URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion Sunday 16th August 2020 Psalm 10

Sun, 16/08/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 16th August 2020 Psalm 10

When trouble looms on every side,
when conflict dominates the day,
when life presents no easy path,
Lord, why do you seem far away?

From every plan which harms the poor,
from schemes to victimise the weak,
from those who snare the innocent,
Lord, your defence, your help we seek.

The greed which never has enough,
the boasts of haughty insolence,
the words that threaten, lie or curse,
Lord keep us from such arrogance.

Some think that you are blind to sin;
some live as though you were not there;
some treat your justice with contempt;
Lord, surely you both see and care!

You call the wicket to account;
you champion the victim’s cause;
you silence mortal taunts and threats;
Lord, heaven’s eternal throne is yours.

Martin Leckebujsh © Kevin Mayhew Ltd 2006
You can hear v 4 sung here 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qovbmq51yvo

Reflection

For aeons now humans have asked the same ultimate question “Why does God allow suffering?” Covid-19 has proved itself to be a disease of nightmares; indiscriminate and evading thus far the efforts of brilliant medical and scientific minds in their search for a vaccine or treatment.

The first thirteen verses of Psalm10 pose the same questions that tantalise us today.  We ponder the plight of doctors and nurses in their relentless care of needy patients, the inability to visit loved ones in hospital or care homes, the loss of jobs and financial insecurity, and increased domestic abuse and crime. This is precisely why Richard Dawkins holds, “We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” 

As a Christian I believe that Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are historical facts. Death is not the end because Jesus rose from the dead.  Consequently, God will be utterly fair and those people who have had the wrong end of injustice in this life will be ultimately compensated.  Atheism has no such hope and its ideology flies against the basic human notion of justice.The Early Church was no stranger to pandemics, ultimately managing to weather the pandemic of Justinian 1st. (527-565 CE).  In the Old Testament the nation of Israel recorded their years of desperation in the beauty, prayers and hymns of the Psalms, an example of which is this Psalm - (vv 10.14-18) 

Our belief in resurrection and afterlife and the strength of our faith are tested again and again as was the faith of the Early Church which evangelised the world in a prophetic way.  Such love for others would surely matter little if we are just atoms to be discarded at death and the faith that we currently share makes sense of a situation in which Jesus suffers with us.

Prayer

Living God, we come in faith to worship you, yet we come conscious that our faith is so very weak, sinking without trace when trouble and danger threaten.  Forgive us, and speak again of your loving purpose and sovereign power. Teach us that even in times of turmoil you are there, nothing finally able to overcome your will; that we can confidently put our trust in you, now and always.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Ian Gow, Minister, Eltham 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 15th August 2020 The Plague of Hail

Sat, 15/08/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 15th August 2020  The Plague of Hail  
Exodus 9: 13 - 35

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For this time I will send all my plagues upon you yourself, and upon your officials, and upon your people, so that you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.  For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.  But this is why I have let you live: to show you my power, and to make my name resound through all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people, and will not let them go.  Tomorrow at this time I will cause the heaviest hail to fall that has ever fallen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now.  Send, therefore, and have your livestock and everything that you have in the open field brought to a secure place; every human or animal that is in the open field and is not brought under shelter will die when the hail comes down upon them.”’  Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried their slaves and livestock off to a secure place.  Those who did not regard the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the open field.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand towards heaven so that hail may fall on the whole land of Egypt, on humans and animals and all the plants of the field in the land of Egypt.’  Then Moses stretched out his staff towards heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire came down on the earth. And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt;  there was hail with fire flashing continually in the midst of it, such heavy hail as had never fallen in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.  The hail struck down everything that was in the open field throughout all the land of Egypt, both human and animal; the hail also struck down all the plants of the field, and shattered every tree in the field.  Only in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were, there was no hail.

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.  Pray to the Lord! Enough of God’s thunder and hail! I will let you go; you need stay no longer.’  Moses said to him, ‘As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the Lord; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the Lord’s.  But as for you and your officials, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God.’  (Now the flax and the barley were ruined, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud.  But the wheat and the spelt were not ruined, for they are late in coming up.)  So Moses left Pharaoh, went out of the city, and stretched out his hands to the Lord; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured down on the earth.  But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned once more and hardened his heart, he and his officials. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.

Reflection

There is a traditional invitation to prayer, said often by Orthodox Christians, that goes thus;
‘For favourable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth and for temperate seasons, let us pray to the Lord.’ 

Many of us pray, or are asked to pray, for good weather. Even those who might think ourselves too sophisticated to pray like this often catch ourselves doing it, or being asked to do it, and sometimes by those for whom the weather really matters. 

It would be lovely if the sun shone for that day at the seaside or that afternoon set aside for gardening. It would be wonderful if the weather could be favourable for the wedding, garden party or graveside burial service. But sometimes what the weather is like is a matter of life and death, for whole communities. And in times when the earth’s weather seems to be changing, and when even the temperate UK is beset by storms, prayers for good weather become more serious and compelling. Before the forces of storm and drought, of flood or forest fire, we find our powerlessness, our defencelessness and vulnerability, even our dependence. To be battered by hail or wind, to have crops fail or houses flood, to find your skin burned and in danger, or the cliffs crumbling beneath your feet is to know that you are in need. 

To learn to pray this, very traditional, prayer well is to recognise that what the weather does is something vital to our lives, to the lives of all with whom we share the earth, our common home.  To pray it well is to pray for the good of all, and not just for ourselves. Prayed in common with all the people of God, it is not a selfish prayer for ‘a lovely day’, but a prayer for the thriving of all creation. It’s a prayer worth practising. 

Prayer

O God, 
we pray,
in all places,

for weather that sustains life,

that provides for a fruitful harvest

and creates a gentle world. 
Let sun shine,

rain fall, 
ice form

and wind blow,

as the earth needs

and your people pray,

Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is Minister of Taunton United Reformed 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.
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URC Daily Devotion Friday 14th August 2020 The Plague of Boils

Fri, 14/08/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 14th August 2020 The Plague of Boils 

Exodus 9: 8 - 12

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw it in the air in the sight of Pharaoh.  It shall become fine dust all over the land of Egypt, and shall cause festering boils on humans and animals throughout the whole land of Egypt.’  So they took soot from the kiln, and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses threw it in the air, and it caused festering boils on humans and animals.  The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils afflicted the magicians as well as all the Egyptians.  But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.

Reflection

‘The Lord’ really is relentless!

We are now at plague number six of ten. As if bloody water, frogs, lice, flies (or wild animals depending on source), and pestilence would not be enough for you or I to ‘let God’s people go’!

At the end of the passage, we discover why these afflictions were not enough and why Pharaoh was so cold - because the Lord had hardened his heart’.

I kind of feel sorry for ‘The Lord’ throughout the telling of the story of Moses. To my mind, God gets written in as the ultimate baddie; even beyond Pharaoh. Pharaoh had no control over his reactions, it would seem, with God hardening his heart in the face of such calamity.

How can we know how Pharaoh would have reacted without the Lord’s interference?

We have to ask ourselves, why is the story told in this way?

Might it be to show us that God can be relentless for us?

God is persistent through Moses' words, through every increasing calamity and even through the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. God just won’t let it go.

God seems like an angry dog with a bone, for the freedom, justice and release of the Israelite slaves. Without getting involved with the question of whether this is an historical event or an accurate retelling, or even if God was written-in by the history-teller doing things we find deplorable today, might we be being guided to learn that God is for us?
 
If we are brought low, on the edge of society or destroyed by it, in pain, crying for justice and hope – God is for us and will go above and beyond for us!

 I pray you will hear this truth today, in all that you face.

 Beware, however, if you are in the way of God’s justice and love.

‘The Lord’ really is relentless!

Prayer

Loving God,
may the truth of your persistence and devotion speak to us from years past.
May it give us hope and peace.
May it agitate us away from inequality and towards integrity.
May we know deep in our hearts that you are for us and for our freedom.
Amen
 
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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 Thursday 13th August 2020 The Plague of Pestilence

Thu, 13/08/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 13th August 2020  The Plague of Pestilence 
 
Exodus 9: 1-7
 
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.  For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them,  the hand of the Lord will strike with a deadly pestilence your livestock in the field: the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks.  But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing shall die of all that belongs to the Israelites.”’  The Lord set a time, saying, ‘Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.’  And on the next day the Lord did so; all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the livestock of the Israelites not one died.  Pharaoh inquired and found that not one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the people go.
 
Reflection
 
Exodus is a dangerous book, it was deemed so dangerous by landowners during slavery in America and the West Indies that the whole of the arc of the Israelites journey out of slavery from Egypt was removed from the Slave Bible, along with 90% of the Old Testament and 50% of the New Testament. It is dangerous because it gives hope to people and shows how God is a God of liberation and preferential treatment of the oppressed. 
 
This passage finds us at the half-way point in the plague story. God clearly has a preferential option for the Israelites as the marginalised, oppressed and enslaved people, but what of the regular Egyptian citizens who aren’t in much better of a position? When I look at society today, I see that we have a social class of people who have been let down by a society that has seen them as not worth the effort, and this has left them under-educated, under-informed and ill-equipped to verbalise the injustices against them and has easily swayed them by a media that that is owned by people who know how to manipulate the truth. 
 
I wonder then how the regular Egyptians felt when they had now endured five plagues that are destroying their livelihood. I doubt they would have blamed Pharaoh, at least not publicly, but they would have levelled the blame at the Israelites, the people who are already seen as a problem. So, we see the poor help marginalise the already oppressed. Sound familiar? Can we learn from this? Can we change how we use media to set one class of people against a migrant population, or are we going to continue hardening our hearts like Pharaoh pretending that it isn’t our problem? 
 
Prayer
 
Liberating God
help us not only to acknowledge the injustice in the world, but to be bold enough to do everything we can to remove it. Enable us to see and hear clearly so we do not swallow lies that prop up the unjust systems in our world. Amen
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Today's writer

Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, Church Related Community Worker, St Columba’s & 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.
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Sunday's Coming

Wed, 12/08/2020 - 11:15
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service is led by the Rev’d Lythan Nevard who serves Cranbook Church in Devon.  Hymns include Joachim Neander’s Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, Marty Haugen’s Send Down the Fire of Your Justice, John Bell and Graham Maule’s Inspired by Love and Anger, and Charles Wesley’s And Can It Be?

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 good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC -->

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If, however, the email isn't in your Spam/Junk folder please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read it there.  I am away for August and so won't be able to help if you email!

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 12th August 2020 The Plague of Flies

Wed, 12/08/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 12th August 2020 The Plague of Flies
 
Exodus 8: 20 - 32
 
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.  For if you will not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, and your people, and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies; so also the land where they live.  But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I the Lord am in this land. Thus I will make a distinction  between my people and your people. This sign shall appear tomorrow.”’   The Lord did so, and great swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh and into his officials’ houses; in all of Egypt the land was ruined because of the flies.
 
Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.’  But Moses said, ‘It would not be right to do so; for the sacrifices that we offer to the Lord our God are offensive to the Egyptians. If we offer in the sight of the Egyptians sacrifices that are offensive to them, will they not stone us?  We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as he commands us.’   So Pharaoh said, ‘I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far away. Pray for me.’  Then Moses said, ‘As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; only do not let Pharaoh again deal falsely by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.’
 
So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. And the Lord did as Moses asked: he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; not one remained. 32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and would not let the people go.
 
Reflection
 
“Let my people go!” rings in our minds as we hear the baritone of Paul Robeson sign out these words in a hymn from enslaved African Americans.  Embedded in this Exodus story, the phrase resonates with the tirade for justice where justice has been denied.  It has rung out for centuries, moving hearts and changing minds.
 
I’m sad to find the words again where first written, amidst a series of threats and misuse of creation for Moses to dent Pharaoh’s control.  I’m sadder still that God is depicted as divine being misusing what had been made in love as a fly-filled weapon, damaging the crops of people God must also love.  We are asked to believe that God changed God’s mind because Moses pleaded.  In this story, Moses is the righteous one, God is the tyrant, and Pharaoh is merely another greedy human.
 
These epic tales have us severely testing our own notions of who God is.  We pick and choose from these tales to talk about the human heroes.  We’ve happily made musicals and movies about the bits we like.  We use some of the words to give Biblical force to the cry for justice.  Yet I see again and again that we don’t deal with the very confusing narrative of just who God is.  I believe strongly that we humans make God who we want God to be.  For the small Israel, fighting to have some control over itself, it looks like the preferred God would favour only this nation and to be as tyrannical as needed as long as tyranny was for their enemies.
 
This is not the God we see in Jesus.  Jesus would have sung those same words, yet for the Triune God’s reasons.  Justice is consequence of love, not the result of threat.
 
Prayer
 
Eternal God, whoever you are, fill us with Love so we can stop making you up. 
Fill us with Spirit, so that we can know you a little. 
Give us courage to let you be who you are, though you remain such a mystery to us.
Let us forgive ourselves for our need to re-create you,
With your forgiving power, may we engage in justice as you see fit, whether we like it or not.
Amen
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Today's writer

The Rev’d ELizabeth Gray-King, Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba’s Oxford 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 11th August 2020 The Plague of Gnats

Tue, 11/08/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 11th August 2020 The Plague of Gnats    

Exodus 8 16 - 19

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt.”’  And they did so; Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and gnats came on humans and animals alike; all the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt.  The magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, but they could not. There were gnats on both humans and animals.  And the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God!’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

Reflection
Anyone who has lived or holidayed in the West and Highlands of Scotland will understand the misery of the Egyptian people as the plague of gnats descended. One word says it all: MIDGES.

These blood-sucking cousins of gnats have ruined endless peaceful summer evenings in the garden, on picnics, camping, fishing or walking. They never arrive singly, but in battalions. No amount of flailing arms and slaps will keep them all from their banquet on exposed areas of flesh.

Away from the territories inhabited by the insects, we have metaphorical gnats and midges of our own. They are the worries and fears that get into our heads and multiply, swarming day and night until they bring us low, though too often reluctant to share our state of mind or seek help.

This is especially true at the time of writing (April) during the Covid-19 lockdown. Many are enduring “mind midges”. Dread of disease, loneliness, separation from those we love, burning anger when we feel others are behaving irresponsibly, bereavement without the release of full funerals - all play their part in causing us mental distress. Even the strongest have bad days.

Some peace of mind in any troubles of life can come from quiet prayer and reflection; not shouty demands of God, for that just drowns out “the still small voice” which restored Elijah (1 Kings: 19). Driven close to madness and desiring death, he travelled on to Mount Horeb and there he found God with him - not in turbulent storm, earthquake or fire, but in the “gentle whisper” (NIV).

When we are in mental distress, let us admit the comfort offered by God in quiet prayer. And we should also seek counsel from people we trust. Working together, they can help us to cope.

Prayer

Loving God, please grant us peace of mind and calm our troubled hearts; 
Imbue us with the courage to give voice to what is distressing us;
Walk beside us on the path to recovery. 
We know that even when we neglect your assistance, you are with us always.
Help us, Lord. Amen
 
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Today's writer

Pat Stannard is an Elder at Muswell Hill 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.
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URC Daily Devotion Monday 10th August 2020 The Plague of Frogs

Mon, 10/08/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 10th August 2020  The Plague of Frogs 

Exodus 8: 1 - 15

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs.  The river shall swarm with frogs; they shall come up into your palace, into your bedchamber and your bed, and into the houses of your officials and of your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your officials.”’   And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, the canals, and the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.”’ So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.  But the magicians did the same by their secret arts, and brought frogs up on the land of Egypt.

Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Pray to the Lord to take away the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.’  Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘Kindly tell me when I am to pray for you and for your officials and for your people, that the frogs may be removed from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.’ And he said, ‘Tomorrow.’ Moses said, ‘As you say! So that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God, the frogs shall leave you and your houses and your officials and your people; they shall be left only in the Nile.’ Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh; and Moses cried out to the Lord concerning the frogs that he had brought upon Pharaoh.  And the Lord did as Moses requested: the frogs died in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields.  And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank.  But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

Reflection

I LOVE frogs.  I find their shape, colours, movement, sound and feel beautiful.  I have had pet frogs (and kept live insects to feed them), and still have an amazing collection of frog sculptures. I have been enraptured by a host of tiny frogs singing their mating song in Monet’s garden one May and croaked to sleep by large Dutch dike-dwelling frogs whilst camping one April.  It takes, as they say, all sorts.  The scene in ET when all the dissection frogs are released in the science class is for me a glimpse of Exodus freedom.

Here millions of frogs emerge from the blood-polluted waterways and pools dug by thirsty Egyptians in their search for clean water.  They get everywhere – in people’s beds, in cooking pots, on people’s skin.  A by-product of environmental damage is often the displacement and distorted balance of species directly affected, which impacts us as co-inhabitants of the delicate balance that sustains life.  The subsequent destruction of the frogs, unsurprisingly, impacts down the food chain, and there follows infestations of gnats and flies.  Removing one symptom does not address the underlying problems.

This is part of the story of God’s actions to change the hearts and minds of the holders of political power to overthrow the very economic structure that gives them power and wealth: slavery.  The surprising tactic, unique to this plague, is to invite Pharaoh to choose when God should intervene via the timing of Moses’ prayers.  An all-powerful God waits to be invited to act so that we might know something of the One who acts.  This is the relational heart of salvation.

Moses prays, God responds, Pharaoh and Egypt enjoy immediate relief - but nothing else changes.  We are left with the stench of rotting frog carcasses to remind us that the underlying injustices remain.

Prayer

God of Moses,
move us to see beyond symptoms to structural problems,
give us awareness of who really pays for our lifestyles,
help us make the changes we can.
Give us courage to speak truth to power,
and whole-heartedly pray to see all people set free
and in loving relationship with you
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth work, member of mayBe community, Oxford.  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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Daily Devotion Sunday Worship for 9th August 2020

Sun, 09/08/2020 - 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
 
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Daily Devotions from the
United Reformed Church
Sunday Worship for 9th August 2020
 



Holy Communion
The Rev’d Stewart Cutler
St Ninian’s Church, Stonehouse

 
Introduction
 
Good morning and welcome to worship.  My name is Stewart Cutler and it’s my privilege to get to be the minister of St Ninian’s Church in Stonehouse.  St Ninian’s is a Local Ecumenical Partnership between the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland so I’m in a slightly unusual situation in the URC now… I only have one church to minister to but it is the parish church and so has all the things that comes along with that.  Stonehouse is a somewhere between being a large village and a small town with around 6,000 residents.  Its history includes weaving and coal mining along with farming.  It’s still disconnected from the great Lanarkshire conurbation but these days it is very much a commuter town for Glasgow. Today we will be thinking about one of the most striking stories in Matthew’s Gospel, the time when Jesus walks on the water, and when Peter gets out of the boat.  We will also join together to celebrate Communion, so you might want to have some bread and some wine or a suitable alternative to hand for when we come to that part of our time together.
        
Call to Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,
Many:      God says, Come out.”
 
One:         To all who are living in darkness,
Many:      God says, Show yourselves”
 
One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:      God gives food and springs of water.
 
One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us,
                we are inscribed on the palms of His hands.
 
Hymn:      Eternal Father, Strong To Save
                William Whiting 1825-1878
 
Eternal Father, strong to save,
whose arm doth bond the restless wave,
who bids the mighty ocean deep
its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to Thee
for those in peril on the sea.
 
2 O Trinity of love and pow'r,
thy children shield in danger's hour;
from rock and tempest, fire, and foe,
protect them where-so-e'er they go;
thus, evermore shall rise to Thee
glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
 
Prayers of Approach
 
Lord God, creator of the elements,  we come to you today, not because we are worthy, but because we are broken and helpless without you. 
 
Lord God, creator of fire, we thank you for the sun that brings us warmth, that nourishes life, that brings light to our world. 
 
You alone are the light of our lives.  You alone fight of the darkness that sometimes covers our hearts.   We ask you to forgive us when we have covered the light you have put in each one of us.  Forgive us for times when we have caused harm or hurt.
 
Lord God, creator of water, we thank you for rain.   We often complain that we have too much of it, but we realise that the bountiful water we enjoy  is not shared by those in other places.  We thank you for our green land and our plentiful crops  that exist because of the rain you send us. 
 
We ask your forgiveness for times when we have diluted your love,  for times when we have extinguished someones hopes or dreams  through our thoughtlessness or spitefulness.
 
Lord God, creator of the air we breathe, breathe new life into each one of us.   Renew our souls with your awesome spirit.  Breathe you healing spirit into those we name in the silence of our hearts before you now.
 
Lord God, creator of the earth, we give you thanks all that we have  and all that we take for granted.  We realise that we have much while others have little and we promise now before you to work to make sure that all those who are thirsty and hungry are fed, all those who are in need are sustained and all those who are lonely are comforted.   Lord God, creator of all, hear our prayers. Amen
 
Prayer of illumination
 
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord our God and our redeemer. Amen
 
Reading  St Matthew 14:22-33
 
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, It is a ghost!And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.  Peter answered him, Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. He said, Come.So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus.  But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me!  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, You of little faith, why did you doubt?When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, Truly you are the Son of God.
 
Sermon
 
Today, for just a short while, I want to talk to you about possibilities.   The things that we only dare to imagine,  the things we have always wanted to do, but for some reason or another have never quite got round to.  All our lives are full of If onlys and I wish I hads. There are many reasons we dont do things.  We have other priorities, commitments, fear and pride.  The thing is, If you want to walk on the water youve got to get out of the boat. That sounds like an obvious statement doesnt it?  If you want to walk on water youve got to get out of the boat.
 
The story of Jesus walking on the water has always fascinated me.  Or should I say the story of Peter walking on the water?   I mean which is the more unlikely?  Son of God walks on lake?or fisherman steps out of a perfectly good boat?
 
It’s a story that is perhaps harder to believe because it isnt just another one of Jesus miracles.  Its not about a healing or even turning water into wine.  Its a story in which an ordinary man does an extraordinary thing.
 
Jesus was having a bit of a day.  He had just heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded by Herod and some of the disciples had brought Johns body to Him.  Jesus understandably wanted some time to himself so the disciples took him out in the boat to the quiet of the lake.  When they got back to the shore there was a huge crowd and Jesus healed the sick, taught them for a while and fed them all with a few loaves of bread and some fish.  We are told that there were about 5,000 of them.
 
As Jesus was finishing up with the crowd He sent the disciples away in the boat to go ahead to the other side.  So, there they are in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, a place well known for its fierce and sudden storms. 
By the fourth watch of the night the disciples would be tired, cold, probably wet and hungry. 
 
They were all huddled together in the back of the boat when out of the storm a figure comes walking towards them.  They are terrified!  And no wonder.  They think it is a ghost. Then Jesus speaks to them.  Its me.  Dont be sacred.’ 
 
Im sure that Jesus’ words might have had a calming effect on at least some of the disciples but it has an extraordinary effect on Peter.  Bold as you like Peter calls out If its you Lord tell me to come out on the water to you.
 
Can you imagine the other disciples reaction? 
 
What? 
Tell you to come out on the water. 
Have you lost your mind? 
There is a storm blowing. 
Sit down! 
Youll rock the boat. 
Peter! 
For goodness sake. 
Dont be stupid.
 
But Jesusresponse is simple, come
So Peter gets out of a perfectly good boat in the middle of the lake in the middle of a storm.  And for a glorious few seconds Peter, the big, rough, never understands whats going on fisherman, is walking on the water towards Jesus.
 
I wonder what was going through Peters head when he saw Jesus? 
 
Did he know who it was out there on the lake?  Did he recognise Jesusvoice? If he did why on earth did he ask Jesus to tell him to get out of the boat and come water walking?  Why not just be glad that Jesus was out there looking after them? 
 
But Peter wasnt the kind to sit back and watch.  He wanted to follow Jesus wherever He went, and if that meant out onto the lake in the middle of a storm then thats where Peter was going.
 
Its unbelievable isnt it?  Peter was walking on the water. Unfortunately thats what Peter thought too.  He was suddenly very aware of what he was doing.  He realised that a minute ago he was in a boat and now he was out on the water in the middle of a storm. 
 
How did that happen? 
Wait a minute. 
Im not in the boat! 
Im in the middle of a storm. 
Look at the waves! 
What am I doing? 
Im sinking! 
Help!!!
 
As soon as he asked for help Jesus reached out to Peter, lifted him up and put him back in the boat.   As Jesus saves Peter from the storm Jesus whispered to him what might be the harshest thing Jesus ever says, You of little faith.  Why did you doubt?.   Ouch.
 
Peter got out the boat.  The rest of the disciples were huddled together in the boat, scared out of their minds, but Peter got out of the boat, asking only for the confirmation that it really was Jesus out there. 
 
You of little faith?  I wish I had a tenth of the faith Peter had at that moment.  I know where I would have been… I would have been with the other eleven, huddled in the back of the boat, not out there having a life changing experience.
 
Peter was getting out of that boat.  He had made up his mind already.  Jesus saying Comewas just the confirmation.  Whether he ended up swimming in the water or dancing on top of it Peter wanted to be where Jesus was, doing what Jesus did.
 
I bet that day lived with Peter forever. 
 
I wonder if the other disciples talked about it when they got together. 
Remember that day Peter got out of that boat in the middle of the storm? Fancied a wee swim did you Peter?   What were you thinking?
 
But Peter, just for a moment, a glorious, life-changing moment, walked on water towards his Lord and master. This story is a fascinating one for all kinds of reasons.  It is full of mystery and imagery we can relate to.
 
Firstly there is the storm.   Commentators often describe the society around us in terms of a storm.  It is fast, changing, sweeping us along on currents we seem powerless to swim against.   We have little or no control over it.  It can be frightening.  It can seem alien to us.  We dont understand where it comes from, how it is created or what drives it, but we can see all to clearly the power it has, and sometimes, like in our current times, the destruction it causes. We can feel overwhelmed.  We can feel tossed and thrown about.
 
So we retreat to the place that we can be safe from the storm.  Our boat. For many of us that boat is our church. What kind of boat is our church?
Is it a luxury liner sailing from port to port allowing people off for a brief visit to the nice parts of the world?  Is it a yacht that we can escape in at weekends, getting away from everything?  Or is our boat a lifeboat, braving all kinds of storms, crewed by willing volunteers, searching for lost souls out there in the ocean?
 
I know what kind of boat Id prefer to be in.  The big, comfortable, luxurious, safe kind.   The church has in many ways become that kind of boat.   From the inside we might not recognise it,  but those on the outside, out there in the storm, they can see it. 
 
The church is often criticised for being all talk and no action.   We can create our own safety here.   We mix with people like us,  take part in our own activities, speak our own language and listen to our own music.   We have created a safe haven from the storm.
 
Of course we all have our own personal boats too, our own little comfort zones.  The places we feel safe and secure.  We take refuge in the things we know we can do.  The places where no one will ask us to think too much about what we believe or why we believe it.  The places where we wont be asked to do anything new or hard or difficult.
 
Margaret Mead, the anthropologist, said  "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, that is all that ever has."   Well, if a small group of committed people can change the world, imagine what a large group of committed people can do
in each of our communities.  All you have to do is step out of the boat.
 
And here is possibly the most important thing for you to remember
as you step out of your comfortable boat.  Sometime the experience of the journey is more important than arriving.
 
It’s there in those experiences you will find out things about yourself
and each other that you never knew. 
 
You will discover that God can use you in ways you never dreamed possible.  You will deepen friendships.  You will have a better understanding of your faith.  You will feel a sense of belonging stronger than anything you have felt before.  This journey wont all be plain sailing.   Stepping out of the boat is dangerous.  Its the unpredictable thing to do. 
 
It is safer in the boat.  Ok, you might get bounced about by the storm occasionally, but our boat is sound and it will survive, for a while at least.
 
But how much more did Peter gain from taking that one step of faith? 
How much more did he believe when he took those small faltering steps on the water?   How much more did he trust in Jesus when he felt his strong arms rescue him as he sank down into the storm?  And how much greater was his reward? Faith in Jesus demands that we take risks, that we step out of the boat. 
 
It is our choice to be risk takers for the sake of the Gospel.  To follow Peter’s example, asking only for the slightest confirmation that it is Jesus we are walking towards.
 
Jesus chose this man, this Peter, this fisherman who would deny even knowing Him not once, not twice, but three times in one night to found his church on.   That gives those of us like me who get it wrong,  who ask questions,  who never really fully understand,  great hope. And when Jesus got into the boat the wind died down and the storm stopped.


Hymn:      Will Your Anchor Hold?
                  Priscilla J Owens
 
 
Will your anchor hold
in the storms of life,
when the clouds unfold
their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift,
and the cables strain,
will your anchor drift,
or firm remain?
 
We have an anchor
that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure
while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock
which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep
in the Saviour’s love!
 
2 Will your anchor hold
in the straits of fear,
when the breakers roar
and the reef is near?
While the surges rage,
and the wild winds blow,
shall the angry waves
then your bark o'erflow?
 
3 Will your eyes behold
through the morning light
the city of gold
and the harbour bright?
Will you anchor safe
by the heavenly shore,
when life's storms are past
for evermore?
 
Offertory
 
We ponder the many gifts that God has given us, deeply aware that we are also given the choice to put them to good us or not, to build us or tear down, to empower others or to hold onto power ourselves, to build the kingdom or to stand by in our indifference.
 
So, in this moment, we offer our gifts back to God, choosing to use them for their rightful purpose, to do justice and live mercifully, to bring peace and to foster love.  We bring our gifts and offer them back to God.
 
 
Prayer of Dedication
 
Loving God,
we offer ourselves, we offer our gifts, our dreams, our hopes;
we offer our talents, our skills, our generosity;
we offer our questions, our wonder, our doubts;
we offer our vision, our energy, our enthusiasm;
we offer our prayers, for the world and for each other;
we offer our longings for places of conflict and people with hunger
and those without homes;
we offer all we are and hope to be and we offer it all in the name of love.
So be it.  Amen
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history.
God is our life.
 
We believe in Gods Son,
born amongst the poor, light in our night,
first-born from the dead. He is alive.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives birth to the new life of God,
who breathes life into the struggle for justice,
who leads us to hope.
who is a living force.
 
We believe in the holy universal Church,
herald of the Good News
which frees people and brings new life.
We believe in the coming of a new world
where Jesus Christ, our Lord, will be all in all. Amen.
 
Hymn:               I Come With Joy to Meet My Lord
                         Brian Wren © 1971, 1995 Hope Publishing Company,
                         380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188

I come with joy, to meet my Lord
forgiven, loved and free,
behold I wanted to recall,
His life laid down for me.
 
2: I come with Christians
far and near
to find, as all are fed,
the new community of love
in Christ's communion bread.
 
3: As Christ breaks bread, and bids us share,
each proud division ends.
The love that made us, makes us one,
and strangers now are friends.
 
4: And thus with joy we meet our Lord
His presence always near
in this is friendship better known,
we see and praise Him here.
 
5: Together met, together bound
we’ll go our different ways,
and as His people in the world
we’ll live and speak His praise.
 
Communion
 
Invitation
 
What table is this that bears the weight of sacrifice: heavens intent, broken in each morsel? What moment is this that spills with holy love restless in this the world, crushed in the taste of wine? What place is this where heaven shatters into a thousand crumbs in the hands of a vulnerable Saviour? What hour is this that calls the bread-maker to break body and spill blood in the name of love?

The Apostle Paul reminds us why we share this simple meal:
 
The tradition which I handed on to you came to me from the Lord himself:  that on the night of his arrest the Lord Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks to God broke it and said: This is my body, which is for you; do this in memory of me. In the same way, he took the cup after supper, and said: This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this in memory of me.’ For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11: 23 - 26

Prayer of Thanksgiving
 
The Lord be with you.
We lift up our hearts to the Lord.
 
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God because it is right to give him thanks and praise.  God of abundance and mercy, we give joyful thanks for your eternal love and healing presence in our celebration of bread and wine. Bless us, the body of Christ, that we may attend faithfully to our call to be your servants with each other  and throughout the world.
 
Therefore, with your people  of all places and times,  and with the whole company of heaven,  we proclaim your greatness  and sing your praise in the angels’ song: 
Santo, Santo, Santo.
¡Mi corazón te adora!
Mi corazón te sabe decir
¡Santo eres Señor!
 
Holy, holy, holy.
My heart, my heart adores you!
My heart is glad to say, the words:
You are holy, Lord!
 
Send down your Holy Spirit to bless us and these your gifts of bread and wine,  that they might help us grow in grace, to the glory of your most holy name.  And here we offer and present to you our very selves, to be a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for your acceptance; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  all honour and glory are yours, almighty Father, now and forever.
 
God in community, Holy One hear us as we pray in the words of Jesus;
 
Our Father…
 
As we share this bread and wine together we symbolise our unity in Jesus, the one who calls us to follow him, who calls us from the safety of our traditions and our comfort zones, to journey with him. And so at this sacred moment we re-enact the events on the night before Jesus died, when,  sitting with his friends at the table,  he took the bread,  gave thanks,  blessed it and broke it. Jesus then shared it with them. We will do the same,  breaking the bread as the symbol of his body  broken by the sins of the world.   And after sharing the bread,  Jesus took the cup of wine, blessed it and then shared it with all his friends. We do the same,  we will drink it as the symbol of his lifeblood. Through the work of God the Divine Spirit,  and as we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, this simple bread and wine are reminders of the sacred.   By sharing this bread and wine together we remember Jesus, who he was, who he is, and who he will always be. So come, all of you, the table is ready. Come all of you who are burdened, and receive again these symbols  of our tradition,  our history  and our eternity.  We eat and drink together.
 
The Peace
 
The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
  
Prayer
 
We believe the time is now, with the taste of bread fresh on our lips, to go into the world and face the darkness.  We believe the moment is right, with the bitterness of the wine sharp in our mouths, to face the powers of the world with the love of heaven.  We believe the place is here, with the sound of covenant echoing in our ears, to endure the suffering love calls us to.  We believe the path is before us (with the crumbs of heaven still scattered across the table) to side with truth in a deafened world.  We believe the hour is come, with the table conversation a turmoil in our minds, to conspire with Christ and move against injustice.  We believe the gospel is this, with bread lying broken and a goblet left empty, love was betrayed, but death shall not have the final word. Amen
 
Intercessions
 
Lord God, show us how to have trust. Lead us to know the full conviction
of our faith that whatever strife or storms we find ourselves in, you will come to us, extend your hand, and invite us to take hold of it.
 
Show us how to believe. Reveal the full breadth of your glory that we might lift the limits on what we are prepared to, and are able to, envisage as the possibilities of life and creation under the energy of your Holy Spirit.
 
Show us how to live. Teach us through the stories of the Bible and the example of others that we might understand The Wayof discipleship
and apply it in the way we set about living our own lives.
 
Compassionate God, many in our world live with fear, and many find it difficult to do anything other than cower away from the world as if beaten by the pressures, challenges, anxieties and the worries of day-today existence.

We pray today:
 
  • for those drowning in the sorrow of their grief, and the emptiness of their loneliness;
  • for those drowning in squalor, poverty and hunger, for those drowning
  • in the inadequate availability of basic resources;
  • for those drowning in a sea of violence and hatred as victims and as those embroiled in it;
  • and for those drowning in an ocean of despair as they see no way out and no prospect of change in their lifes circumstances.
God, your love for people is no illusion, it is no trick of clever rhetoric, it is no mere opiate created by the Church to ease peoples pain. Your love is real, it is living, and it is present.   Through your Church may this love be known in the world, and made available through us to all we come across.
 
May people come to believe in the constancy of your love by the words and actions of our own faith. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
 
Hymn:      Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult        
                Cecil Francis Alexander
 
Jesus calls us o'er the tumult
of our life's wild, restless sea;
day by day his sweet voice soundeth,
saying "Christian, follow me."
 
2 As, of old, apostles heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home & toil & kindred,
leaving all for His dear sake.

3 In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
"Christian, love me more than these."
 
4:  Jesus calls us; by thy mercies,
Saviour, may we hear Your call,
give our hearts to Your obedience,
serve and love You best of all.

Blessing
 
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give you great peace,
this day and always.
Amen
 
 Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A  Prayer of Approach from Spill the Beans 35 Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France. Prayer of Dedication, Invitation to Communion & Post Communion Prayer by Roddy Hamilton - https://www.nkchurch.org.uk All other liturgical material by Stewart Cutler.
 
Eternal Father sung by the Military Wives’ Choir for Songs of Praise.
Will Your Anchor Hold? – Songs of Praise
I Come With Joy unknown artists.
Santo Santo, Santo Mi Corazon t’adora – Unknown author, unknown artists.
Jesus Calls Us O’er The Tumult – Songs of Praise
 
Organ Pieces played and recorded by Brian Cotterill.  Opening  Ach Gott Von Himmel Sieh Darein (“O God from heaven see this”) by Johann Pachelbel (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)  Closing: Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach  (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016)
 
Thanks to Anne Hewling, Ray Fraser, John Young, Kathleen Haynes, Carol Tubbs, and to the choir of Barrhead URC for recording the Lord’s Prayer, to  Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 
  --> 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 9th August 2020 Psalm 9

Sun, 09/08/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Sunday 9th August 2020 Psalm 9 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 9th August 2020 Psalm 9     
 
Come sing to God with all your heart;
give thanks to God Most High,
who makes the ruthless fall from power
and rescues those who cry.
 
For, Holy One, you take our part;
your ways are always just.
You stop the tyrants in their tracks
and turn their names to dust.
 
You are a shelter for the poor,
a stronghold in distress.
You care for all who trust in You
and all who are oppressed.
 
The violent move in vicious stealth
to dig their victims’ grave.
Come, snare them in the nets they cast.
Come, Mighty God, and save!
 
Rise up, O God; our blood cries out,
bring justice! Raise your hand!
Then we will tell how you have saved
Your praise will fill the land.  
 
© Ruth Duck 2011 GIA Publications Ltd
You can hear the tune, Morning Song, here.
 
Reflection
 
Captain Tom Moore has been quoted on his 100th birthday: ‘Together we will beat this enemy’. This man who inspired the world walking 100 laps around his garden has raised 30+ million pounds for NHS charities.
 
Where we shall be in our fight against the ‘enemy’ Covid-19 on 9th August, I have no idea. Will church buildings be open? What will be the impact of on-line worship? How many will have recovered? How many families will have lost lives to the enemy? The impact that the enemy will have on the recovery, restoration of communities, businesses and churches is still unknown.
 
Psalm 9, according to commentators, may have been written at a time when Israel had just been delivered from powerful enemies, such as the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Assyrians or the Babylonians. The super- powers have released Israel, justice has been done and love has eventually prevailed. 
 
Robert Alter in his translation of the Hebrew says of verse 17: ‘The Lord is known for the justice (…) he did’.( It sounds a bit like Yoda speaking in a Star Wars film). The translation assumes an (…) ellipsis in the Hebrew. The literal sense of the four Hebrew words in sequence here is : ‘The Lord is known Justice(…) He Did’. Now I have been using three dots in the writing of emails for years ( some have questioned my Suffolk English). I never knew it was ‘a thing’ until I heard it discussed in an interview in lockdown. Don’t rush from ellipses!   
 
Justice and love go together. They lead us to praise God. In times of despair we are even more ready to turn to prayer backed up by practical care and support: ‘For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever’ (verse 18). Today the needy will bear the biggest losses at the end of this.
 
Words of Assurance  
 
from Captain Tom’s  No 1 hit song with Michael Ball and the Care Choir 

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
 
You'll never walk alone.
Oscar Hammerstein II / Richard Rodgers
You'll Never Walk Alone lyrics © Concord Music Publishing LLC
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Andrew Royal Minister: Maidstone & Staplehurst URC’s  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 8th August 2020 The Plague of Blood

Sat, 08/08/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 8th August 2020  The Plague of Blood   
Exodus 7

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; stand by at the river bank to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a snake. Say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, ‘Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.’ But until now you have not listened. Thus says the Lord, ‘By this you shall know that I am the Lord.’ See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood. The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.”’  The Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, “Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over its rivers, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water—so that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.”’

Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into blood, and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river.  Seven days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.

Reflection

Perhaps the most convincing reason why Moses would find Pharoah at the river in the morning is that the story requires it.  The first challenge to Pharaoh's authority must take place at the Nile, the origin of Egypt.  The annual four-month inundation left behind rich silt, while rapids to the south, the delta to the North, and desert either side of the river defended the nation from attack.  Vast irrigation systems harnessed the water when the river receded, providing all year round agriculture, with excess produce traded with other lands by boat.  The organisation required to control the waters created a stratified society which valued order and stability, whose foundation was slavery: the hardly visible army of foreign workers without whom it would be difficult to keep the system running. 

The Egyptian word for “blood” and “red” were the same, and red was the colour of Apep, the serpent of chaos and synonym for evil.  When the highly learned priests, not served well by the translation “magicians”, performed rituals of execration they destroyed red pots or figurines as proxies for Egypt’s enemies.  Now in an ironic reversal they experienced this destruction for themselves.  All they could do in response was conjure more bloody water, bringing further misery to the people and helping Moses’ mission.  The Nile, source of fertility and life becomes the bringer of death, and the people have to dig into the sands to find clean water. 

This is still reality for millions of people. The World Health Organisation reported in 2017 that although 71% of the global population (5.3 billion people) used a safely managed drinking-water service, at least 2 billion people were using a contaminated drinking water source able to transmit diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio.

Prayer

Gracious God,
thank you for the technical wisdom and commitment to the common good which has brought clean water to more people than ever.
Where decisions must be made about allocating resources may leaders be guided to channel these to the people who have least.
Give us determination to build communities on fairness, questioning the ways that we have always done things, and bringing our practices into your sunlight. Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Fiona Thomas is the outgoing Secretary for Education and Learning for the United Reformed Church, and a member at Christ Church in Bellingham. 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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Back to Egypt

Fri, 07/08/2020 - 16:30
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Back to Egypt

over the last month we've taken a break from our meander through Genesis and Exodus with an excursion into Jonah and a wander through the Basis of Union.  Now we return to where we left off: the stories of a hard hearted Pharoah, Moses the liberator and now a plague or 10.  

When these Devotions were planned out the idea of writing about plagues didn't have the same resonance as they do now as we live through a modern day plague.

I hope the readings are fruitful for you.


with every good wish


Andy

The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC
 
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Back to Exodus

Fri, 07/08/2020 - 15:30
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Dear Friends,

I hope you've found the last two weeks' devotions on our Basis of Union useful; considering it's place in our common life it does rather deserve to be better known.

Now we've worked our way through it we return, tomorrow morning, to Exodus picking up where we left off as we start to consider the plagues sent to change Pharaohs mind.

with every good wish


Andy

Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, URC Daily Devotions
 
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URC Daily Devotion Friday 7th August 2020 Basis of Union 23

Fri, 07/08/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 7th August 2020  Basis of Union 23 
 
Acts 20:17, 28, 31-35
 
From Miletus (Paul) sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. When they came to him, he said to them: “… Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son … Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no-one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
                                                                                                                                                              
Basis
 
Some are called to be elders. They share with Ministers of the Word and Sacraments in the pastoral oversight and leadership of the local churches, taking counsel together in the elders' meeting for the whole church and having severally groups of members particularly entrusted to their pastoral care. They shall be associated with Ministers in all the councils of the church. Elders elected by the church meeting are ordained to their office and are inducted to serve for such limited period as the church which elects them shall determine. All elders are eligible for re-election, and those elected shall enter upon their office by induction. On moving to another local church an ordained Elder is eligible for election by that church to the elders' meeting, and, if so elected, is inducted. The ordination and induction of elders shall be carried out in the course of public worship by a Minister of the local church (or, during a pastoral vacancy, by the interim moderator) acting with the serving elders.  (23)

Reflection

I thank God for elders – for this pattern of Christian service, and for a host of fine people who fulfil it. Eldership is one of the treasures of the URC. Here are some of the reasons we value it so highly.

Elders are both lay and ordained. With roots and experience in wider society, they lead and care for the church. Appointed as individuals, they work as a team. They are chosen by the local congregation, for a role recognised by the URC as a whole. We ordain them because this ministry – linking church and world, locally rooted, operating as a team – is an ‘essential element’ of our shared life, a key ingredient for healthy Church order.

I notice two practical themes in today’s scripture passage. One is vigilance: ‘keep watch … be alert’. An elder lives in two worlds – Church and wider society. To stand on the boundary is to see the dangers and the opportunities. The Church is not an island. We belong to the local community, and we represent Christ within it.  Elders are well placed to understand this.

The second theme is generosity: ‘God’s grace … support the weak … it is blessed to give’. Eldership is demanding. It asks people to offer to God a lot of time, energy and compassion. Pastoring needs patience. Leadership must be given in love. Caring can be costly. Supporting others will stretch us. Yet this is God’s church, brought into being through the suffering love of Jesus. We are not in this on our own. Grace and goodness are behind us, with us and among us.

Eldership is a big ask. I see many people in the URC who have given a big answer to that ask, and I thank God for them.

Prayer

For the elders among us we pray for strength and steadiness,
  to care with understanding,
  to lead with confidence,

  to guide the Church wisely and well.
We pray that in giving they will receive – 
  joy in serving, 
  the thanks of friends,
  and growth in faith, hope and love.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John Proctor is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge 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 6th August 2020

Thu, 06/08/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 6th August Basis of Union 22  

St Luke 24:13-35

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

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’  That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.  They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Basis

Some are called to the Ministry of church related community work. After approved preparation and training, they may be called to be Church Related Community Workers in a post approved by the United Reformed Church, are then commissioned to the office of Church Related Community Worker and inducted to serve in a particular post for a designated period. This commissioning and induction shall be in accord with Schedules D & F. Church Related Community Workers are commissioned to care for, to challenge and to pray for the community, to discern with others God’s will for the well-being of the community, and to endeavour to enable the church to live out its calling to proclaim the love and mercy of God through working with others in both church and community for peace and justice in the world. Their service may be stipendiary or non-stipendiary, and in the latter case their service is given within the area of a synod and in a context it has approved.  (22)

Reflection

The ministry of Church Related Community Work has been like walking numerous Emmaus Roads in all sorts of locations and contexts. I have walked alongside individuals, groups, communities and encouraging the Church to do the same.

Many of these folks, like the disciples were often broken, grieving, feeling that there was little, if anything they can do to change their situation and that of their communities. They have stood still, paralysed, frozen, looking sad, feeling lost and helpless. So, I have travelled with them, listening to and embracing their stories – never denying, correcting or changing any of the narratives and always waiting until their stories come to an end. I have tried (and sometimes failed!) to resist the temptation to interrupt them or tell them what I think they should do.  Even when I think that we may have been heading down a cul-de-sac, I have stayed with them - sometimes reluctantly!  When we have found ourselves in unfamiliar territory (never admitting that we could be lost), we have worked out a route together.

Because through the journeying and listening to each other comes the realisation that the answer is and, always has been, right there amongst and within them. After years of being told what is best for them by professionals and despite what messages they may have been given by society and the world around them, they come face to face with the reality that they have the gifts and talents. Gifts and talents that can transform their lives and communities in the ways that they, not others, deem appropriate.

The journeys have always been two-way processes. At times, things have not been easy and there have been many bumps in the road plus a few near crashes. But along the way I have found myself being challenged and changed by the adventures with my co-travellers. Ultimately, together we have been able to discover the transformative power of God - often hidden in plain sight.

Prayer

Boundless and transformative God,
teach us to be good co-travellers.
Help us to know
when to do justice,
how to love kindness,
and remind us to walk humbly,
always with You.
Amen
(Micah 6:8)
 
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Today's writer

Marie Trubic is a Church Related Community Worker serving the Shawlands and Priesthill project in Glasgow. 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, 05/08/2020 - 11:15
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service of Holy Communion is led by the Rev’d Stewart Cutler minister of St Ninian’s Church in Stonehouse, a partnership between the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church.   Hymns include  William Whiting’s Eternal Father, Strong to Save, Priscilla J Owens’ Will Your Anchor Hold?, Brian Wren’s I Come With Joy To Meet My Lord, a lovely Sanctus from Argentina in both Spanish and English, and Cecil Francis Alexander’s Jesus Calls O’er the Tumult

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 good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC -->

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If, however, the email isn't in your Spam/Junk folder please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read it there.  I am away for August and so won't be able to help if you email!

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 5th August 2020 Basis of Union 21

Wed, 05/08/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 5th August 2020 Basis of Union 21 

Ephesians 4: 11-13
 
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
 
Basis
 
Some are called to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments.  After approved preparation and training, they may be called to be Ministers of local churches, or missionaries overseas, or to some special and approved ministry, and are then ordained and inducted to their office...They are commissioned to conduct public worship, to preach the Word and to administer the Sacraments, to exercise pastoral care and oversight, and to give leadership to the church in its mission to the world.   Their service may be stipendiary or non-stipendiary, and in the latter case their service is given within the area of a synod and in a context it has approved. (21)
 
Reflection
 
Fifteen years of my ministry have been at Westminster College, and this combination of Paul’s teaching and these invitations from the Basis have seldom been far from me, or, I suspect, from any of us devoted to the URC’s education, training and formation for ministry. The ways in which we deliver and plan it have changed dramatically (within a year of arriving at Westminster I was at the General Assembly that withdrew ministerial training from many ecumenical partnerships to focus upon Cambridge, Manchester and the Scottish College). The expectations, aspirations, demands and deployment of ministry remain in constant flux across our Synods. Congregations wrestle with many histories and much memory of previous ministries that often jar against what, now, is either possible or even useful. I have always thanked God that the URC has consistently devoted tremendous resources to equipping and sustaining ordained ministry. 
 
None of this, I believe, denies the rightful wonder and significance of everyone who wants to follow Jesus. None of this should let us trip ourselves up by imagining that the overwhelming majority of Christians who are not ordained to these ministries are in any way lesser Christians of less significance before God. Paul’s ultimate focus in Ephesians is not the self-aggrandizement of a holy and select guild, but the equipping of every believer for their own unique ministries and the growing up of the whole Church to the spiritual and missionary maturity Christ teaches and yearns for in us all. Yes, a thousand times, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. But Paul, as our Basis, is equally clear that God calls some, and wants some, prepared to be God’s agents in this equipping and nurturing. We have always, and must continue, to test and refine how we do such calling and preparing in response to the leading of the Spirit. New circumstances and changing contexts demand our most passionate dreaming and our most energetic reinvention again and again and again. I do not know what future Ministry of Word and Sacraments will be for the URC. But neither do I believe that we have no further need of it, or that God has ceased to call people into it.
 
Prayer
 
Thank you, dear God,
for the call of the Spirit
in the name of your Son.
Thank you for all who minister amongst us
and throughout our communities and institutions.
Thank you for those who have helped us to follow you.
Bless them this day.
Bless us as we, too,
discover your claim and calling
in our lives today.
Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Neil Thorogood is Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge, until he returns to local URC pastoral ministry at Trinity-Henleaze (Bristol) and Thornbury in summer 2020 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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