections of the Belhar Confession of Faith.
Blessing from Encircled in Prayer by Jan Berry
All other prayers by Jayne Taylor
 
Copyright and Performance
 
Here in This Place by Marty Haugen (b1950) © 1982 GIA Publications sung by the composer.
Brother Sister Let Me Serve you by Richard Gillard (b 1953) © Integrity Music Inc, sung on the BBC’s Songs of Praise.
Lord of Creation by Jack Copley Winslow performed by Song leaders from Granite Bay and Sacramento Central Seventh-Day Adventist Churches
When I needed a Neighbour by Sydney Carter sung by Dominic Kelly and the St Martins Church Choir on the BBC’s Songs of Praise.
 
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776
 
Thanks To…
 
Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith, and to John Young, Kathleen Haynes, Carol Tubbs, Anne Hewling, and John Wilcox for recording other spoken parts of the service.
 
Opening Organ Piece Prelude in E Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)Closing:  Trumpet Voluntary in D by John Baston (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016)  Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
--> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 25th October 2020

Sun, 25/10/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 25th October 2020 - Psalm 20

May the Lord God hear you pray,
may God's strength be yours today;
may God bless you from above,
lifting up your heart in love.

2 May God give you all you need,
may God make your plans succeed;
may God guide you all your days,
filling all our hearts with praise:

3 Now we see the Lord can save,
now the trembling heart is brave;
now we know that Love will hear:
worship now, for God is near!

After Psalm 20, Michael Perry (1942 - 1996)
© Mrs B Perry/Jubilate Hymns

You can hear the first verse here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZxhjVF1vOI


Reflection

Many years ago - before phones had cameras, even before mobile phones were smaller than half a brick - there had been a wonderful sunset which the preacher next evening asked if we had seen?   “You know” he said “My Dad made that”.   Murmurings ranging from laughter to what’s he talking about ensued.   

A few days later we were doing a class room talk when there was a flash of lightening and crash of thunder at the same time.   A young teenager at the table where I was shrieked in terror and disappeared under the table.   She was not easy to coax out but eventually she held my hand and I said “It’s okay, my Dad made that”.   She was so taken back that she crawled out and we had a conversation about God our creator.  

This hymn makes my heart light and want to laugh as we had on the evening of the sunset.  As much as the beauty of nature uplifts our spirits it is “My Dad made that”.    The blessings asked for in this hymn God gifts and grants.  We can only sing “May the Lord hear you pray” because God made us with the ability to pray and so will hear prayers.  The final verse affirms that we know God saves, we can know this because we feel, see, touch the love of God at the times when we are strengthened even as we hide under the table.  “My Dad made that” -  we worship and know that God is near.    

Prayer

Lord, Creator, in this strange year when our world changed and continues to change as much as it has in the 150 years since phones were invented, we question why you made that.  So much suffering, grief and misery, how can we say “My Dad made that”?   The Psalm says “The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!”  All we can do is cling to that promise waiting, trembling and sometimes fearful, until we find you are near.  Amen 
  -->

Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 24th October 2020

Sat, 24/10/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 24th October 2020 - 2 Thessalonians - Final Words

2 Thessalonians 3: 16 - 18

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

Reflection

There is very little written about these last three verses, but as I sat here pondering, the phrase that kept standing out was “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.” 

The words and phrases we use, often tell the story of where we have come from and where we have travelled. I originally grew up in Birmingham but have lived in many places and travelled a little and I often forget that sometimes the words and phrases I use don’t compute in other places. I was on the phone to a friend the other night we were talking about what we had for dinner, I said “I had belly draft with rice and veg” and my friend replied “what on earth is belly draft?” and I’ll be honest I was stumped because it what I had always called it. My friend googled it and exclaimed “oh, you mean belly pork!” we then discovered that the phrase I used is a Midlands name for this meat. 

Paul is explaining that he will always write in this style when writing to the Thessalonians so they know the letters are genuine and that they can depend on the contents of them to steer them true in the faith. The words & phrases we use matter, they can create connection or disconnection between God and ourselves and God and others. God offers us peace, but we have to take it, God offers connection, but we have to accept it. 

Paul’s writing is not always comfortable, and there are many that wrestle with some of the things he is attributed with saying, but like all of Scripture, the message flowing through is one of truth and love.

Prayer

Intimate God, we know your voice deep in our heart, but often ignore or bury it, help us reconnect to that recognisable song that guides and guards us through life. Amen
  -->

Today's writer

Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, Church Related Community Worker, St Columba’s and Ansty Road URC’s Coventry Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 23rd October 2020

Fri, 23/10/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 23rd October 2020 - 2 Thessalonians - Don’t be Idle

2 Thessalonians 3: 1 - 15

Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you,  and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.  And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command.  May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are  living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us.  For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you,  and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you.  This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate.  For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.  For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.  Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.  Brothers and sisters,  do not be weary in doing what is right.

Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers.

Reflection

Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians offer insight into some misunderstandings that might trouble a community of new Christians. Paul and Silas established the church at Thessalonica just a year or so before writing, and these new Christians were still learning the fundamentals. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus had taken place only about 20 years earlier, so it was all very recent (20 years ago today? That was only the turn of this century!) Perhaps it’s not too surprising that there was confusion, including so-called false teachers who peddled fake news about Christianity causing some of the Christians in Thessalonica to give up work. Those Christians lived in idleness, supported by wealthy patrons and Paul was not impressed. Paul expected Christians to earn their own living. He wouldn’t tolerate idleness. “If you won’t work, you don’t eat!”

As I write, we are making our way out of lockdown, and facing an unknown ‘new normal’. Lockdown has been a period of intense work for some, and enforced time-off for others. It’s meant high anxiety for many, especially those who were furloughed, lost their jobs and consequently lost some or all their income.

Paul is quite clear that he is talking about people who are unwilling to work – very different from those who are unable due to previously unimaginable circumstances.

Whilst he expected to support himself, we know that when he lived in Thessalonica, Paul accepted offerings and support from the Christians in Philippi (Philippians 4: 15-16) and in the first letter to Thessalonians, he urged people to care for each other (1 Thessalonians 5: 14).  

Today Paul’s approach is as important as ever; we must be willing to work, and as Christians we must support those who are still suffering after Lockdown or other unexpected events, and finally, like Paul, we must graciously accept occasional support for ourselves.

Prayer

Lord,
Help us to be willing to work
to make our own living,
and feed our families.
Help us to support those who are unable to work
due to circumstances they can’t control.
Not just financial support
emotional support too.
And Lord, help us to graciously accept
that sometimes we too need support.
We pray this in the name of Jesus,
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

Linda Rayner is a member of Bramhall URC and URC Coordinator for Fresh Expressions Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 22nd October 2020

Thu, 22/10/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 22nd October 2020 - 2 Thessalonians - Persevere

2 Thessalonians 2: 13 - 17

But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters  beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

Reflection

There will be some reading this reflection who need to hear the words ‘keep going!’

Given the experience of these early Christians, it is no surprise that Paul’s letters are full of concern and encouragement. He urges them to ‘keep going’, even in the face of increasing external hostility and internal divisions. He encourages them to come back to the truth; to the gospel and to embrace the future of God’s Kingdom. 

As I think about it, perhaps it isn’t just some of us who need to hear this. As individuals and churches, we face similar issues as those fledgling communities.

The world around us can seem challenging and confusing. ‘My truth’ can be found in every tweet and post, fear of global issues like climate change and racial injustice can make us want to pull up the drawbridge, and for many, the Kingdom to come can seem too far off.
 
The church is facing unprecedented pressures as it seeks to follow the way of Jesus in this world, with all the structures and traditions of another age. Some of these are still of value and give us safe ground to build on, whilst others hold us back and limit our ability to be fleet-of-foot.
 
These, alongside the personal struggles and joys that we bring with us as we read Paul’s letter, can mean that we need his words afresh. ‘Keep going!’
 
Keep encouraging one another.
Keep close to the Good News.
Keep hoping for God’s Kingdom and living as if it is now.
Keep going!
 
And an important aside.Have concern for those that can’t;
those who have run out of patience trying,
who are hurt and bruised by the side of life’s road,
those that have hurdles and barriers to climb that others do not.
 
Keep going. And as you do, speak, act and care for those that can’t.

Prayer

Abundant God,
we give thanks for those who encourage us and give us hope
and we rejoice that there is strength in you that revives us.
 
May your Good news continue to give us confidence in the world you desire for us
and that you are creating it, in and through us, by your Spirit.
 
Gentle God, give us compassion for those whose purpose and endurance has been tested to the limit; for those who feel they cannot keep going.
 
May we be your hands and feet this day.
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/URC) Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 21st October 2020

Wed, 21/10/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 21st October 2020 - 2 Thessalonians - The Coming of the Lord

2 Thessalonians 2: 1 - 12 

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters,  not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.  He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?  And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes.  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. 

The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false,  so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.

Reflection

This is not the language of most URC sermons. The Elders’ Meeting is more likely to be agitated about M&M contributions to central funds than the Second Coming.  Our Church Meeting minutes rarely mention Satan.

But try reading the passage again treating “lawless” not as literally meaning breaking Parliament’s laws but as meaning a disorderly environment, where the usual rules have stopped applying and the things that give us a secure framework within which to run our lives have been snatched away.  Then Paul could be talking about a year dominated by Coronavirus.  There is a clear battle to be won, against a virus that showers death on us. In the midst of the turmoil, we can be “shaken” and “alarmed”, even stop gathering round Jesus, but Paul assures us that one battle is not the war and God’s ultimate sovereignty remains certain.    
 

Possibly Paul was actually thinking of the political turmoil in the Roman Empire around the assassination in AD41 of the horrendous Emperor Caligula, whose treatment of the Jews was especially despicable. So we could also hear in this passage a recognition that sometimes the world suffers leaders with unlimited capacity for self-deception and self-promotion, who imagine they have the wisdom of gods. In fact they create instability that can infect the lives of millions with anxiety and worse. Such leaders will not have the last word either.

Then there are the more subtle empires of thought patterns. Those who are “lawless” by hiding the reality of God through claiming that God does not exist and that to be responsible in education or broadcasting we have to base work on the assumption there is no God. Paul reminds us there is a battle to be fought there just as much as against a virus or an evil empire.   

Prayer

Sovereign Lord,
How we long for your Kingdom to come.
But while the “mystery of lawlessness” surrounds us:
          save us from being engulfed
          show us the battles we need to fight
          strengthen us for what we are called to do
give us peace about the battles we need to leave to you.
 Your Kingdom come and your will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.
Amen.   -->

Today's writer

John Ellis is the Synod Area Leader for West Kent and East Sussex and Secretary of Capel United Church Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 20th October 2020

Tue, 20/10/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 20th October 2020 - 2 Thessalonians - Punishment of the Wicked

2 Thessalonians 1: 5 - 12

This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marvelled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection

As a non-scientist, I find seeds amazing.  They start covered up by soil, buried as if dead.  Yet the longing for sunlight is so strong, that they push through, determined to find the sun. 

Humans are not so different.  Some days we want to stay hidden underneath our duvets.  We sigh, “God, there’s just too much suffering, hate, greed, anger, apathy, just too much to do… How long oh LORD?”   Yet something or someone draws us up from underneath our duvets.  Maybe work?  Maybe a loved one?  Maybe hunger? 

“Just have hope” people might say.  “Be more positive.” 

No - I want to be honest here.  When the world does not look like the kingdom community of God that we pray and work towards every day, when the injustice and hate in the world scream louder than the whispers of kindness and mercy, it is difficult to maintain a perspective of hope.  Even for Christians - the people who are meant to embody the hope of Christ - hope can be difficult to find or even see sometimes.  

In this part of this letter to the Thessalonians, the author is reminding the people what Christian hope looks like – “the righteous judgement of God.”  That Greek word often translated at righteous, also means just.  After all, how could something be right in God’s eyes and not just?  God’s people have longed for the righteous judgement of God all throughout the story of scripture, and here we see that Jesus returning will finally bring that righteous judgment about.

The author doesn’t write these words to scare the Thessalonians into submission to God.  The author is NOT saying, “Follow God’s rules or Jesus is gonna get you with his mighty flaming angels.”  Rather, the author is saying, “Keep pushing your way through the soil.  Keep growing in Christ.  God’s glory will shine.  You will see it.”

Prayer

Jesus,
Help us to see you when we can’t.
When our path seems hidden, help us to keep moving towards your justice, righteousness and kindness.
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Angela Rigby, Minister at St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks and Christ Church URC Tonbridge Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 19th October 2020

Mon, 19/10/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 19th October 2020 - 2 Thessalonians - Encouragement

2 Thessalonians 1: 1 - 4

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

Reflection

Maya Angelou, a black American poet and civil rights activist, wrote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Other encouraging words are: “Be kind, be loving, keep smiling.” There are times when we don’t feel like, but doing it anyway definitely helps. When we have doubts about our ability, it’s amazing when someone says, “Of course you can do it.” 

Knowing that his words would fill the Thessalonian believers with the humble desire to do better, Paul praised them for their growing faith despite tremendous persecution. He gave thanks for their increasing faith and love in difficult circumstances. The Thessalonians have set an example for us as Christians to follow. Difficult circumstances are not excuses for us to lose faith. On the contrary, they are opportunities for our faith to grow.

The Thessalonians demonstrated patience. They endured in spite of hardships. They took their suffering and used it in positive, creative ways. In doing so, they showed love to each other. Paul also praised the Thessalonians for their abounding love toward each other. Rather than living according to their own self-interest, as suffering people often do, the Thessalonian believers had reached out to one another.  Their persevering patience testified to God’s power and the reality of their faith---things that Paul could boast about to other churches - meaning that Paul could hold up the Thessalonian believers as good examples.

God’s grace and peace allow us to grow in every area of our lives, including our love for others.  We can glorify God when we live our lives to our very best, when we do the greatest thing even when the wrong things are happening all around us, and when we can give encouragement to others.
 
Prayer

God, there have been times of weariness or fear and times when we feel ready to give up, but always at the right time there came a note or a call from someone that you have lovingly placed in our lives. 

Thank you that you are a God of encouragement, and that we have your Holy Spirit to help and to comfort in times of need.   Show us how we can best be an encouragement to others.   Amen.
 
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Sue Henderson, retired minister and member of Bradford on Avon United Church  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Worship for Sunday 18th October 2020 - The Rev'd Angela Rigby

Sun, 18/10/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 18th October 2020
 
 
The Rev’d Angela Rigby
Introduction
 
Hello Church!  My name is Rev Angela Rigby, and I’m currently serving at Christ Church URC in Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC in Sevenoaks.  These two towns are in the home county called Kent, also known as the Garden of England.  In some ways, where I am now is very different from St Helens in Merseyside, where I lived for twenty years prior to moving to Tonbridge.  However in some ways, Tonbridge and St Helens are very similar.  God is still God.  And I am blessed to be part of the body of Christ, co-labouring with others for God’s kingdom community in this part of England.
 
As you may hear from my accent, I am originally from Tennessee in the United States, and in my sermon, I will be drawing from my culture and history a little bit.  Hopefully I will do this in a way that helps you consider God’s word and how you might apply it in your life, wherever you find yourself today.  Now let us approach God together in worship as we share in our Call to Worship.
 
Call to Worship
 
The wisdom of God calls to us, from the heights, along the paths, and at the crossroads. Come into God’s presence to worship, sing, and pray.
 
From our scattered places we come. Let us worship God.
 
Be Thou My Vision
Irish Traditional

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art
be Thou my best thought, in the day and the night;
both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.
 
2: Be Thou my wisdom, be Thou my true word;
Be Thou ever with thee and I with thee, Lord.
be Thou my great Father; and I Thy true child,
be Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one.
 
3: Be Thou my breastplate my sword for the fight
be Thou my whole armour be Thou my true might
be Thou my storm’s shelter be Thou my strong tower.
O raise thou me heavenward great Power of my power.
 
4: High king of heaven, thou Heaven’s bright sun!
O grant me its joys after victory is won
great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Holy God, this world is Your creation: Let the nations take note
 
You created people to help each other and to share what You had created: Let the nations take note
 
In Your kindness God, You created places to make homes, food to eat, and people to share them with: God we thank You.
 
In Your righteousness, You created justice and peace and laid plans for how we should live together in community.  God we thank You.
 
In your holiness, You created the world in an ordered way, yet we have polluted Your world.  God we are sorry
 
We polluted Your world with violence and war.  We polluted Your world with racism and nationalism.  We polluted Your world with economic greed and injustice.
 
God we are sorry. God help us to live together in community, so that when people look at us, they see You. Amen.
 
“The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah… No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.  For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  Hebrews 8:8, 11-12 NIV
 
Prayer of illumination
 
God, as we listen to today’s Bible reading, by Your Spirit, speak to us we pray.  Help us to receive your word and to respond in a way that honours You and helps build Your Kingdom community on earth as in heaven. Amen.
 
Reading:  Matthew 22:15-22 (NIV UK)
 
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.  They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.  Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?  Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius,  and he asked them, ‘Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
 
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Adapted from an old African American Spiritual by Alilce Wine in 1956.
 
Paul and Silas bound in jail had no money for to go their bail.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.
 
Hold on, hold on. Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on
 
Paul and Silas began to shout. Jail door opened and they walked out
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.
 
I got my hand on the gospel plough;
wouldn't take nothing for my journey now
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.
 
Well the only thing we did wrong –
stayed in the wilderness a day too long
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on.
The only thing that we did right was the day we started to fight.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on
 
We met jail and violence too but God's love will see us through.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on
 
Only chain that we can stand is the chain o' hand to hand.
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on, hold on
 
Sermon
 
In the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s, the song “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” became the unofficial anthem of the Civil Rights Movement.  The song is an evolution of the hymn “Gospel Plough.”  Both the hymn and the song are about staying focussed on the goal. 
 
When times get tough – and times will get tough  when you start to get resistance to change – and there will be resistance to change.
 
Stay focussed.  Remember why you are there.  Don’t let whoever or whatever knock you off course.
 
Staying focussed was important, especially in a movement of nonviolent resistance such as the one Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr led.
 
It was the 1950s and 1960s, and in the Southern states especially, there was a lot of resistance to change from legal authorities – police, state troopers, local mayors, city councils, and state governors.  Many white people in power wanted African-Americans to “stay in their place,” and they wanted to be the ones to define where that place was.  That is after all the heart of segregation and the lie of “separate but equal.”
 
Most police officers are different now, but back then in the Southern states, the police officer or state trooper that showed up at any nonviolent protest most likely had two thoughts in mind.  Either, the protesting African-American needed to submit to the legal authorities and go back to “his or her place”, or the protesting African-American needed to lose their temper.  In my opinion, the tactics by the legal authorities were to elicit one response or another.  If the African-American lost their temper, then the police or state trooper would have felt justified in beating, arresting or even killing the protestor.
 
To sing a song like “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” when you are face to face with state troopers, Alsatians, and water cannons is to be reminded to stay focussed.  The nonviolent resistance movement only works if it stays nonviolent.  Once the protestors become violent, they’ve lost.  So – “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.”  Stay focussed on the goal.  The goal isn’t being better than the state troopers in front of you.  The goal is freedom for an entire people, which for that generation started with voting rights and the end to segregation. 
 
I was reminded of this song and the American Civil Rights movement as I read today’s passage.
 
In His response to the question being asked by the Pharisees via the Herodians, Jesus demonstrates that He remains focussed on His goal – the kingdom community of God.
 
The first line of our reading today was: “Then, the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap Jesus in his words.”
 
This whole conversation was a lie.  The Pharisees really didn’t care what Jesus’ thoughts on the Poll Tax were.  They laid a trap to stop Jesus.  “Let’s see if we can get Jesus to say something that will get him in trouble with the Roman Empire,” they thought.  “Or, even better, let’s see if he will say something that will cause him to lose favour with the people following him around.”
 
The Pharisees hated Roman rule and would have hated the Poll Tax, along with most of the people to be fair.  The Herodians on the other hand worked with the Roman Empire in support of King Herod.  Their obedience in regards to taxes helped them preserve what little power and status Rome allowed them to have.  The two were unlikely friends. So for the Pharisees to ask the Herodians to ask this question was part of the trap.
 
It was a simple enough question:  “Is it right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar or not?  Yes or no, Jesus?”  Either answer would have had signalled something to someone.
 
“Yes” would have signalled to the Jewish people that Jesus was out of touch with them.  You can almost hear the comments.  “Jesus is sympathetic to the Roman Empire?  How on earth can he possibly be the Messiah then?  Everybody hates the Poll Tax!  Surely if Jesus is our Messiah, he would too?”
 
The answer “no” would have signalled to the Herodians and to the Roman Empire that Jesus was leading a rebellion.  “He is inciting the people against Caesar,” they would think as they arrested him.
Either answer would have landed Jesus into a mess.  But Jesus isn’t phased by the question.  His hand is on the gospel plough.  His eyes are on the prize. 
 
He ponders the question and gives a witty answer.  An answer that is neither yes nor no.  An answer that neatly sits on the fence, but could come down on either side quite easily depending on who was listening.
A fellow Jew would hear, “Too right, Jesus.  Give to God what is God’s, and it is all God’s.” 
 
A listening Roman soldier would hear, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and since it is all Caesar’s that works out well for the Empire.”
I suppose a good preacher would point out the civic lesson here:  we do have a responsibility to live responsibly.  Obey the laws.  Pay our taxes.  Etcetera, etcetera… 
 
But for me today – this whole Q&A session isn’t the point.  This whole conversation is a lie.  It’s a trap.  It’s a state trooper with an Alsatian and a water cannon.
 
I want to focus on how Jesus dealt with this trap.
 
Clearly, he saw it coming.  But rather than get entangled in their word trap, Jesus refocuses the conversation back to what Jesus is interested in – the Kingdom community of God.  That’s His prize.  And for Jesus, the Kingdom community of God is not limited to some place and somewhere else in time.  It isn’t some celestial parallel world. 
 
For Jesus, the Kingdom community of God was “at hand” and “among you”.  It was both to come and yet breaking forth right now wherever they were.  It was to be a lived experience now (at least in part), as well as an experience to be fully realised one day.
 
I admire Jesus’ focus.  Jesus knows what he is about.  Jesus doesn’t get entangled in the political jostling of the day, but He doesn’t ignore it either.  In His answer, He rose above it. 
 
In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama famously said, “When they go low, we go high.”  In her speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2020, she said that many people have asked her if going high still works when so many people are going low and using inhumane tactics.  She responded by saying, “Going high is the only thing that works, because when we go low, when we use those same tactics of degrading and dehumanising others, we just become part of the ugly noise that is drowning out everything else.  We degrade ourselves and we degrade the very causes for which we fight…going high means taking the harder path…standing fierce against hatred…going high means unblocking the shackles of lies and mistrust…”
 
It’s the same with the Kingdom community of God.  A community that is to reflect the character of God needs to be formed of people who also reflect the character of God.  Jeremiah 9:24 tells us that God’s character is just, righteous and kind.  We know from Galatians 5:22-23 that if the Spirit of God is at work among us, we will see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  How we co-labour with Christ matters.
 
Every day the trap is set – by tweets, arguments on social media, or something a politician or presenter says on a talk show.  It’s up to us to stay focussed on the kingdom community of God.  To stand up for the character and qualities that drew each of us to God in the first place.  It’s up to us to advocate for those in the places we find ourselves every day.
Instead of getting distracted by words, let’s keep our hands on the gospel plough and our eyes on the prize.
 
Siblings in Christ, hold on.
 
Jesus be the Centre
Michael Frye © Vineyard
 
Jesus, be the centre; be my source, be my light, Jesus.
 
Jesus, be the centre; be my hope, be my song, Jesus.
 
Be the fire in my heart. Be the wind in these sails.
Be the reason that I live, Jesus, Jesus.
 
Jesus, be my vision, be my path, be my guide, Jesus,
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
Do you believe in the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects, and cares for the Church through Word and Spirit. This God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end. We do
 
Do you believe that God is the One who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people. We do.
 
Do you believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor, and the wronged? We do.

This is the faith of the Church!  We are proud to confess it in Jesus Christ, our Lord.   Amen.
 
Offertory
 
The offertory is an important part of our tradition of worship.  And although we won’t be passing an offertory plate at your home – or even in church buildings these days! – you might want to take this moment to put some cash into your freewill offering envelope and put it somewhere safe until it can be collected by your local church.  You might also want to remember any local charities that are special to you.  Many are struggling as the events where they raised money or collected donations in 2020 were cancelled.  Many of them find themselves with less money, more work and fewer workers to do that work.  You might want to think about how you might reach out to them with some support.

Prayer
 
Loving God, you give to us beyond measure, you give to us without counting the cost.  Accept whatever giving I can offer and use it that life may flourish and your Kingdom community come.  Amen.
 
Intercessions
 
God, we bring to You our prayers.
 
We pray for those who are feeling lonely or isolated.  God, comfort them with Your presence.  May people reach out to them in Covid safe ways.  Help us to create community, safe spaces of comfort in these difficult times.
 
We pray for those who are anxious.  God, comfort them with Your peace.  May they hear words of calm and not chaos.  May they hear words of gentleness and not confusion.
 
We pray for those who mourn.  God, comfort them with Your love.  May memories comfort and console.
 
We pray for those who celebrate love.  We thank You for those able to finally begin married life together.  May these couples have strong loving marriages with You at the centre.
 
And in this moment of quiet, we bring to You our own concerns and prayers…
 
God of justice, righteousness, and kindness, we pray together the words of Amos 5:24:
 
“May justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream”
 
Amen
 
Let us we pray together the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray.
 
Our Father
 
How Can I keep from Singing
(adapted from an American Shaker Hymn)
 
My life goes on in endless song
above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real,
though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.
 
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that Rock, I’m clinging.
Since Love prevails in heaven and earth,
how can I keep from singing?
 
2: While though the tempest
round me roars,
I know the Truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness
round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.
 
3: I lift my eyes.
The cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it.
And day by day,
this pathway smooths,
since first I learned to love it.

No storm can shake my inmost calm, I hear the music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?
 
Blessing
 
Go now – back to your home, school, university or workplace.
Go – back to family, friends, and colleagues.
Take God’s spirit with you and share the word you heard God speak to you today.
 
Let us share the words of the Grace together.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore.  Amen
 
 
 Sources and Thanks

Call To Worship from Worship Aids for the Revised Common Lectionary from the Presbyterian Church of the USA
Affirmation of Faith from selected sections of the Belhar Confession of Faith.
Offertory adapted from the Rev’d Phil Nevard’s used on 29 March 2020 with permission.
All other prayers by Angela Rigby
 
Be Thou My Vision from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize, sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock
Jesus Be the Centre Ingrid DuMosch, The London Fox Singers, Shout! - Top 100 Praise & Worship Songs Volume 1
How Can I Keep From Singing by the New York City Virtual Choir. 
 
Opening Organ Piece Ach Gott Von Himmel Sieh Darein (“O God from heaven see this”) by Johann Pachelbel (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020). Closing:  Toccata in Seven by John Rutter (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)  Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776
 
Thanks to Jonnie Hill and Adam Scott, Ruth and Kingsley Browning, Phil, Lythan and Carys Nevard for recording the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith, and to David and Christine Shimmin, Marion Thomas, Anne Hewling, Lorraine Webb, and John Young for reading and recording other spoken parts of the service.
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 18th October 2020

Sun, 18/10/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Sunday 18th October 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 18th October 2020 - Psalm 19

The stars declare his glory;
the vault of heaven springs
mute witness of the Master's hand
in all created things,
and through the silences of space
their soundless music sings.

The dawn returns in splendour,
the heavens burn and blaze,
the rising sun renews the race
that measures all our days,
and writes in fire across the skies
God's majesty and praise.

So shine the Lord's commandments
to make the simple wise;
more sweet than honey to the taste,
more rich than any prize,
a law of love within our hearts,
a light before our eyes.

So order too this life of mine,
direct it all my days;
the meditations of my heart
be innocence and praise,
my Rock, and my redeeming Lord,
in all my words and ways.

Timothy Dudley Smith © 1981 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188

You can hear v1 here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-I6gX9UtP8

Reflection

Spirit of God, present within the beat of our hearts, the pulse of our neighbour, and within all of life – but we still lift our eyes to acknowledge your presence.

The bluest of skies, the darkest of nights, the stampede of clouds and the glitter of stars – all speak of glory, of the splendour of Creation in its infinite and finite expressions.

As we orbit the sun, and the moon runs its course, events uncountable occur. Lessons are learned and forgotten, relationships born and broken, changes made and resisted, yet there is no single voice, or a unified account. But still, if we could but hear it, a chorus made up of billions of sounds blast forth from our tiny corner of the universe.

Within the spark of Creation, the laws were set, the constants determined, and through the ages our understanding has, and continues, to develop, deepen and dilate. From rejoicing with the dawn, to placing ourselves at the centre, to seeing that we are but one orbiting planet in a galaxy, to whatever we discover in the future; in faith, in trust, we name God, within, around and beyond all that is.

In all that speaks of perfection, wisdom, simplicity, justice, clarity, purity, eternity, and truth; in faith, in trust, we name God, within, around and beyond all that is.

In all that enlivens our spirits, heightens our confidence, causes us to rejoice, gives us clarity of vision, makes us awestruck and feel blameless; in faith, in trust, we name God, within, around and beyond all that is.

For us to reflect God’s glory, is beyond price and the sweetest of rewards.

For us to deflect God’s glory, is too often our true nature and we are called to search ourselves, challenge our assumptions, be of humble heart, and place ourselves at the service of God’s Kingdom.

Prayer

Let the words we speak, and the thoughts we keep to ourselves, both be acceptable to God. God, Spirit within, ground of our being and our continual Saviour. Amen
 
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Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 17th October 2020

Sat, 17/10/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 17th October 2020 - 1 Thessalonians - Closing Prayer and Farewell

1 Thessalonians 5: 23 - 28

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. Beloved, pray for us. Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.  I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Reflection

Paul's warm tone shows how much he loves and appreciates the Thessalonian Christians.  He prays that God will help them remain holy until Christ returns again. ‘Observe the affection of the teacher’ says St John Chrysostom of Paul’s benediction to this letter.

The blessing might well remind folk of Paul’s leading the church’s worship in person: for words such as these seem characteristic of Paul’s farewell greetings.  However this is not an ‘all purpose’ blessing.  We find it is directed specifically to the needs of the church.
‘The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ troubled church members in Thessaly.  At least some were agonizing about their state of readiness to be judged by Christ, with this anxiety colouring their whole lives.  Paul took time to reassure the church; and here we find Paul’s calming words echoing in his benediction.  It is the God of peace to whom they have already dedicated themselves, who will complete their sanctification.  Their being made holy is both a gift and a goal. God’s promises to them in Christ remain true.  It is a reassurance that echoes down the centuries to all who are worried about the future.

When Paul urges the church to pray for him, we get a glimpse of his need for support. He is aware of the great responsibility laid upon him in bringing the Gospel to many people.  I wonder how many in the church regularly pray for their leaders in all aspects of our church life?  Such support is needed more than ever in these days of affliction by a global pandemic.  The ‘holy kiss’, one to the other, enjoined by Paul, must perforce be a virtual one these days, but no less valued.  
 

To this very day we commend each other to Christ’s favour and kindness.

Prayer

‘Count your blessings name them one by one…’
How much we need blessing, gracious God,
and how quickly we forget your generosity.
May your Spirit’s reassuring presence today
gather us together in praise of your goodness.
In the life of faith in Jesus Christ may our lives
flourish as you have promised.
Never forget us, and walk life’s way with us,
for that is blessing indeed. Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John A Young, retired minister National Synod of Scotland, Member Giffnock URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  Friday 16th October 2020

Fri, 16/10/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 16th October  2020 1 Thessalonians - Closing Remarks

1 Thessalonians 5: 12 - 21

But we appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labour among you, and have charge of you in the Lord and admonish you; esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets,  but test everything; hold fast to what is good;  abstain from every form of evil.

Reflection

As often at the end of a NT epistle, lots of good stuff about Christian living, relevant to every age. While to us it sounds like sound Christian teaching, for the new converts who heard it first, some of these instructions would be radically different to their former way of life.  Writing this in Coronavirus lockdown, the whole country is respecting those who labour among us and esteeming them highly because of their work: NHS workers, care staff, all involved in food production and supply, teachers, waste disposal workers and many more, some of them people we take for granted and only now realise fully the immense value of what they do.

But in fact, Paul is inviting respect for people working among the Thessalonians to build up the church, those with oversight and responsibility.  So let’s be thankful too for church ministers, CRCWs, moderators and all those who work in our denomination (and others), even when what they say is challenging or difficult. 

A minister’s role has been defined as ‘comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’ – or, as Paul says here to an individual leader, give a kick to some, get people who think they can’t do things to have a go, help the weak, give encouragement, and be patient with everyone, treating them as individuals loved by God.

Paul also warns us to be careful with what we hear, testing everything: again, relevant in these days of fake news, scams and phishing emails.  Don’t believe everything you hear but test to see if it is genuine.  How do we recognise the authentic word of God in our information-loaded lives? Seeking to do good, praying and rejoicing, working to reach consensus in our Church meetings on where the Spirit is leading, and abstaining from evil, are all things that are commended to us.

Prayer

Lord we thank you for calling women and men
from all backgrounds into ministry,

both as ordained and lay people,
to build up your Kingdom in love.

Give wisdom, discernment and patience
to all who work alongside people at times of need,

in good times and difficult times. 
May they be guided by your Spirit always.

Amen
 
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Today's writer

Ruth Tompsett is an elder at Newport Pagnell URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 15th October 2020

Thu, 15/10/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Thursday 15th October 2020 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Thursday 15th October 2020 1 Thessalonians Stay-Awake

1 Thessalonians 5: 4 - 11

But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.  So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;  for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

Reflection

Four days before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his very last Sunday sermon in the National Cathedral in Washington DC. He recounted Washington Irving’s story of Rip van Winkle, who slept through the American Revolutionary War. History was turning and old Rip missed the moment. King was afraid that day that America and the world was missing theirs.

Contrary to our romanticized view of King, at the time of his murder he was the most hated man in the country by all races. The world was at a fevered pitch, and in a few days his death would tip the scales of unrest. The world on 31 March 1968 was not the most jovial, and yet the unpopular King told a city about to burst open, “We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in a single garment of destiny…I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be…” and vice versa.

Paul writes to a church for whom tribulations are a constant theme. They, too, are unpopular in a city where the cultic religions hold supreme influence. They have experienced much grief—sleep is the metaphor he’s been using to describe the many in Thessalonica who have died. But in verse 6, he uses a different word for sleep that connotes moral dullness. Paul celebrates the church for what they do well, but at the same time he warns them of spiritual boredom. Imagine: a boring church! A belief in the Second Coming can cause one to say, “what’s the point?”

This may be the question so many people of faith are asking in this year of quarantines, death and unrest. What’s the point of being the church when we are without our rituals and buildings as we know them? Paul answers our ‘what’ with a reminder of who we are: children of light who are not caught off guard by the dark. Faith lived for real keeps us on our toes, ready to find new ways of discovering the sacred and being sacred in the world.

Stay awake for the great revolution!

Prayer

God, You hold us in arms of compassion even as you keep us on our toes. When the frights of life make us sleepless, may the pursuit of your peace keep us awake.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d William Young, pastor, Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington DC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday Really is Coming....

Wed, 14/10/2020 - 10:52
96 Sunday Really is Coming.... View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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The best laid plans...

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service will be lead by the Rev'd Angela Rigby, not Canon Angela Tilby!  I think I must have been listening to or thinking about the latter and type her name into the promotional email!  

best wishes

Andy --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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