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URC Daily Devotion for Maundy Thursday

URC Devotions - Thu, 29/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion for Maundy Thursday Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St John 19: 25b  - 27

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. Reflection





















I am struck by two ‘spaces’ in this picture.

The first ‘space’, shows Jesus a huge separation from his mother and the disciple whom he loved.  Even though Jesus is still rooted, by the cross, within humanity,  this painting denotes that he has entered into another realm which is beyond our sight.  He is present in both realms and near yet distant from those he loves.   Jesus, faceless,  still gently guides  their discipleship with his voice, echoing the words he said hours before, “love one another as I have loved you”. The words he utters in this passage, encompass care in the fullest sense. Mary must have felt frustrated that she could not touch or embrace Jesus in his hour of need and despair, yet the connection is clearly visible in this picture, a connection that transcends words, as faces and eyes connect in a private interaction. Within this space, the artist has used the colour purple, a colour linked to mourning and pain, yet also royalty and sovereignty.

The second ‘space’ is observed by Mary and the disciple, whose body language indicates their support for each other as they hold and cling, displaying the closeness that Jesus wills for them. One question that is not clear from the painting, is whether the disciple that Jesus loved happens to be male or female?

In our most desperate and painful times, physical touch can be healing, soothing our souls. The artist has used vibrant colours to dress the onlookers, to portray the effect that Jesus has on them, even as he is dying on the cross, he is healing and restoring relationships.

This painting relates to each one of us, as there can be times Jesus seems distant and remote. Occasionally it’s hard to grasp or understand what he is trying to say to us as disciples. Let us never move our gaze from the face of Jesus, for it is only there will we see the true face of God.
 
 

Prayer

Gracious Saviour,
as your words flow from the Cross,
may we always have to courage to listen to your words that guide
our path to wholeness and healing;
may we always gain strength in the knowledge that you love us,
and always will;
may we always be committed to look into your face, and see the
face of God;
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Dillon is Minister of Fleet and Hindhead 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 28th March

URC Devotions - Wed, 28/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St John 19: 23-25

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.  So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,

‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
   and for my clothing they cast lots.’

And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Reflection

Like many of Spencer's pictures, his portrayal of the removal of Christ's garments projects a haunting and somewhat sinister effect. John’s Gospel, like the Synoptics, places this scene at Golgotha, whereas the painting seems to be set indoors judging by the floor tiles: not in a cell or dungeon, but in the same dark room where the complementary picture The Robing of Christ is set.

The foreboding sense of evil is heightened by the peculiar dress of the soldiers and the strange shadow cast by the blindfolded Christ.

In contrast to the voluminous seamless tunic and the huge rust coloured fur-lined coat, the central figure of Jesus appears reduced, as if, at this moment of his humiliation, he is a diminished, but not quite finished, character.

If this dark scene was simply the precursor to a degrading, but commonly implemented, public death spectacle in which a flicker of light was extinguished, then there would have been no reason for it to have been painted. It would be meaningless. That it is meaningful and moving two millennia after the event it depicts is the only testament needed to its relevance and truth.

I write this at the turn of the year looking forward to a year which seems uncertain in many different ways. The future looks bleak and dark both in matters of international cooperation and the struggle for peace, and for social justice in our own localities.

The world needs women and men of clarity of vision and humility of spirit to speak out in the name of God, just as Jesus, deep in his humiliation stood firm in his purpose. Then all might be well and darkness dispelled.

 
 

Prayer

Our God our help in ages past
help us to stand firm in your light.
In times when we feel
as if we have been disrobed
and stand naked and helpless,
shorn of protection,
grant us steadfastness of spirit
and the courage to keep going
in the knowledge that you
reclothe us in the garments of the Spirit.
We need no other.

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 28th March

URC Devotions - Wed, 28/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 28th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St John 19: 23-25

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.  So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,

‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
   and for my clothing they cast lots.’

And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Reflection

Like many of Spencer's pictures, his portrayal of the removal of Christ's garments projects a haunting and somewhat sinister effect. John’s Gospel, like the Synoptics, places this scene at Golgotha, whereas the painting seems to be set indoors judging by the floor tiles: not in a cell or dungeon, but in the same dark room where the complementary picture The Robing of Christ is set.

The foreboding sense of evil is heightened by the peculiar dress of the soldiers and the strange shadow cast by the blindfolded Christ.

In contrast to the voluminous seamless tunic and the huge rust coloured fur-lined coat, the central figure of Jesus appears reduced, as if, at this moment of his humiliation, he is a diminished, but not quite finished, character.

If this dark scene was simply the precursor to a degrading, but commonly implemented, public death spectacle in which a flicker of light was extinguished, then there would have been no reason for it to have been painted. It would be meaningless. That it is meaningful and moving two millennia after the event it depicts is the only testament needed to its relevance and truth.

I write this at the turn of the year looking forward to a year which seems uncertain in many different ways. The future looks bleak and dark both in matters of international cooperation and the struggle for peace, and for social justice in our own localities.

The world needs women and men of clarity of vision and humility of spirit to speak out in the name of God, just as Jesus, deep in his humiliation stood firm in his purpose. Then all might be well and darkness dispelled.

 
 

Prayer

Our God our help in ages past
help us to stand firm in your light.
In times when we feel
as if we have been disrobed
and stand naked and helpless,
shorn of protection,
grant us steadfastness of spirit
and the courage to keep going
in the knowledge that you
reclothe us in the garments of the Spirit.
We need no other.

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion by Lindsey Sanderson

URC Devotions - Tue, 27/03/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Lindsey Sanderson Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 48

1 Great is the LORD—his praise all else excels—
In our God’s city, on his holy hill.
2 Mount Zion is the joy of all the earth,
So high and fair like mountains of the north;
Here is the city where the Great King dwells.

3 God is the fortress of Jerusalem.
4 When kings joined forces, ready to advance,
5 They looked, and fled in terror and surprise,
6 Gripped like a woman who in childbirth cries.
7 Like ships destroyed by storm, you shattered them.

8 As we have heard, now we have seen it so
Within the city of Almighty God—
The city of the LORD, which by his grace
9 He makes secure. Within your holy place
Your never-failing love we seek to know.

10 O God, your name is known throughout the earth,
And to its farthest shores your praise goes forth;
Your strong right hand is filled with righteousness.
11 To Zion your great deeds bring joyfulness,
And Judah’s villages are filled with mirth.

12 Walk round and count the towers of Zion’s hill.
13 Note well her ramparts and her citadels,
And speak of them to your posterity.
14 For this God is our God eternally,
And to the end our God will guide us still.


You can hear the Genevan Psalm tune, Old 124th here.  This tune is the one recommended for this version of the Psalm. Reflection Psalm 48 is a community song, celebrating God’s reign over the earth. In the Psalm we are invited to survey Zion and marvel at the great city of God. The Psalm may have formed part of the liturgy at the Feast of Tabernacles when the people came to Jerusalem in order to commemorate the provision of God during their wandering in the wilderness.

The Psalm proclaims that God is great and the city of God’s dwelling is holy because of the presence of God. Jerusalem has become the high mountain dwelling place of God; the city is now the holy mountain. The city is both beautiful and full of joy and yet an invincible fortress, so that invading armies quake as they approach in attack. God’s attributes are celebrated, particularly God’s love, righteousness and judgements. The people are called to process around the city to experience for themselves the strength and protection of God so that they might pass their experience on to future generations.

Psalm 48 celebrates the safety and peace of Jerusalem as a sanctuary in which God dwells. We will each have places of sanctuary -  it may be a mountain top or an ancient place of worship; it may be a place we go to alone, or one where we are blessed by the presence of others. There will be a whole range of places where we find refuge and a place to feel secure in the presence of God. Being in our sanctuary place may evoke the same feelings and ideas about God that we find in today’s Psalm – feelings of safety and peace, celebration and joy, love and righteousness.  We may feel we gain strength from our place of sanctuary to face a world in which God’s presence is sometimes difficult to find.
 
 

Prayer

Companion God,
Help me to find a place
of sanctuary in you today.
In each task that awaits,
may I feel your safety and peace,
celebration and joy,
love and righteousness.
Draw me ever closer to you
and grant me strength
as I encounter everything
that this day holds. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson,  East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 27th March

URC Devotions - Tue, 27/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 23: 27-31 

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.”  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ Reflection These women of Jerusalem: following Jesus, likely to be in the role of those who lament the one being crucified. Jesus addresses them as the faithful and speaks of the struggles to come - both for himself, the women and the hearers of Luke’s gospel. Once again we hear Jesus’ words addressed to those whom he encountered but also those the writer is addressing.

Imagine being one of the Jerusalem faithful. Look at the faces of the women in the painting and see concern and grief, exhaustion and fear; their poses show them looking at Jesus at the same time as shielding and protecting their young. The light around Jesus shines as an antidote to all the negativity and evil - even though he is on the way to his death. They seek his presence and, whilst they are supposed to be the givers of lament and he a receiver, the tables are turned. He is with them in their suffering.

Still today, carrying the fear, grief, concern and hopelessness that is all pervasive in the struggles of the world, we can turn to Jesus, the light of the world, and find hope and blessing. The darkness cannot overcome the eternal light. Even in the most hopeless of situations, Christ is with us in our struggles - and his cross reminds us of this. ‘Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ Then and now. For eternity. Thanks be to God.

 
Picture: by the Sisters of Turvey Abbey sold by Mcrimmons in their Footsteps of Christ series.
http://www.mccrimmons.com/start.php?page=gallery&gallery_id=2663

Prayer

Christ who spoke to the women
in Jerusalem and still speaks to us today,
help us to understand that the words we read
and the messages we hear
are still as relevant and pertinent to us
and our world as they were in your time.
May we turn to you and trust you to
Take our fears, worries and concerns
And bring light, love and hope in their place.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jenny Mills. 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion by Lindsey Sanderson

URC Devotions - Tue, 27/03/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Lindsey Sanderson Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 48

1 Great is the LORD—his praise all else excels—
In our God’s city, on his holy hill.
2 Mount Zion is the joy of all the earth,
So high and fair like mountains of the north;
Here is the city where the Great King dwells.

3 God is the fortress of Jerusalem.
4 When kings joined forces, ready to advance,
5 They looked, and fled in terror and surprise,
6 Gripped like a woman who in childbirth cries.
7 Like ships destroyed by storm, you shattered them.

8 As we have heard, now we have seen it so
Within the city of Almighty God—
The city of the LORD, which by his grace
9 He makes secure. Within your holy place
Your never-failing love we seek to know.

10 O God, your name is known throughout the earth,
And to its farthest shores your praise goes forth;
Your strong right hand is filled with righteousness.
11 To Zion your great deeds bring joyfulness,
And Judah’s villages are filled with mirth.

12 Walk round and count the towers of Zion’s hill.
13 Note well her ramparts and her citadels,
And speak of them to your posterity.
14 For this God is our God eternally,
And to the end our God will guide us still.


You can hear the Genevan Psalm tune, Old 124th here.  This tune is the one recommended for this version of the Psalm. Reflection Psalm 48 is a community song, celebrating God’s reign over the earth. In the Psalm we are invited to survey Zion and marvel at the great city of God. The Psalm may have formed part of the liturgy at the Feast of Tabernacles when the people came to Jerusalem in order to commemorate the provision of God during their wandering in the wilderness.

The Psalm proclaims that God is great and the city of God’s dwelling is holy because of the presence of God. Jerusalem has become the high mountain dwelling place of God; the city is now the holy mountain. The city is both beautiful and full of joy and yet an invincible fortress, so that invading armies quake as they approach in attack. God’s attributes are celebrated, particularly God’s love, righteousness and judgements. The people are called to process around the city to experience for themselves the strength and protection of God so that they might pass their experience on to future generations.

Psalm 48 celebrates the safety and peace of Jerusalem as a sanctuary in which God dwells. We will each have places of sanctuary -  it may be a mountain top or an ancient place of worship; it may be a place we go to alone, or one where we are blessed by the presence of others. There will be a whole range of places where we find refuge and a place to feel secure in the presence of God. Being in our sanctuary place may evoke the same feelings and ideas about God that we find in today’s Psalm – feelings of safety and peace, celebration and joy, love and righteousness.  We may feel we gain strength from our place of sanctuary to face a world in which God’s presence is sometimes difficult to find.
 
 

Prayer

Companion God,
Help me to find a place
of sanctuary in you today.
In each task that awaits,
may I feel your safety and peace,
celebration and joy,
love and righteousness.
Draw me ever closer to you
and grant me strength
as I encounter everything
that this day holds. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson,  East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 27th March

URC Devotions - Tue, 27/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 27th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 23: 27-31 

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.”  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ Reflection These women of Jerusalem: following Jesus, likely to be in the role of those who lament the one being crucified. Jesus addresses them as the faithful and speaks of the struggles to come - both for himself, the women and the hearers of Luke’s gospel. Once again we hear Jesus’ words addressed to those whom he encountered but also those the writer is addressing.

Imagine being one of the Jerusalem faithful. Look at the faces of the women in the painting and see concern and grief, exhaustion and fear; their poses show them looking at Jesus at the same time as shielding and protecting their young. The light around Jesus shines as an antidote to all the negativity and evil - even though he is on the way to his death. They seek his presence and, whilst they are supposed to be the givers of lament and he a receiver, the tables are turned. He is with them in their suffering.

Still today, carrying the fear, grief, concern and hopelessness that is all pervasive in the struggles of the world, we can turn to Jesus, the light of the world, and find hope and blessing. The darkness cannot overcome the eternal light. Even in the most hopeless of situations, Christ is with us in our struggles - and his cross reminds us of this. ‘Come to me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ Then and now. For eternity. Thanks be to God.

 
Picture: by the Sisters of Turvey Abbey sold by Mcrimmons in their Footsteps of Christ series.
http://www.mccrimmons.com/start.php?page=gallery&gallery_id=2663

Prayer

Christ who spoke to the women
in Jerusalem and still speaks to us today,
help us to understand that the words we read
and the messages we hear
are still as relevant and pertinent to us
and our world as they were in your time.
May we turn to you and trust you to
Take our fears, worries and concerns
And bring light, love and hope in their place.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Jenny Mills. 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 26th March

URC Devotions - Mon, 26/03/2018 - 08:09
96 URC Daily Devotion 26th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Matthew 27: 32

As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. Reflection We can but speculate as to whether Simon of Cyrene realised, as he embraced the Cross, the significance of the One for whom he carried it.   The gospel states that he was “compelled” to undertake the task.  As such his involvement in Christ’s Passion was not a conscious choice or decision but by virtue of being in the right place as the need arose (or, perhaps, “wrong place”?). Further, his task was not one bestowed upon him by Christ but by random selection by the Roman soldiers. Nevertheless, centuries later as we mark Holy Week and Jesus’ journey to Calvary, Simon and his cross-carrying are recalled.

Simon’s part in this sacred story is a reminder of the part any of us can play.   It is true of all of us that there are many occasions when what is asked of us is less to do with conscious choice and more about “compulsion”.   The familiar phrase, within the Eucharistic Prayer, sums it up:  “it is our duty and our delight”.   We may prefer to be able to choose and to delight in choice but much of the time we are asked to be open to fulfilling duties and responding to what is asked and expected of us.   Simon’s testimony is that, by responding to compulsion, he served Christ – literally bearing another’s burden.   He may not have wanted to do so;  he may even have resented being compelled.  He is unlikely to have been among those that had heard Jesus say, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)  By contrast we are aware of that call – to deny ourselves and take up the Cross and follow him.   In this week when we recall the Cross of Christ, may we, like Simon, use whatever strength we possess to step out from the crowd with a willingness to shoulder other’s burdens and, thereby, follow and partner the crucified.
 

Prayer

God,
whose way is traced “via Dolorosa”,
instil in us
a willingness to be compelled
to bear the burdens of others
that, in so doing,
we may more faithfully walk your way
with hearts and minds
that are open to serving you
through the needs of those around us.
Grant that we may – today –
be Simon for someone struggling with the demands of life.
For all carrying heavy burdens today,
may others step forward to lighten their load and walk with them.
And grant that your Church
may be the company of those
who carry the Cross and
embody the love of the One crucified.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke, Minister at The Crossing, Worksop and Wales Kiveton Methodist Church

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotions in Passiontide

URC Devotions - Sun, 25/03/2018 - 18:00
96 Daily Devotions in Passiontide View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Daily Devotions in Passiontide

Dear <<First Name>>

We hope you have found our 28 day journey through the Book of Job stimulating.  Janet has kindly agreed that her reflections could be made available as a booklet.  If you click here you can download a PDF version of the booklet which, when printed, double sided, gives a nice resource for use in individual or small group reflection. 

As we now enter into Passiontide we have something rather different for you as we travel together to Calvary and beyond.

Our Catholic sisters and brothers are familiar with a spiritual exercise called the Stations of the Cross.  These are used by some other traditions but every Catholic Church in these islands will have a set of Stations around the walls of the church or chapel.  Each Station is an invitation to stop, stare and meditate upon the journey Jesus took from Pilate's Court to Calvary.  Over time the stages of the journey were embellished in the telling which led to their rejection as a spiritual discipline at the Reformation by many Protestants.

Over the next two weeks we are going to look at the stages of this journey noted in the Gospels and illustrated by a range of artists including: He Qi, the Sisters of Turvey Abbey, Marc Chaghall, Caravaggio, Linda Roberts, Sieger Koder and many more.  Each day, Sundays excepted, from tomorrow until Holy Saturday our reflections on the Way of the Cross will be aided by some art to help us focus alongside the Scriptural reading.

We hope this will help us all to mark Passiontide as we continue our journey of faithful discipleship.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

O God,
in this season of reflection,
help me to find the people
who are calling me to change my ways
and to search my heart.
As the Winter deepens,
may my heart be stripped bare,
so that when comes the Spring,
I can rise renewed
and flourish into life. Amen.
--> Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 25th March Palm Sunday

URC Devotions - Sun, 25/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 25th March Palm Sunday Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 40

I waited long upon the LORD;
He heard my cry and turned to me.
He raised me from the slimy pit
And from the mire he pulled me free.

He set my feet on solid rock,
A place to stand both firm and broad.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A joyful hymn of praise to God.

Many will look with godly fear
And on the LORD alone rely.
Blessèd are they who trust the LORD,
Who shun the proud and gods that lie.

The wonders you have done, O LORD,
How many and how great they are!
Your plans for us are far beyond
Our power to number or declare.

You did not ask that calves or goats
Be brought as sacrifice for sin,
But you have opened up my ears;
You did not seek burnt offering.

Then I declared, “LORD, I have come;
It’s written of me in the scroll.
I want to do your will, my God;
Your law is in my heart and soul.”

In the assembly when it met
Your justice I proclaimed abroad.
I did not seal my lips at all;
You know all this about me, LORD.

I did not hide within my heart
Your saving grace and righteousness;
In the assembly I proclaimed
Your steadfast love and faithfulness.

Do not withhold your mercy, LORD;
Surround your servant constantly
With your great love and faithfulness,
For many troubles threaten me.

My sins have overtaken me;
They’re more than hairs upon my head.
My heart within me fails for grief;
I cannot see the way ahead.

Be pleased, O LORD, to rescue me;
O LORD, come quickly to my aid.
May all who seek to take my life
With shame and turmoil be repaid.

May all who plot my overthrow
Turn back, disgraced, the way they came.
May those who mock me to my face
Become appalled at their own shame.

But let all those who seek your face
Be joyful in you all their days;
Let those who love salvation say,
“Exalted be the LORD always!”

Yet I am poor and in great need;
Lord, think on me, I humbly pray.
You are my saviour and my help;
Come, O my God! Do not delay.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Wareham here. Reflection A far cry from Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem which many traditionally think of on Palm Sunday – or is it?!

Palm Sunday provides the opportunity for us to reflect on and give thanks for what God has done for us, as we look ahead to Easter. More importantly, perhaps, it allows us to stop and think about what our response should be and to reflect on our ongoing needs as Servants of God. Psalm 40 gives us all three.

The Psalmist reminds us that God is there for us whenever we need Him. All we have to do is call out. When we do, we can trust Him to put our livers on a surer footing.

David provides an example to us all as we think about our response to God’s greatness. We need to praise God, not just in worship on a Sunday but in our daily lives. We need to trust Him. We need to show some humility and admit that we need God’s help if we are to serve Him better. We need to honour and serve the one true God, rather than the many false gods of modern-day life.

We should delight in the service of the Lord, doing what He desires for our lives. Finally, we should share the Good News of what God has done for us, rather than keep it to ourselves.

As we acknowledge our ongoing needs, we should ask God for His continued help and guidance as we navigate life in this troubled world. We should also go one step further and ask Him to help others who need Him, too!
 

Prayer

Father,
As we stop and think
of Your goodness to us,
Help us to appreciate You even more.
Help us to remember
that You are there for us,
and for those around us
as we seek to do Your will
and spread Your Good News!
Amen!

Today's Writer

Jeff Newall is a lay preacher and member of Christ the Vine Community Church (part of Woughton LEP) in Milton Keynes.

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Pictures in our Current Devotional Series

URC Devotions - Sat, 24/03/2018 - 13:07
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Pictures in the Way of the Cross Series

Dear Friends

Last week we started a series of reflections on the Way of the Cross which includes pictures.  Some of you have asked for more details of these pictures and some of you have mentioned you can't see them.

If you have opted to receive the Devotions as "Plain Text" ie like an email you won't see the pictures.  If, however, you chose to receive them as "html" then you will.  If you can see the URC logo above this email you have html.  If you can't you are receiving this as a plain text email.  If you wish to change please click on the "update your preferences" below.

If you'd like to see the pictures you've missed please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and click on the devotions sent over the last week and have a look.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 24th March

URC Devotions - Sat, 24/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 24th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Matthew 27: 27-30

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’  They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. Reflection

























Who’s Governor?

The trial before Governor Pilate has finished. The effort to make respectable, the demands of a select elite, is done. Whether it was Jesus on trial, or justice itself, remains a moot point.

Matthew relates that the soldiers then took Jesus to the Governor’s HQ, where the whole cohort was gathered together, for a second trial for Jesus, this time around 600 against 1. Rubens captures the one-sided cruelty; blows rain down on Jesus whilst one soldier plants his foot into the rear of his knee to start an inevitable fall. The contrasting expressions tell the story. Satisfied, grim, determined smirks on the faces of the afflicters, as Jesus cowers in sheer terror.

The soldiers are not innocent of their acts, but Pilate, who knew the consequences of the sentence he passed, bears the responsibility.  
It is a scene repeated down through the ages, as tyrants have acted to shore up corrupt rules. Dictates made with a thin veneer of respectability are enacted as a blind eye is turned to the ruthlessness of a contemporary cohort. There is a continuum of Pilates who bully and brutalise their way to show who’s governor, regardless of the cost.

The trials of the innocent and powerless continue down the ages too. The trial of hate vs love, of evil vs good, of corrupt rule vs the Kingdom of God ways.

But the events that Rubens portrayed were not the last word. For it was God in the dock that day, God who bore the fury, and God, who through Jesus, would overcome, and give strength to those who follow. To quote Desmond Tutu:

“Good is stronger than evil;
Love is stronger than hate;
Light is stronger than darkness;
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours, through him who loves us.”
 

Prayer

Let justice rain on the afflicted
and transform the hearts of afflicters.
May the choices
and decisions I make today,
be governed by the love that Jesus shows.
Amen.

Today's Writer

David Pickering is a member of Rutherglen URC and ministers as Moderator of the National Synod of Scotland

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 23rd March

URC Devotions - Fri, 23/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 23rd March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Luke 23: 6-12

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.  And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.   When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign.  He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer.   The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him.   Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate.   That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies. Reflection Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great and Malthace, ruled as Tetrarch for 42 years, with a degree of competence and insight into Jewish customs which combined with his Roman education to explain his curiosity about Jesus.  It would have been very easy for Jesus to defend himself before Herod, who is taking the trouble to question him “at some length”.  Instead, he keeps silent even when, in exasperation at being denied in his own palace, Herod begins to mock.  

Nicolaes Knüpfer’s painting emphasises some of the many questions Luke’s short paragraph raises.   Why did Pilate send Jesus to Herod - because he didn’t want to find Jesus guilty, or to stress the Jewish involvement?  Is Luke recounting the episode to reflect on the opening verses of Ps 2 or, as Matthew’s gospel has (Zoroastrian) Magi in the infancy narrative, to involve kings at the end?   Who has Herod been influenced by in his court to have even heard of Jesus - the woman standing behind the throne in the painting?   Who is she: is Herodias sufficiently a woman of power, or has Joanna, the wife of Chuza his steward, been busily gossiping the good news, to provoke Herod’s interest in this miracle worker?   
 
We might consider what the artist is saying.  Why, for example, is there a small dog in the foreground?   Is it a reflection of folklore, a dog accompanies a death?   Oddly, Knüpfer does not include a dog in his picture of Tobit and the Angel - why place one here?   If the implication is that it is not necessary to paint both, because where Raphael (the angel of healing) is, there also is his dog, then we recognise Jesus’ need of healing after the mental and physical beating he has already taken.  Magi and angels mark the end of Jesus life on earth;  a dog in Zoroastrian thought escorts the dying.  As Luke spells out - in silence is the culmination of a life lived in obedience, for the good of us all.   
 

Prayer

Lord,
when we have reached
the end of our tether
and can no longer find
the words to answer,
may we remember:.

“On the hill of Calvary -
place to end all hope of living -
the most precious Word of Life
breathed his last and died, forgiving
for the good of us all.”  
and in that faith may we stand.  

Amen.  

Verse from “In a byre near Bethlehem”  
© 1987 WGRG Iona Community.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Browning - retired minister, member of Thornbury 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 22nd March

URC Devotions - Thu, 22/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 22nd March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Matthew 27: 1-2; 11-14

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death. They bound him, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate the Governor.

Now Jesus stood before the Governor; and the Governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so”. But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?”

But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the Governor was greatly amazed.
Reflection Until I saw the full scale of the work of Hieronymous Bosch I had thought of him as a painter of fantastic nightmares, mediaeval cruelty and quite a few naughty bits.  Seeing his major paintings brought together I realised that this was a painter of morals and deep Christian spirituality with a keen, unforgiving, eye. He depicted all the invisible “principalities and powers” (Col 2.15) which haunt our darker dreams, as well as the “devices and desires” (Book of Common Prayer) of our everyday lives. He knew what we fear most, as well as what we desire most deeply, and asks us to compare this with the reflection of Christ. You see the contrast in this painting; but it is not by Bosch but is the work of his pupils.  The faces are typical Bosch – greedy, cruel, hard-headed businessmen and politicians; their souls’ ugliness has fashioned their faces. In contrast is the almost ethereal Christ – pale, thin and vulnerable, facing his accusers and a Governor who wants to wash his hands of the whole affair. It is in close-up and that was not really Bosch’s style. He liked to open his pictures out, so you could see the house, the street, the marketplace, the whole town and know that it was not just a few cruel men making this judgement, but all of us. If you want to see the real Bosch, go to Frankfurt and see his painting Ecce Homo in which a battered and bleeding Christ stands outside the Governor’s Palace, his accusers gathered around him, the crowd calling for his crucifixion.

He is not ethereal. The reality is painful, physical. He is naked, hungry, thirsty, sick and imprisoned. We have to read Matthew 25 to make sense of Matthew 27: “Lord when was it we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you?”

Pilate had the answer: “Behold the man”.
 

Prayer

Thanks be to you,
O Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits you have given us,
For all the pains and insults
which you have borne for us.
O most merciful Redeemer,
Friend and Brother,
May we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
Now and for evermore.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister in the Northern Synod and a member of St Andrew’s URC, Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 21st March

URC Devotions - Wed, 21/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Matthew 26: 57-68

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, in whose house the scribes and the elders had gathered. But Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest; and going inside, he sat with the guards in order to see how this would end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, ‘This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.”’ The high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’ But Jesus was silent. Then the high priest said to him, ‘I put you under oath before the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you,

From now on you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of Power
and coming on the clouds of heaven.’

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death.’ Then they spat in his face and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who is it that struck you?’
Reflection He has cast out demons, yet some have asserted that he himself has a demon. He has set people free from the chains of sickness and sin, yet some have labelled him as one who breaks the sacred bond of Sabbath-rest. Controversy and criticism have been Jesus' companions on the way – and perhaps inevitably so, for shadows are at their most noticeable when there's a strong light shining.

But now, in the narrative of Passiontide, Jesus faces his darkest hour. It's as if the disparate shadows have coalesced around him; controversy and criticism are intensifying towards condemnation.

And as shadows on the wall might twist into strange or scary shapes, so these shadowy forces contort the motivations and actions of those in their thrall. The priestly council, guardians of God's truth, seek testimony that will tell them merely what they want to hear. The witnesses, upon whose honesty justice depends, are so partisan that they struggle to make their stories match. Even Peter, 'the Rock', is overcome by a fear that will make him crumble.

And Caiaphas, the High Priest, lends his voice to the shadows. 'You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?'

Today's painting is in a 17th Century style known as Tenebrism – the use of intense shadows for dramatic impact. And perhaps the artist has captured not only the different levels of darkness, but also something of the inner distortion that the shadows can bring. The two figures behind Jesus - one wearing a sycophantic smirk, the other unwilling to show his face. And Caiaphas, his left index finger raised – perhaps pointing to heaven, or perhaps held thus as he scolds his prisoner. Meanwhile look at his other hand: is this the traditional gesture of priestly blessing, here gravely distorted?

Yet Jesus directs his gaze not upon them, but upon the lone candle that illuminates the scene. Passiontide: the shadows are powerful, yet never has the Light burned so strongly.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus,
when our words and deeds
become twisted amid the shadows,
forgive us,
renew us,
and rekindle us
as light in the world.
Give us courage
to be faithful to you,
just as you are eternally faithful
to all whom the Father has placed in your care.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dominic Grant is minister at Trinity URC Wimbledon.

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 20th March

URC Devotions - Tue, 20/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Matthew 26: 47-56

While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.  Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.’  At once he came up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him.  Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you are here to do.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him.  Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?’ At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Reflection As the Passion narrative begins to unfold, Jesus’ disciples are not portrayed in a good light.  One disciple betrays him, another tries to retaliate with violence, and finally they all forsake him.  Throughout Matthew, Jesus had predicted his fate; had the prophets not foretold that the Messiah would suffer and die?  But the disciples had not understood.  And Jesus has to endure not only arrest, but also betrayal, violence, cowardice, on the part of his closest followers.  It is a black moment.

Caravaggio, the legendary bad boy from the violent and bawdy back streets of Rome, was a brilliant painter of darkness.   The drama of his painting, The Taking of Christ, is enhanced by the blackness; it is emotionally charged; it compels us to look at what is happening.  The off-stage light is focussed on the faces of Judas and Jesus; Judas has just given his master a kiss, he is still gripping him in his arms, on his face a mix of fear, love and dismay.  Jesus turns his face away, in the pallor of death, his downcast eyes and clasped hands accepting his fate, refusing retaliation and violence.  Immediately behind, a disciple is fleeing, his arms raised, his mouth agape, his back turned to Jesus whom he has abandoned; while the artist himself is watching, holding up a Chinese lantern, to shed a secondary light on the scene.  The nearer soldier’s thrusting, metal-clad arm lays hold of Jesus by force, shining like a mirror, inviting us to see ourselves reflected in it.

It is as if Caravaggio is asking us to consider: are we also participating in the betrayal of Jesus?
 

Prayer

God of power,
God of mercy,
you turn darkness into light
and despair to hope.
Lift from our hearts
the failures that weigh us down
that we may find new life
in Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Amen


 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Fleur Houston is a retired minister and a member of Macclesfield and Bollington 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 19th March

URC Devotions - Mon, 19/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

St Matthew 26: 36-46

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples,

“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated.   Then he said to them,

“I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.”   

And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed,

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.”   

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter,

“So, could you not stay awake with me one hour?  Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”   

Again he went away for the second time and prayed,

“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”   

Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.   So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words.  Then he came to the disciples and said to them,

“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.   Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
Reflection
















Sleep is an amazing thing. If you can get any, it brings rest and recuperation from the stresses of life, yet it is the stress of life that often denies us the sleep. The more we try to sleep, the more we stay awake and, as in our reading, the more the disciples try to stay awake, the more they sleep.

Clearly Jesus cannot sleep as the enormity of what is about to happen has just hit him like a sledgehammer! We as humans can understand his reluctance to face what is to come, yet we as humans can but marvel at his complete and utter obedience to follow his Father’s will.

The disciples, exhausted from the day’s events so far, struggle to comprehend the magnitude of Jesus’ words and cannot stay awake. The image we see is of the three disciples intertwined with Jesus, their bodies indicating that they are in this together – yet Jesus is facing upwards, praying to his Father while the disciples are at his feet, sleeping. A shaft of light highlights the night time scene, but even this is not enough to wake them.

We too, often miss the story of the Garden. We go from the Last Supper to the Cross and miss the bit in between. We are so eager to pass by the horror of Good Friday, that we forget the night of Maundy Thursday and the battle that Jesus faced.

May we, this Lent, pause, and reflect on whether we could stay awake in the face of such a task, and let us spend time in the garden, hard as it may be, to offer our complete obedience to God in all we do.


(Picture He Qi, Praying at Gethsemane)
 

Prayer

God of the tired, exhausted and weary,
bring rest and refreshment.
God of the frightened, the worried, the anxious,
bring calm and assurance.
God of the undecided, the apathetic, the “not sure”,
bring certainty and decision.
Loving God, help us to face the challenge of believing;
the challenge of obedience
and most of all,
the challenge of following the way of the Cross.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Watson is minister of Worsley Road and Patricroft URCs in Salford.  

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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion by Ruth Whitehead

URC Devotions - Sun, 18/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion by Ruth Whitehead Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 39

1 I said, “Now let me watch my ways
and keep my tongue from sin.
I’ll put a muzzle on my mouth
while I’m with wicked men.”

2 When I was silent and kept still
and firmly held my peace,
Not speaking even what was good,
this made my pain increase.

3 Because of this my heart grew hot;
the fire burned strong indeed
The more I mused upon it all.
Then I began to plead:

4 “LORD, show me that my life will end—
how many days I’ll see—
And cause me, LORD, to understand
how brief my life will be.

5 “O LORD, how short you make my days
before I sink in death.
My years are nothing in your sight;
man’s life is but a breath.

6 “Like shadows people go about;
they bustle to and fro.
They heap up wealth, but do not know
to whom their wealth will go.

7 “But now, what do I look for, LORD?
My hope is set on you.
8 From my transgressions rescue me
lest fools in scorn pursue.

9 “I held my peace and would not speak,
for you did this, I know.
10 Remove your scourge from me; your hand
has struck and laid me low.

11 “For you rebuke and punish men
for their iniquity.
You, like a moth, consume their wealth;
each man is vanity.

12 “O LORD, please listen to my prayer
and hear my cry for aid;
Do not be deaf to the appeal
which I with tears have made.

“For as your guest I stay a while.
I’m like my fathers all—
A stranger and a pilgrim here.
Have mercy when I call.

13 “O turn away your eyes from me.
Let me rejoice again
Before I finally depart
and here no more remain.”


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Culross here. Reflection I cannot be the only person who loves the Psalms for their honesty and their clear sense that the journey through life can be, at best, a bumpy road. When we are gripped by despair or frustration, the Psalms encourage us to speak out, honestly, what we are feeling.

The Psalmist here has tried to keep from speaking evil.. but eventually cannot keep silent any longer and nearly bursts with anguish “How much longer do I have to live – how much more do I have to endure?”. Then, as so often in a Psalm, we reach the ‘and yet…’ point  - “Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you”.

After an honest outburst of how it really feels, the Psalmist starts to look at the situation including God in the picture. “I am a passing guest, as all my ancestors were”.

In a sense nothing has changed in the course of the Psalm, but blessing comes when the Psalmist takes God’s perspective into account.

Last Christmas I watched and waited with my mum as she was dying. On Christmas Eve I turned away from the tree and the turkey and spent a quiet hour by mum’s bed. There were times when she and I cried out “how much longer?”, but there were also times when we were at peace, knowing that the end would come, and that in life and in death she was safe in God’s hands – as was I and all whom she loved. As the gift of Christ at Christmas quietly approached, we accepted the coming of God to make us at home.  Taking our lead from the Psalmist, we find in God's perspective our hope and our strength.
 

Prayer

Hear my prayer, Lord,
Hear me when I cry out in honest pain.
Help me to remember you are there.
Hold me in your arms
until I can stand again.
In the name of Jesus who trusted you in all these ways,
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead is Moderator of the South Western 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 17th March

URC Devotions - Sat, 17/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th March Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Job 42: 7-17

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.  Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt-offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.’  So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.  Then there came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and they ate bread with him in his house; they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him; and each of them gave him a piece of money and a gold ring. The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.  He also had seven sons and three daughters.  He named the first Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no women so beautiful as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them an inheritance along with their brothers.  After this Job lived for one hundred and forty years, and saw his children, and his children’s children, four generations.  And Job died, old and full of days.
Reflection It is easy to overlook this prose epilogue to the book and assume that it simply restores the status quo of 1:1-5 before the veracity of God’s claims about Job were put to the test. Let’s not make that mistake.

The narrator gives us another speech by God. This one is directed at Eliphaz and his two friends (Elihu isn’t included); and God is angry with them. They are accused of speaking ‘folly’ (v.8), the word implies a heinous offence that leads God’s people astray (Isa.9:16; 32:6). In contrast Job is described as God’s ‘servant’ who spoke rightly. The ones who had tried to defend God against Job’s accusations are now identified as the ‘wicked’ and commanded to offer propitiatory sacrifices. Their rigid adherence to traditional ‘wisdom’ and unwillingness to open their eyes to see a bigger vision of God is condemned by God.

As God’s servant it appears that Job has already risen up from the ashes and resumed his former position as a righteous mediator for the community (1:5; 29:7ff); and God chooses to show mercy on the friends when Job intercedes for them (1:8, 9).

The restoration of Job is an act of God’s grace not a reward for his integrity. This occurs ‘when’, i.e. after, Job had prayed, not ‘because’; nor in response to prayer. Job is doubly blessed by God in all his material possessions, a sign of the unpredictability of God; and ironically Job’s wider family flock to offer comfort and support (v.11; cf. 19:13-19) – now he no longer needs it!

He is blessed with the same number of children as before (where’s his wife?) but the naming of the daughters is interesting. ‘Turtle dove’ calls to mind the woman in Song of Songs 2:14; ‘Cassia’ an aromatic oil for special uses (Ex.30:24; Ps.45:9) and ‘Horn of antimony’, akin to eyeliner used to beautify ancient queens (2 Kgs.9:30; Jer.4:30). These are very beautiful women, to be regarded as princesses; but Job treats them exactly like their brothers (v.15)! This is a radical statement about gender equality that goes far beyond the provisions of Numbers 27:1-8, which is often regarded as daringly innovative!

There is a ‘happy ever after’ ending as Job lives out a ‘double’ lifespan before he dies in the manner of Abraham (Gen.25:8) and Isaac (Gen.35:29). We’ve come round full circle; but Job has taken us deeper into the realities of the human condition and higher into the wonders of God. Rather like the experience of Jesus on his way from the wilderness to the cross. May our Lenten journey of faith continue on a similar path as we walk the way of Jesus.

 
 

Prayer

Gracious God,
for all your blessings we praise you
and we rejoice in the knowledge
that you are a God of mercy,
for too often we are less like Job
and more like his friends.

Enlarge our vision
and strengthen our faith;
and may our lives proclaim
the radical truth of your gospel,
for the sake of Jesus. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Emmanuel URC in 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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URC Daily Devotion 16th March 

URC Devotions - Fri, 16/03/2018 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 16th March  Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Job 42: 1-6

‘I know that you can do all things,
   and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
   things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
“Hear, and I will speak;
   I will question you, and you declare to me.”
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
   but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
   and repent in dust and ashes.’
Reflection Job breaks his silence and turns to God again; but his tone is different and there’s a change in his attitude towards God. Job says nothing about his own situation or demands for justice. Instead he expresses contentment because he has come to a radically new understanding about God and God’s purposes.

In this short speech Job reiterates what he had always believed about God’s power (v.2); but then he replays two things that God had spoken to him. Verse 3 is virtually identical to 38:2 and verse 4 repeats 38:3b and 40:7b. Job has had time to reflect on these words and now admits that he had been speaking in ignorance most of the time. The things of God are ‘too wonderful’ for Job, or any human being, to comprehend; and Job is even more aware of this since God has revealed so much more about the scale, complexity and mystery of creation. In his first response Job conceded his impotence but now he effectively retracts his charges against God as mistaken.

His final words explain what has prompted this change in him; it is his personal encounter with God. Previously he had ‘heard’ about God. In other words had learned the traditional doctrines, the deposit of faith that had been handed down and imagined that was all he needed to (or could) know about God. Now, though, he has ‘seen’ God: God has opened his eyes to realise that humans are not central to God’s design and that God’s concerns are far wider than our self-centred ones.

This leads him to respond in complete humility before God. The words ‘despise myself’ and ‘repent’ in verse 6 don’t quite convey what the Hebrew expresses. The first of these verbs most frequently means ‘reject’ and the second basically means ‘change one’s mind’. So we might read, ‘Therefore I reject (my misunderstandings?), and change my mind in humble submission’.

It is always valuable to increase our knowledge about God by study and debate; but it is when we engage with God that we begin to comprehend who is the source, the guide and the goal of all that has existence. In worship, through Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit we have access to the eternal God who, I believe, is waiting to engage with each of us at an ever deeper level; and to open our eyes. Who knows? What we see may cause us to change our minds!
 

Prayer

Holy God,
you have revealed your human face
to us in Jesus
and are present with us
through the Spirit.
Thank you for coming into our lives
in ways that enable us to see
something of your holiness.
Help us to worship you with reverence,
with eyes wide open,
so that we might glimpse more of your grandeur
and your loving concern for all creation,
through our praises,
our heartfelt prayers
and our rigorous engagement with your word.
And may we live by what we see,* 
in the name of Christ. Amen

*Taken from verse 4 of George Caird’s hymn ‘Not far beyond the sea, nor high’, Rejoice & Sing 318.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Emmanuel URC in 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 © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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