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URC Daily Devotion 13th October

URC Devotions - Fri, 13/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 13th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 6: 1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias.  A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick.  Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.   Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.   When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”   He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.   Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”   One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him,   “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”

Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.   When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.”   So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.   When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”   When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Reflection In a former life I taught Economics – often quoted as ‘the science of scarce resources’! Sounds like the Church and all our discussions.
 
Here Jesus gives us a lesson in economics of a very different kind.
 
This miracle begins the long, rich chapter about bread and Passover. The story is told in all four gospels – each with a different nuance but fundamentally the same – how the large crowd are fed.
 
The disciples were at a loss, they did not know what to do. Eventually, they brought the peedie* boy and his picnic to Jesus’ attention. Many of us will have known the story since we were children. It is simple yet profound – bring what we have to the attention of Jesus.
 
The emphasis is on what have we got. Jesus does not focus on what we haven’t got. So often our talk is of what we have not got, of decline, of scarcity (yes we have to be realistic). Yet here in this passage we see abundance, grace, promise and faith.
 
I am reminded of the words of a hymn which is a favourite of many - ‘Finest bread I will provide’ - here with left overs too.
 
Maybe Jesus reminds us - What have you got? Bring it to my attention. As we look around our congregations we see precious gifts, promise, love and faith.
 
* (small in Orcadian)
 

Prayer

To God, who blesses us beyond our imagining?
who loves us beyond our dreaming,
who forgives us beyond our deserving,
and who uses us beyond our hoping,
be praise and thanksgiving,
honour and adoration
now and always,
In the name of Jesus Amen
 
(adapted from a prayer by the Rev’d Nick Fawcett)

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Susan Kirkbride is the minister of the Peedie Church in Orkney

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 12th October

URC Devotions - Thu, 12/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 5: 19-47

Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.  Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.  The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,  so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Anyone who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.  Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

“Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself;  and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.  Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth.  Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved.  He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.  But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.  And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form,  and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.  Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.  I do not accept glory from human beings.  But I know that you do not have the love of God in you.  I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.  How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?  Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope.  If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”
Reflection It is said that there are no parables in John’s gospel.  There aren’t many, I grant, and often they are hidden - embedded in the text rather than recorded as a story which is then interpreted.   Jn 5: 19-20a is a case in point, so clearly a parable told from the experiences of a boy in the carpenter's shop.  This copy of a woodcut from an old lectern bible shows the boy sawing a plank in half.  The carpenter is in the background, apparently continuing his own task, yet clearly keeping an eye on the boy, while outside his mother pauses, water jug in hand - will he realise that one more stroke of the saw and the saw horse will be damaged? And then the conversation that evening: “Tell me, son, could you have done it better?”  The Father does not judge!  

The evangelist has recorded this speech showing how Jesus builds on this foundation parable a thorough answer.  First, there is the answer about how judgement begins and happens - traditionally starting in this life and continuing either in the resurrection to life or to condemnation.   Then there is the trinitarian interplay, woven together like the three people in the woodcut: Jesus being given authority to judge but in doing so, not doing his own will but the will of the one who send him.    

Look again at the woodcut.  “I can do nothing on my own” v.30 a.  The task the boy is doing is to saw a plank of wood lengthways: no easy feat.  Only one person can complete this task: the person holding the saw and not reliant on his own judgement but on experience and being able to see the line it needs.  You can be told how to do, like searching a text book, but the only way to really know how to do it, is to do it.   If you don’t believe what you are told is the correct method, then there are problems.  

This brings us to the second part of Jesus’ answer (verses 31-47).  There is a warning about superficially hearing or reading something that seems either complex or self-defeating.  Certainly, what John has written can be read as a circular argument, but read it again and it is speaking truth to power.   Jesus the judge is nor reliant on his own judgement, it is distinctly from God; if those who sent messengers to John the Baptist accept what John said as truth, then the very work of Jesus speaks for itself: the comparison is that of the lamp to the light shed (Jn 1:7-8).   Jesus next makes the point that if you ask John and you search the scriptures yet cannot find God in them, you must ask if it is because you do not love God.  Finally, after all this searching, how can you find the Son of God when you don’t believe the very scripture that you search.  
 

Prayer

Creator God,
so often we find ourselves being asked awkward questions,
may we draw on simple experiences to give us an idea of how to answer.  
May the answers we are challenged to give
be the ones that are based on your truth and in your word.  
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: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 11th October

URC Devotions - Wed, 11/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 11th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 5: 9-18

At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.  Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’ But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.” ’ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’ Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. Reflection Do you remember wearing your best clothes to church: not being able to play with your friends on Sundays? Do you remember the furore over shops opening on Sundays and the whole ‘Keep Sunday special’ initiative? Sundays have, historically, been special in the Christian tradition as the seventh day on which God rested.  But it hasn’t always been so!

The Early Church, consisting of Jewish people,  would have initially kept to Saturday as the day of rest - as Jewish people still do.   In a bid to define themselves as different, and to shake off some of the Jewish customs, the holy day moved to Sunday, the first day of the week and the day on which Jesus rose from the dead.  

In today’s reading we have Jesus being condemned for healing a man on the Sabbath.  Yet we know God does not choose days and times to act or not act: God with us is 24/7.  Jesus was turning the established order upside down with his actions and words, unsettling those in power in the Temple.  What was most important the rule or the man being healed? His healing on the Sabbath was, to them, Law breaking. And they were determined for him to adhere to it.

Sabbath as a concept is important. Whilst I struggle with condemning people for not keeping Sunday holy, I do think the idea of Sabbath is important. Where do we get our time of refreshment? Where do we set aside time for family or friends or to engage in a hobby or passion? Where do we stop and make time just to be?  If every day is the same then we risk not seeing the special times when they occur.  If there is never a time set aside that enables us to focus on: God;  our relationship with God; our part in a worshipping community;  our lives and our endeavours; if we never make a conscious effort to put back in some of the emotion and love we give out then we are cheating ourselves. We are not looking after ourselves - physically or spiritually -  and we will not be at our best.  Our relationships will suffer.  When we hear Jesus turning the accepted order upside down, and challenging the status quo, we know that is our calling today.  It also means that we are called to care for ourselves too. May we never forget it as we seek to follow and to respond. And may we never be afraid of challenging the status quo if it enables God to be more clearly seen by those around us!
 
Do you remember wearing your best clothes to church: not being able to play with your friends on Sundays? Do you remember the furore over shops opening on Sundays and the whole ‘Keep Sunday special’ initiative? Sundays have, historically, been special in the Christian tradition as the seventh day on which God rested.  But it hasn’t always been so!

The Early Church, consisting of Jewish people,  would have initially kept to Saturday as the day of rest - as Jewish people still do.   In a bid to define themselves as different, and to shake off some of the Jewish customs, the holy day moved to Sunday, the first day of the week and the day on which Jesus rose from the dead.  

In today’s reading we have Jesus being condemned for healing a man on the Sabbath.  Yet we know God does not choose days and times to act or not act: God with us is 24/.  Jesus was turning the established order upside down with his actions and words, unsettling those in power in the Temple.  What was most important the rule or the man being healed? His healing on the Sabbath was, to them, Law breaking. And they were determined for him to adhere to it.

Sabbath as a concept is important. Whilst I struggle with condemning people for not keep Sunday holy, I do think the idea of Sabbath is important. Where do we get our time of refreshment? Where do we set aside time for family or friends or to engage in a hobby or passion? Where do we stop and make time just to be?  If every day is the same then we risk not seeing the special times when they occur.  If there is never a time set aside that enables us to focus on: God;  our relationship with God; our part in a worshipping community;  our lives and our endeavours; if we never make a conscious effort to put back in some of the emotion and love we give out then we are cheating ourselves. We are not looking after ourselves - physically or spiritually -  and we will not be at our best.  Our relationships will suffer.  When we hear Jesus turning the accepted order upside down, and challenging the status quo, we know that is our calling today.  It also means that we are called to care for ourselves too. May we never forget it as we seek to follow and to respond. And may we never be afraid of challenging the status quo if it enables God to be more clearly seen by those around us!
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
Help us to follow your faithfully,
Seeking to be your people:
Loving others, showing care and compassion and walking in your way.
But help us also to look after ourselves
As we journey on and to value who we are.
Help us to make Sabbath moments in each week
So that we can just ‘be’ in your presence and find renewal and refreshment for
the continuing journey.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jenny Mills is Minister at Newport Pagnell URC and West End United Church, Wolverton.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 10th October

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

John 5: 1-9

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.  In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.  Now that day was a sabbath. Reflection I can’t help but hear incredulity in Jesus’ voice when he says “do you want to be made well?”  The response of the man is all about excuses which rather suggests, to me at least,  that Jesus had worked out the situation as soon as he saw it.  The healing pool was, I imagine, rather like the pool in Lourdes where the sick go in the hope that God will heal them.   Yet the man had his excuses about why he didn’t try to do what was required. This may sound harsh but how often do we make our excuses only to hear the Lord ask us “do you want to be made well?”

In our local congregations, and in our denominational life together,  we’re very good at making excuses to explain why we don’t do what we should do.  We distract ourselves with the urgent so as to ignore the important.  We do the same things again and again expecting a different result.  

The man in the story was almost beyond help - after all he’d been ill for 38 years and hadn’t availed himself of the resources available.  Yet Jesus’ piercing question broke through his excuses and, almost with divine exasperation, he is healed.  

We need to hear the, possibly exasperated, voice of Jesus asking us if we wish to be made well and then respond to his command “stand up, take up your mat and walk.” That will mean: being sure of our mission; confident in proclaiming our beliefs;  faithful in worship and celebration of the Sacraments; offering loving service to our communities; and welcoming all in Jesus’ name.  

Do we want to be made well?
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
you heal those who reach out to you
and respond to your voice
so that they may be signs of your life in our world.
Heal our church as we reach out to you,
enable us to respond to your piercing voice,
that we may not perish but have abundant life.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Andy Braunston is a minister in the Glasgow Southside Cluster of URCs.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 9th October

URC Devotions - Mon, 09/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 4: 43-54

When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honour in the prophet’s own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had all seen what he had done in Jerusalem at the Festival: for they too had gone to the Festival.

Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe”. The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies”. Jesus said to him, “Go, your son will live”. The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon, the fever left him”. The father realised that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live”. So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.
Reflection Jesus was not a magician and he was not impressed by those people who thought he was some kind of religious conjuror. So don’t try that prayer: “God if you’ll just make our Gary really good today, I’ll come to church on Sunday”, because all it will do is give God a good laugh.

Last time Jesus was in Cana, the water had become wine, and everybody saw it.  This time you don’t see the miracle happen. Jesus doesn’t even go to the sick child. The official trusts Jesus, because he recognizes in him someone who is in charge, someone who carries authority.  He believes, and his life is changed for ever as a consequence, even though his common sense might tell him that there is no proof that his son is better; there is no guarantee that the miracle has happened and the sign been given. The world still looks the same when he looks around but now the nobleman understands who is in charge.

We can believe or reject. We can understand or remain ignorant. We can believe that this world is a series of nasty accidents, of which we were each individually but one, or we can see the plan of God’s love unfolding even in the direst darkness. Even when it seems our dearest love is lost to us. That is what the nobleman faced. Out of the prospect of his greatest sorrow came his greatest hope because he knew that this man was indeed in charge and bore the marks of a greater authority than the one to which his slaves answered.

Why should we believe this? Because as the story unfolds we find that this is how God comes to us. In the loss and the death of God’s beloved son we find the depths of God’s love. It is hard to believe in a hard world; and that is why many did not believe Jesus, and still don’t. They saw and were blind; they heard and were deaf, and things have not changed that much. Which is why we may find it hard, and cannot always see the rhyme and the reason or the sense in the things that happen to us and to others. But faith breeds hope and hope brings love. We cannot ask for more than that.
 

Prayer

Loving Father,
we would believe but constantly doubt.
You see us when we are still a long way off.
Loving Father, help our unbelief; bring us home.
Grant to us the grace of faith, the courage to hope,
and the confidence to love, as we have been loved before ever we met you.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister in the Northern Synod & a member of Kenton URC, Newcastle.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 8th October

URC Devotions - Sun, 08/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 8th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 18
 

I love you, LORD! You are my strength.
A fortress is the LORD to me—
My rock and my deliverer;
For refuge to my God I flee.

He is my stronghold and my shield,
The LORD who saves me by his might.
I’ll call on him and give him praise.
I’m saved; he puts my foes to flight.

The cords of death entangled me;
Destruction hit me like a wave.
Encircled by the snares of death,
I faced the terrors of the grave.

In my distress I called on God;
I cried out to the LORD for aid.
He from his temple heard my voice;
He listened to the prayer I made.

The earth before God’s anger quaked;
The mountains’ deep foundations shook.
Consuming fire blazed from his mouth,
And from his nostrils came forth smoke.

The heavens parted, he came down;
Beneath his feet the dark clouds lay.
Upon the cherubim he flew;
On wings of wind he made his way.

He made the dark his canopy,
Dark rain clouds swirling in the sky.
From brightness of his presence came
Clouds, hail and lightning from on high.

The LORD Most High sent forth his voice;
His thunder from the heavens pealed.
His arrows scattered all his foes;
His lightning drove them from the field.

The valleys of the sea lay bare
And earth’s foundations deep and vast,
When your rebuke went forth, O LORD—
The power of your nostrils’ blast.

From heav’n he reached to grasp my hand
And lift me as the waters rose;
He saved me from my enemy,
From all my overpowering foes.

They threatened me in my distress,
But God stood by me in my plight.
He brought me out and set me free,
Because in me he took delight.

According to my righteousness
The LORD dealt with me faithfully;
Because my hands were clean from sin,
The LORD my God rewarded me.

For I have kept the ways of God;
From him I have not turned away.
I have not strayed from his decrees;
His statutes ever with me stay.

Before the LORD I’ve kept myself
From blame and all transgression free.
Since in his sight my hands were clean,
The LORD my God rewarded me.

With faithful people you keep faith,
And to the blameless you are good.
With pure men you yourself are pure,
But with the crooked you are shrewd.

You save the humble and the meek,
But bring the proud down from their height.
You, LORD, will keep my lamp aflame;
God turns my darkness into light.

With help from God I can advance
Against a troop and rout them all,
And with the aid my God will give
I can leap over any wall.

For perfect is the way of God;
No flaw is found within his word.
To all who put their trust in him
A shield and refuge is the LORD.

For who is God except the LORD?
Besides our God, who is the Rock?
He is the God who gives me strength,
And he perfects the path I walk.

He makes my feet like feet of deer;
Upon the heights he makes me stand.
My arms can bend a bow of bronze;
In skills of war he trains my hand.

Your right hand gives me victory;
You stoop down low to make me great.
So that my footsteps do not trip
You smooth the pathway for my feet.

I chased and overtook my foes;
I did not turn till they were slain.
I crushed them all beneath my feet;
They fell and could not rise again.

With strength you armed me for the fight;
My foes you humbled at my feet.
You made them turn their backs in flight;
And their destruction was complete.

They cried for help, but none could save;
They cried to God—no answer came.
I beat them fine as wind-borne dust;
Like wayside dirt I scattered them.

You set me over many lands;
You saved me from my enemy.
A people whom I did not know
Are in subjection now to me.

The moment that they hear my voice
They cringe before me and obey.
In fear they tremble and lose heart;
They leave their strongholds in dismay.

The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock!
My Saviour God exalted be!
He has avenged me, and subdued
Rebellious peoples under me.

You saved me from my enemies,
Exalting me above my foes;
You rescued me from violent men
Who sought my kingdom to oppose.

Therefore among the nations, LORD,
Your praise in song I will proclaim;
Before the peoples of the world
I’ll sing the glory of your name.

You give your king great victories;
Your loving-kindness you will pour
On David, your anointed one,
And his descendants evermore.

You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the tune Duke Street here.  
Reflection When I read this psalm, the line that stood out for me was, ‘For they were too mighty for me’ in the NRSV version which is rendered “from all my overpowering foes” in the metrical version used today.

The image is of David sitting on a rock and letting out a huge sigh of relief because he has been delivered from his ‘strong enemies and those that hate him’.

This Psalm is a bit of a paradox for me, on one hand there is beautiful and persuasive imagery of a humble David, who is praising God for being his rock and salvation. But also, there is some strong and evocative imagery portrayed of a violent and strong Lord who ‘thundered in the heavens’ and had people crying for help ‘but did not answer them’. The Bible is littered with such paradoxes, but how do we make sense of them? If there is an answer to that, it is too long for this devotion!

For this Psalm though, it helped me to consider that this is David’s letter of gratitude to God, in response to his experiences. If I can learn nothing else from this Psalm, I can feel David’s gratitude throughout it. Do I give God the same gratitude in such situations where I feel Her presence as strongly?

Practising gratitude can be life changing, it changes one’s outlook, and in-turn it can change relationships. It helps me to be conscious of the many blessings that God gives me, and being able to stop and think about them and thank God has been a very affirming spiritual practice for me.

Sometimes, praise and worship is something that we just ‘do’, and maybe do not actively seek time with God to bring the realities of our daily lives to Him, which is for me, where practising gratitude steps in.

We all have our own unique life experiences, just like David. Do we though take the time to reflect with gratitude to God for the blessing of our experiences, whether they are good or bad?

Prayer

God of wonder,
no matter if we are stood in a meadow or a crowded market
there is always beauty and your Spirit to be felt.
Help us to stop, look and seek what we can be grateful for.
We pray for all experiences, whether they be joyful or filled with sadness.
We pray that we can sit with you in those experiences and feel your loving presence in our lives.
In your name, we pray.
Amen

 

Today's Writer

Lee Battle is an Ordinand at Northern College and a member of Wilbraham St Ninian's URC in Chorlton.

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms
Psalmody and Praise Committee
Free Church of Scotland
15 North Bank Street
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URC Daily Devotion 7th October

URC Devotions - Sat, 07/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 4: 1- 42 

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John” —although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized—  he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria.  So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.)  The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?  Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?”  Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’;  for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!”  The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.”  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.”  Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,  “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”  They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.  Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting.  The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.  For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’  I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word.  They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.” Reflection This morning, let us sit down at Jacob’s Well. This passage from John about Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well is rich with messages and lessons for all who look for Jesus. I am however, going to focus on the woman at the centre of this passage.  She has come to the well in the middle of the day to draw water, but she ends up having an unexpected, life-changing encounter with a Jew named Jesus.

Just as there is a lot to take in with this passage as a whole, so there is also much to learn from the woman herself. Let’s start with some facts.  She is a Samaritan. Samaria is the name given to the land between Galilee in the North, and Judea in the south. If you are traveling from north to south, as John tells us that Jesus and his disciples were doing, the natural route is through Samaria, but Jews often avoided this way so they could avoid the Samaritans.  They were not very well-liked to say the least, and the Jews and Samaritans really didn’t get along at all well.  In order to understand why, though, we have to go way back in Jewish history to more than 400 years before Jesus’ birth. During the Babylonian exile, most of the Jews were forced out of their homeland and spread elsewhere around the Babylonian Empire. During the exile, many Jewish practices came to be influenced by the Babylonians. However, there were some Jews who remained in the area of Judea, and they came to view themselves as the only true descendants of Abraham because they were the only ones not influenced by outside forces. They came to be known as Samaritans, and they opposed the return of the Jewish exiles after the end of Babylonian occupation. The Samaritans and the Jews also disagreed about the place of true worship; the Jewish people of course, held to the Temple in Jerusalem, while the Samaritans believed God’s dwelling was the Temple on Mount Gerizim.

In any event, the Jews and Samaritans were frequently involved in skirmishes, with bloodshed and murder, but at best they still avoided each other at all costs and simply did not mix.  They would, especially, not share eating and drinking vessels with them.  And yet, Jesus asks this woman for a drink.

Surprisingly, John does not tell us that this woman is an adulterer; nor does he say that she is even a sinner, but it does seem fair to say that there was something in this woman’s life that she was ashamed of. We can assume this because she came to the well outside of the city in the middle of the day. It was, indeed usual for women to gather water from the well each day, but they would normally go to the well first thing in the morning so that they could collect their water while it was still cool - and there was a well within the Sychar town limits, so there was no reason for this woman to walk out of town in the heat of the day to get the water; unless she was afraid to interact with the other women of the town and ashamed to be seen by them.

Yet, whatever her colourful past, no matter her gender, or even her heritage as a Samaritan, when this woman encountered Jesus at the well, none of those things mattered. He asked her for a drink of water from the well, and she willingly dropped the bucket down into the well and drew fresh water to serve to Jesus.   

That one action, willingly taken to serve a stranger in need, was the beginning of this woman’s salvation journey.  Jesus engaged her in conversation. They talked about the well and its connection to their ancestor Jacob.  Jesus told her about “living water,” and offered her a drink, even as she collected water for him. Then they talked about the woman’s life. The conversation was to be completely transformational for the woman. Although she didn’t initially understand what “living water” was, by the time she was on her way back to Sychar to tell the village people about her encounter at the well, she must have known that it had something to do with being valued even when you feel ashamed.

Jesus saw straight to the heart of what was happening in this woman’s life. The woman had been through one emotional upheaval after another. Whether or not her various marriages ended in death or divorce, she must have felt defeated every time.  In the midst of it all, there was something in her life that caused her great shame. Like women and men everywhere, she wasn’t a villain, she was just a sinner with a messed up life.  Jesus, in all his infinite love and wisdom knew she needed to be loved and respected for who she was - a female, a Samaritan, a sinner - so he offered her living water.

And her life was changed!  It wasn’t just that the woman left the well with a smile on her face and feeling a little better on that particular day.  It wasn’t just that she gave herself a pat on the back because she had given some water to a thirsty stranger. No, she knew that she had encountered the Messiah.  She was valued, even though she was a woman.  She was respected, even though she was a Samaritan and felt ashamed.  She was loved even though something made her feel unlovable.  This woman did what I hope any of us would do.  She went back to her town to tell anyone who would listen. With her enthusiasm, with her honesty, with her testimony, people came to believe in Christ.  John says “Because of her testimony, many people in the village believed in Jesus.”

So here’s why the woman at the well matters for each of us. We have all felt like a nobody at times; some of us may have felt that we don’t matter because we are women, or because we’re not part of the “in crowd”?  I’m sure that there have been times when we are ashamed about all the mistakes we’ve made in our lives.  I have certainly felt in the past that nobody values me or respects me because I don’t have the best job or the best house or the coolest car (in fact, I score all three!)  This is why the story of the Samaritan woman at the well is so completely wonderful because in her story, we learn that none of that stuff matters to Jesus.  He loves us for who we are.  He values us even when the world might not. He’s not concerned with all the mistakes of our past.  He just wants to offer us “living water.”  He just wants to have a relationship with us.  He wants us to know that our messy lives are not so horrific in his eyes, and that if we will drink from the well of life, we can be made new.
 

Prayer

In the dry wildernesses of our lives, and in the days of heat and thirst, you offer us living water,
We thank you, life-giving and generous Father.

When we begin to doubt your presence, and disbelieve your motives, you offer us living water,
We thank you, life-giving and generous Father.

When life’s regrets and the bad choices we have made leave us feeling excluded and unworthy,
you offer us living water,
We thank you, life-giving and generous Father.

When circumstances, or the cruelty of others, have left us alone and our souls wounded,
you offer us living water,
We thank you, life-giving and generous Father.

We thank you and praise you, our Father, that however we may thirst,
whatever we may need to satisfy our souls, you offer it freely and abundantly in Christ;

So we drink deeply of the living water and, as we draw from the well of your Son,
we seek to pass the cup to others who like us, are thirsty for your grace.

Amen

Today's Writer

Ann Barton is the Facilities Manager of Church House.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 6th October

URC Devotions - Fri, 06/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 6th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

William Tyndale
Translator of the Scriptures, Reformation Martyr, 1536

Born in Gloucestershire in about the year 1494, William Tyndale studied first at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, and then at Cambridge. He became determined to translate the Scriptures from the Greek directly into contemporary English but was thwarted in this by the Bishop of London. So William settled in Hamburg in 1524, never returning to England. When the first copies of his translation arrived in England in 1526, it was bitterly attacked as subversive by the ecclesial authorities. He spent much of the rest of his life making revisions to his work, but also writing many theological works. His life's-work proved good enough to be the basic working text for those who, at the beginning of the following century, were to produce what became known as the Authorised Version of the Bible. He was eventually arrested in 1535 and imprisoned in Brussels on charges of heresy. He was first strangled and then burnt at the stake on this day in 1536. His last words were, "Lord, open the King of England's eyes."

2 Timothy 3. 12-17

Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.
Reflection During my time as an undergraduate theologian, I came to the realisation that the simple Reformation maxim of sola scriptura (‘by scripture alone’) was actually a bit more complicated than the two words suggested. Our Reformation forebears looked to Scripture as the primary source of our life, naturally, but instead of slavishly adopting every word and verb conjugation they looked to the way in which it was brought alive by the discernment of the Holy Spirit. They considered it as the Word inspired for life, giving direction to God’s people in the Church throughout the ages.

Such inspiration was aided through the translation of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures into the vernacular. William Tyndale (c.1494-1536) utilised the new printing press technology of the early Sixteenth Century to mass-produce English translations of Scripture. The availability of Scripture in English, along with his work to share Luther’s ideas in his other publications, undoubtedly played a key role in spreading the ideas of the Reformation to England. His ‘heretical’ translation cost him his life, but provided a Reformed reading of the Scriptures that guided generations.

In our generation, we find ourselves culturally in the line of Tyndale and the Reformers. When we sit down to study the Bible, we might find it difficult sometimes to see all Scripture as useful for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. There are even parts that sometimes seem devoid of God’s inspiration. Finding a way of discerning scripture in our lives, even the bits we struggle with, seems to be a challenge before us.

In the Basis of Union, the URC ‘believes that, in the ministry of the Word, through preaching and the study of the Scriptures, God makes known in each age his saving love, his will for his people and his purpose for the world’ (§A.13). If we’re to continue the work of our Reformation forebears, it seems only right that we pick up this mantle and seek the Word inspired for life – as a Word of transformation and a Word for the world. We may never be able to adopt every word of Scripture before us, but when we remember each word to be inspired by God and given to show God’s saving love, then we can work to discern God’s Word to us as faithful, committed followers, equipped for every good work.

Prayer

On sacred page,
and in holy inspiration,
help us to see your Word to us.
Give us the courage to listen for your wisdom,
that we may see words that teach, improve, inform and instruct
and may be transformed into your perfect people.

Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is the Minister of St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton and a Northern Synod Minister

Bible Version

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


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URC Daily Devotion 5th October

URC Devotions - Thu, 05/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 3: 22 - 36

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized —John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.

Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.
Reflection “Who do we believe?”

There was John baptizing people at Aenon in Samaria of all places and there, not far away, was Jesus also baptising people. Which of these baptisms would be the one which would really purify the participants from their sin? Was the question (or was it just a comment?) being asked in anger or confusion or bewilderment?
Whatever was behind the comment it arose from what must have looked like a very odd situation. John had never claimed to be doing anything other than preparing the way and yet here he was still baptising people with water, presumably still promising (as Mark tells us) that the one who was to follow would baptise with the Holy Spirit. And there was the one who it was claimed was the one who was to follow, seeming to be doing much the same thing - baptising with water.

Who do we believe?

This might be thought of as the first ecumenical dilemma – two seemingly similar people making the similar claims about sin and grace and these didn’t even seem to have different practices!

I am told that there are 42,000 Christian denominations worldwide and denominational membership of Church Together in Britain and Ireland is in excess of 50.  

Who do we believe?

John’s answer to the Jew was to talk about Jesus’ direct link with heaven enabling him to testify to that experience in the earthly context of his time and place. By association and acceptance those who believed in him would have eternal life. It occurs to me that for John and those first century seekers the answer to the question was somewhat clearer with Jesus only a few miles down the road. In 21st century Britain the question is somewhat more complicated. As a church and as individual Christians we have a responsibility;
First, to seek to know Jesus better, through reading, exploring together and prayer.

Second, as we work alongside people of all faiths and none to reflect the Jesus we have come to know in the context in which we find ourselves.

Third, never to presume that we can fully answer the ‘who do we believe?’ question, only that we can share with others as we seek to deepen our faith.
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
we are often bewildered by the variety of Christian denominations
we observe different practices and theology
we ask, who is right, who is doing it the way you would like?
Guide our reading,
help our explorations,
enable us to discern what is important
and to identify those things we share.
Lead us as we seek to deepen our understanding,
develop our relationship
and walk with you throughout our lives.
Amen

Today's Writer

Val Morrison is an elder in Hall Gate URC in Doncaster.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 4th October

URC Devotions - Wed, 04/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 3: 1-21

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him,

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”

Jesus answered him,

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”

Nicodemus said to him,

“How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

Jesus answered,

“Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above. ’The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him,

“How can these things be?”

Jesus answered him,

“Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
Reflection There was a pow-wow at the cathedral. We, the church leaders were worried about Joe. Joe had turned up with a raggle-taggle band, preaching Good News and people came flocking. Well the alkies and druggies, the dropouts and prostitutes did. His message was simple ‘Turn to God and change your ways.’ They loved it. They followed him in droves, singing praises, clapping and dancing in the streets. We didn’t know what to make of it, to be honest we didn’t like it.

Now we see how controversial this text is. This would have been the scene when Jesus came to Jerusalem and the Jewish religious leaders were not happy. What to do about it? John the Baptist had been a troublemaker and he’d been beheaded. Now here’s another one causing ructions and this one is even more aggravating than the last. Jesus likened them i.e. the Sanhedrin to a brood of vipers; compared them to whitewashed tombs. He told people to beware of them as they walked miles for a convert then made them twice as likely to go to hell as they themselves were.

Imagine this nowadays, Joe in the streets saying ‘Keep away from churches they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re miles away from the kingdom with their fancy robes and statues. Driving round in fancy cars, living the high life while others are starving. Urging people to give more to keep their buildings open.’ This is scary stuff I’m not comfortable even writing it.

So back in 1st c Jerusalem, Nicodemus goes to see Jesus and Jesus tells him that he  has to be born again. What’s all that about? I had to work through this myself many years ago when I went into a restaurant and the waiter had a fish badge in his lapel. I was in there ‘Ah, you’re a Christian,’ I said. ‘Yes!’ he said, ‘a born again Christian.’ Well I had to wrestle with that. What is a born-again Christian? Are there two sorts of Christians? Are born-again Christians different and if so how? Am I different and if so how and if not should I be and different from what? My brain was hurting now.

I revisited this text I imagined Nicodemus going to Jesus, I pictured him grovelling ‘Teacher we know you are from God…’ and Jesus seeing right through him, STOP. You have to be born again! What is that about? What does this mean to me? I decided it said ‘Have I invited Jesus into my life and have I accepted him as my Lord and Saviour?’  Well. yes I supposed I had but not from any specific moment or day, he’s just always been there. BUT Once I’d accepted Jesus into my life I was born again in the Spirit. This may come as a sudden revelation or a gradual realisation but once I’d acknowledged Jesus I was indeed born again and it’s that realisation that gives me trust in Jesus and confidence to face adversity.
 

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the scriptures that I can read and relate to my life;
thank you for the people I meet and the situations I encounter.
Thank you for being there for me so that I know I can bring you my problems
in the safe and sure knowledge that you will understand,
because you love me
and because you love me you will forgive all my human mistakes and let me start again.
You wipe my slate clean and I come now and put all my trust in you,
fill me with your Holy Spirit,
refresh me and renew me so that I can go forward
born-again in your service.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lena Talbot is the minister of Revidge Fold, Trinity Brownhill and Westbury Gardens URCs in Blackburn.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 3rd October

URC Devotions - Tue, 03/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 3rd October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 2: 23-25

When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing.  But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone. Reflection This passage is only 3 verses long, but it is one that brings home to me the humanity of Jesus.  It’s a short hiatus in His journey, where reality confronts him.  People were seeing the miracles, seeing amazing things happen; and were persuaded that Jesus was someone special because of these signs. But Jesus knew that this wasn’t “real” faith – in more recent times we might have referred to them as “rice Christians”; a term Harper Lee used to describe converts made by missionaries, who were believers until the rice ran out. It must have been hard for Jesus to decide what to do next – carry on with the miracles that were part of his mission, to make people understand who and what he was, or whether it might not work at all!  When he was gone, and the miracles didn’t happen – would people still believe? Would they remember Him, would they be brought to God?

It seems to me that this struggle is still going on, that the religious groups growing fastest today are those making promises, dealing in certainty – how do we answer those who come looking for miracles and leave disappointed and angry?

No – I don’t know either.

But I know every day I carry on, living with uncertainty, living with doubts, and being lifted up again by the miracle of the ordinary, the miracle of the everyday, the miracle of the first step. I don’t think God demands any more of us than that.
 

Prayer

Lord, forgive me when I look for more than there is.
Forgive me when I ask for more than I need.
When I lose my way in a cloud of uncertainty,
Help me to remember that your hand is there to guide me
Back to the path that leads to you
Amen

Today's Writer

Ann Honey is a Church Related Community Worker serving at Robert Stewart Memorial Church, Fenham 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.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 2nd October

URC Devotions - Mon, 02/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 2nd October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 2: 13-22

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.   In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables.  Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’   His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’  The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’   Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’  The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body.   After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. Reflection Jesus enters the temple and engages in a highly political act as he drives out those selling the animals for sacrifice and the money-changers. It is not so much an attack on the sacrificial system but an attack upon the temple economy that was taking advantage of the poor. Doves would be the animal sacrifice of choice for the poor, others may well sacrifice more expensive animals, the temple held the monopoly and it’s traders could keep the prices high. Before people could pay their so-called temple tax their money had to be changed to coins from Tyre which did not have the Emperor’s head upon them. In attacking the temple in this way Jesus was attacking the priestly aristocracy who were making money out of this temple trade. It was not surprising that in the accounts in Mark’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel the religious leaders begin to plot against Jesus, looking for ways to kill him.

In the synoptic Gospels this story of the “temple cleansing” comes towards the end, here in John’s Gospel it is towards the beginning probably because it brings out the conflict between Jesus and “the Jews” that is found in this Gospel. Jesus’ opponents want to know Jesus’ credentials for doing this thing, they want a sign. Jesus refuses to provide a sign but he tells them that if the Temple is destroyed he will raise it up in three days. It brings to mind words in the Synoptic Gospels used by accusers at his trial and then repeated to Jesus upon the cross that he would destroy the temple and raise it up in three days. For the followers of Jesus if the edifice of the temple is destroyed the new temple will be his body.

I have called Jesus’ action political it has also been described as a prophetic action, the message, akin to that of the Old Testament prophets before him who criticised exaggerated religious demands at the expense of God’s justice.

I wonder how many of you watched the television drama “Broken” written by Jimmy McGovern. The central character in the series is Father Michael Kerrigan, a Roman Catholic priest played by Sean Bean. One of the other characters, Roz Demichelis, was addicted to gambling machines and steals money from her workplace to continue gambling. She is ashamed and commits suicide. In the final episode Roz’s daughter, Chloe, takes a sledge-hammer to the machines by way of revenge. Father Michael preaches a sermon based on the cleansing of the temple and he,  and members of the parish, go and smash the machines too.
 

Prayer

God,
you are a God of justice,
Jesus shows us
that at the heart of true worship
is concern for those in need,
those who live at the fringe of society,
those who are the victims of destructive forces.
Forgive us when we have been more concerned
about the structures, words and music of worship
than with truth and righteousness that lie at its heart.
In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr David Whiting is the Minister of the Sunderland and Boldon Partnership.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 1st October

URC Devotions - Sun, 01/10/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 1st October Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Psalm 17
 

LORD, hear my righteous plea
and listen to my cry;
It does not rise deceitfully
or come from lips that lie.

Declare me innocent
and vindicate my name;
LORD, may your eye see what is right
and free me from all blame.

Though you examine me
and probe my heart and mind,
And though you test me in the night,
yet nothing you will find.

I said, “I will not sin
in anything I say.”
From those who practise violence
I have kept far away.

From every evil path
by your word I’m preserved.
My feet have held to all your ways;
from them I have not swerved.

I call on you, O God,
for you will answer me;
O turn your ear towards my prayer
and hear my earnest plea.

Display your steadfast love
and save with your right hand
All those who flee for help to you
when foes against them stand.

In shadow of your wings
hide me in times of strife;
And as the apple of your eye
preserve and guard my life.

Hide me from ruthless foes
who follow wicked ways,
From those who circle me about
and seek to end my days.

They close their callous hearts;
they speak with swelling pride.
They dog my steps; my enemies
are found on every side.

They fix their eyes on me
to cast me to the ground.
Like hungry lions stalking prey,
they crouch without a sound.

Arise, confront my foes
and bring them down, O LORD;
Deliver me from wicked hands
and free me by your sword.

Save me by your right hand
from all such people, LORD,
From mortal men who in this life
will have their sole reward.

You fill them with good things;
their sons are satisfied.
They leave their children all the wealth
which they have set aside.

But I in righteousness
your face will surely see;
And with your likeness, when I wake,
I satisfied will be.
 
You can hear a Free Church congregation sing from v 6 onwards to the tune Franconia here.  It can also be set to the tune Swabia which you can hear here.  
Reflection Newly at university, Lesslie Newbigin didn’t believe in God, but he found the faith of Christian friends to be ‘appealing’. Asking, ‘If I wanted to be a Christian, how would I begin?’, he was told, ‘Buy an alarm clock.’

Psalm 17 implies that the routine of praying at the beginning of the day (verse 15), and at its end (verse 3), is a worthwhile ‘holy habit’. It can be so steadying an anchor as we are buffeted by all that contemporary life consists of.

Psalmists are often very frank about themselves and about the world in which they live. Today’s author is, too. Whilst as individuals we will often candidly confess our flaws and errors, this psalm helps us accept that there is also a time to tell God how we have tried to be ‘innocent’. It’s not about boasting, but rather acknowledging gratefully how good it is when, amidst temptation and distraction ‘my feet have not stumbled from your paths’ (verse 5).

Setting our personal life within its proper place, ‘out there’ at the heart of society, maybe we also recognise the psalm’s language for depicting the state of the world: ‘callous’, ‘ruthless’, ‘proud’, etc. Moreover, despite that ‘righteous plea’ in line 1 of today’s metrical version, we don’t need to buy totally into the psalmist’s suggestion that it’s only ‘the wicked’ who err; too often we will be able to see such shortcomings in ourselves. Psalm 17 offers us the opportunity - alone and together - to pray for wisdom and strength that we might stick to God’s path. Above all, though, the psalmist pleads for the wonders of God’s hesed, expressed above as ‘display your steadfast love and save with your right hand … in shadow of your wings hide me in times of strife; and as the apple of your eye preserve and guard my life.’ How precious a prayer that is, for ourselves, for the Church and for the world. Contemporary life can vex us. Despair, though, will only make things worse. The Christian’s vocation is to replace despair with prayer, through Jesus Christ, in whose living, dying and rising that hesed of God finds its perfect expression.

Most of us are either larks or owls, better in the morning or the evening. Whichever it is, every day has a start and a finish when we can pray, looking in ‘faith, hope and love’ to the one ‘in whom we live and move and have our being’. So it is that even the alarm clock becomes a helpful tool for ‘walking the way, living the life of Jesus today’.

Prayer

Eternal God,
as we wake in the morning
and retire in the evening,  
receive the prayers that we offer
for your glory,
for the health of the nations and
for the wholeness of our own lives,
through Jesus Christ, Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Nigel Uden Minister of St Columba’s and Fulbourn URCs in Cambridge.

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
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URC Daily Devotion 30th September

URC Devotions - Sat, 30/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 30th September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 2: 1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. Reflection How I love a good wedding. It’s a truly joyful thing to see love shining out in people’s lives and to celebrate love and commitment in such a way. Jesus and his family loved a good wedding too, and are happy to join in with the celebrations here in Cana. What a shock though when the wine runs out! It’s going to be very embarrassing to have to explain to the guests that their glasses are not going to be refilled from now on. It will put a huge dampener on the festivities, and no doubt prove a great humiliation for the happy couple.

Thank goodness then for Jesus and His ability to make the wrong things right, and to ensure this happy gathering doesn’t fizzle out into failure just because of a planning mishap. He’s not doing it all by Himself however, and the servants can’t simply stand by whilst Jesus waves a proverbial magic wand over their water jars. God doesn’t work like that. He’s not just our Lord, but also our Friend and Enabler. He loves nothing better than to – in the modern parlance – empower us rather than overpower us. So the servants must take the stone jars and fill them with water first – tough and thirsty work, I imagine – before they can present them to Jesus. When they offer him what they have, no matter how unfit for purpose it actually is (who after all wants to drink water at a wedding? The guests will be furious when they find out!), Jesus accepts their efforts and with His miraculous power makes the water they have offered Him into the best wine it can possibly be. Even the steward – certainly a man who would know the ins and outs of wine – is astonished at the quality. And all’s well that ends well. Not only that, it’s a whole lot better too.
 

Prayer

God of miracles,
help us to bring You the abilities and talents we have,
so that You can turn them into something far greater
and more noble than we can ever ask or imagine.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Anne Brooke is a worshipper at Elstead URC.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 29th September

URC Devotions - Fri, 29/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 29th September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 1: 35-51

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’  The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.  When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’  He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.  One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed).  He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter)

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’  Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’  When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’  Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’  Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’  Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’  And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
Reflection
Mark Cazalet from the Methodist Modern Art Collection, © TMCP, used with permission.


This fascinating representation of ‘Nathaniel (asleep under the fig tree) by Mark Cazalet which can be found at www.Methodist Church.org.uk follow the link to the  ‘Methodist Art Collection’. It seems at first a simple image of a roughly painted figure asleep in a foetal position under a tree. It is worth however spending time with the image and seeing the nuances in it.
 
For did Nathaniel respond so enthusiastically to Jesus just because Jesus was a good observer? Or what was it that Nathaniel was doing under the fig tree that prompted Jesus to call him? Mark Cazalet chooses to depict Nathaniel as asleep, although the text does not say that. However, is Mark Cazalet pointing us to a deeper sense of the passage. The fig tree is a great symbol in the Bible. Adam and Eve make clothes out of the fig leaf, the promised land was a land of abundant figs, and the prophets spoke of people living and owning their own fig tree as the promise of restoration and stability. Was Nathaniel pondering his own perception of sinfulness or longing for stability or trying to puzzle out how the land could once again be a place of abundance. This coupled with Nathaniel’s dismissive retort of ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth’ and Jesus’ reply suggest that somehow Nathaniel’s eyes were opened and he saw in Jesus ‘the Son of God The King of the Jews’. This echoes Jesus’s call to Andrew and the other disciple – and then repeated by Philip – ‘Come and see’.
 
That is the call of Jesus in John’s gospel, ‘to come and see’. That is an invitation in our own discipleship journey, not only to ‘come and see’, discovering Jesus, but ‘to go and do’ and follow his way in our life and living.
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
You invite us to come and see,
may we have open eyes to see and to discern your call to us.
You invite us on a journey of discovery
may we have open minds to understand your call to us.
You invite us to follow you
may we have open hearts to see you in those we meet along the way.
And may we seek to do your will in all of our living.
For Jesus Christ sake
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Hilary Collinson is the  Minister of Tees and Swale Pastorate in North Yorkshire.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 28th September

URC Devotions - Thu, 28/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 1: 19 - 34 

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

He said,

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”
as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”
Reflection This story is very familiar to all of us and there are many lessons to be learnt and blessings to appreciate within it. But there are two main things which strike me about it today.

The first is the importance of knowing ourselves, particularly in relation to God. When I think of myself, it’s usually in relation to other people, for instance, how much worse (or very occasionally!) better I am than them. We live in a competitive society and it rubs off on us all. But at the start of this passage, a group of very important religious people come to ask John who he is in relation to the holy people they want him to be like. I don’t know about you, but if someone important whom I respected told me I was like a very holy person, I’d just agree with them and be incredibly proud. John doesn’t do this. He rejects all their ideas and plans for him, and tells them exactly who God says he is, and then what God has given him to do. Sometimes in the middle of all the good and bad advice which comes our way, all we have to do is stay true to God’s vision for us, no matter how much other people disagree with it.

The second lesson of this passage is the importance of approaching other people in the same way. Just as we are only truly ourselves in God, so too are other people. John and Jesus are related, no matter how distantly, as their mothers are kinsfolk. We all have a view of our relatives that probably hasn’t changed much since we were teenagers, or younger! However, people we know well or are related to do change, sometimes very significantly, as God has His gracious way with them. Here John doesn’t see a relative, with all the assumptions and limits that come with that; instead he sees a man through whom God is about to do a great and miraculous work. He doesn’t just see Jesus. He sees Christ. In the same way, we should respond to those we know well through the light of what God is doing with and in them now, and not in the light of what we know about them from the past.
 

Prayer

Dear God,
help us to see ourselves
and those whom we know and love
through your eyes,
rather than judging them
in the light of past experience.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Anne Brook attends Elstead URC in Surrey.
Anne Brooke attends Elstead URC in Surrey.

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Daily Devotion 27th September

URC Devotions - Wed, 27/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

John 1: 1 - 18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own,  and his own people did not accept him.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.  (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart,  who has made him known.
Reflection The start of John’s Gospel is deeply moving, poetic and associated with services at Christmas where it is the traditional Gospel for the first Christmas Day service; it’s also used as the last reading at Carol services.  Instead of a birth narrative the writers of John’s Gospel used this extraordinary powerful piece of poetic theology.  

As Christians we often stop reading, or listening, at the line “and the Word became flesh and lived among us…” but for Jewish people, and Jewish converts to the Christian faith the climax of the passage is a few verses later “No one has ever seen God.  It is God, the only Son, is who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”  The compilers of the Gospel would have known that Moses was held to have seen God’s face and lived; Elijah also saw God in the still small quiet.  Yet they wanted to gloss over these people and point to Jesus as the image of the Father who makes him known in the world by living with us.  

John’s Gospel can be uncomfortable reading for those of us who wish to be sensitive to Jewish people.  It was written just as Christians and Jews separated and the theological arguments between them were intense.  Later anti-Semites have used passages in John to justify their murderous rage which was clearly not the intention of the original compilers.  

Being aware of the uses to which the Gospel has been put is necessary but shouldn’t make us shy away from its beauty.  The idea that God made his home with us, tabernacled with us, is powerful; it needs to be proclaimed in our lives and churches.  God didn’t just sit up on his cloud like the Greek gods of old, watching the world from afar (like that song by Bette Midler) but, instead, rolled up his sleeves and got stuck in with the messy business of human life.  Jesus shares our pain and sorrow, our joy and happiness and weeps, with us, when his message is misused to condemn or support persecution and pogrom.  Whenever we’re tempted to think that God doesn’t understand remember, in Jesus, he made his home with us.
 

Prayer

O Christ our Light,
you tabernacle with us,
shining in the dark places of our world.
Give us the strength
to be lights which reflect your light
and the love to love all that,  through you,
has come to be. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Andy Braunston is a minister in the Southside Cluster of the Synod of Scotland serving churches in Shawlands, Barrhead and Stewarton.  He co-ordinates the Daily Devotions project.  

Bible Version

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


 
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Next Daily Devotion Series starts tomorrow

URC Devotions - Tue, 26/09/2017 - 18:00
96 Next Daily Devotion Series starts tomorrow We work our way through St John's Gospel View this email in your browser

Next Daily Devotion Series

Dear <<First Name>>

I hope that the long series looking at the Acts of the Apostles since Pentecost has been useful; it's not often we read through such a long book and make links between our own age and the exciting, fast moving, world of the New Testament.  It has been suggested that we make this series available as a booklet.  The material is all archived on the URC website - devotions.urc.org.uk and if anyone wished to make a resource from the material they are more than welcome to do so.  

Tomorrow, we start to read through St John's Gospel.  This is a work that we're not as familiar with as we should be given it's size and prominence in the New Testament.  The devisors of the Lectionary most Churches use didn't give St John a year of its own and slot various passages into the Church's year.  This is means we lose some of the focus of St John's Gospel if we just hear those parts that are read on Sundays.  

From tomorrow we will work our way through St John and be both comforted and disturbed by its insights and style.  It can be startling to see how confrontational Jesus is in this Gospel - the editor sets him above Moses in the prologue (shocking to Jews) and very early on Jesus confronts the authorities by the cleansing of the Temple.  The die is set and the Gospel moves towards Jesus' betrayal and death with unremitting pace.  The team of writers have worked hard on this series and we hope that you continue to find the Devotions a source of blessing.

If you'd like to read any old Devotions, or recommend them to a friend, you can use this link

http://devotions.urc.org.uk/

where people can read and sign up for the Daily Devotions so they are emailed to them each morning.   If you are a user of Facebook you can like and follow the DailyDevotion Facebook page and share devotions so that your Facebook friends see them too.

You may want to ask for the link and the following to go into your church's newsletter.

Daily Devotions from the URC

Every morning a reading, reflection and prayer are sent out to over 1600 people by the United Reformed Church.  A team of 100 or so people with different perspectives and from different places in our denomination collaborate to create this useful resource.  People read them on their phones as they undertake their daily commute, on their computers at work, or with a coffee at home on a tablet.  If you'd like to read some, or sign up to receive them, simply go to devotions.urc.org.uk

 

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC project
Minister, Southside Cluster, Synod of Scotland

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URC Daily Devotion 26th September

URC Devotions - Tue, 26/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 26th September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 28: 30-31

He lived there for two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. Reflection Why does the book of Acts end here?

After the arduous journey, Paul has reached his destination Rome. The travellers, exhausted from their journeys, have been dependant on Christian hospitality. We are told by Luke, the writer of Acts, that Paul lived there for two years and welcomed all.

Now Paul could offer hospitality to others.

The Book of Acts is not about the life of Paul, but the spread of the Gospel, and that has been clearly presented. Now that the Gospel had been preached and established in many areas by Paul, it would now start to spread further by the movement of the Holy Spirit, and the new disciples who have heard the message of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Acts deals with the history of the Christian church and its expansion in ever widening circles, touching Jerusalem, Antioch and Rome, to name but a few. Acts shows the mighty miracles and testimonies of many people, Peter, Stephen, Lydia, Joanna and Pricilla, and of course Paul himself. We have read how the Holy Spirit touched the hearts and minds of Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor and the changes that happened because of the acts of many people.

Today, we are the unsung heroes in the continuing story of Acts and the spread of the Gospel.

Every act of loving kindness,
every prayer we say,
every word we speak,
every step we take in name of Justice and Truth, proclaims the Gospel message in
new ways over 2,000 years later.

Let us continue the story with the same passion and diligence, as those names written in the pages of Acts of the Apostles.

After the journey comes rest,
After the rest comes hospitality,,
After hospitality comes reflection
after reflection comes the future.


 
 

Prayer

Lord, anoint us with a passion to tell the story of Good News,
of liberation and justice,
of mercy and kindness,
of inclusiveness and equality,
and of the saving and everlasting love of Jesus Christ.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Ruth Dillon is minister of Fleet and Hindhead URCs.

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URC Daily Devotion 25th September

URC Devotions - Mon, 25/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 25th September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser

Acts 28: 11-28

Three months later we set sail on a ship that had wintered at the island, an Alexandrian ship with the Twin Brothers as its figurehead. We put in at Syracuse and stayed there for three days; then we weighed anchor and came to Rhegium. After one day there a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found believers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.  When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.  Three days later he called together the local leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them,

“Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. When they had examined me, the Romans wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to the emperor—even though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”

They replied,

“We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken anything evil about you. But we would like to hear from you what you think, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement:

“The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,

‘Go to this people and say,
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
   and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
   and their ears are hard of hearing,
       and they have shut their eyes;
       so that they might not look with their eyes,
   and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
   and I would heal them.’
Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Reflection Persecuted, arrested, and abused Paul continues to speak. Some are unconvinced, some refuse to believe, and Paul continues to speak. Disagreements, factions, debates and arguments abound, and Paul continues to speak. When the establishment won't listen, Paul continues to speak to the Gentiles, with all boldness and without hindrance.

When we, as Christians, claim to be persecuted, it would do us good to read Paul's letters again. He didn't suggest that he should receive privilege or even that everyone should agree with him. Instead, he continued tirelessly sharing his message to all who would hear it, even at the cost of his freedom. Around the world today, Christians are persecuted for their beliefs.

But not in the UK. We may not be in Christendom any longer, but we are still incredibly privileged: this country's moral and legal code is based on Christian understandings. We are free to worship and speak out. We have seats in the House of Lords and our Queen serves in the name of God.

Why, then, do we feel persecuted? Perhaps it is because we like control. We want to think that we can choose who is in and out, that we can make laws based on our own, exact personal beliefs, that we should have endless resources, and that everyone should agree with us. That is not the Christianity that Paul preached.

Paul's reaction to institutional persecution, to the powers that be refusing to hear his words, was not to scapegoat and blame. Instead, Paul turned his back on the institution and spoke to the gentiles - the outsiders, the lawless, the meek, the oppressed.

Who are we called to speak to? Who are we called to speak for?
 

Prayer

God,
you surpass all understanding.
Help us to accept our weakness;
to let go of our desire for power.
We pray for all those who are in power,
and for all those who struggle under it.
We pray for grace-full decisions and love-filled living.
We pray for justice, peace and integrity.
Help us to be on the side of the gentiles
- the outsiders, the lawless, the meek, the oppressed.
When we can't see through the smoke and mirrors of persecution,
help us to count our blessings instead.
Amen.

Today's Writer

Alex Clare-Young is training for ministry at Westminster College, Cambridge.

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.

 

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