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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 15th September 2020 Creation 2

URC Devotions - Tue, 15/09/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 15th September 2020

Creation 2

Isaiah 42: 1 - 7

Thus says God, the Lord,
    who created the heavens and stretched them out,
    who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
    and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
    I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
    a light to the nations,
  to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
    from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Reflection

This is the first of four passages in Isaiah which are known as The Servant Songs.  We exist only because God created us.  We breath because we have been given air by God.  As we have read of tens of thousands dying unable to breath because of Covid-19 we must appreciate our breath even more. More than just air to breath we are told by Isaiah that we have the Spirit as well.  

Matthew quotes the first few verses and makes it clear that the servant is Jesus.  It is Jesus who came as a light to the nations.  Writing this during the lockdown when many people feel like prisoners in their own homes it is interesting that many churches have noticed a marked increase in the number attending online during this time.  Are these people looking to be rescued from the dungeon of despair that they are in?  How should we react as Christians as things return to some sort of normality?  We should make sure that Jesus is seen as the light who can brighten the darkness of those who ask for help.  

This light is not just for those who are new to the Church, but it is also for those who have been members for many years.  We all need the same spirit to open our eyes and free us from whatever prison we feel we are in. 

Times will still be different when you read this and the new normal may not be fully clear but what is clear is that the spirit Isaiah wrote about is timeless and unchanging.  No matter what the situation is we should continue to live inhaling God’s grace and exhaling God’s love. 

Prayer

Loving God 
I thank you for all that you are
I thank you for the air I breathe
for the ground beneath my feet
Thank you for your Spirit who is with me today
Thank you for opening my eyes
Thank you for setting me free
Help me to enjoy the life you have given me
Help me to tell others how great You are
Let me praise and thank you in the name of Jesus
Amen
 
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Today's writer

John Collings, Lay Preacher, member of Rutherglen URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 14th September 2020 Creation 1

URC Devotions - Mon, 14/09/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 14th September 2020 
Creation 1

St John 1: 1 - 5

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.

Reflection

Now is the season to make a step change.
Now is the moment to invent a new humanity.
Now is the hour to grasp the hand of God and move forward courageously on a different path.

Quantum mechanics has opened up our understanding of the material world being shaped through probabilities.  Theologically this is tremendously exciting and empowering.  The future does not yet exist.  Let me repeat that.  The future does not yet exist.  God’s call to Life, in Christ, is a call to discern together what actions now would be life-giving for the future.  Then to commit 100% to that Way.

Limiting the rise in global temperature and securing a level of biodiversity which can sustain the earth’s ecological systems are key amongst those life-giving actions.

In the beginning - the Word was with God. 
In Jesus - the Word was with those who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago. 
In the Spirit - the Word was, is and will be, with humanity.
In the 21st century - the Word is with us as dependably, as surely, as truly, as creatively and as radically as it ever was.  And as demandingly!

In our Kairos moment let us not be found wanting.

Prayer
 
God who is the Word,
praise, glory and wonder be yours for bringing life into being.
You are our light.
Shine in the gloom and murk of our earth-damaging practices.
Illuminate our possible futures.
Raise us up to choose the life-giving path.
So may we honour your great gift to humanity in Jesus, the Life Giver.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Gwen Collins, retired minister, member of Avenue St Andrews URC, Southampton Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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A Week on Creation

URC Devotions - Sun, 13/09/2020 - 18:00
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A Week of Creation

Dear <<First Name>>

I hope you've found our, long, journey through Exodus has been fruitful.  Like Genesis, it is a book we think we know but are always surprised by.  We leave that book now and spend a week thinking about Creation.

In response to a call from the Ecumenical Patriarch many communions observe a month of Creationtime between September and October.  The Covid 19 pandemic showed us the dangers of abusing animals,  how the planet can start to recover when human activity is scaled down and, despite the postponement of the Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, we are still facing a climate emergency. 

For the week ahead we will be thinking of the earth, our fragile home, as part of the majesty of God’s creation and challenge ourselves to embrace, protect, and conserve it and the life which teems here.


with every good wish



Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston,
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC --> Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 13th September 2020

URC Devotions - Sun, 13/09/2020 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotion Worship for Sunday 13th September 2020 View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
 
URC Daily Devotions Service
Sunday 13th September 2020
 
 
The Rev’d Gethin Rhys

Introduction

Bore da - Good morning from Wales – (or if, like us, you listen to this service as you light your ecumenical candle at 7pm – Noswaith dda – Good evening). Croeso - welcome to the study in my home in Heath in Cardiff.
 
I was working late in my office in the city centre on March 16th this year, and heard Boris Johnson tell us that we should start working from home. I collected up my things and since that evening this has been my work place, as I continue to represent Cytûn, Churches Together in Wales (including the United Reformed Church) in discussions with Welsh Government and the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament, not only about Coronavirus, but about all the things in public life with which we as churches are concerned. Fiona, my wife, who will also take part in this service, works in our lounge for Helpforce, shaping volunteering in health and social care. So although we may not often these days get out into the wider world, it certainly comes in to us.
Call to Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,
Many:      God says, “Come out.”

One:         To all who are living in darkness,
Many:      God says, “Show yourselves”

One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:      God gives food and springs of water.

One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us,
                we are inscribed on the palms of His hands.
 
Hymn:      Dear Lord and Father of Mankind
                  John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)
 
Dear Lord and Father
of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways!
Re-clothe us in
our rightful mind,
in purer lives Thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.

2: In simple trust
like theirs who heard
beside the Syrian sea
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them,
without a word
rise up and follow Thee.

3: Drop Thy still
dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls
the strain and stress,
& let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of Thy peace.

4: Breathe through the heats
of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
let sense be dumb,
let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
When we are irritated for the seventh time and it feels like 70 times seven… Help us to remember your patience with us.
 
When we are asked to be patient again and again…. Help us to remember your pity for us.
 
When our pity is taken for granted again and again…. Help us to remember your challenge to us.
 
When we challenge unfairness over and over… Help us to remember your love surrounding us all.
 
So knowing your patience, your pity, your challenge and your love, we humbly seek your forgiveness too.

It feels as if we are asking too much, but we know that if we do not ask, we cannot yet receive.

So hear our prayer for forgiveness for the uncaring and selfish things we have done, and the many good things we have failed to do, for the uncaring and spiteful words we have uttered aloud, and the many loving words we never spoke, for the selfish and resentful thoughts that fill our minds and the generous open hearted acceptance that so often eludes us. Loving God, hear our prayer.
 
The Lord says, ‘Your sins are forgiven. Accept my peace.’’
And so, as people touched by the forgiveness of God in Christ,
let us say the words which he taught us:
 
Our Father…
 
Prayer of illumination
 
Loving God, as we listen to the words of Jesus and of Paul this morning, may they challenge our comfort and comfort us in our challenges. Amen.
 
Readings
 
St Matthew 18.21-35 (New International Readers’ Version)
 
Peter came to Jesus. He asked, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
 
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but 77 times.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to collect all the money his servants owed him. As the king began to do it, a man who owed him 10,000 bags of gold was brought to him. The man was not able to pay. So his master gave an order. The man, his wife, his children, and all he owned had to be sold to pay back what he owed.
 
“Then the servant fell on his knees in front of him. ‘Give me time,’ he begged. ‘I’ll pay everything back.’ His master felt sorry for him. He forgave him what he owed and let him go.
 
“But then that servant went out and found one of the other servants who owed him 100 silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said.

“The other servant fell on his knees. ‘Give me time,’ he begged him. ‘I’ll pay it back.’
 
“But the first servant refused. Instead, he went and had the man thrown into prison. The man would be held there until he could pay back what he owed. The other servants saw what had happened and were very angry. They went and told their master everything that had happened.
 
“Then the master called the first servant in. ‘You evil servant,’ he said. ‘I forgave all that you owed me because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on the other servant just as I had mercy on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers. He would be punished until he paid back everything he owed.
 
“This is how my Father in heaven will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
 
Romans 14.1-13 (The Message)
 
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
 
For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
 
Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
 
What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.
 
So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
 
“As I live and breathe,” God says,
    “every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
    that I and only I am God.”
 
So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
 
 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.
 
 
Hymn:      As Gentle As Silence
                  Estelle White © McCrimmon Publishing Company, Ltd.
 
O the love of my Lord
is the essence
of all that I love here on earth.
All the beauty I see
He has given to me
and His giving
is gentle as silence.
 
2: Every day, every hour,
every moment,
have been blessed
by the strength of His love.
At the turn of each tide
He is there at my side
and his touch
is as gentle as silence.
 
3: There have been times
when I’ve turned from His presence
and I have walked other paths, other ways.
But I’ve called on His name,
in the dark of my shame
and His mercy was gentle as silence.
 
Sermon
 
When I was brought up in Sunday School, just a mile or so from here, Jesus’s multiplication table of forgiveness was one of the teacher’s favourite lessons. It became one of mine, too, because I knew what 70 times 7 was (490 in case you’re interested), and I knew that Jesus was not actually saying we should count to 490 and then stop forgiving.
 
In later life, I am afraid that the lesson has soured somewhat. In church life, this text – and the Christian value of forgiveness – has been misused by abusers to buy the silence of the abused, by oppressors to buy the silence of the oppressed and by manipulative shepherds to buy the silence of the flock. “Forgive and forget” must be one of the most misused summaries of the Christian gospel – and, as we know, the abused, the oppressed and the mistreated flock cannot forget, however, much they believe that they should forgive.

So what say we of this text in the 21st century? Firstly, it’s useful to know that in the version we heard read today (where Jesus says forgive not 490 times but 77 times), he is deliberately referring back to the book of Genesis. In Genesis chapter 4, when God puts a protective mark on Cain, God says that if anyone kills him, 7 lives will be taken in revenge. Five generations later, Cain’s descendant Lamech increases the tariff – if he is killed, 77 lives will be taken [Gen 4.15,24]. As he so often does, Jesus subverts this ancient story of violence begetting violence with one of forgiveness begetting forgiveness. This is the transformation that Jesus brings when he gets involved in our lives.
 
Just as Jesus takes a story from one culture and adapts it for another, so we then need to do the same. I really like this re-telling of Jesus’s parable in John Henson’s Good as New paraphrase of the Bible:
 
There was once the head of a large business who decided to call in her debts from her associates. She looked at the books and found that one was up to his neck in debt, more than would take several lifetimes to repay. She made an appointment to see him and threatened to send in the bailiffs and deprive his wife and children of house and home.
 
The man, with tears in his eyes, pleaded for more time. ‘Give me a chance,’ he said, ‘and I’ll pay it all back!’
 
The woman’s heart melted. She released her associate from his debts and told him not to worry about it any more.
 
But that very lucky man, as he was on his way out, bumped into a member of his club who owed him a small sum, no more than a few weeks’ wages.
 
He grabbed him by the throat and said, ‘Where’s my money?’
The man, shaking all over, said, ‘Please don’t be hard on me. You’ll get your money back. Just give me time!’
 
But he wouldn’t hear of it. He took him to court on a charge of theft, and the poor man ended up in prison. He was also ordered to repay the money.
 
The other club members knew about what had happened and were disgusted. They made sure the company boss got to hear the story. She sent again for her associate.
 
She said, ‘You nasty piece of work! I released you from your debt because of the tears in your eyes. Wasn’t that the cue for you to go easy on your friend?’
 
In anger she severed all business connections with him, ensured that he was completely ruined and called for his debts to be paid in full from his assets. That’s how my Parent will treat you if you don’t in love pass over the wrongs others do to you.
 
John Henson, Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures
(O-Books, Winchester, 2004. pp 155-6)
 
John’s retelling helps us realise what a contemporary story this is – and how radical it is. These days, we hear that debt has risen alarmingly during the Covid crisis. While doorstep lending has been much more heavily controlled in recent years – not least because of campaigning by the churches – online payday loans and informal debt are growing. Christians Against Poverty and other debt counselling charities find their caseloads rising and the stories they tell are immensely distressing. People are ruined - and threatened with ruin – every day.
 
But in our story, the head of the large business (the king in Jesus’s original) decides to be magnanimous. It’s probably no big deal – she can afford to take the hit. She forgives the debt. But forgiveness, says Jesus, should multiply – just as revenge multiplied in the time of Cain and Lamech. That is where the one-time debtor gets it so wrong. Instead of multiplying the forgiveness, he multiplies the exploitation of the poor by the rich – which is the very foundation of debt. That is why the forgiveness first offered evaporates. We can choose to multiply forgiveness, or we can choose to multiply revenge. There is no middle way, says Jesus. When revenge takes over it soon runs out of control – and can easily consume whoever started the chain. When forgiveness takes over, a virtuous circle is created.
Paul, in the letter to the Romans, brings this home to church life.
 
Of course, financial debt can be a worry in church, but often what really gets us worked up is our deeply felt moral convictions. Eugene Petersen in The Message, as we heard, helpfully brings this passage too right up to date. In every generation, church debates about food and drink can become very heated. A generation or two ago it was serving alcohol at church events which caused such arguments. In our day, as we become ever more acutely aware of our responsibility to God’s creation, we find ourselves asking - what matters most? Is it reducing food miles or supporting Fairtrade? Should we serve only vegetarian food? Or only vegan? Can we forgive our fellow Christians who decide that it is acceptable to eat meat (by the way, I recommend grass-fed Welsh lamb and Welsh beef)? As Paul says, legitimate and important debate soon becomes a blame game, and – like revenge – blame soon multiplies. Can we replace that multiplication with a multiplication of acceptance and forgiveness? Even in Church Meeting?
 
We deliberately went one verse further than the lectionary today, to hear Paul offer not only his critique of the church in Rome but also his solution. As the Good News Bible translates it, You should decide never to do anything that would make your brother [or sister] stumble or fall into sin. My first concern, says Paul, should not be about whether I am standing on the moral high ground, it should be about how I can stop you from falling.
Which brings us back to the abuse of forgiveness. Manipulating other people into forgiving me is not what Jesus is talking about at all. He is talking about my forgiving others, from the heart, so that they can begin to multiply that forgiveness. It was an abuse of forgiveness which got the debtor in Jesus’s parable into such trouble, and meant that the value of the forgiveness so quickly unravelled. So-called forgiveness which is manipulated out of the forgiver multiplies only fear, guilt and – sometimes – revenge. It has nothing whatsoever to do with what Jesus or Paul had in mind. Indeed, it is the precise opposite.
 
All of this reminded Fiona of a song from her Sunday School days, which she is going to sing for us now. I wonder if you remember it?
Love is something if you give it away,
give it away, give it away,
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.
It’s just like a magic penny;
Hold it tight and you won’t have any;
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many,
they’ll roll all over the floor, for:
Love is something if you give it away,
give it away, give it away,
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.
 
(Malvina Reynolds © 1955 Northern Music Corp, used by permission of Essex Music Ltd; taken from New Life: songs and hymns for assemblies, clubs and churches, Galliard, 1971)
 
We may be living through a time when multiplying pennies will become much more difficult for many of us. But love and forgiveness – they can still multiply today as always.
 
May it be so in our lives, in our churches, in our businesses and on our planet. Amen.
 
Hymn:      Forgive our sins, as we forgive
                Rosamund Herklots (1905 – 1987)  © Oxford University Press
 
'Forgive our sins
as we forgive,'
you taught us, Lord, to pray,
but You alone
can grant us grace
to live the words we say.
 
2. How can your pardon
reach and bless
the unforgiving heart,
that broods on wrongs
and will not let
old bitterness depart?
 
3. In blazing light
Your Cross reveals
the truth we dimly knew:
what trivial debts
are owed to us,
how great our debt to you!

4. Lord, cleanse the depths within our souls,
and bid resentment cease;
then, bound to all
in bonds of love,
our lives will spread your peace.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history.
God is our life.

We believe in God’s Son,
born amongst the poor, light in our night,
first-born from the dead. He is alive.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives birth to the new life of God,
who breathes life into the struggle for justice,
who leads us to hope.
who is a living force.

We believe in the holy universal Church,
herald of the Good News
which frees people and brings new life.
We believe in the coming of a new world
where Jesus Christ, our Lord, will be all in all. Amen.

 
Offertory
 
Many United Reformed Churches have been displaying the poster which says “Our church is open – it’s only the building that’s closed.” If anything, our ministry has reached more people during the pandemic than when things are supposedly ‘normal’. So much of that ministry is unpaid, and yet there are financial costs incurred in feeding the hungry, tending to the sick and ministering to the dying, and in administering our mission, and your contributions will be put to good use. So, even if your local church building is now partially open again, please take this opportunity to set aside your offering for the work of Christ’s church, whether it be cash, cheque or electronic transfer.
 
Let us pray.
 
Loving God, you have already today accepted our confession and turned it into forgiving love; you have accepted our prayers and turned them into loving purposes; you have accepted our praises and turned them into the song of heaven. Now accept our offerings of money and time and turn them into the tender ministry of the body of Christ in your world today.  Amen.
Intercessions
 
Let us pray to God, trusting in his mercy to all who call upon him in faith. We pray for the Church: guard her, we pray, from too much concern for lesser things, and from placing self-righteousness in the place of forgiveness.
 
We pray for those who work in the world of finance, that they may be just and compassionate in their dealings, especially with those individuals and businesses now facing financial hardship. Give them wisdom, and the grace to use their skill not for their own enrichment but for the welfare of all.
 
We pray for those distressed by debt or financial worry, whether through poor decisions, bad luck or because they never had a chance in life. Strengthen us and our churches to continue to serve those in need, not in smug judgement but in a multiplication of the love and forgiveness we have known.
 
We pray too for the greedy and the unforgiving, for those who exploit vulnerable people or the fragile earth for their own selfish ends. Turn by your grace, we pray, the hearts of those who oppress the poor and needy.
 
We pray for ourselves, that we may share forgiveness and love as we live and work with others. Since none of us can live to ourselves alone, help us to continue to care for our community, and help us so to forgive that we may be forgiven.
 
Loving God, we offer these our prayers to you in the spirit of your forgiveness,  as we trust at the last to be forgiven in the name of Jesus.  Amen.
 
Hymn:      Help Us Accept Each Other
                Fred Kaan  © 1975 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl,
                Carol Stream, IL 60188
 
Help us accept each other
as Christ accepted us;
teach us as sister, brother,
each person to embrace.
Be present, Lord, among us
and bring us to believe:
we are ourselves accepted
and meant to love and live.
 
2: Teach us,
O Lord, your lessons,
as in our daily life
we struggle to be human
and search for hope and faith.
Teach us to care for people,
for all - not just for some,
to love them as we find them
or as they may become.
 
3: Let your acceptance
change us
so that we may be moved
in living situations
to do the truth in love;
to practice your acceptance
until we know by heart
the table of forgiveness
and laughter's healing art.
 
4: Lord, for today's encounters
with all who are in need,
who hunger for acceptance,
for justice and for bread,
we need new eyes for seeing,
new hands for holding on:
renew us with your Spirit;
Lord, free us, make us one.

Blessing
 
Ac yn awr boed i ras ein Harglwydd Iesu Grist, a chariad Duw a chymdeithas yr Ysbryd Glân fod gyda ni oll yr awr hon ac hyd byth. And the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all and those for whom we pray, today and always. Amen.
 
 
 
 
 
Sources
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France.
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness extended from Rachel Poolman’s prayer for today in the URC Prayer Handbook.
Intercessions adapted from Leading Intercessions, Raymond Chapman, bilingual edition, Canterbury Press, 2003
All other material from Gethin Rhys.
 
Dear Lord and Father of Mankind from BBC’s Songs of Praise
Gentle As Silence sung by Kathy Nugent
Forgive us our sins as we forgive by Koiné
Help us to Accept Each Other sung by Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church, Singapore.

 

 

Opening Music:  Procession by Arthur Wills (organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014) Closing Music Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) both played by Brian Cotterill briancotterill.webs.com.

Thanks to Myra Rose, Walt Johnson, Liane Todd, John Wilcox, Ray Fraser, the choir of Barrhead URC and thanks to Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 

  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 13th September 2020 Psalm 14

URC Devotions - Sun, 13/09/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 13th September 2020 Psalm 14

Oh that your salvation and your rescue
would swiftly come to renew your people.

The fools have said in their heart:
“There is no God”: they are corrupt,
their deeds are all loathsome;
not one of them does good.

The Lord looks down from the heavens
seeking for those who understand, any seeking out God;
all have turned aside in conjoint corruption
and fallen short of God’s glory,
and among them not one of them does good.

Will evil doers not learn?  
Greedy, devouring God’s chosen people like they chew bread.
They shall quake with dread 
for the Lord is present in power among all his people.
Yes, the Lord will be our protecting strength.

You can hear v1 sung here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3nNeXyNpRc

Reflection

I am writing this Devotion while stuck at home owing to the Coronavirus, and I daresay that many of us will have cried something similar to the first line of today’s Psalm. ‘Oh, that Your salvation and Your rescue would swiftly come and renew Your people’.  Many of us, I am sure, will call out to God in times of need, and while some will get the answer they seek, some may hear nothing back.

A little while ago, when all of the lockdown measures first came into place, I was involved with a service conducted over Facebook Live, in connexion with a local Methodist church (see the play on words?). The service itself was lovely, and the regular congregation enjoyed it.  The church had paid to boost the post to the local area, and amid all of the positive responses, one gentleman was obviously annoyed with what he saw.  This man was determined that ‘there is no God’.  He made his views clear, he posted comment after comment, and the minister and others politely engaged with him, even offering to meet for a chat after lockdown came to an end.  After a while, it was clear that we were getting nowhere, and the gentleman’s comments were becoming more and more angry, so the minister stopped responding.

Now, I should make it clear that I am not equating the upset commenter with people who are ‘corrupt’, nor am I saying that negative comments are ‘loathsome deeds’.  I would be the first to argue that people are entitled to their opinions and that free speech is the cornerstone of a civilised society.  But at times, we all have to admit when we can do no more. We must, to quote Jesus, shake the dust from our feet and move on.  Eventually, we hope, the Holy Spirit will move in that person/group’s lives, and in the meantime, we can pray.

This may feel like giving in, it may feel like giving up. It may leave us feeling beaten and weak. But we must remember that God is ‘present in power among His people. Yes, the Lord will be our protecting strength’. 

Prayer

Loving God,
Go with us as we labour for Your Kingdom,
go with us as we share Your Word.
Grant us the strength to proclaim Your Gospel anew,
grant us the insight to know when to move on,
and help us to remember that You are always alongside us, 
as our protecting strength. Amen
 
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Today's writer

Michael RJ Topple, Lay Preacher and member of Chappel URC, Essex Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 12th September 2020 Moses’ Death

URC Devotions - Sat, 12/09/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 12th September 2020

Moses’ Death

Deuteronomy 34: 1 - 12

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan,  all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea,  the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar.  The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’  Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command.  He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day.  Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigour had not abated.  The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.  He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Reflection

So, after 40 years wandering in the desert Moses gets to see the promised land, but dies before he can reach it.  Amazingly, at the age of 120 he has impaired sight and unabated vigour - I imagine plenty of us wish we had those at 30/50/70 let alone 120!  Despite this, you might think he has failed in his life’s work - he hasn’t managed to lead the Israelites into Canaan - but there’s no sense of that in the text.  Rather, it’s seen as a fulfilment of the promise made earlier in Numbers 27, where God said that Moses would not reach the promised land himself, because of his rebellion in the wilderness.

Moses has, however, identified Joshua as his successor, who will lead the people into the promised land.  He’s recognised that the task of leadership is something bigger than he can accomplish in his own life.  How often do we manage to do the same?  Do we encourage other people to grow as leaders and take more responsibility, or do we feel we can’t trust anyone else to do something properly?  People who care for vulnerable relatives are often very careful to make sure there are proper arrangements for looking after their spouse or child after they die - but others of us can sometimes seem to behave as if we are immortal and irreplaceable, which doesn’t do us, others, or the causes we care for any good.

In churches we are often very aware of the saints who have gone before us - even commemorating them in the names of our buildings, for example.  But we should also think of those who will remain after we have gone, and make sure that we are encouraging their gifts of prophecy and leadership, just as Moses encouraged Joshua.

Prayer

Lord, you call each of us to our own form of service.
May we help each other discern our callings, and encourage each other in our journeys of faith.
We pray for those called to be leaders, that they may serve with honour, and know that leadership is a team game, rather than a virtuoso performance.
And may we know how to be followers, as we seek to follow your way.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Gordon Woods, Elder, St. Columba’s URC, Oxford Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Friday 11th September 2020 Joshua Commissioned

URC Devotions - Fri, 11/09/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 11th September 2020
 
Joshua Commissioned

Deuteronomy 31: 1 - 8

When Moses had finished speaking all[a] these words to all Israel, he said to them: ‘I am now a hundred and twenty years old. I am no longer able to get about, and the Lord has told me, “You shall not cross over this Jordan.” The Lord your God himself will cross over before you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua also will cross over before you, as the Lord promised. The Lord will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. The Lord will give them over to you and you shall deal with them in full accord with the command that I have given to you. Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.’

Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel: ‘Be strong and bold, for you are the one who will go with this people into the land that the Lord has sworn to their ancestors to give them; and you will put them in possession of it. It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’

Reflection

This reading caught my eye as I was looking through the choices as I’m a great fan of Joshua and his story.  It then struck me that today (11th September) is our 27th wedding anniversary so I was reminded once more how God does indeed move in mysterious ways. And the passage today is certainly mysterious.  First of all, Moses doesn’t get the ’happy ending’ he must have hoped for to his long and exhausting journey – he will never get to enter the Promised Land he has spent so long leading the Israelites towards.  Instead, Moses must hand over that responsibility to his younger colleague Joshua.
 
It's challenging enough not to be able to fulfil our dreams, no matter how God-given they might appear to be, and surely it’s even worse to commission someone else to fulfil that dream instead. I think if I’d been Moses all those years ago, I certainly wouldn’t have been so gracious or so compassionate in word or action.  But Moses understands that God is always generous in love and deed, and he commissions Joshua in the same way that God originally commissioned him – that is, with love and confidence and the knowledge that God will always be with him.  Because it is God Himself who chooses and directs our path and works out what is best for us and not we ourselves. In this way, the imposing of limitation is as much a blessing as liberation.  Both can be gifts.
 
Prayer
 
Dear God, help us to trust in You and Your plans for us. Help us to understand and accept Your divine will, no matter where it leads us or where it does not. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Anne Brooke attends Elstead URC in Surrey. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 10th September 2020 Choose Life

URC Devotions - Thu, 10/09/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 10th September 2020

Choose Life

Deuteronomy 30: 11 - 20

Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God  that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them,  I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,  loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Reflection

Choices – every day we make choices: some of us are blessed with so many options that we get confused: what to wear, what to do, what to eat and drink; others long for such an opportunity of choice and feel their lives confined by unavoidable restrictions – but his experiences in Nazi concentration camps led Victor Frankl to write, “Everything can be taken from a person but one thing, the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way!” Man’s Search for Meaning.

Our writer today presents the most vital of choices with characteristically Semitic starkness; the issues are clear and the consequences of choice are made clear.  Later understanding of God’s ways moved on from presenting those consequences in materialistic terms, though it is easy to be tempted to want virtue to be rewarded in material ways.  Choose life and live on God’s terms, or reject God and go your own way; there are no intermediaries, each person needs to choose. God does not punish the wrong-doer but such people bring the consequences on themselves.

Although this passage in Deuteronomy is set within the context of God’s covenant with the people we should recognise, as Frankl wrote, that each individual has to make her or his own choice. The consequences of that choice will affect others, perhaps the whole community, but each person has an individual responsibility to live, “loving the Lord your God, obeying him and holding fast to him” so finding fullness of life which is developed when Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” John, 10.10. Jesus also said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself” Luke 10.27. 

Prayer 

Gracious God, give us the insight to know what choices we should make and give us the strength we need to make those choices, Walking the Way of Jesus, in whose power we pray: Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, retired minister, member of Verwood United Reformed Church Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Sunday's Coming

URC Devotions - Wed, 09/09/2020 - 11:30
96 Sunday's Coming View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service is led by the Rev'd Gethin Rhys who works in Cardiff as a policy officer for the Welsh Ecumenical body Cytûn.  Hymns include John Greenleaf Whittier’s Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, Estelle White’s As Gentle As Silence, Rosamund Herklots’ Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive and Fred Kaan’s Help Us Accept Each Other.

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

with every good wish


Andy


The Rev'd Andy Braunston
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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 9th September Shine Moses Shine

URC Devotions - Wed, 09/09/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 9th September

Shine Moses Shine

Exodus 34:  29 - 35

Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him.But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai.When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; but whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Reflection

Moses had been on the mountain and having a conversation with God.  This changed his physical appearance so much that his face shone.  This might remind us of the time when Jesus met Moses and Elijah.  Matthew 17:2 tells us that Jesus’s face shone like the sun.  Moses was unaware of this change to his appearance, but the people were afraid of him.  He had to summon them to approach him and Moses told them what God had said to him on Mount Sinai.

Do we all reflect the glory of God in our day to day lives or do we leave it for Sundays?  Perhaps more importantly does our relationship with God change every part of our lives?  Moses’s face shone to show that he had been in God’s presence and he wore a veil to hide it from other people but removed the veil when with God.  

Do we do something similar; do we hide our faith when with non-churchgoers?  We should let others see that we have this.  We live in times when many people are unsure about the existence of God, a time when they doubt many things.  We need to let the love of God shine through us into the dark places that many people inhabit.  We can do it in so many ways, supporting organisations such as Commitment for Life or Christian Aid are examples.  Kind words to strangers and simply telling friends how our personal faith helps us every day can show God’s glory shining from us.  There is much being said about a “new normal” will we as Christians all make sure that our new normal includes God in every part of it?

Prayer

Loving God, 
shine through me,
make me a beacon for you
where there is darkness let me bring light
where there are feelings of hopelessness or despair, let me bring joy
in Jesus name, Amen
 
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Today's writer

John Collings, Lay Preacher, member of Rutherglen URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 8th September 2020 Covenant Renewed

URC Devotions - Tue, 08/09/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 8th September 2020
 
Covenant Renewed

Exodus 34:  10 - 28

He said: I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform marvels, such as have not been performed in all the earth or in any nation; and all the people among whom you live shall see the work of the Lord; for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

Observe what I command you today. See, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Take care not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you are going, or it will become a snare among you. You shall tear down their altars, break their pillars, and cut down their sacred poles  (for you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God). You shall not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, someone among them will invite you, and you will eat of the sacrifice.  And you will take wives from among their daughters for your sons, and their daughters who prostitute themselves to their gods will make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.

You shall not make cast idols.

You shall keep the festival of unleavened bread. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib; for in the month of Abib you came out from Egypt.

All that first opens the womb is mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem.

No one shall appear before me empty-handed.

For six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even in ploughing time and in harvest time you shall rest. You shall observe the festival of weeks, the first fruits of wheat harvest, and the festival of ingathering at the turn of the year. Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out nations before you, and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land when you go up to appear before the Lord your God three times in the year.

You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven, and the sacrifice of the festival of the passover shall not be left until the morning.

The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.

You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

The Lord said to Moses: Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel. He was there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Reflection

The God who had made Himself known to Abraham delivered His people from bondage in Egypt, sustained them through the wilderness years and guided them to the land He had promised their forebears.   The covenant theme binds together promises made and the fulfilment of those promises in the life and death of Jesus Christ. In so doing Exodus becomes the catalyst upon which Biblical history is assured and fundamental truth is based.  At the heart of the Exodus narrative is the focus on the divine name, the nature of His presence and the significance of the sacrificial Passover lamb.

September, of course, for the Methodist Church marks the beginning of a new year; a time when new ministers and church treasurers take up their appointments and when the regular cycle of committee meetings at church, circuit and district level begins again, the occasion very often being celebrated on the first Sunday with the annual Covenant Service, in memory of the first covenant with God.

September, for us too, heralds a new beginning in our thoughts and plans for the future. One of the most important things for any believer is to be able to discern where God is leading and, having discerned, to respond and follow.

When someone asked the British photographer and pioneering director William Friese-Green, what was the most creative aspect of making films, he answered, “The frame”. Not the fabulous locations, the scripts or working with great actors - but the frame. When we are surrounded by so many opportunities and able to see so much potential for what lies ahead, it is vital that we discern where our own path lies. Discerning, and accepting, what we believe we are called to do gives us clarity and freedom and allows us to focus our energies.  We all need to listen for that “still, small voice.”  That goes for us all, you and me.

Prayer

Do not give up...When you first begin, you find only darkness and as if it were a cloud of unknowing. You don't know what this means except that in your will you feel a simple, steadfast intention reaching out towards God...reconcile yourself to wait in this darkness as long as necessary, but still go on longing after him who you love. (The Cloud of Unknowing - 14th. Century)
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Ian Gow Minister, Eltham URC Copyright
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URC Daily Devotion Monday 7th September 2020 New Tablets

URC Devotions - Mon, 07/09/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 7th September 2020

New Tablets

Exodus 34: 1-9

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to me, on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and do not let anyone be seen throughout all the mountain; and do not let flocks or herds graze in front of that mountain.’ So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the former ones; and he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, ‘The Lord.’ The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed,

‘The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no means clearing the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.’

And Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth, and worshipped. He said, ‘If now I have found favour in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.’

Reflection

Today’s reading starts part-way through a conversation between God and Moses. On one level, it is about how God will renew the covenant made at Mount Sinai (10 Commandments) with Israel following the Golden Calf incident.

In living memory, the people had witnessed God’s visible acts of power in the Exodus, at the Red Sea and being fed in the desert, yet their impatience at Sinai waiting for Moses turned to idolatry. 

This is another example of how important patience is, and God is not to be hurried by our timetable. Throughout the Bible, we see God always giving humankind another opportunity to be reconciled.

Our reading ends (vv.8-9) with Moses interceding on Israel’s behalf and not for the last time. Ultimately, we know that God completed this work Himself on Good Friday through Jesus’ death on the Cross. 

Verses 1-3 complete God’s practical instructions; verse 4 returns to the narrative, but what is going on in verse 5? To answer this, look to Exodus 33:18, where Moses asks to see God’s “glory”.

God answers that He will show Himself, and Moses will see His back (a unique experience in Scripture); but, more importantly, Moses will witness God’s goodness, grace and compassion (Exodus 33:19).

The Golden Calf was a hollow idol with no substance; however, God shows Moses and the people what really matters, and it is not appearance. The Golden Calf may have looked pretty, but it could not offer mercy, grace, love and faithfulness.

Hebrew scholars are not sure of the origin of the name of the Lord, often written as “LORD”, but most agree it has to do with the verb “to be”. 

God’s very being offers us these noblest qualities, and it is these qualities which God would have us take in and become part of ourselves, that we might show mercy, grace, love and faithfulness in our lives.


Prayer

Merciful God, forgive us: 
guide us to show mercy to others.
Gracious God, we thank you for all that we have: 
guide our generosity to others.
Loving God, You love us with a power stronger than death: 
guide us to love those we find difficult to love.
Faithful God, You promise to be with us always:
guide us to remain faithful to the Gospel.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Walt Johnson, Ordinand at Northern College and Member at Wilbraham St Ninian’s URC in Chorlton, Manchester Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Sunday Service 6th September 2020

URC Devotions - Sun, 06/09/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
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URC Daily Devotion Service
for

Sunday 6th September 2020






The Rev’d Mike Shrubsole and the Rev’d David Coleman
 
Introduction
 
Good morning, I’m Mike Shrubsole, minister of four churches in the Ringwood area, and also one of the Green Apostles working across the thirteen Synods of the United Reformed Church.  Today is Climate Sunday and this Sunday Worship has been prepared by myself and
by David Coleman, Les Parker and Alex Mabbs, representatives of the whole church network of Green Apostles. We offer you a creation celebration and environmentally concerned time of worship which was planned to help lead us towards COP26, the next United Nations climate conference originally due to be hosted in Glasgow in 2020. Now we begin a longer run-up towards a rescheduled COP26 now planned to be held in the year 2021. Our hope and prayer, shared with you in this Climate
Sunday Service, is that these longer preparations might result in more ambitious carbon reduction targets being delivered at that COP26.
 
Call To Worship
 
One:         To all who are imprisoned,
Many:       God says, “Come out.”
 
One:         To all who are living in darkness,
Many:       God says, “Show yourselves”
 
One:         To all who hunger and thirst,
Many:      God gives food and springs of water.
 
One:         To all who are far away,
Many:       God makes smooth the way home.
                God will not forget us, we are inscribed
                on the palms of His hands.
 
Hymn:      All Things Praise Thee, Lord Most High
                George William Conder (1821-1874)
 
All things praise Thee, Lord most high,
Heav’n and earth and sea and sky,
all were for Thy glory made,
that Thy greatness thus displayed
should all worship bring to Thee;
all things praise Thee— Lord, may we!
 
2: All things praise Thee—night to night
sings in silent hymns of light;
all things praise Thee—day to day
chants Thy power in burning ray;
time and space are praising Thee,
all things praise Thee—Lord, may we!
 
3:  All things praise thee; round her zones
earth, with her ten thousand tones,
rolls a ceaseless choral strain;
roaring wind and deep-voiced main,
rustling leaf and humming bee,
all things praise thee: Lord, may we.
 
4: All things praise Thee—high and low,
rain and dew and sparkling snow,
crimson sunset, fleecy cloud,
rippling stream, and tempest loud;
summer, winter, all to Thee
Glory render— Lord, may we!
 
5: All things praise Thee—gracious Lord,
Great Creator, powerful Word,
Omnipresent Spirit,
now at Thy feet we humbly bow;
lift our hearts in praise to Thee;
all things praise Thee—Lord, may we!
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
Creator God, You made an awesome world, stars beyond our imagination in size and distance infinitesimally small particles of immense power. You entrusted the care of the world and all it contains to us,  Your human children.  Through greed and over-consumption we have taken more than our share, abused and destroyed the animals, plants and land. And we have broken the trust that You gave us. We have ridden roughshod over the needs of  our local and global neighbours, the wonderful wildlife which is all around us and which we see on our TVs, and future generations including our own children and grandchildren.
 
We want to say that we are sorry. Sorry for the bad decisions we have made, for the hurt we have caused, for the damage we have done. We ask for Your forgiveness and for Your help to change. Thank You that Your powerful Christ-life still flows in all Creation to heal and to make anew. Thank You that even in this time of a global pandemic  we have rediscovered that healing power. We can now hear the birds and see the mountains and the stars. Help us to work with You to bring healing to Your world and to all our neighbours, those nearby and those in distant lands. Your world is a creative, abundant and beautiful home. Help us to work with You to be as creative and abundant and to produce the good fruit of Your Holy Spirit in our lives. As the trees share their resources for the benefit of all their neighbours, may we share all of the blessings we receive with gratitude. Amen
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Gracious God, we do not live by bread alone, but by your living Word.
Through your Word open our eyes that we might see, and be thankful
for all your gracious provisions. Amen
 
Readings
 
Exodus 12.1–14
 
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:  This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.  Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household.   If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbour in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.  Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.   You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight.   They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.   They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs.   You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.  This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD.   For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the LORD.   The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.  This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
 
St Matthew 18.15–20
 
‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.   Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
 
 Hymn:      For the Beauty of the Earth
                 F S Pierpoint (1835 – 1917)  arr by John Rutter
 
For the beauty of the earth,
for the beauty of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.
Over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of praise
 
2: For the beauty of the hour,
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon and stars of light.
Sun and moon and stars of light
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of praise
 
3: For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild
for all gentle thoughts and mild:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our joyful hymn of praise
 
4: For each perfect gift of thine,
to our race so freely given,
graces human and divine,
flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n:
Flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n
Lord of all, to thee we raise,
this our joyful hymn, of praise.
 
Sermon
 
It hasn’t taken long for me to become rather  irritated by the notion of “the new normal”, which has crept in like a cuckoo to the nest of Christian environmental awareness this year. 
 
“Normal” reassures, perhaps at a time when the most  effectively reassuring pathway, for faith and all that follows from it, is that which allows that the road ahead will be bumpy, twisty, deceptive. 
 
This  year has been a crash course in the supreme value of faith, in the sense of the trust in God that sustains and accompanies us through the unexpected, the unpredictable, the inevitable, and even the end of life as we have known it. 
The stressful stop-start of city traffic, and the achingly long lead-in to turning an oil tanker are some of the metaphors of the fossil fuel era that help us grasp that any normal view of  ‘normal’  gets us nowhere.  The climate emergency continues apace, even if out culture has shown a lamentable disinclination to multi-task. It’s  as if all we needed to be bothered with was the virus. Which, of course, did not come out of nowhere. The evidence is growing that  our abuse of nature is ever more likely to unleash such things. And has done so in the recent past.
Then we encounter, in our reading of Exodus, these regulations for the festival, the season, the Special Sunday of  Passover:  that most completely Hebrew, and therefore  strangely all-inclusive feast (visiting foreigners must be invited to share it) which though it aims at the conservative momentum of a perpetual ordinance, is nonetheless a feast of urgency, responsiveness  and alertness, which  is incidentally,  precisely the best we should hope for from Climate Sunday.
 
The times of the year - and festivals like harvest - vitally give shape to our lives as they are repeated year after year.  The temptation is significant, to empty these things of contemporary relevance out of  misguided  loyalty to their enduring beauty.  To set aside the emergencies for which they prepare and nourish us, as if the week-to-week conduct of our faith could happen in an alternative Creation.  Yet “heaven and earth”, sky and soil, are one Creation. Both already  wonderful, both  to be  cherished, healed, made new.
 
It is significant, though, that these  ancient regulations are so clearly designed to mitigate against conservative complacency: the tradition is observed by the trappings of urgency, rather than or relaxed reassurance.  There is no escape into deceptive stasis.
 
Early Christianity, born out of persecution and  the experience of oppression, lost no time in reappropriating this life-sustaining aspect of identity: ‘Wake up sleeper, be alert....’ - and crucially not offering or anticipating  that any sort of  wider, global  upheaval might be averted, but rather, tapping into  the Passover experience: not only how to live through it, but how to be yourself through it. 
 
Our situation is one of a human and natural world now obediently ‘filled’  [cf Genesis 1:20 & 1:28 ] to the point where even God’s people have nowhere else to go.  Reconciliation and forgiveness,  persuasion rather than annihilation,  peace, rather than victory, become all the more life-giving.
 
Egypt and the Promised Land are close or identical. Blood on the door, even as a waste-free sign of faith, grants no immunity. Perhaps we live or die with Pharoah, and Moses, or his successors in communities of faith need not to let up on the dialogue, for the sake of all concerned.
Matthew 18, which is offered in the first instance as a practical guide to transforming conflicts within church communities  now gains additional meaning, where we have no room left for anything like  the ‘blame game'.
 
The value of responsible witnesses, as well as of seeking to avoid the escalation of divisive situations is placed before us here.
 
Climate science offers a testimony which we can take note of or ignore.   When we take notice,  then  our neighbours might still have to be convinced. There’s also a sting in the tail  for the complacent here, in the instruction to treat offenders" as a Gentile and a tax-collector” - that is, as those in particular need of support to change their mind and ways. The aim is always reconciliation, not exclusion. Globally, we don’t have anywhere else to go; no to send  our offenders away to. And might we be these offenders?
 
So what is to be vitally prioritised  in the observances of faith,  to the Christian heap of “Specials”  to which Climate Sunday and the following weeks of Creation Time and the Season of Creation are adding?
Faithfulness, obedience, devotionalism, piety, are now characterised in this:
 
Readiness to shift -  and shift everything -  the schooled decisiveness to cash in the chips of all that has been  set aside for a rainy day, yes, the wisdom to be ready  to blow your reserves and leave nothing behind, these are the defining virtues these ancient ritual instructions aim to inculcate, and by their repetition, indefinitely to refresh, rather than, tediously, to embed.  It’s a feast and a fulsome one, and as good as you can make it, but a feast with no waste and no leftovers.
 
This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD.
 
For us, the time has come: never mind “normal”, new or old : the faith of our cultures in indefinite growth and a reliable future has become hollow, and our reliance on it - because that reliance  holds back necessary change - deadly. 
 
Not just for ourselves, but first and fastest, those people and places who have contributed least to the crises we may, perhaps, still mitigate, but not avert. The time is now. so, says God, let’s celebrate! Let’s feast, because that’s the hopeful alternative to creeping back into a hole and giving up. 
 
And  the  concessionary trust in intermediates: that new fossil fuel investment approved because it is marginally more efficient than the previous one locks you in for a generation, when time has already run out.
Without exception, the greatest impact of today, and of the weeks and months ahead that you might devote to deepening your spiritual awareness of Climate emergency and the place and purpose of your faith as we encounter it, will be in transforming yourself, your spirituality, your prayer life, and the ways in which, until now, that might have excluded the voice of the Earth, just as the voice of the poor has been so easy to sideline, though  Jesus in Matthew 25, again most sternly makes clear that how they are treated is an absolute measure of faithfulness to him, to God, to goodness.
 
The Exodus story introduces the deeply relevant concept of “plague” as a catastrophe that need not have been so, and that might have been avoided through justice, compassion and wisdom, though one  over which you may not have determinative power.  Decisions are made elsewhere.  The wildlife and the ecosystems suffer, because of the all-too-human injustice of the pharaoh.  We are reminded, that all life shares the fate we choose. The sheer spiritual poverty of anthropocentric salvation - that is, the teaching that Christ is given for people alone, and that all other life, however lovely,  is expendable - this makes  no sense other than on some distant planet B other than our own, where no one need yet be confronted with the absolute facts of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life,  be they predators or prey, fauna or flora.
 
Yet in addition to this fact of  infinite mutual utility, Christianity has, in its saner moments, also added a value, an original goodness which goes beyond any visible usefulness to ourselves. That too, is a matter of faith. And one reinforced as we remember Jesus’ most stern rebuke of those who dismiss a sister or brother as ‘good for nothing’. [Matt 5:22, e.g. NAS]. For what is that but a dismissal of God, who made them.... and you!
 
Be awake, be alert, be ready, and remember, as a matter of faith, to celebrate, to nourish yourself, your faith, your community.  The world needs your commitment  now, more than ever. In prayer, in action, in being what God made you to be.
 
Hymn:      Creation Sings the Father’s Song
                Keith & Kristyn Getty & Stuart Townend © 2008 Thankyou Music
 
Creation sings the Father’s song;
He calls the sun to wake the dawn
and run the course of day,
till evening comes in crimson rays.
His fingerprints in flakes of snow,
His breath upon this spinning globe,
He charts the eagle’s flight,
commands the
new-born baby’s cry.

Hallelujah! Let all creation stand and sing:
“Hallelujah!” Fill the earth with songs of worship,
tell the wonders of creation’s King.

2: Creation gazed upon His face;
the ageless One in time’s embrace,
unveiled the Father’s plan
of reconciling God and man.
A second Adam walked the earth,
whose blameless life
would break the curse,
whose death would set us free
to live with Him eternally.
 

3: Creation longs for His return,
when Christ shall reign upon the earth;
the bitter wars that rage
are birth pains of a coming age.
When He renews the land and sky,
all heaven will sing and earth reply
with one resplendent theme:
the glory of our God and King.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God, creator of all,
whose word sustains the life of humanity,
and directs our history. God is our life.
We believe in God’s Son,
born amongst the poor, light in our night,
first-born from the dead. He is alive.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
who gives birth to the new life of God,
who breathes life into the struggle for justice,
who leads us to hope. Who is a living force.
 
We believe in the holy universal Church,
herald of the Good News
which frees people and brings new life.
We believe in the coming of a new world
where Jesus Christ, our Lord, will be all in all. Amen.
 
Offertory
 
We invite and encourage you to remember churches and charities and all those in financial need at this difficult time. Let us not selfishly hold the blessings we receive, but lovingly share, so that blessings and thankfulness may abound. Amen.
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
Liberating God, your Spirit sighs as creation groans, you hear the cries of the poor and afflicted, you deliver those in distress and set captives free:
 
God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
Hear us as we cry to you, as earth heats, and weather changes, and habitats become inhospitable: for animals and plants struggling to survive, for refugees from drought, flood, and heat, for every soul seeking a home where they can flourish in peace:
God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
Hear us as we cry to you, as costs rise and prices fall and those who work the land are squeezed by injustice: for farmers and producers at the mercy of market forces, impoverished, but wanting to do their best
for the land and the creatures in their care:
 
God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
Hear us as we cry to you, as changes in nature and society out-pace conventional wisdom: for leaders of Government and business, for buyers and voters, for justice and peace for the poor, the disregarded, and all the Little Ones of Creation:
 
God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
Hear us as we cry to you, as disciples of Jesus seek his path of faithfulness and loving service: for Churches and Christian agencies as we embody the love of Christ for all Creation:
 
God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
Hear us as we cry to you for those we carry in our hearts today (silence)
 
God, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
 
Hear us, merciful God; hear the cries of every tribe and language and people and species, that all Creation might be set free, and all things made new in Christ. In that glorious hope, in the unity of the Spirit, and in his name we pray. Amen.
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
Hymn:      Sing of the Lord’s Goodness
                Fr Ernest Sands © 1981 Ernest Sands. Published by OCP Pubs
 
Sing of the Lord’s goodness,
Father of all wisdom,
come to him and bless his name.
mercy He has shown us,
His love is for ever,        
faithful to the end of days.
 
Come then all you nations,
sing of your Lord’s goodness,      
melodies of praise & thanks to God.
Ring out the Lord’s glory,
praise Him with your music,
worship Him and bless His name.
 
 (repeat first verse and chorus)

2: Power He has wielded,
honour is His garment,
risen from the snares of death.
His word He has spoken,
one bread He has broken,
new life He now gives to all.
 
3: Courage in our darkness,
comfort in our sorrow,
Spirit of our God most high;
solace for the weary,
pardon for the sinner,
splendour of the living God.
 
4: Praise Him with your singing,
praise Him with the trumpet,
praise God with the lute and harp;
praise Him with the cymbals,
praise Him with your dancing,
praise God till the end of days.
 
Blessing
 
Now may you know God’s blessing:
The Creator’s blessing on that that has been made,
The Saviour’s blessing on all that is loved,
The Spirit’s blessing active in and over all.
As you have been blessed, so may you bless. Amen.
 
 Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France.
Prayers of Approach written by Les Parker.
Prayer of Illumination, Offertory, and Blessing written by Mike Shrubsole
Prayers of Intercession written by Alex Mabbs.
 
All Things Praise Thee sung by the choir of Christ Apostolic Church, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria.
For the Beauty of the Earth arranged by John Rutter sung by the Vocal Arts Academy of Milwaulki directed by Emily Crocker
Creation Sings the Father’s Song by Keith & Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend, from the album 'Awaken The Dawn'
Sing of the Lord’s Goodness recorded by Jazz Church.

Organ Pieces: Liturgical Prelude by George Oldroyd (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020) Nun Danket Alle Gott – Marche Triomphale (“Now thank we all our God”) by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020) played by Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com

 
Thanks to James Whately, John Young, Lorraine Webb, Karen Smith, for recording various parts of the service and to the choir of Barrhead URC for recording the Lord’s Prayer, to  Kathleen & Callum Haynes, Elfreda Tealby-Watson & Greg Watson, David & Christine Shimmin, Elizabeth Kemp,  Marion Thomas, Tina Wheeler and Myra Rose for recording, virtually, the Call to Worship and Affirmation of Faith.
 
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 6th September 2020 Psalm 13

URC Devotions - Sun, 06/09/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 6th September 2020 Psalm 13

How long will you forget me, Lord,
and hide your face away?
How long shall evils tear my heart
and troubles fill my day?

2 Look on my need, O Lord my God
who grants my every breath;
give light that I may see your light,
not sleep the sleep of death.

3 Look on their threats and hear my cry,
and answer when I call:
or they will claim the victory
who long to see me fall.

4 Lord, in your mercy is my trust;
I shall be glad and free;
Then shall I sing with all my heart
how you have dealt with me.

Christopher Idle from Psalm 13
© Christopher Idle/Jubilate Hymns Ltd

you can hear verse 1 sung here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubu15UGvQl8

Reflection

“How long?” cries the Psalmist,
facing seeming abandonment in the face of affliction.
“How long?” cries the Psalmist,
expressing sorrow as enemies assail.
 
3000 years on we too may cry,
“How long, will the shadow of illness surround me, or a loved one?”
“How long, shall lockdown separate me from my loved ones?”
 
Today, Climate Sunday, we may hear other cries:
“How long”, cries Greta, on behalf of the world’s youth, 
“will we ignore the house on fire?”
“How long?” speaks Sir David on behalf of the scientific community,
“will policy fall short of evidence?”
“How long”, Extinction Rebellion prophetically protest,
“must we wait for a zero-carbon, just and green new normal?”
 
By articulating their concern, 
the Psalmist starts the transforming journey from their hurting, hungry heart.
Their next cry “give light that I may see your light” 
opens a way to renewed faith and trust in God.
 
The Psalmist’s journey from problem stated, to solution identified
to action taken, is one of engagement and hope.
It is so in our lives; for the way of healing,
is lined with care of body, mind and soul,
and the loneliness of lockdown
may be overcome with phone call, post and social media messaging.
 
Likewise, the Greta, Sir David and rebellious prophet within us all,
being concerned for the wellbeing of life on earth, know:
-       of the imperative that policy follows science,
-       that personal rights shouldn’t trump community well-being
-       today’s choices should be mindful of tomorrow’s generations. 
 
We stand as Moses once did, overlooking the river
to the Promised Land beyond.
In a post-lockdown world, 
do we just gaze over a fictitious land of hope and dreams?
or do we ‘choose life’, 
intentionally setting off to a just and green new normal,
to which we’re called, and ultimately were born to run? 
 
Prayer 

As heart cries, “how long”?
may eye’s light see through darkness,
and hope lead the way.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr David Pickering, Moderator, National Synod of Scotland, Rutherglen URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 5th September 2020 Divine Anger

URC Devotions - Sat, 05/09/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 5th September 2020
Divine Anger

Exodus 32:  30 - 35

On the next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.’  Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf—the one that Aaron made.

Reflection

What surprised me was the idea of being ‘blotted out of the book’.  I wondered where else in the Bible we might find reference to this book, what it meant to the people of Israel and for the early Church.
In Psalm 69 David is in deep trouble and wants God to blot his enemies out of the book of life.  In Daniel 7, it’s part of divine judgement: ‘the books were opened’.  Luke 10 has the story of the 70 going out to proclaim Jesus’ message of the Kingdom, and on return are told ‘Rejoice as your names are written in heaven’. There are various references in Revelation, particularly 20:15, again in the context of judgement ‘Your name is written in the book of life’.

My childhood understanding was that God has a book and your name needs to be in it: a vast list of good people who will go to heaven, but one that you can easily be deleted from if you do something wrong.  Clearly the Israelites were doing something very wrong with their idol, limiting God and reducing him to a human-made image, and Moses had to plead with God to keep them in the book, even offering himself in their place.

I wonder now if it’s more about keeping faithful to God, working with him not against him, doing the work allocated to you, participating as a forgiven human in God’s unfolding story here on earth.  In this sense, our names in the book of life would not be entries in a directory, but part of an interactive story that we are involved in both as individuals and communally.  Faith alive and active: gift of an eternal source, renewed for every generation (The Nature, Faith and Order of the URC).

 Prayer

 Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
 
Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.
  -->

Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 4th September 2020 Anger and Murder

URC Devotions - Fri, 04/09/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 4th September 2020
Anger and Murder

Exodus 31: 15 - 29

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back.  The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, ‘There is a noise of war in the camp.’ But he said,

‘It is not the sound made by victors,
or the sound made by losers;
it is the sound of revellers that I hear.’

As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.

Moses said to Aaron, ‘What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?’ And Aaron said, ‘Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. They said to me, “Make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off”; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!’

When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), hen Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. He said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbour.”’ The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. Moses said, ‘Today you have ordained yourselves  for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.’

Reflection
 
This graphic story describes the breaking of the covenant between God and His people.  It starts with Moses coming down the mountain  with precious hand baggage, two stone tablets inscribed by God.  Suddenly he hears an infernal racket.   His companion wonders if it might be war but Moses quotes a snatch of an old poem-it is the sound of partying.  We quail.  We already know what is going on. The Israelites in the camp had forgotten the solemn promise they had so recently made to God.  They no longer trust God’s leadership, they have made a statue of gold, a bull-calf, symbol of vitality and power, and they are engaging in a wild orgy of idol worship.  Now when Moses sees this for himself, he reacts in blind fury, and smashes the tablets.  God’s covenant with Israel is broken.  Faced with abhorrent evil, Moses then annihilates the idol.
 
Moses asks Aaron to explain himself.  He had after all, been left in charge.  Aaron makes excuses – it was, he said, all the people’s fault.  Exit Aaron.  Moses realises that tough measures are called for.  Having destroyed the idol, now he has to root out the devotees.  And so, in God’s name, he summons the Levites, who alone remain loyal to God, to slaughter the renegades.  
 
Horrifying as this story may be, we are left in no doubt that sin is to be taken seriously.  The people experience the full weight of God’s righteous anger.  There is no appeal here to ‘cheap grace’.  Grace is costly.  And yet God will renew the covenant; and through grace the gap will ultimately be bridged between a holy God and his sinful people.    
 
Prayer
 
Dear God,                                                                                                          
give me today a strong sense that you are by my side.
Remember me in your mercy, and keep me in your grace.
Be my guide through all that is dark and doubtful;
be my strength in times of testing;
gladden my heart with your peace,
Through the grace of Christ my saviour.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today's writer

The Rev’d Fleur Houston, retired minister, member of Macclesfield and Bollington URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion

URC Devotions - Thu, 03/09/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 3rd September 2020
 
The Golden Calf

Exodus 32: 1 - 14

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron.  He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould  and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’  When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’  They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely;  they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”’  The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’

But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.”’  And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Reflection

“And the Lord changed his mind …….”. Following a tough conversation between God and Moses, and not for the first time, God changed his mind.  No longer full of wrath, burning hot against his people, ready to consume them but prepared to find a different way through the difficulty.

This is our God, almighty, omnipotent, creator of the universe who changed his mind following a conversation with one of his creatures.

The relationship between Moses and God was clearly a good one and God continued to respect Moses whom he suggested he would entrust with the making of a great nation.  Moses knew well enough how to challenge God’s decision, pleading with him to think about the reasons for the exodus from Egypt and the promises he had made to Abraham, Isaac and Israel.  It was the reminder of the promises which proved to be the deciding factor.

However often I read the stories which tell of God changing his mind I remain surprised by the concept of a God who can be influenced in this way and I ask myself, what does this tell me about God and perhaps more importantly, about my relationship with him?

I think it tells us that here is a God who is open to change, who respects and is responsive to the views of his creatures. One who will move from the charted courses as a result of ongoing interaction with his people but who nevertheless remains steadfast in his love for his creatures and faithful to his promises of salvation for all. And it reminds each one of us that our prayers (those conversations we have with God) are honoured by him as a contribution to an ongoing debate about the direction of the world.

Prayer

Faithful God,
may we learn to listen for your purposes for the world.
Loving God,
may we be open to change in response to the needs of this world.
Listening God,
may our prayers reflect our listening and experience of the context in which we find ourselves.
Amen -->

Today's writer

Val Morrison is a member of the URC in Doncaster. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

URC Devotions - Wed, 02/09/2020 - 11:30
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service explores the theme of Climate Sunday and is led by the Rev'ds Mike Shrubsole and David Coleman. Hymns include George Condor’s All Things Praise Thee Lord Most High, F S Pierpoint’s For the Beauty of the Earth, Keith and Kirstyn Getty’s Creation Sings the Father’s Song, and Fr Ernest Sand’s Sing of the Lord’s Goodness

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

with every good wish


Andy


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

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 2nd September 2020 On the Mountain

URC Devotions - Wed, 02/09/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 2nd September 2020
 
On the Mountain 

Exodus 24: 9 - 18

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.’ So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said, ‘Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.’

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

Reflection

God manifests Himself within human history as Creator and Lord of all; acting in the realm of natural order but also in its upheaval as seen in the nature miracles of the Exodus plagues, the manna and quails and Sinai engulfed in a cloud.  Mount Sinai is believed to be the mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt which tourists can ascend today to watch the sunrise.

In ancient times people believed that going to the top of a mountain was a way of being closer to God.  Many years ago we journeyed to the summit of Vesuvius in Campania, Italy and found ourselves engulfed in the volcano’s cloud and smoke; akin perhaps to the experience of Moses as he received the tablets of stone. Mountain top experiences often give panoramic views of the expanse beneath; seeing the vastness of God’s creation and our humbleness before Him. We live in an age which remains sceptical of supernatural incursions by God into His universe, but in Biblical times as now, we have to accept that such phenomena are invested with a significance intended by God as revelation. Today’s world is one in which trust and faith in God is waning. How can we move closer to and rebuild our trust in Him?  What mountains do we need to climb; to ascend to recapture the glory of a loving God?  I believe that ultimately we must accept that God - not us - is in control; that to create a closer relationship with Him we must accept in faith that patience is a virtue; there is much that we can never see or comprehend - like Moses in that relentless cloud. We should find time and space to focus on God through Christ’s example - as Moses did on the mountaintop - in solitude and personal prayer; free of life’s distractions so that we can build that relationship in true humility.

Prayer

“Lord, teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I look for you. For I cannot seek you unless first you teach me, nor find you unless first you reveal yourself to me.” (St. Ambrose (340-97)  -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Ian Gow Minister, Eltham URC  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 1st September 2020 The 10 Commandments

URC Devotions - Tue, 01/09/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 1st September 2020

The 10 Commandments

Exodus 20

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before[a] me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance,  and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.’  Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.’  Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

Reflection

Surveys tell us that most people in the UK cannot name the Ten Commandments. The same surveys show that most UK Christians can’t either.  So, if you can’t recall them today without peeking at Exodus 20, you’re in good company.  Not to worry, though, because you can look them up any time.

But are they worth looking up?  Many people think not.  Some are put off by the number of ‘nots’ that are mentioned.  Others note that these commandments come from a different time, place, and culture.  In our time and place, fewer and fewer of us have livestock, and hopefully none of us own male or female slaves, never mind coveting those that belong to others.

Like all potentially life-giving rules, these commandments only come alive when they are interpreted. Simply reciting the words is of limited use.  So, we need to ask questions.  What is each commandment about?  What does it forbid?  Even if it contains the word, ‘not’, what does it encourage?  How and where does it apply in my life and that of others?

What happens, for example, if we ponder God’s “word” (see 20:1) that ‘you shall not murder’?  We might discover that, ‘God forbids anything that harms my neighbour unfairly.  Murder or injury can be done not only by direct violence but also by an angry word or a clever plan, and not only by an individual but also by unjust social institutions.  I should honour every human being, including my enemy, as a person made in God’s image.’*

Why not take some time to consider what one, some, or all of these commandments might be saying to you and to your situation today:

What is this commandment about?
What does it forbid?
What does it encourage?
Where might it be applied?
-----------------------------------------
* Presbyterian Church (USA) The Study Catechism. Geneva Press, 1998.
 
Prayer

O God, your word is our command.
Teach us how to live rightly with you and with others.
Guide us, so that we might avoid what’s wrong, do what’s right,
And live abundant lives. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Trevor Jamison is minister of St Columba’s URC in North Shields Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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