URC Devotions

URC Devotion 28th December

Thu, 28/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Devotion 28th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: The Coventry Carol 
 

Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child.
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters, too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day;
This poor Youngling for whom we sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod the King, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day;
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young, to slay.

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
And ever mourn and say;
For Thy parting, nor say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

 
This is an English Christmas carol dating from 1534. It was traditionally performed in Coventry as part of a mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors. The play depicts the Christmas story from Matthew 2.  : The carol takes the form of a lullaby sung by mothers of the doomed children. The author is unknown; the oldest known setting of the melody dates from 1591.

You can hear Annie Lennox's version here.

St Matthew  2: 13 - 18

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
  wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
  she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’
 
 
Reflection Christmas is full of traditions; alongside time-honoured practices, newer traditions are emerging. Soap-operas now have particularly tragic seasonal storylines. I suspect that this is more than a cynical ploy for ratings: perhaps it serves as a kind of emotional safety-valve, recognising and tapping into a shadow-side of the season.

For some Christmas can be tough. Accident & Emergency departments face some of their busiest days and nights; there’s a ‘spike’ in incidents of assault and domestic violence; for those who have experienced a bereavement or a relationship breakdown during the year, feelings of loss and loneliness are inevitably heightened; a bitter pill to swallow when the prevailing mood-music all around is one of celebration and goodwill.

Today’s passage, and the hauntingly beautiful Coventry Carol, remind us that anguish and lament must always be allowed a place within the Christmas story. Listening to Annie Lennox’s rendition, I’m particularly struck by the way the refrain is sung: words of lullaby, yet with a dissonant rawness of tone that seems to echo and exemplify “Rachel’s refusal to be comforted”.

I imagine few local URCs make room for “Holy Innocents” in their schedule. Maybe that impoverishes our tradition instead of strengthening it; it’s something we’ve sidelined and lost in our quest to capitalise upon the prevailing mood of celebration.

The Medieval Mystery Plays didn’t airbrush sorrow out of the Christmas story.  Matthew’s Gospel does not shy away from acknowledging the heartbreak and suffering that surrounds Jesus’  infancy. He has come, and he will heal, but the mere fact of his arrival does not erase grief from the record.

Among the ‘newer’ Christmas traditions emerging in some places is “Blue Christmas”. This church service sets aside jollity and exuberance in favour of simplicity and peace – giving people space and ‘permission’ to bring all that they are feeling as they share the Christmas story. Perhaps this isn’t a new tradition at all but rather a helpful and necessary re-emergence of a strand that was there all along.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, born among us,
in the stories of this season we find you
welcomed by a few,
overlooked by many;
honoured by a few,
threatened by many.
The pattern of your birth and infancy
foreshadows the pattern of your life and ministry
- and sometimes it resonates in our own lives.
When we feel overlooked,
welcome us.
When we feel threatened,
honour us.
And bring us, by your grace,
to do the same for one another.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dominic Grant, Minister at Trinity URC Wimbledon.

Bible Version

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


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

URC Daily Devotion 27th December

Wed, 27/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: O Come All Ye Faithful
 

O Come, all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem:
come and behold him
born the King of angels:

O come, let us adore him (x3)
Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of light,
lo, he abhors not the virgin’s womb;
very God,
begotten, not created:

See how the shepherds,
summoned to the cradle,
leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
we too will thither
bend our joyful footsteps:

Lo, star-led chieftains,
magi, Christ adoring,
offer him incense, gold and myrrh;
we to the Christ-child
bring our hearts’ oblations:

Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation,
sing, all ye citizens of heaven above,
‘Glory to God
in the highest!’:

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
born this happy morning,
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
now in flesh appearing:


 
(John F Wade (Latin) 1711-1786.  Translated by  Frederick Oakeley 1802 -1880) 

This hymn is unusual among hymn texts in that it has no rhyme and an irregular metre, and its final verse is properly sung on Christmas morning only; but this has not prevented it from being one of the most popular of all Christmas hymns, found in books of every denomination and sung (often as the climax) at carol services everywhere. It has ensured Oakeley’s immortality.


You can hear it here.

St Luke 2: 8-19

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
  and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.
 
 
Reflection How come we celebrate Christmas year after year, and miss the whole point time after time? Why do we in the Church see it as some kind of temporary “time out” from the horrors of the world, like the German and British soldiers playing football in the trenches on Christmas Eve in 1914, only to resume killing each other the next day?

Jesus’ birth, with angels announcing to humble shepherds “Good News of great joy for all people” and proclaiming “peace on earth” isn’t about a temporary lull in hostilities.  God is calling time on a world that works according to Roman diktat – that delivers joy and peace for a favoured few, but condemns the poor and unimportant people to the living hell of military occupation and slavery.

Caesar Augustus had established the Pax Romana – the “peace of Rome” that extended over the known world and would last for 200 years.  For this, he was given the titles, “Saviour” and “Prince of Peace”.  And he was worshipped as the Son of God.

The angel’s Good News is the announcement of regime change.  Jesus is the true Saviour who will establish peace on earth by servant-hood, not conquest.  The Kingdom of God will extend over the world and last forever, not Rome. And it comes to lowly shepherds in a field in Nowheresville first.

That is why God comes to earth in Jesus.  O come all ye faithful says this more clearly than any other carol: the baby in the manger is not just a man of God, but God as a man.  It’s a hymn that puts the Nicene Creed (R&S 760) into song.  I love it.  I believe it.  But unless “coming and beholding the King of angels” means that the world can never go back to the way it was, and that we can never go back to our lives and politics and economics as we’ve always done, we’ve missed the point of Christmas …

Prayer

Glory to you, Christmas God!
O what a mystery – meekness and majesty:
Lord of eternity dwelling in humanity;
indestructible love, present in the frailty of a new-born baby.
And what glorious news: you are claiming this world as your own!
Deliver us from the despair that things cannot be different;
that power and military might, greed and money have the Last Word;
that brokenness and death triumph over forgiveness and Life.
Fill us with Christmas joy!
May we bring good news to the poor, liberty to the captives,
sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and proclaim the year of God’s favour.
May we do it with our words and with our lives.
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord!
Amen.

Today's Writer

Lawrence Moore is a Mission & Discipleship consultant and member of Worsley Road URC, Salford.

Bible Version

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


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

URC Daily Devotion for Boxing Day

Tue, 26/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion for Boxing Day Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Good King Wenceslas
 

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

 
John Mason Neale* (1818-1866). First printed in Neale’s Deeds of Faith (1849), a children’s book, and then in his Carols for Christmastide (1853). The words were written to fit the tune of the carol, ‘Tempus adest floridum’* (‘Spring has now unwrapped the flowers’) from Piae Cantiones (Greifswald, 1582). 

You can hear the hymn here.

Acts 7: 55-60

But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.
Reflection Forget comforting Christmas card scenes of Bohemian King and pageboy trudging through snow to bring alms to a poor man. That is good seasonal fare and a reminder to be generous on this Boxing Day.

However if you can stomach it at this festival time, this moment recorded in the Acts of the Apostles when the crowd’s anger boiled over and they picked up stones to hurl at Stephen, is worth a moment’s reflection. Luke tells us that, at the moment of greatest danger, Stephen is looking up and filled with the Holy Spirit, is overwhelmed with a vision of God’s glory. It is this which ignites the crowd’s fury. As they were stoning him, he was praying. Still giving all his attention to God. Still seeking to imitate Jesus in his prayer for the crowd to be forgiven.

Prayer

Today, in the midst of festivity,
Help us to see your glory, as infant and as suffering servant,
Fill our hearts and minds and spirits,
So that like Stephen we may offer your forgiveness,
To those near and far who would do us harm,
In the name of Jesus,
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Richard Church is Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) and a member of Streatham URC.

Bible Version

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


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

URC Daily Devotion for Christmas Day

Mon, 25/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion for Christmas Day Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn:Hark the Herald Angels Sing
 

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”


Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

 
Charles Wesley 1739, altered by George Whitefield 1758.  Music by Mendelson in 1840.

You can hear the hymn here.

St Luke 2: 8 - 20

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them,

‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’  
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another,
‘Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.’  

So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. 
Reflection Some people do believe in angels - holding that pure white feathers lying on the ground are from angels’ wings; others say ‘don’t be ridiculous they are from the seagulls.’  Some believe that we are angels to one another – how often do we say ‘you’re an angel!’ when someone does us a kindness?

But of course we see angels all through both Luke and Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’ birth. In Luke the angel is named – Gabriel and he (or should that be she?) first appears to Zechariah in the temple.  Zechariah was terrified but Gabriel said DO NOT BE AFRAID and went on to say that his wife would conceive in her old age and have a son whom Zechariah will name John. Then Gabriel came to Mary when Elizabeth was six months pregnant and said to Mary DO NOT BE AFRAID she would bear a son, he will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  An angel (unnamed) appears in to Joseph and said to him DO NOT BE AFRAID to take Mary as your wife.

The angels are quiet then for a while, appearing to the shepherds telling them DO NOT BE AFRAID I am bringing Good News.  Here Wesley’s hymn reflects today’s passage.

All the people the angels appeared to were scared. The angels reassured them, saying to all of them DO NOT BE AFRAID.  Sometimes we feel afraid of all sorts of things and my own prayer this Christmas is a prayer for trust that I do not need to be afraid. It is also a prayer of thanksgiving.  My prayer is for remembrance of that time when angels sang and the newborn King was given glory. As you sing the hymns today, just as that host of angels sang Glory to God in the highest over two thousand years ago, I wish you all happiness, peace and love.

Prayer

Lord God as I waken this Christmas morn
I remember your Son, Mary’s baby was born
I remember the song the angels sing
and the message of peace and goodwill they bring.

The angel said ‘Do not be afraid!’
help me to trust these words that were said
to a priest, peasants and shepherds long ago
thank you Lord that this was so,

And at Christmas Day’s end as I go to sleep
I pray your love my soul will keep
and the joy and love of this Christmas day
with my family and friends will always stay.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lena Talbot, Minister of Revidge Fold, Trinity Brownhill and Westbury Gardens Churches

Bible Version

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


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

URC Daily Devotion Christmas Eve

Sun, 24/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Christmas Eve Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Silent Night
 

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Saviour is born,
Christ the Saviour is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love's pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

 
You can hear the hymn here.

St Luke 2: 1-7

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Reflection I really love Silent Night, originally in German by Austrian Franz Xaver Gruber. For me, and I suspect many others, it evokes fond childhood memories of Christmas with its lullaby-like tune.

The opening verse depicts a positively serene picture of Christ’s birth. Silent, calm, bright? These adjectives, a joy to sing though they are, bear little resemblance to what I believe childbirth to be like. “Holy Infant so tender and mild” – words which paint a picture starkly unlike the usual shrieking screams of human birth (of both child and mother). But the point of this and subsequent verses is to pronounce that this is no ordinary birth. No, Silent Night tells us that this is the holiest of births, proclaiming Jesus’ deity; God incarnate – “Christ the Saviour is born”.

The Gospel reading is something quite different, ordinary by comparison. We get the backstory of why Mary and Joseph had travelled to Bethlehem and how while there, Mary gave birth in a stable and laid Jesus in a manger. That’s pretty much it.  

These two opposing depictions of Christ’s birth illustrate well a paradox the Gospel invites us to enter into. On the one hand, Christ’s birth as something regal, holy and otherworldly, and on the other, Christ’s birth as ordinarily human, in so many ways like every other human birth throughout the ages.

Church traditions throughout history have emphasised Jesus’ deity usually at the cost of recognising and fully embracing his humanity.  It’s probably easy to see why, no one alive since the first century has experienced Jesus as an actual flesh and blood person. But to see Jesus as exclusively Godly and otherworldly would be to miss the joy of what Christmas is all about. So this Christmas, let us rejoice that God is not a distant deity, but one who loved the world so much he came to live among us in the fullness and messiness of human vulnerability.

Prayer

Dear God,
This Christmas as we sing of Jesus’ deity,
Help us also to receive the gift,
Of knowing our saviour in the fullness of his humanity.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Jonnie Hill is a student at Northern College training for the ministry of Word and Sacraments.

Bible Version

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


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

Daily Devotion 23rd December

Sat, 23/12/2017 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 23rd December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Joy to the World
 

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing.
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Saviour reigns!
Let all their songs employ;
while fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
repeat the sounding joy.
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let thorns infest the ground,
or sins and sorrows grow;
wherever pain and death are found
he makes his blessings flow.
he makes his blessings flow,
he makes, he makes, his blessings flow.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of his righteousness
and wonders of his love.
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

 
This hymn was written in 1719 by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) an Independent minister and composer of metrical Psalms.   The music is by Handel (1685-1759).  You can hear it here.

Psalm 98

O sing to the Lord a new song,
   for he has done marvellous things.
His right hand and his holy arm
   have gotten him victory.
The Lord has made known his victory;
   he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness
   to the house of Israel.
All the ends of the earth have seen
   the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
   break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre,
   with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
   make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
   the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands;
   let the hills sing together for joy
at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming
   to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
   and the peoples with equity.
Reflection When you read Psalm 98 together with the hymn you can hear and see so much more than we ever experience as we sing it year after year.   It hits me that it is such a shame something so rich in imagery and language should be confined to one particular season!

Many hymns written in previous centuries fail to connect to the world in which we now find ourselves - but this one does not. We are encouraged to share the message of the gospel and ‘Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.’ And then joy and blessing and love flow out from the following verses. This hymn is a celebration of God’s love.

How often do we box God in? How often do we interpret Scripture in only one way? How often do we hear in our churches: we have always done it like this? Or: we tried it before and it didn’t work?

God’s love offers us life in all its abundance and often as churches instead of sharing this we confine God’s love to the inside of our buildings or certain times of year or to particular people and situations. How about being radical? How about stepping out and doing something that shakes up and challenges and rouses us from our complacency and comfort? This is what God’s love calls us to: Radical Discipleship, Radical Welcome, Radical Love….And maybe singing Harvest and Easter and Advent hymns at the ‘wrong’ time of year as they have more to say!?

Go on, step out and take a risk and see what happens!

Prayer

God of all times and all places.
As we celebrate, once again,
your coming here on earth,
let us not confine you to a humble stable,
a busy Temple
or a wooden Cross.
Help us to find and to see you in all areas of our lives.
Let us listen for, and hear,
your radical message of love in all our encounters.
And then help us as we step out
and share this good news
with all whom we encounter,
and also with those whom we may never truly meet
but alongside whom we live,
as brothers and sisters linked by our shared humanity.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jenny Mills, Minister at Newport Pagnell URC and West End United Church, Wolverton and Convenor of the URC Children’s and Youth Work Committee.

Bible Version

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


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

URC Daily Devotion 22nd December

Fri, 22/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 22nd December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Comfort, Comfort Now My People
 

Comfort, comfort now my people;
speak of peace - so says your God.
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
burdened by a heavy load.
To Jerusalem proclaim:
God shall take away your shame.
Now get ready to recover;
guilt and suffering are over.

Hear the herald’s proclamation
In the desert far and near,
calling all to true repentance,
telling that the Lord is near.
Oh that warning cry obey!
For your God prepare a way.
Let the valleys rise to greet him
and the hills bow down to meet him.

Straighten out what has been crooked,
make the roughest places plain.
Let your hearts be true and humble,
live as fits God’s holy reign.
Soon the glory of the Lord
shall on earth be shed abroad.
All the world shall truly see it,
God is ready to decree it.
    
Isaiah 40:1-5
adapted by Johannes Olearius (1611-1684) translated  by Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878) revised by John L Bell (b.1949)


You can hear and watch the hymn be sung with wonderful percussion accompaniment here

Isaiah 40:1-5 

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken”.
 
Reflection This hymn  is based on the first five verses of Isaiah’s first ‘Servant song.’ After the previous 39 chapters of judgement things are improving for the Jewish people as the Persians had defeated their Babylonian oppressors. Freedom beckons as does return to beloved Jerusalem, the centre of Judah’s faith and guardian of her culture. The journey back to their ‘ain country’ awaits. This is God’s doing.

Isaiah’s account of Yahweh’s triumph is in poetic form. Though it takes account of history, its main purpose is to describe events in terms of God’s will. Therefore the manner in which God’s people leave Babylon befits their divine benefactor – there’s to be no trudging back grudgingly. A broad highway to freedom awaits them for a triumphant return. This will be a public demonstration of God’s liberating power.

This has proved a captivating passage for many in succeeding centuries. John the Baptist used this imagery; the early  Christians used it as a code to talk of their oppressors; Martin Luther famously wrote a paper on ‘The Babylonian Captivity of the Church’ attacking the Catholic view of sacraments; modern theologians have mined the theme deeply; the related themes of ‘release’ and ‘homecoming’ have spoken to many of the displaced and marginalised of our world.

Crucial questions might be: who are to be God’s agents in the comforting, not just of God’s people but (following Isaiah) the wider world? In what ways should the Church be cooperating with other non-Church agencies who are doing this comforting?  More personally - how can I support those whose life’s work involves caring for the ill, broken and disturbed? Do I have a vision of how God might use my talents and presence?
The hymn or psalm set to the tune Genevan 42 sounds good sung at a brisk pace. The faster time is tricky but once grasped the tune dances away enticingly. Elizabeth 1 reputedly complained sourly about the ‘Genevan jigs’ which were sung in some parts of the church; this was surely one of them!

Prayer

Ever living God
you come to us as a God of grace and power,
able to accomplish what you will,
yet seeking partnership with us
not mere acquiescence.
This we know in the birth of
your Son Jesus, who comes to us
as your gift and promise
for our comfort and blessing. Amen.
 

Today's Writer

The Rev'd John Young is a retired minister and member of Giffnock URC in Glasgow.

Bible Version

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


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

URC Daily Devotion 21st December

Thu, 21/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Hymn: Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending
 

Lo! He comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of His train.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
God appears on earth to reign.

2 Ev'ry eye shall now behold Him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at naught and sold Him,
pierced, and nailed Him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

3: Now redemption, long expected,
see in solemn pomp appear!
And His saints, by men rejected,
coming with Him in the air.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
See the day of God appear!

4: Yea, amen! Let all adore Thee,
high on Thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the pow'r and glory,
claim the kingdom for Thine own:
O come quickly, O come quickly,
Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!

Charles Wesley’s great hymn, first published in 1758 but not included in Methodist hymnals until 1831 is THE hymn on the Second Coming of Christ mixing stirring images from Revelation with a jolly tune which congregations enjoy singing.  You can hear the hymn here.

St Matthew 24: 29-30

‘Immediately after the suffering of those days
the sun will be darkened,
   and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from heaven,
   and the powers of heaven will be shaken.
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
 
 
Reflection Rejoice and Sing (no 12) and three of the four Communion liturgies suggested in Worship from the URC, include the words Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. These words are common to most Communion liturgies in the Church but, rather like the old Eastern European republics who put the inconvenient word “Democratic” in their titles, this aspect of our faith is rather ignored.  

In Advent we focus not just on the coming of Christ in Bethlehem all those years ago but also on His return at the end of time. It is easy to feel a bit queasy about this doctrine - after all the churches that seem to push it the most often seem to name the date - and then get rather disappointed as the day passes.  After all, Jesus reminded us that no one knows the day nor the hour of his coming.  Since the earliest days of the Church we have had this longing for Christ to return to put everything right.  At times of persecution this has been a powerful idea to give hope - that justice will come.

In the largely religiously indifferent West we have lost sight of this idea yet it is as vital now as it ever was.  Many won’t see justice this side of the grave; oppressors aren’t cast from their thrones but amass fortunes in Swiss bank accounts in case the day of reckoning comes quicker than they expect.  International politics is about expediency - in the West we condemn the murderous actions of ISIS but don’t bat an eyelid at trading weapons with countries who support them; to quote Sir Humphrey the oily places are more pressing than the holy ones.  

Yet when Jesus returns everything will be changed.  Accounts will be settled, the Magnificat enacted, the oppressed will run free.  Wesley sums this up in his powerful line: “Ev'ry eye shall now behold Him, robed in dreadful majesty.”

Prayer

Yea, amen! Let all adore Thee,
high on Thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the pow'r and glory,
claim the kingdom for Thine own:
O come quickly, O come quickly,
Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

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


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

URC Daily Devotion 20th December

Wed, 20/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

My Soul is Filled With Joy
 

My Soul is Filled with Joy / Holy is Your Name (Magnificat - Wild Mountain Thyme) This is a setting of the Magnificat / Canticle of Mary (from Luke 1) to the Scottish folk-tune "Wild Mountain Thyme" (also known as "Will ye Go Lassie, Go").  
 
The author is unknown:  It was published in 1978 in "Songs of the Spirit" (A Roman Catholic collection of songs used in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement), though it may have been in earlier publications.


My soul is filled with joy
As I sing to God my saviour:
You have looked upon your servant,
You have visited your people.

And holy is your name
Through all generations!
Everlasting is your mercy
To the people you have chosen,
And holy is your name.


I am lowly as a child,
But I know from this day forward
That my name will be remembered,
For all will call me blessed.

I proclaim the pow’r of God,
You do marvels for your servants;
Though you scatter the proud-hearted
And destroy the might of princes.

To the hungry you give food,
send the rich away empty.
In your mercy you are mindful
of the people you have chosen.

In your love you now fulfill
What you promised to your people.
I will praise you, Lord, my saviour,
Everlasting is your mercy.

 
You can hear the song here.

St Luke 1: 46-56 

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
or he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
 
Reflection It is sometimes (often?) asked - how can we correlate Matthew and Luke’s infancy narratives? There are bits which can be seen as “yeah, that makes sense”. While other bits don’t seem to leave enough time, if this then that - really? How does that work? One thing that particularly puzzles me is this: Mary putting together all those bits of the Old Testament apparently at the drop of a hat to produce a startling hymn of praise, which has become known as the Magnificat, that has been used subsequently to produce more poetry and hymns.

Some manuscripts attribute the magnificat to Elizabeth while Eric Franklin in his commentary on Luke suggests it is entirely the work of Luke. Childless, elderly Elizabeth would be the first to agree with “the Lord… has looked with favour on his servant … generations will call me blessed …” for she has undoubtedly faced censure for not having children. While inexperienced, unmarried Mary would want God to “show his strength … lift up the lowly… mercy …”. Incidentally, I can also quite imagine Mary, sitting in the sun in Ephesus, telling Luke Jesus’ life story and reciting this as a polished, finished work. She has pondered things in her heart.

Mary and Elizabeth together celebrate the grace, blessing and mercy they have been shown. Both would be aware how little they merited divine grace, because they were women and because of the things which were happening to them. Any one of us can say it and mean ourself, starting from “My soul … my spirit …” and ending “ ...forever”.

God’s grace extends from women of little importance, living in a vassal country of dubious economic, military or political worth to the whole world. This song is about the inclusivity of redemption, not Yahweh but Lord, not nationalistic but universal. It is not for the socially marginalised or the great and powerful: it is for all, unmerited and undeserved.

Prayer

Lord help us to ponder all the blessings you have given
that we may support those who have yet to discover
your unconstrained grace.
Mighty one, strengthen us, your Church,
especially as we become more marginalised
and disenfranchised in our own society.  
We feel powerless to achieve anything of note,
reassure us that everlasting is your mercy and you will accomplish your plan. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Ruth Browning is a retired minister and member of Thornbury URC in Gloucestershire.

Bible Version

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


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

URC Daily Devotion 19th December

Tue, 19/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came 
 

This is a free rendering of a Basque carol, ‘Birjina gaztettobat zegoen’, which Baring-Gould may have come across in his travels.  It was published in one of a series of pamphlets entitled The University Carol Book in 1922.
 
The Angel Gabriel from heaven came,
his wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame;
'All hail', said he, 'thou lowly maiden Mary,
most highly favoured lady.' Gloria!

'For know, a blessèd mother thou shalt be,
all generations laud and honour thee,
thy son shall be Immanuel, by seers foretold;
 most highly favoured lady.'Gloria!

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head,
'To me be as it pleaseth God', she said,
'My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name':
most highly favoured lady. Gloria!

Of her, Immanuel, the Christ was born
in Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn,
and Christian folk throughout the world will ever say,
'Most highly favoured lady.' Gloria!
 
You can hear the carol here.

St Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’  Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
 
Reflection The hymn, inspired by today’s passage, concludes each verse with Gabriel’s greeting and adds a gloria:  “Most highly favoured lady, gloria!”.   Gabriel pronounces Mary as blessed/favoured and bequeaths to the Church, in that “Ave”, an acclamation that has echoed across the centuries in worship and prayer.    Mary’s blessedness has nothing to do with her own achievements;  it is not of her own making but as she is with-Christ and in-Christ.   She is to become Theotokos – God-bearer – and it is that awesome privilege (and scary responsibility) that makes others utter their “Ave”.   Thereafter, in her company, first Elizabeth’s and then other hearts leap with joy.

Our denominational heritage has rarely offered anything resembling an “Ave” to Mary.  The majority of our forebears might be proud to defend the claim they ensured none of their number were caught uttering one.  Yet both Gabriel and Elizabeth did not share that conviction.  It was with them that I stood, last May, in Walsingham listening toFr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household.  He spoke in a way which our dissenting forebears could not have objected urging us to reflect on the Chinese wisdom that states that when we ask someone to point out the moon to us we do not look at their hand or arm but at the moon to which they point.  Mary, he insisted, points us to Jesus.   We stand with her – in particular beside the Cross of her Son – and, gazing upon him, know God’s sacrificial love.

Today, as we ponder the visit of Gabriel and remember Mary’s assent to God’s invitation to become Theotokos, may we look to the One she bears and be inspired afresh to pray her prayer  - a prayer fit for the lips of anyone Walking the Way:  ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’   Even if, and when, that openness to God comes with the expectation of standing with the Crucified One.

Prayer

God of the blessed, we magnify you!   

Our lips hesitate in joining with Gabriel:
“Ave Maria” does not come naturally to those of us
whose spiritual heritage has made us cautious
to venerate the one who bore the Christ-Child.
Yet, today, we will say an “Ave”:
Blessed is the ‘Theotokos’!
Blessed is she among women,
and blessed is the fruit of her womb!
Blessed are all and any who are God-bearers
– those in whose company we sense God’s presence.
Blessed are all and any whose words and ways inspire us.
Blessed are all and any whose lives point away from themselves and magnify God and goodness.

Our lips join with Mary – Theotokos:
“Magnificat” does not always come naturally to those of us
who are too easily tempted to focus on what we have done
instead of what you can do and are doing through us.
Yet, today, we will say a “Magnificat”:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
Thanks be to you, our God,
for considering us worthy of your favour.
Thanks be to you, our God,
for every sign of your presence made real
among the humble and lowly, the hungry and helpless.
May the hearts of those
whose pride is sustained by power and riches
be touched by the One
whose priceless mercy is made real in weakness.

Grant that we who are Theotokos – bearers of your love –
may be sources of blessing to those we encounter
and so find joy beyond measure.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke is Minister of The Crossing Church & Centre, Worksop & Wales Kiveton Methodist Church.

Bible Version

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


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

URC Daily Devotion 18th September

Mon, 18/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 18th September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

O Come O Come Emmanuel

This is a translation of a Latin hymn, Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, itself a metrical paraphrase of the O Antiphons - a series of plainchant antiphons attached to the Magnificat at Vespers over the final days before Christmas.

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice, rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, thou Wisdom from above
who ord’rest all things through thy love;
to us the path of knowledge show
and teach us in her way to go.

O come, O come, thou Lord of might
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height,
in ancient times didst give the law
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Desire of nations, bring
all people to their Saviour King;
thou Corner-stone, who makest one,
complete in us they work begun:

 
You can hear the carol here
Reflection I once got the opportunity to buy a cut-price copy of the now out-of-print ‘Companion to Rejoice & Sing’, which is always a wonderful resource for learning the story behind hymns.  It is the source of information for the next three paragraphs about this mournful and  atmospheric advent carol:

It is based upon the Great ‘O’ set of ancient 9th century ‘Antiphons’ - refrains that were sung in Latin in the evening Office of Vespers before and / or after the Magnificat during the seven days before Christmas Eve.  Each is based upon one or more of the vivid titles of the Messiah found mainly in the Hebrew Scriptures.  

In some religious houses the custom was for each day’s chant to be led by a different person, who would also prepare the meal or drinks which followed; the equivalent of ‘standing a round!’  

In the original sequence, they referred to Wisdom (Proverbs 8); Adonai / Leader of the House of Israel (Exodus 3); Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10); Key of David (Isaiah 22:22); The Dayspring / Sunrise (Malachi 4:2 & Isaiah 28:16); the Corner Stone which unites (Haggai 2:7 & Isaiah 28:16; and finally, bringing them all together,  Emanuel, King and Law-giver, the expected Saviour of the nations.

Nowadays of course we are much more likely to simply sing it as set, though once, while in college, I remember a leader of worship who had the idea to structure a whole service around the Great ‘O’s. It consisted of a series of reflections on the theme within each verse, each of which was so monumentally dull that several of us got the giggles, like naughty ten-year-olds.  It was a master class in taking a good idea and sadly implementing it so badly that for me I took ten years before I could sing the hymn without wincing (not to mention feeling a little guilty!)  Fortunately with time I have come to re-appreciate the beauty of the melody and immerse myself in the messianic expectation rooted in Judaism, developed in medieval times and still capable in our 21st Century worship, of touching us and being a deeply spiritual part of our Advent preparation.

Prayer

God of unexpectedness
in the midst of the mundane and the everyday routine,
help us to prepare,
to explore,
to reimagine as we enter this season of expectation.
Teach us to appreciate the newness and outrageousness
of your intervention in sending a Messiah
who fulfilled all prophecies
without fitting any model predicted.  
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Clark is Minister in the Bridport and Dorchester Joint Pastorate

Bible Version

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


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

Daily Devotions over the Next Two Weeks

Sun, 17/12/2017 - 18:00
96 Daily Devotions over the Next Two Weeks View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions
over the next two weeks

Dear <<First Name>>

Every so often we add hymns to the mix of readings and reflections.  We will do this for the next couple of weeks looking at some Advent, Christmas and Epiphany songs.  There will be a link for you to click, if you wish,  to hear the song.

Remember, if you use Facebook or Twitter you can share the day's Devotion by clicking on the buttons at the top of the page - you will see the Facebook and Twitter icons.  The icons at the bottom of the page enable you to follow the Devotions via those social media applications or visit the archive site.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

--> Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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

URC Daily Devotions 17th December

Sun, 17/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotions 17th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 28

To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
Do not be deaf to my loud cry.
I’ll be like those gone down to death,
If you are silent in reply.

Receive my plea for mercy, LORD,
As now I call to you for grace,
As I lift up my hands in prayer
And look to your Most Holy Place.

O drag me not away with those
Who practise wickedness and sin,
Who kindly to their neighbours speak
But harbour malice deep within.

Repay them for their evil deeds
And for their acts of wickedness;
Bring back on them what they deserve
And punish their unrighteousness.

Because the LORD’s works they despise
And treat his actions with disdain,
In justice he will tear them down
And never build them up again.

Praise to the LORD, for he has heard
The plea for mercy which I made.
He is my strength, he is my shield;
I trust in him who sends me aid.

My heart uplifted leaps for joy;
My thanks to him I gladly sing.
The LORD God is his people’s strength,
A saving fortress for his king.

LORD, save your people, your own flock;
Be pleased your heritage to bless.
Be their good shepherd; carry them
For ever in your faithfulness.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the lovely tune Walton here. Reflection Nowadays places of peace and reconciliation are sought by people seeking to heal the wounds of history, to learn to live with difference and to build a culture of peace.

During my recent sabbatical I spent time in churches and communities learning about peace and reconciliation in this country and in Germany. There was also a retreat in the lovely, peaceful Quaker Centre at Woodbrooke. It has beautiful grounds where people can be still and silent. The course was about looking at the Psalms as poetry.

On the stunning timeline at Crookham depicting 500 years of conflict and peace is the question, “What
will you do for peace?”
 

Prayer

Gracious Lord,
During this Advent season
help us to read worship texts
and Psalm prayers more reflectively
seeking deeper insights.
Help us to remember those
who are building communities of peace and reconciliation.
In times of stress
may we respond to those
who ask us to give time and energy
with joyful, loving hearts
in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Mary Taylor is the minister of Selkirk URC in the Synod of Scotland and Crookham URC in the Northern Synod

Bible Version

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


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 16th December

Sat, 16/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Malachi 3:6-7 

For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished.  Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Reflection How many of us would say we have heard of God, and have tried to live a life that would please God, and yet would also say “I don’t know God” – not in a personal sense, as someone present in in our lives. Can we relate to God as our Saviour and ever-present friend? Do we live for God, giving ourselves to the one for whom we owe our lives? These strange couple of verses in the middle of the prophetic word given to Malachi seem to invite us into that relationship, and the way of life that follows.

Malachi has just finished foretelling the coming of God’s messenger, the Lord of the Covenant. The people will have been brought up on the stories of the Covenant and of the Lord who rescued them from slavery, who brought them into the land in which they have been greatly blessed. But it is also about the God who was their Lord of the wilderness, of the time when they had nothing and yet, and yet they remembered how close they were to the Lord, as though He was personally with them through hard times. Ever since, though God rescued them again and again, they have rejected God, rebelled against God, disobeyed God, and shown this by their acts of injustice towards others, and their meanness in their giving to God.

The Lord of the Covenant came to Malachi,  “My people, I have not changed – I am still your God, and you are my children. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts”. The Lord of the Covenant came to us, as the human being, Jesus, with the same invitation. This is what I believe God spoke to me, but for us all -  “Come back to my Son.” God is waiting for us to return to Jesus . “How do we return?” Know how much God loves you, and  recognise Jesus  as your Lord and Saviour, your ever-present friend, and welcome Jesus into your life.
 

Prayer

Lord God,
I confess I need to know how much you love me.
         I see how much, as I look to Jesus.
I confess I need your forgiveness.
         I find your mercy in Jesus.
I confess my life needs a new beginning.
         I hear Jesus offering me life in all its fullness.
I confess I need you at the centre of my Life.
         Come Lord Jesus, come.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Kevin Watson is the Moderator of General Assembly

Bible Version

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


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 15th December

Fri, 15/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Zechariah 9: 9-13

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
  Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
  triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
  on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
  and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle-bow shall be cut off,
  and he shall command peace to the nations;
his dominion shall be from sea to sea,
  and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
  I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
  today I declare that I will restore to you double.
For I have bent Judah as my bow;
  I have made Ephraim its arrow.
I will arouse your sons, O Zion,
  against your sons, O Greece,
  and wield you like a warrior’s sword.
Reflection In these times,
when we feel like exiles in a foreign land…

In these times,
as we hanker after an age that felt so much clearer than the confused and uncertain now…

In these times,
the great and glorious past (the days of packed churches, world peace, community as family, children safely playing in the streets…)
calls to us to be made real again in the mess of the present…

In these times, we hear again the words of hope:

Lo, your king comes to you;
  triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
  on a colt, the foal of a donkey.


This king of restoration, as we of the Gospel now know, does not victoriously recreate our hoped-for past of exaggerated memory. This donkey-riding king, breaks into our lives this Advent, in this time and place, to restore us completely.

As I face the reality of personal ill health, my hope is limited and imperfect – broken by experience of the human lot.

But the Christ of cradle, humanity, cross and glory, restores us to the life we cannot see or imagine: the place of wholeness, justice, humility and peace - the kingdom out of reach.

In these times,
the Christ-child reaches out as the Spirit blowing through the now;
calling us, calling me to live in hope, because His radical kingdom already is!

In these times,
hope is not dead, not even when streets are crowded with Nazis flags and ‘Britain First’ leaflets, not even when terror still strikes, or when missiles fly in provocation.

The hope that the human mind struggles to see, clouded by false memories and the hard reality of life, is ready to reach out and restore us again and again and again…

So, face this day with a spring in your step and a smile on your face,
for Lo, your king comes to you
and fills you with boundless, extravagant, unexpected hope!
 

Prayer

Loving king,
You come to us again,
riding into our hearts with humility.
Release us from misleading memories,
Restore us beyond our narrow hope,
Replenish our reserves
and help us to rejoice;
to dance and shout in joy
that in these times, your Kingdom will come
on Earth as in heaven.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon.

Bible Version

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


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 14th December

Thu, 14/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 14th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Haggai 1:1-8

In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.  Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying:  Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins?  Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared.  You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured, says the Lord.
Reflection Could there be a more appropriate text as we find ourselves in the middle of Advent?

It’s not time to rebuild the Temple because we are too busy looking after ourselves.

The people have returned from exile, an exile they found themselves in because they strayed so far from the way they were supposed to live.  Now they are back it doesn’t seem as though they have learned anything.  Their priority is still themselves, their comfort, their plenty, their greed.  They are looking for significance, for belonging, for meaning and they are looking in all the wrong places…

It is time to refocus.  Time to rebuild what is truly important.  Time to put God first.
 

Prayer

God,
Remind us that you are always first.
That you alone are our priority.
That this Advent we prepare for the rebuilding of your Temple.
A temple of flesh and blood,
skin and bone.
A temple in the shape of a child.
God, remind us to always focus on you.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Stewart Cutler is minister of St Ninian’s LEP in Stonehouse.

Bible Version

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


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 13th September

Wed, 13/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward Zephaniah 3:2 It has listened to no voice;
   it has accepted no correction.
It has not trusted in the Lord;
   it has not drawn near to its God.
Reflection The Book of Zephaniah is all about judgement and deliverance, but chapter three, the context of our verse for today, concentrates on the former, revealing precious little hope of deliverance for Jerusalem.

‘Woe to the city of oppressors, rebellious and defiled’ (3:1)  because: ‘She obeys no one, she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord. She does not draw near to her God’ (3:2) Not for the first or last time, the Lord says, Jerusalem was going to have trouble with her surrounding nations. The Ammonites, Moabites and others will do their worst and receive judgement for it. But the main problem God has with Jerusalem, is its own behaviour, its sin of omission. The Lord has concluded Jerusalem obeys no one, accepts no correction, does not trust in the Lord and does not draw near to God’ Not a glowing reference. No wonder judgement and trouble are ahead.

As we reflect on this prophetic word of warning for Jerusalem, it’s easy to believe that’s ‘so yesterday’ forgetting God may have a prophetic word for us today too.

Whilst we all love the assurances of deliverance: ‘The Lord God is with you, the mighty warrior who saves. He takes great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing’ (3:18)

We must also consider have we been obedient to God? Accepted his word of correction? Have we trusted him for all things in our lives? Let’s draw near to him in repentance and confession, so we in due time may know the assurance of his forgiveness and deliverance.
 

Prayer

Lord thank you for your Word,
that is alive and active,
sharper than a double edged sword.
Lord please speak your prophetic Word into my life;
show me where I need correction.
Help me to trust in you,
draw close to you
and offer you worship,
worthy of your name. Amen

Today's Writer

The Revd Sally Willett Evangelism and Renewal advocate for Gear and minister of West Thamesmead Community Church.

Bible Version

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


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotions 12th December

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotions 12th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Habakkuk 1:2-4, 3:17-19

The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk saw.
O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,and you will not listen?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’  and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;  strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack  and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
   therefore judgement comes forth perverted.
***
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;  make it plain on tablets,
   so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
   it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
   it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
   Their spirit is not right in them,
   but the righteous live by their faith.
***
Though the fig tree does not blossom,
   and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
   and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
   and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
   I will exult in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
   he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
   and makes me tread upon the heights.
Reflection Little is known about Habakkuk other than he was called to prophecy in the run up to the Babylonian invasion and was probably a contemporary of Jeremiah.  As such the stark drama of the first two stanzas make sense.  The impending invasion and Exile wasn’t seen by the religious folk of the day as a result of poor foreign policy or failed international diplomacy but as a direct result of not living by the Covenant.  Judah bought the disaster on herself by forgetting her relationship with God despite, as the second stanza makes clear, God charging prophets with the ghastly ministry of reminding them. The third stanza, however, contains hope.  In an agricultural society there could be little worse than the type of crop failure symbolised by the failure of fig, grape, olive crops and starving livestock.  In the face of that disaster - famine - Habakkuk stubbornly refuses to despair and his faith in God is undimmed.  Like Jeremiah he would have given a hope - albeit a far off one - to those who believed in God as the armies of Babylon approached.  

In our day we tend not to see God at work in international politics and find hope difficult when presidents conduct diplomacy in fewer than 140 characters and seek to prove machismo by increasing nuclear arsenals.  Hope is hard when 20 million are displaced for fear of their lives and when rich countries build walls instead of bridges.  It is hard to hope as countries retreat into narrow nationalism ignoring the links that bind us together as a human family.

Yet in Advent we must proclaim hope - the stubborn hope of Habakkuk - that things will change.  We pray “thy kingdom come” yet dare we believe that the Coming King will turn things around?  Dare we believe that Jesus will, finally, turn our weapons into welcoming signs and, as his mother - another audacious believer - sang fill the hungry with good things and turn the rich, empty, away?
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
coming King,
turn our world around,
bring judgement to the rich who oppress,
admonish leaders who,
often in your name,
make your people suffer,
and teach us, day by day,
to pray, work and hope for your Kingdom.
Come Lord Jesus!
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston is a minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland.

Bible Version

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


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotion 11th December

Mon, 11/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th December Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Nahum 2:13 - 3:4 

Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword shall devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth, and the voice of your messengers shall no longer be heard.

Woe to the bloody city, all full of lies and plunder— no end to the prey! The crack of the whip, and rumble of the wheel, galloping horse and bounding chariot! Horsemen charging, flashing sword and glittering spear, hosts of slain, heaps of corpses, dead bodies without end— they stumble over the bodies! And all for the countless whorings of the prostitute, graceful and of deadly charms, who betrays nations with her whorings, and peoples with her charms.
Reflection Living in central London often feels like a strangely absurd and irrational experience. I would argue that London is the greatest city in the history of the world. On its best days, London foreshadows many of the realities of the New  Jerusalem — a city where the nations live side-by-side in unity and reflect the glory of God. On most days, well — shall we say that it perhaps resembles Nineveh to the prophet Nahum.

We often feel profoundly uncomfortable as we read the Old Testament prophets. Many even try to dismiss them by suggesting perhaps that they were writing out of their feelings and not out of God’s inspiration, they were simply reflecting their cultural perspectives and not God’s inspiration, or sometimes even suggesting that it was God who changed with the coming of Jesus. We’re uncomfortable because some of the sentiments expressed by these prophets seem at first inconsistent with the love of God as revealed in the cross of Christ.

Looking more deeply, we discover that not only are such sentiments not antithetical to love they are also essential to love. Genuine love abhors that which undermines, opposes and inhibits love — both its expression and its reception. In prophets such as Nahum, we discover those things that hinder the full expression and experience of God’s love in our cities and communities, things which God himself vehemently opposes. Once we see these things from God’s perspective and the effect they have on experiencing God’s love, we cannot help but oppose these things ourselves.

So what does God see in Nineveh that leads God to express God’s anger so strongly?

God sees a city full of “lies and plunder”, a place where people use dishonesty and greed to take advantage of others for their own benefit. In such a city, people use dishonest weights and measures so that people might gain an advantage over others, enriching themselves by impoverishing others. The economic system becomes profoundly unfair, preventing normal people from providing for themselves and their families.

God also sees a city full of violence. In the case of Nineveh, such violence seems to be primarily physical. While our cities experience such physical violence today, more often “violence” comes in the form of the strong oppressing and suppressing the weak. The “horsemen” represent those who have power and influence and use their power and influence to exploit and trample on other people for their own advantage. People are taken advantage of and victimised. Violence in our cities takes many forms, but God abhors such violence.

Finally, God sees a city full of sexual immorality. On the surface, it all looks charming and attractive. But looking deeper one cannot help but seeing human trafficking, sex slavery and child abuse. One sees people being used selfishly for personal pleasure, without love or genuine concern for their wholeness. In such a city, even whole ethnic groups are betrayed as their women and children become especially vulnerable to abuse. Yet, to most people, this sexual immorality seems appealing, harmless and fun, conducted in privacy.

By revealing his heart and showing us what hinders love, God invites us not only to feel his anger toward that which obstructs love but also to engage in the extension of God’s loving rulership (the kingdom) by working in the power of God’s Holy Spirit to oppose these same things in our cities today. We do so knowing that the cross of Christ has broken the power of all demonic opposition to God’s love and enabled the release of God’s loving justice into our cities.

Prophets like Nahum shatter the illusion that our cities might ever be perfect — New Jerusalems on earth — but they also shatter the illusion that we are helpless victims of what happens in our cities. Nahum reminds us that God not only opposes that which hinders love but is taking action against it. By God’s grace, in the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians can oppose everything that hinders God’s love and see our cities become more like the New Jerusalem and less like Nineveh, confident that this will benefit all people living in our cities.
 

Prayer

Almighty God, help us to love our cities and the people in them fully as you love them. Help us also to abhor that which hinders your love just as you abhor it. We pray for our cities. We pray that they will become places of provision for people and families so they might live in joy. We pray that they will become places of peace and protection, keeping people safe from violence in all forms. We pray that they will become places of purity and wholeness, where women and children are treated with grace and dignity. By your Holy Spirit, help us to work for the advancement of your loving rulership throughout our cities so that they reflect your will for humanity and become places of your grace. We pray that the people throughout our cities would come to know your grace and love through a living relationship with your Son, Jesus Christ, who is the real hope for our cities. In his name we pray, Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Rodney Woods is minister of the City Temple in London

Bible Version

 
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

URC Daily Devotions 10th December The Second Sunday of Advent

Sun, 10/12/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotions 10th December The Second Sunday of Advent Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 27 

The LORD’s my saviour and my light—
who will make me dismayed?
The LORD’s the stronghold of my life—
why should I be afraid?

When evildoers threaten me
to take my life away,
My adversaries and my foes
will stumble in that day.

Although an army hems me in,
my heart will feel no dread;
Though war against me should arise,
I will lift up my head.

One thing I’ll plead before the LORD,
and this I’ll seek always:
That I may come within God’s house
and dwell there all my days—

That on the beauty of the LORD
I constantly may gaze,
And in his house may seek to know
direction in his ways.

For in his dwelling he will keep
me safe in troubled days;
Within his tent he’ll shelter me,
and on a rock me raise.

My head will then be lifted high
above my enemies;
And in his tent I’ll sacrifice
with shouts of joy and praise.

LORD, hear me when I call to you;
be merciful and speak!
“Come, seek my face!” you told my heart;
your face, LORD, I will seek.

O do not hide your face from me,
and do not turn aside
Your servant in your righteous wrath,
for you have been my guide.

O God my Saviour, leave me not;
do not reject my plea.
My parents may forsake me, LORD,
but you will welcome me.

Teach me, O LORD, how I should live,
and lead me in your way;
Make straight my path, because my foes
oppress me every day.

Give me not over to the will
of vehement enemies;
For liars rise to slander me
and breathe out cruelties.

Yet I am sure that in this life
God’s goodness I will see.
Wait for the LORD; be strong, take heart.
For him wait patiently.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Resignation here or to the tune Contemplation here. Reflection Advent is a time of waiting.  A time of waiting with longing. A time of waiting with anticipation. A children's song, sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” illustrates this characteristic in the season of Advent:
 
Advent is a time to wait,
Not quite time to celebrate.

Our Psalm today acknowledges that in our lives we often have to wait and live through difficult times. The passage highlights that the Psalmist, David, is living through some incredibly challenging times. It is thought that the Psalm was crafted during a period when David was on the run from King Saul who wanted to kill him. David was being pursued and oppressed.

We often spend periods in our life waiting. The student waits for exam results. The newly engaged couple wait for their wedding day. The young woman waits for medical test results. The older man waits for the outcome of an interview. Waiting is anticipating. Waiting is challenging.

Henri Nouwen spoke of a waiting person this way. “A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.”

The Psalmist encourages us that when we find ourselves living through a challenging situation - we are able to reveal to God all the things that we are waiting for, all the things we are longing for, all the things we are anticipating. And in our waiting, God will meet us there. In our waiting, God is present. A God of faith, hope and love.
 

Prayer

Advent God,
in times of difficulty and challenge
may we recognise
your life-giving presence
offering us faith, hope and love.
In Emmanuel’s name, we pray.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Dr Nicola Robinson is a member and elder at Augustine United Church, Edinburgh.

Bible Version

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


 
Want to change how you receive these emails? You can change to plain text (which some find easier to read) or have webpage like emails by clicking here.

 

Pages