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URC Daily Devotion Monday 31st August 2020 Moses Learns to Delegate

URC Devotions - Mon, 31/08/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 31st August 2020 Moses Learns to Delegate 

Exodus 18

Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro took her back, along with her two sons. The name of one was Gershom (for he said, ‘I have been an alien in a foreign land’),  and the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, ‘The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh’).  Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came into the wilderness where Moses was encamped at the mountain of God, bringing Moses’ sons and wife to him.  He sent word to Moses, ‘I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you, with your wife and her two sons.’  Moses went out to meet his father-in-law; he bowed down and kissed him; each asked after the other’s welfare, and they went into the tent.  Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had beset them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them.  Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the Egyptians.

Jethro said, ‘Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you from the Egyptians and from Pharaoh. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from the Egyptians, when they dealt arrogantly with them.’  And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought a burnt-offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law in the presence of God.

The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?’ Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.’  Moses” father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good.  You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.  Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.’

So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves.  Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went off to his own country.

Reflection

I worked in an office for many years, as a team member, team leader and later as a manager.  Learning to delegate was difficult for me – a details person.  I needed a mentor to help me to work out what I still needed to get involved in, and what to leave in the capable hands of my team.  Later, as a technician, I came to value the opinions of those who joined our area from outside – who could both ask critical questions and offer advice from their experience elsewhere.  Fresh eyes can offer valuable insights.
Moses was working as the only judge for the people – dealing with every dispute from the petty to the serious – and the work was too much.

Jethro, coming from outside, was able to offer the detached insight that saw the problem and suggested a solution – Moses needed assistance, and a structured process to make sure that everyone could get a satisfactory outcome to their disputes.  And so the system was set up, with officers at various levels making judgements, and an escalation process for the serious issues.

Jethro was one in a long line of ‘outsiders’ used by God, illustrating that although the people of Israel were God’s chosen race, God still knew and valued people of all nations.  Time and time again, such people add to the story of God’s people – people like Melchizedek, the priest who blessed Abraham (Gen 14), Rahab, who helped the spies (Joshua 2), Ruth the Moabite, Naaman the leper (2 Kings 5).  There are many others.

God often sends help from unexpected sources.  It may be a neighbour, a colleague, or a stranger in the street who offers us an insight into our needs – sent from God to help us. We should keep ourselves open to that help when it is offered, and thank God for the assistance that we receive.

A Prayer of St Benedict

O Gracious and Holy Father give us
wisdom to perceive You,
diligence to seek You,
patience to wait for You,
eyes to behold You,
a heart to meditate upon You,
and a life to proclaim You;
through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Sue Cossey is a Synod Pastoral Advisor for Bristol and a member of Zion United Church, Frampton Cotterell 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 - Sun, 30/08/2020 - 11:15
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service of Holy Communion is led by the Rev’d David Coleman, chaplain to Eco Congregations, Scotland.  Hymns include Shirley Erena Murray’s Touch the Earth Lightly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s By Gracious Powers, Ian Fraser’s Lord Bring the Day to Pass a Sanctus by Catholic composer Paul Inwood and Kathy Galloway’s Oh the Life of the World. 

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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Sunday Service from the URC Daily Devotions 30th August 2020

URC Devotions - Sun, 30/08/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

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

Sunday 30th August 2020


 
  
The Rev’d David Coleman
 
Introduction
 
Welcome to this Service including Holy Communion, the first of two services I’ll be involved in, today led  by myself, the Rev’d David Coleman, EcoChaplain with EcoCongregation Scotland. This is a special category ministry of the United Reformed Church,  working ecumenically to encourage 500 Christian fellowships as they discover the concern for the care of Creation which is integral to Christianity, and which can take many forms, aspects and tones.
 
This is not a movement aimed at reinventing a shiny new green religion, but rather looking at what it means to be the church in an age of urgency and deepening awareness of crisis, where forgiveness, hope, love for the neighbour and trust in God are the most environmental gifts we can receive,  to be people of hope against hope, and find joy in it all too!
 
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:      Touch The Earth Lightly
                  Shirley Erena Murray © 1992, 2005 Hope Pub. Co,
 
Touch the earth lightly,
use the earth gently,
nourish the life
of the world in our care:
gift of great wonder,
ours to surrender,
trust for the children
tomorrow will bear.
 
2: We who endanger,
who create hunger,
agents of death
for all creatures that live,
we who would foster
clouds of disaster -
God of our planet,
forestall and forgive!
 
3: Let there be greening,
birth from the burning,
water that blesses
and air that is sweet,
health in God's garden,
hope in God's children,
regeneration
that peace will complete.
 
4: God of all living,
God of all loving,
God of the seedling,
the snow and the sun,
teach us, deflect us,
Christ reconnect us,
using us gently,
and making us one.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
God, Christ and Spirit, Partnership of Creation: Bringer of beauty from chaos welcoming all who are lost.   Alone and together we bring life to transform.
 
Earth cries out against us; so: pardon our species: forgive! Forgive each,  forgive all!
 
And where damage is done by my choice or neglect to what you have made and you love: so open a window of healing that, mindful of the magnitude of change, we be not bound by despair but empowered by hope encouraged by mercy enlivened by grace beyond earning.
 
Silence
 
Declaration of Forgiveness
 
God of Good Earth, who offers forgiveness in advance of completed action. Show us our place and purpose as creatures of dust and love through the friendship of Christ  sharing flesh with all life. Amen, Amen, as you call.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
God who inspired the writers of Scripture to interpret the joys and crises though which they came to know you; bless the words we read and wrestle with today; the thoughts they provoke the anger they arouse the impatience they encourage for these our days.  Sustain our hope and our readiness to forgive as well as to “get on with it” living to your glory and the good of the Earth, telling your story,  speaking your Word.  Amen
 
Readings
 
Romans 12:9-21
 
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
 
Matthew 16:21-28

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
 
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them renounce self  and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
 
For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
 
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
 
Musical Reflection: By Gracious Powers  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
 
By gracious powers
so wonderfully sheltered
and confidently waiting,
come what may,
we know that God
is with us night and morning,
and never fails
to meet us each new day.

2: Yet are our hearts
by their old foe tormented;
still evil days
bring burdens hard to bear;
O give our frightened
souls the sure salvation
for which, O Lord,
you taught us to prepare.
 
3: And when the cup you give
is filled to brimming
with bitter suffering,
hard to understand,
we take it gladly,
trusting though with trembling,
out of so good and so beloved a hand.

4: If once again,
in this mixed world, you give us
the joy we had,
the brightness of your sun,
we shall recall
what we have learned through sorrow,
and dedicate our lives to you alone.
 
Sermon Beyond Apple Pie
 
Paul’s advice to churches is generally on-the-hoof, but considered.
 
He likes to send lists of things that they ought to see as good as a way of getting across that from the identity of Christian community follows as a matter of course, that you care for the social and created environment where you have ended up. 
 
Paul’s lists have their faults, and granting them word-for word authority can be counter-productive, though using them as a springboard  for reflecting on the many dimensions of what it means to be church here and now is seriously challenging.
 
For instance: for churches in western cultures, having suffered from a winner-takes-all view of competition, where prizes are allocated for trampling the weakest underfoot, thus  perhaps embracing as a knee-jerk response, a view of Christian character as non-competitive, ...do we miss the chance to use the gift of a competitive spirit for the benefit and encouragement of all: “outdoing one another in showing honour”? 
 
Do we recycle, rather than just reject?
 
And can we repurpose the deep and powerful feelings  - that should  surely  explode into revenge - instead into burning-coals actions of love and justice?
 
Can we accept that  the satisfaction, closure and healing  that nations who maintain the death-penalty believe is offered when victims’ families witness an execution, can be equalled or exceeded by the defiance of rising in goodwill above the evil we have experienced? 
 
Here, having already got across the uncontroversially apple-pie message that “it’s good to be good”,  as well as a version of  Jesus’ more wholesome reassurance, that we shouldn’t worry, but welcome it, if we find a good life rewarding, .....after all that, Paul is sticking his neck even further out, meddling in matters of honour and shame, and those things of importance, from which we might prefer to exclude some ‘wimpish’ religious influence.
 
In the controversies this year about the statues of slavers, Paul’s notorious cultural accommodation of slavery -on closer inspection ( especially in the letter to Philemon) turns out to be a first step in  subverting the fabric of an unjust society by appeal to better nature.
 
With hindsight, this does fail to impress, though hindsight can be smug and merciless, as well as defensively  keen to demonstrate the moral superiority of our own day.
 
But in any time and place: How far can we push the change that is needed? How many noses can be put out of joint?
 
When is it right to blow our irrevocable scope for martyrdom, and when right, to keep our powder dry as our Scottish moderator, the late John Humphreys so frequently advised as our synod piloted the sensitive waters of the reconsideration of the inclusiveness of Christian marriage, just a few years ago.
 
Plenty of what we will do as the church today will amount to the planting of seeds  to be trees for others and future generations. That’s a holy calling.
 
If as a prayerful offering, you want to plant  real  trees, though, take advice: take the same care with the effectiveness of environmental actions as you would with the maintenance of an organ, or of the church boiler.
 
Act for the care of Creation as if your life as a church depended on it, because, in so many ways, that is true.
 
Not least the mission bonus of being seen by wider society to care for what society wishes it had time to care for,  thus our life together does depend on it.  No one who is concerned for mission and its effectiveness, can afford to ignore the deeply environmental context of the Gospel.
 
Christians do rock boats.  Sometimes despite themselves.   It goes with being bearers of Good News.  The least diplomatic hymn of the Bible is that of Mary, looking to God tearing down tyrants from their thrones.  Is that part of your Christmas?
 
Christians rock boats.  Sometimes half-heartedly,  though when the boats they travel in are rocking due to stormy waters, as Paul found in the storm that led to his shipwreck, we have the chance to shed inhibitions and come into our own as the bearers of healing, hope,  and transformation. The ship may be wrecked, but there will be survivors.
 
But hindsight or no hindsight, we should be in awe at Paul’s  rattling the cage of a culture of  honour satisfied through revenge which, to this day is perpetuated in song, film and story; daring to comment on the sort of thing where even in churches, people prefer to leave well alone.
 
Just  as, apart from bringing a tree into the church at Christmas, many of our local congregations will set aside care for creation, feeling that some things are too holy to be green, so too, once the lived and practical implications of Christ’s  teaching and example begin to be risky or contradictory of the iron fist of common sense, then a voice in our head says ‘hold on’, ‘be sensible’. You don’t want to do THAT do you”. That is when we follow that other scriptural advice to 'test the spirits; [ 1 John 4:1] as to whether this is the voice of love and wisdom, or, as Jesus identified it even in his close friend Peter, the outright opposition to God: Satan, the contradictor of shocking but ultimately life-giving decisions.
 
Jesus, as we meet him in Matthew 16 has already wrestled with the limits of his perceived mission “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, as well as facing and accepting the possibility that a project of change and transformation is not rendered invalid merely because its completion is uncertain or distant. 
 
His lifetime,  and that of the disciples, will not round off the transformation of the world.
 
For us, the ethic of success is not clear-cut, but it can also be oppressive.
 
Is a self-evidently good direction of travel, a good aspiration, worthwhile only if it will run clearly and precisely to plan and completion?
 
Again, the voice of Satan is heard  when climate science cannot offer precision, but only a range of possibilities, though it’s abundantly clear that we know enough about enough to make some serious changes of direction.
 
That’s when we can look to  some of the distinctive resources and treasures of our faith.
 
As in the practise of  prayer. Praying  we offer with no guarantee of cause and effect, but trusting in the wisdom and goodness of God, and frequently reconciled to effort and sacrifice without guarantees. 
 
A prayer is worthwhile, and may change our own outlook, whether or not any firm causal link might ever be established between the conversations that arise out of our relationship with God and  how things eventually turn out.
 
What then, is the voice of Satan for us today:  the reasonable, sensible, “slow us down Lord”  prayer, passed off as wisdom and maturity, which might earn the rebuke of the  reckless determination of Jesus to  continue to Jerusalem?
 
For what will it profit us if to keep on growing GDP but forfeit all else that makes life worthwhile?
 
Well, right now, it has  seemed sufficient to see the acute  coronavirus crisis, which may have been more disruptive than any other factor in recent memory, as a time to put things on hold, on ice, in mothballs, rather than a chance to finish off, to write off, to let go.   Cherish memories, but recognise that what is past is past.
 
It’s  been easier  and seemed kinder to see these months  as an irritation than a gift, especially given the casualties,  the farewells which have been forced on us, to loved ones and ways of life.
 
There is a reluctance to acknowledge that some changes really have happened.  Amidst much crying,  the milk is spilled.
 
It takes courage to grasp that the pain of the death of friends has accompanied the release which is the end of some things that needed  to end.  Or at least, that chance is offered.
It takes courage, if  we are looking forward  to  getting back to an old, or even a new “normal”  to hear the news that  the greater many layered crises of climate and extreme weather, rising sea-levels and the acidification of the oceans, biodiversity, soil degradation, plastic overload, and of course, the terrifying toll of the sixth mass extinction on earth.... all these things have carried on apace, even if we have been granted the encouragement of cleaner air and coastal waters, of cities quiet enough to hear the birds praise God in their singing. 
 
We have been shown how things still might be.  God is never saying nothing. Let those with eyes to see and ears to hear read, and continue to read the signs; to take note of the voice of the Earth, interpreted through the honesty of science. We have learned that some of the changes we didn’t expect we could make can be made.
 
The global theme of the Season of Creation, in which churches from around the world make the effort to highlight the environmental responsibility which is inherent to our faith... the theme this year is a ‘jubilee for Creation’.
 
Jubilee, which Jesus also referred to in his preaching, is a deeply  holy  and profoundly practical theme,  related also to Sabbath: a reset of and reboot of our relationship with the soil and the land, where injustice and abuse may have crept in. Slaves (formally or de facto) are to be liberated.
 
Perhaps Satan would prefer us to just go back to the deadly status quo we set aside this year.  Or to its close  and much more attractive relative gradualism:  which is doing nothing at all by doing the sensible minimum.  Not to learn. Not to repurpose reuse and recycle.
 
The other change, which sensible Satanists would rather we kept on one side, is that the wilder passages of scripture,  even those verses with which our Gospel reading concludes; poetic and apocalyptic speech which is both a response and a resource for times of crisis, begins to come into its own.
 
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done”
 
...should not keep us calm, but should equip us for the struggle of love and justice,  zealous and ardent in spirit.
 
Remember that the church on the day of Pentecost attracted the (malicious) suspicion of intoxication. What grounds do you offer for a similar accusation?
 
Our faith is no longer boring. That too was a lie, long upheld as a way of evading the transformative implications of following Jesus.
 
Tragedy remains tragedy.  Never let it be said, even that the Cross was "worthwhile”. Though what followed from, it is joy and sustaining hope; the offer of a world different from what might have been, and the solidarity of God in the flesh, by the power of the Breath of Life,  come what may.
 
Hymn:      Lord, Bring The Day to Pass
                 Ian Fraser (1964)
 
Lord, bring the day to pass
when forest, rock and hill,
the beasts, the birds, the grass,
will know your finished will:
when we attain our destiny
and nature lives in harmony.
 
2 Forgive our careless use
of water, ore and soil —
the plenty we abuse
supplied by others' toil:
save us from making self our creed,
turn us towards each other's need.
 
3 Help us, when we release
creation's secret powers,
to harness them for peace —
our children's peace and ours:
teach us the art of mastering
in servant form,
like Christ our King.

4 Creation groans, travails,
futile its present plight,
bound — till the hour it hails
God's children born of light
that we may gain our true estate.
Come, Lord: new heavens
and earth create.
 
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.
 
Invitation to the Table
 
If you are blessed by the attempt, if not by completion  of the healing of the Earth, as which Christ is incarnate, as are we, then gather round his table to be a work of God in progress finding friends in the friends of Jesus and nourishment in bread and wine in food and drink made available through human hands, from  Earth itself, on which we feed; holy hitherto, for Jesus, by God’s choice, is made of such. 
 
Jesus said: when you celebrate,  invite those who can’t finish what you begin: for completion’s in God’s hands alone. celebrate now with whoever who will join you: make time now, whilst you can, for the feast.
 
Offertory
 
What you’re listening to  just now is provided by people like you. Some years ago, I was asked to leave out of a sermon the idea from 2 Corinthians that there’s no point in giving if you don’t enjoy it.  The organisers were worried  that people would give less in freedom than in duty.  So pause just now, and think about the good things that are part of the life we share.  The things of the church, locally and nationally  that give joy and pleasure, comfort and fulfilment. Then see where your heart leads you.  Our reading from Romans today offer some responses in terms of sustaining what it is to live as friends of Christ, offering what we are and what we have:
 
Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
 
Our response, in support of our local church, yes, in money, as well as in our kindness, and our impatience, at this time when so much is hidden, allows that good things continue to be visible, and thus that those around us turn to God in praise:
 
So here’s a  wee prayer for when we get round to it, as well as what you’re sharing right now.

Dear God
give us joy in our giving
wisdom in our spending
and your peace in our hearts
now, and until next time.
 
We pray in the way Jesus teaches us....Our Father
 
Thanksgiving
 
Thank-you God for our place and purpose  as creatures of soil and partners with Earth’s creatures. Through all the ages, as mountains dance and trees applaud we hear the call to join your praise. From our beginning, Earth cried out at the spilling of blood bearing the burden of human harm. Your People sought a land of milk and honey but injustice brought decay. Your prophets: priests and farmers, called them to account. Yet then, as now, your countless warning signs (and words and actions) fell often by the wayside.

Then: Christ Jesus, friend of wildlife, speaking to the seas teaching through trees, showing God’s generous wildness  in  wildness of wind and eloquence in weather. In Jesus  you spoke of sharing; of justice as acknowledgement of need. You showed the  cost of healing and the price of  the truth unwelcomed by the Powerful. Now risen, Christ is with us in the care of a damaged world. And he feeds, invites, inspires us friends and siblings, with Christself  through food and faith.

At the Last Supper shared with friends  before his murder Jesus gave them food and drink, flesh and blood, bread and wine. Celebrating past and present Church, throughout the earth, where God is, here and now:
 
Holy, holy, holy Lord,
God of pow’r and God of might,
heav’n and earth are full,
heav’n and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest,
hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is He who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest,
hosanna in the highest,
Hosanna in the highest,
in the highest!
 
Intercessions
 
Dear Christ, as we bring to your table what we are and what we have you call on us to pray, (if necessary, using words) to carry and focus the thoughts and feelings which might heal, disturb and enable us as your hands, feet, heart, in the midst of Creation  rooted in soil, sheltered by sky.
 
The World
 
We pray as part of it all, responsible, and yet carried along victims and collaborators, unclean of speech and action, yet on the spot to heal and tend and catalysts of change beyond our seeing.
 
We pray for and with the life of the Earth; giving thanks for the great healing and balancing power of nature acknowledging the injustice which distorts even that;
 
In the midst of all the disruption which we have experienced from the virus and the measures we have taken to mitigate its spread; with the trajectory of climate catastrophe neither shelved  nor yet diverted; in the midst of suffering and perhaps, of premature hope that “all will soon be normal again” teach us respect for life; even for dangerous life: seeking to befriend rather than dominate to manage, rather than eradicate, to sustain and transform, rather than “solve” what it means to share breath and be part of the cycles of the living planet.

Open to us the significance of our place and purpose to till and keep your garden; the family business of life sustained that we may look our fellow creatures in the eye and see you staring back.
 
The Church
 
Dear Spirit, Wind of Change, and Breath of justice we pray as your Body, the Church; a people, not just an idea, far from perfect, yet subject to your wayward gusts  of kindness, vision, prophecy and truthful speech;
 
Risen, Christ commissioned us, believers and doubters to bring good news to every creature; teaching your way of care, with justice; confident to converse with trees and seas: and in our praise, to join Earth’s lovely chorus.
 
Claiming the unity, your given gift, whatever barriers we still cherish and botch in the midst of the times and seasons you called us into being for:
 
Show forth in us the power of the powerless the strength of the weak, the joy of those who do not aspire to control, yet carry love’s authority, content to get hands dirty as Christ reached out where all withdrew.
 
Recall us too, to that privilege of care at the ending of lives; for hope and healing even through the painful times holding hands even as ours are held because, when we’re together, trust in you lives here.
 
Ourselves
 
We’ve prayed the world, the Church to you: and all we offer overlaps.  So now, beyond the words we hear we hand hearts over, silent, fragile. we share a space of quiet without spoken words for what you need to say and hear.
 
Silence  (with water and birdsong)
 
God, you have heard. Amen.
 
Prayer of Consecration
 
Blow, breath of life on flesh and blood, on bread and wine.  Make us, in sharing these good things more fully creatures of your Earth.
 
Breaking of Bread
 
Taking into our own hands what Earth has given and other hands have made we break and share
 
Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us
Jesus, bearer of our sins,  have  mercy on us
Jesus, redeemer of the world, grant us peace
 
Communion
 
Dear God, by faith, beyond mere symbol by the reality of food and drink your blood flows in our veins,  carrying goodness to sustain justice your flesh walks and works as we do receiving and reaching out. As we eat, feed the world  Pause
 
As we drink, quench life’s thirst Pause
 
The Peace
 
Christ, your peace is offered by grace may we be worthy
that peace rests and remains on our house. Peace be with you, and with all those with whom we share today.
 
Christ our Saviour, so live within us that we  continue this day  with the light of hope in our eyes, your Word on our lips, and your love in our hearts. Amen.
 
Hymn       O the Life of the World
                 © Kathy Galloway (b 1952)  
 
Oh the life of the world
is a joy and a treasure,
unfolding in beauty
the green growing tree,
the changing of seasons
in mountain and valley, the stars
and the bright restless sea.
 
2: Oh the life of the world
is a promise of blessing,
in the rain that renews,
in the heat of the sun;
in the heart that confesses
and the act that expresses
all things and all people are one.

3: Oh the life of the world
is the breath of our being,
it is fragile and precious
and offers a choice;
shall we share the earth wisely,
can we touch the earth gently,
will we listen to
earth’s silenced voice?
 
4: So give thanks for the life
and give love to the Maker,
and rejoice in the gift
of the bright risen Son,
and walk in the peace
and the power of the Spirit,
till the days of our living are done.

Blessing
 
May the blessing of God who is always sustaining as Parent, Beloved, and Breath of All Life - surprise you, connect you as friends of Creation, hands, feet, hearts at the ready alert and awake! Amen.
 
 
 Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France.
All other liturgical material by David Coleman.
 
Touch the Earth Lightly recorded by various artists: from a compilation of songs distributed free of charge to congregations by Dr Alison Elliot CBE. By Gracious Powers sung by Roberta Ritson, Lord Bring the Day to Pass sung by Lythan, Carys and Phil Nevard Meditation piece by Leslie Schram. Sanctus by Paul Inwood © Magnificat Music sung by Portmouth Diocesan Choir Oh The Life of the World sung by Lythan Nevard.  Opening Organ piece: Prelude in D Major; Closing: Fugue in F major both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to Carol Tubbs, Anne Hewling, Kathleen Haynes, John Young and David Shimmin for recording various parts of the service, 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

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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 30th August 2020 Psalm 12

URC Devotions - Sun, 30/08/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 30th August 2020 Psalm 12 

Lying lips that falsely faltter
keep the truth far out of reach.
Come, O God and still the chatter;
end their boats and twisted speech.

With these Babel sounds oppressing,
who but God can tame the tongue?
When the faithful seek God’s blessing,
honest words are shared and sung.

Rise, O God, and save the needy;
come to heal the worn and weak.
Foil the schemes that fuel the greedy;
lift the fortunes of the meek.

Save us from the wicked lawless -
 leave their blemished words behind,
every word you speak is flawless - 
pure like sliver, fire refined.

Adam M L Tice © 2011 GIA Publications Ltd

you can hear the tune here
https://hymnary.org/media/fetch/157583

Reflection

This paraphrase of Psalm 12 was written before the current political and ecological atmosphere.  Read it as you would have seen the world in 2011…Now read it as you do today.

A decade ago, many might have critiqued this as depressingly modern with no glory or images of God as a monarch.  Instead of the desired pomp, we sing of “lying lips that… keep the truth out of reach” and the image of God as a tongue-tamer who saves us from our Babel sounds.

Perhaps these days we can grasp the sense of poignant prophetic petition which is so necessary for the Church in this Covid-shaped generation.  I dare not rehearse the Babel sounds we hear in 2020.

The legend is that David wrote this whilst he was the rock star soldier in the jealous Saul’s court. Even he could not escape the cold war of gossip, complaints and backbiting.  David despised destructive tongues due to the words themselves and the underlying pride.

The taming of our words is more than a personal habit-forming tool or a secret to success.  It is an ethical crisis which relates to how we cultivate community.  The taming of what we say also challenges us to tame our resources of knowledge—who we listen to.

Hymn lyrics like these reclaim and retain what was such a sacred part of the biblical tradition: the lament.  There are times when the Church must celebrate life together, and when the Church must lead the way in offering up tears, not for hate but for healing. The lament defends no political sides, offers no bandage for pain, and lays out no medals of honour.  It presents the wound in the open, claiming no winners, ultimately pleading for the one true Healer to see and step in.

The best thing the Church can do for the salvation of the world is in singing the blues, threading together the poetry of pain with the shifting of hearts towards purposes higher than our desires.

 Prayer

Tongue-Tamer,
I am amazed at the yeastiness of a word uttered: bringing life and death, sacrifice and success.
I am astounded at the flawlessness of Your word: transforming, transfixing, loving without limit.
Deliver us from the cacophony of voices seeking our attention, and may our ears be drawn ever closer to Your voice, “pure like silver, fire refined”.
Amen.
  -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d William Young, Pastor, Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington DC 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 29th August 2020 Water from the Rock

URC Devotions - Sat, 29/08/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 29th August 2020 Water from the Rock 
Exodus 17: 1-7

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarrelled with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’  But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?’ So Moses cried out to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’  The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.’ Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.  He called the place Massah  and Meribah,  because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’

Reflection

Some of us might liken the last few months to a time of wandering in the wilderness.  We have felt adrift, unsure of our direction, lost without our routines, challenged by how we related to each other with newish technology and changing definitions of “community.”  We might even feel this a time of testing-”massah.”  “Where is God?” Some of us might have even been quarrelling-”meribah.” “Why God?”

A way through the wilderness may be before us, but we don’t trust the way.  How can this be God’s way for us?  We continue to question, to quarrel, to wander.  

But this is a story of God’s faithfulness. Despite the blindness of the people of God, God is among them.  God is not a long way ahead, waiting for them to catch up.  God is not behind them pushing them forward.  God is among them.  God is among us.  We may question, quarrel, and wander, but God is still here.  We may self-isolate.  We may work in a demanding environment.  We may worship in different ways, but God is among us.  Our struggles may cause us to lose sight of God’s presence.  

And not only is God present.  God is providing.  How has God sustained you over the past few months?  What gifts might you have overlooked due to the stress of living through a pandemic?  Where is God with you as you walk through the valley of loss? Maybe even now we cannot see God’s presence.  Maybe it is hard to identify God’s provision, but this story confirms God is present and providing for us.  

We pause to catch a glimpse of that provision and presence today.

Prayer

Life-giving God, we are still.  Forgive us for forgetting to look for your presence among us.  Help us be quiet enough to see you. Help us let go of our panic and remember that you provide us what we need for this day.  Help us trust your provision for tomorrow.  Life-giving God, you reveal yourself as love.  Help us rest in love and act in love this day.  Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Martha McInnes, Minister, Cardiff and Penarth Churches 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 28th August 2020 Bread from Heaven

URC Devotions - Fri, 28/08/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 28th August 2020 Bread from Heaven 
Exodus 16

The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.  The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’ So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?’ And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.’

Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.”’  And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.  The Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.”’

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.  This is what the Lord has commanded: “Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.”’  The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, ‘Let no one leave any of it over until morning.’   But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them.  Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses,  he said to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: “Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.”’  So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field.  For six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.’

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. The Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions?  See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.’  So the people rested on the seventh day.

The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.  Moses said, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: “Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.”’  And Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout your generations.’  As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant,  for safe-keeping. The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.  An omer is a tenth of an ephah.

Reflection

None of us could have imagined a year ago the ways in which our lives have changed this year. The same could be said of the Israelites, as they came to the wilderness of Sin. God, through the agency of Moses and Aaron, had defeated Pharaoh and his army and released the Israelites from slavery. No wonder Miriam danced.

But soon it began to feel like they had gone out of the frying pan into the fire. The Israelites had left slavery behind only to find themselves hungry. Instead of trying to tackle the problem or turning to God for help, or even turning reasonably to Moses and asking for guidance, their first reaction seems to have been to round on their leaders.

Nevertheless, God sent bread from heaven and meat as well. God’s provision went on right through the journey in the wilderness, only stopping as they entered the promised land, where they would be able to fend for themselves.

Looking from the outside, we can see that the Israelites were probably scared, anxious to feed their children and unused to freedom and to fending for themselves, having been slaves for so long. We too are probably scared, anxious to be able to provide for ourselves and our families, and unused to the changed world in which we find ourselves.

Having seen God provide for us through our lives so far and knowing how God provided for the Israelites during their time in the wilderness, we now face our time of trial. Can we find the faith to trust in God’s provision and to be open to God’s guidance for the future, even though we can’t know all that is in store?

Prayer

Living and loving God,
Our situation today is as new to us, 
as the Israelites’ situation was to them.
Send your Spirit to guide us in this new country in which we find ourselves.
Open our eyes that we might see your path for today,
Open our hearts that we might perceive your ways, for each of us and for all of us.
Thanks be to God,
Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Jacky Embrey is moderator of the Mersey Synod Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 27th August 2020 Miriam’s Song and God’s Provision

URC Devotions - Thu, 27/08/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 27th August 2020 Miriam’s Song and God’s Provision 

Exodus 15: 20 - 27

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them:

‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’

Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went for three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’  He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test.  He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.’

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.

Reflection

It’s been real Cecil B DeMille stuff. (For the younger set, big-screen blockbuster movie stuff!) And such a rollercoaster!  After the terrible years of slavery in Egypt, the plagues and miracles, suddenly the people are free and Miriam is leading the women in a celebratory dance, with tambourines and a song of praise to the God who has done these wonderful things for them. It’s a picture of overflowing joy!

And then three days later, walking through the desert and no water. We’re talking about townies here. Not nomads used to this sort of thing. So when they find water but it’s undrinkable, there’s understandable trouble. They turn on Moses, the visible leadership.

Moses hasn’t lost the plot. He goes straight to God who tells him what to do and the day is saved. Off they go again after a reminder from God that they need to keep looking to Him, relating to Him and obeying Him. And their next stop is Elim with its plentiful springs and fruitful palm trees.

Rollercoaster living is exhausting, but so is being stuck in slavery or the wilderness. Jesus offers us peace - whatever we’re going through.  This past year has given us plenty of opportunities to choose whether we’ll compain at our human leadership or God Himself, or whether we’ll accept the peace that passes understanding and plod through whatever wilderness or rollercoaster we found ourselves in. Whichever, we can be assured that God was with us, every step of the way.

Prayer

Thank You, Lord, that you have endless patience with us.
We so easily slip back into slavery, whinge when we encounter problems - especially limits to our privileged western lifestyles, and balk at any continuation of hard times.
Remind us that You are with us, a loving God who provides for all our needs with a generous hand.
Lift our hearts in praise and gratitude to You, for You are worthy.
Amen.
-->

Today's writer

Dorothy Courtis, Lay Preacher, Thurso 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 Wednesday 26th August 2020 Moses’ Song of Triumph

URC Devotions - Wed, 26/08/2020 - 18:00
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Wednesday 26th August 2020 Moses’ Song of Triumph

Exodus 15: 1 - 19

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my might,[a]
    and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
    my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
    the Lord is his name.
‘Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;
    his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
    they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power—
    your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;
    you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, “I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.”
You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
‘Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
    Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
    awesome in splendour, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand,
    the earth swallowed them.
‘In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed;
    you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples heard, they trembled;
    pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed;
    trembling seized the leaders of Moab;
    all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away.
Terror and dread fell upon them;
    by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone
until your people, O Lord, passed by,
    until the people whom you acquired passed by.
You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession,
    the place, O Lord, that you made your abode,
    the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.
The Lord will reign for ever and ever.’

When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his chariot drivers went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground.

Reflection

At the time of writing, we are in lockdown – how that will be different come August we don’t yet know. Yet the news is beginning to be full of amazing recoveries – patients of all ages being clapped out of intensive care by those who have treated them.  The gratitude of all the patients to the NHS staff is wholehearted.  They cannot thank them enough for bringing them safely out of harm.  Yet the NHS has always been there, bringing people from the brink of death to full recovery.  It didn’t make the news before.  We often blame God for causing our misery, our unhappiness as if He makes it his business to make us miserable.  But how much of our praise for when He brings us out of a dark time is as wholehearted as that of the patients today, or even of Moses having brought the Israelites out of Egypt?  We complain when things go wrong – where is God, why has He allowed this to happen to me?  But forget when we come out of it to praise Him that He has been there all along and has enabled us to come through.  God is not just there for the good times and then to be a sounding board to let off steam when things go wrong.  God is there all the time, working tirelessly with us, within us, inspiring us to incredible acts.  So, whatever we face, may our praise be as uninhibited as His love is all encompassing.

Prayer

God of the incredible, you are an awesome God for whom nothing is impossible.  May we never forget in our humanity the wonderful nature of your divinity.  May our praise be from our heart and as loud as we can make it!  You can bring us out of the darkest moments into your glorious light. Praise be indeed to our awesome God!  Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Watson, Bolton and Salford Missional Partnership Minister 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 Tuesday 25th August 2020 Crossing the Sea

URC Devotions - Tue, 25/08/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 25th August 2020  Crossing the Sea 

Exodus  14

Then the Lord said to Moses:  ‘Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall camp opposite it, by the sea.  Pharaoh will say of the Israelites, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has closed in on them.’  I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, so that I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord. And they did so.’

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed towards the people, and they said, ‘What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?’ 6 So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him;  he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them.  The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly.  The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord.  They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?  Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians”? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’  But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.  But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground.  Then I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and so I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.  And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained glory for myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his chariot drivers.’

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them.  It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.  The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers.  At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.’  So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea.  The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the Lord did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the Lord and believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

Reflection

This is the point in the story where Israel discovers for the first time that they have a fighting God, who can be trusted both to stay with them and see the Exodus through, and to overcome the massive powers ranged against God’s good purposes for the world – and therefore against them. 
 
The key is the exchange between Moses and the people (vv 10-14).  The people see the pursuing Egyptian army and are thrown into panic: have they been liberated, only to be slaughtered in the desert?  Moses’ response is crucial: “The Lord will fight for you; you have only to keep still!” (v14).  The whole Exodus narrative concludes with Israel gazing at the pursuing soldiers, now lying dead on the seashore (v50).
 
The story is framed as Israel’s testimony of faith in their liberator/warrior God.  God does everything – hardening Pharaoh’s heart, clogging the chariot wheels and drowning the soldiers.  It’s a narrative device to emphasize God’s sovereignty and power, not to say that Pharaoh is a pawn, manipulated by God into the disastrous destruction of his army.  Rather, the story emphasizes the massive and implacable powers of Empire ranged against God’s good purposes for the world (the Kingdom).  They cannot be reasoned with, or brought into line for anything longer than a day or two (as in this story).  Empire, with the social, political, theological and military powers at its disposal, cannot be defeated or reformed.  It is only by destroying it that God can bring the Kingdom to birth.
 
Exodus happens because God is driven by the cries of the slaves, who are helpless victims of these powers. This is a compassionate, outraged, loving God who will fight against anything that threatens the future of the world – even if it costs the life of God’s Son.

Prayer

Exodus God,
Forgive the deafness of my ears that do not hear the cries of the neediest. 
Forgive my apathy that is so slow to be stirred to anger and action.
Forgive the blindness of my eyes that refuses to see the deadliness of the way our world works.
Forgive the theological and practical reasons I find not to take up my cross and struggle for the Kingdom alongside you.

Call me to follow.
Call me to fight.
And give me your Spirit, that, by your grace, 
I am able to answer your call.

Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Lawrence Moore, Mission & Discipleship consultant, Worsley Road 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 24th August 2020 Cloud and Fire

URC Devotions - Mon, 24/08/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Monday 24th August 2020 Cloud and Fire View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 24th August 2020 Cloud and Fire 
Exodus 13: 17 - 22

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was nearer; for God thought, ‘If the people face war, they may change their minds and return to Egypt.’  So God led the people by the roundabout way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea.  The Israelites went up out of the land of Egypt prepared for battle.  And Moses took with him the bones of Joseph, who had required a solemn oath of the Israelites, saying, ‘God will surely take notice of you, and then you must carry my bones with you from here.’  They set out from Succoth, and camped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Reflection

Writing this reflection I’ve had one of those moments when I suddenly appreciate an allusion that has probably been obvious to everyone else all along - in this case, that the ‘fiery, cloudy pillar’ of Guide me, O thou great Jehovah (R&S 345) is a reference to the pillar that guided the Israelites out of Egypt.  As Homer Simpson would say: “Doh!”.

If you’ve ever watched a documentary about tornados in the US, you’ll remember that while they might travel in a straight line for a while, they suddenly change direction, sending the watchers scrabbling for safety (or gunning their vehicles to follow the new track).  If the Israelites’ pillar behaved similarly, you can see why they might end up wandering in the desert for 40 years!

The writer of Exodus is clear that God had a plan, and that wasn’t going to be delivered by the Israelites marching in a straight line across Sinai to the promised land.  Rather, they would have many diversions and obstacles on the way.  Perhaps this should reassure us when we feel we don’t have a plan for our life, or that the unexpected diverts us away from the course we thought we would follow.  To be honest, I’m not sure that I know anyone whose life has actually unfolded as they might have planned when they were a child - events happen to us all!

The Israelites had the comfort of that fiery, cloudy pillar to guide them across the desert.  But what are the pillars in our lives?  Do we allow our faith to guide our choices?  Do we listen for God as we make those choices?  I’ve always found William Williams’ hymn of prayer for guidance and succour resonates with me, and I invite you to pray it too.

Prayer

Guide me, O my great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with your powerful hand:
Bread of heaven,
feed me now and evermore.

Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fiery, cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through:
strong deliverer, 
be thou still my strength and shield.

When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death, and hell's destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side:
songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee. 
Amen
  -->

Today's writer

Gordon Woods, Elder, St. Columba’s URC, Oxford Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Worship for 23rd August 2020

URC Devotions - Sun, 23/08/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
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.
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for
Sunday 23rd August 2020
 
 
 
 
 The Rev’d Phil Nevard
 
Introduction
 
Welcome.  My name is Rev’d Phil Nevard and today’s service comes to you from my (tidier) half of the study that I share with Lythan.  In my heart I will be leading this worship with my lovely congregation at Kingsteignton URC in South Devon.  We are delighted that you are joining us today.
 
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:      I Lift My Eyes to the Quiet Hills
 
I lift my eyes
to the quiet hills
in the press of a busy day;
as green hills stand
in a dusty land
so God is my strength and stay.
 
2: I lift my eyes
to the quiet hills
to a calm that is mine to share;
secure and still
in the Father's will
and kept by the Father's care.
 
3: I lift my eyes
to the quiet hills
with a prayer as I turn to sleep;
by day, by night,
through the dark and light
my Shepherd will guard his sheep.
 
4: I lift my eyes
to the quiet hills
and my heart to the Father's throne;
in all my ways
to the end of days
the Lord will preserve his own.
 
Prayer of Approach
 
I lift my eyes to the quiet hills

There’s something solid and permanent about the hills
They have stood the test of time
They live to a different rhythm

So often my life is pressed around with busyness
So often my life is simply running to catch up
So often I feel overwhelmed by a thousand and one little things

Help me to lift my eyes as we worship today
That I might see you God, my strength and stay

I lift my eyes to the quiet hills

There’s something peaceful and restful about the hills
They offer me a new perspective
They inspire patience

So often I fill the silence with unnecessary words
So often I ruin the stillness with worthless activity
So often I shatter the calmness with worry about tomorrow

Help me to lift my eyes as we worship today
That I might share that calm as I am kept in my Father’s care.

I lift my eyes to the quiet hills

There’s something comforting and protective about the hills
They’re always there – rain or shine
They’re a constant presence – through the changing seasons

So often my life swings from hope to despair
So often I allow small setbacks to shatter my dreams
So often I allow fear of the unknown to limit my horizons

Help me to lift my eyes as we worship today
That I might see you God, the shepherd who will guard his sheep

I lift my eyes to the quiet hills

There’s something deep and mysterious about the hills
Beyond human understanding
Inspiring awe and wonder

So often my life is petty and shallow
So often I merely scratch the surface of what God has in store for me
So often I let moments of awe and mystery pass by unacknowledged

Help me to lift my eyes as we worship today
That I might see you God, enthroned in splendour.
 
Prayer of Confession
 
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just, will forgive us our sins. Jesus says: have come to call not the righteous but sinners. Let us confess our sins together and seek God’s forgiveness:
 
Almighty God,
we confess before you our own sin,
the sin of the Church and the sin of the world,
in which we share.
We have not loved you with our whole being;
we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves.
In your mercy, forgive us when we turn from you;
release us from the burden of our past,
and remake us in your image and likeness
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
May the God of mercy who forgives you all your sins through Jesus Christ strengthen you in all goodness by the power of the Holy Spirit and keep you in eternal life.  Amen.
 
Our Father….

Prayer of Illumination
 
After our readings we will mark this in the words of a hymn.  In July 1620 John Robinson preached a farewell sermon to members of his congregation setting sail in the Speedwell, preparing to join the Mayflower and start new lives in what they called the “New World”. In that sermon he reassured them, “For I am very confident the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth out of His holy Word.”  May that be true for us today as we listen for God’s Word in Isaiah and Matthew.
 
Readings
 
Isaiah 51:1-6  (NRSV)
 
Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.  Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many.   For the Lord will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
 
Listen to me, my people, and give heed to me, my nation; for a teaching will go out from me, and my justice for a light to the peoples. I will bring near my deliverance swiftly, my salvation has gone out and my arms will rule the peoples; the coastlands wait for me, and for my arm they hope.  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and those who live on it will die like gnats; but my salvation will be forever, and my deliverance will never be ended.
 
Matthew 16:13-20  (NRSV)
 
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
 
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
 
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
 
Hymn:      We Limit Not the Truth of God
 
We limit not the truth of God
to our poor reach of mind,
by notions of our day and sect,
crude, partial and confined.
Now let a new and better hope
within our hearts be stirred:
the Lord hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from His Word.

2: Darkling our great forefathers went
The first steps of the way;
'twas but the dawning yet to grow
into the perfect day;
and grow it shall, our glorious Sun
more fervid rays afford:
the Lord hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from His Word.

3: The valleys past, ascending still,
our souls would higher climb,
and look down from supernal heights,
on all the bygone times;
upward we press, the air is clear,
and the sphere-music heard!
the Lord hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from His Word.

4: O Father, Son and Spirit, send
us increase from above;
enlarge, expand all Christian hearts
to comprehend Thy love;
and make us all go on to know
with nobler powers conferred:
The Lord hath yet more light and truth
to break forth from His Word.
 
Sermon
 
As I said at the beginning of this service, I minister in Kinsteignton.  Since the mid eighteenth century and right into the present day, the Ball Clay industry has been a major source of employment for Newton Abbot and the surrounding area.  It is said that it has its origins in the sixteenth century when Sir Walter Raleigh introduced tobacco to Britain. Clay from Devon, was deemed suitable in the manufacture of smoking pipes.  I often wonder if I should take clay pipe-smoking as a tribute to my town…  Lythan says not!
 
Ball clay is quite rare and the deposits found in Devon are of worldwide importance. It is white, or close to it, and very pliable so that when fired at high temperature the end result is ceramic clay of the highest quality. The famous potteries of Spode, Wedgwood and Astbury all use ball clay from Devon.
 
Before I moved here, I pictured a bustling town of working miners rolling huge balls of clay down the lanes towards the docks, like human dung beetles.  Sadly, that’s not quite how it works!

Up above Kingsteignton you have a good view of Haytor – one of the more touristy tors of Dartmoor – largely so because it is so easily accessible from Bovey Tracey.  Around Haytor you can find clear traces of the old Granite Tramway where quarried granite began its journey across the world.  Quite a lot of it went on the building of the old London Bridge (which is now in the Arizona Desert!)  If you know where to look you can find a big stack of huge unused bridge corbels – shaped and carved and ready to go.  They miscalculated and ordered too many – they have rested there for over 100 years…
 
So, when both Isaiah and Matthew pen words about quarries and rock, my ears prick up!
 
Isaiah is speaking to the returned exiles – they are standing in the overgrown rubble of their formerly glorious temple wondering how on earth they could even BEGIN to rebuild their lives after the crushing years of exile and then return to such desolation.  And he says to them:
 
51:1 Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the LORD. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.

51:2 Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many.

51:3 For the LORD will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and will make her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song.
 
Look to the rock from which you were hewn and the quarry from which you were dug.
 
And then we heard that famous passage from Matthew’s gospel:
 
16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

16:14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

16:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

16:16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

16:17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
 
Peter blurts it out – probably not really grasping or fully understanding what he is saying – but in a moment of epiphany: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
 
And Jesus says,  “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.”
 
Of course, in the centuries since, the Church has disagreed fairly fundamentally about what Jesus meant!  To put it crudely and bluntly, the Catholic Church has maintained that “this rock” on which Jesus will build his church is the actual person of Peter – and so we get the succession of popes.  Our tradition has maintained that “this rock” on which Jesus will build his church is the confession of faith that Peter made – the community of the church will be built and shaped by that confession: “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
 
Actually, it is quite an important disagreement!
 
There is potential for a similar disagreement in Isaiah’s words: “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.”
 
Returned exiles might have taken those words and assumed that Isaiah was telling them to find a new Abraham and a new Sarah.  If only you can find them, everything will be fine and this wilderness that you stand in will bloom again.
 
Yet, I believe Isaiah is saying something a whole lot more significant. He is saying to these bedraggled exiles, “YOU are hewn from the SAME quarry that Abraham and Sarah were hewn from. You are chips from the same block.  As God worked mightily through their faithfulness, so will God work mightily through your faithfulness. 
 
The source of the granite is not the old London Bridge, it’s Dartmoor. 
 
The source of the hope that will replenish this broken and downhearted people is not a new Abraham or a new Sarah, it is faithfulness in the God of all hope. 
 
“This rock” on which the Church will be built is not Peter or even a whole succession of Peters, but the confession of faith that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
 
Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.
 
Not Abraham, not Sarah, not even Peter – but the same quarry they were dug from – the chosen and loved people of God leaning on the unfailing love of the same God, living lives of faithfulness in response to the confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.
 
I wonder where the desolate rubble is in your life at the moment?  You don’t need me to make one of those annoying preachers’ lists of all the possibilities, do you!  As you stand in that rubble, where is your hope? 
 
I wonder if you feel like the people of Jesus’ day, hoping that one of your favourite prophets come back to life – the new John the Baptist, the new Elijah – that’s what we need.  For you it might not be those particular characters – but we all put our faith in all kinds of saviours…  if only we had a minister like the really good one we had in 1972…  if only we had a different government…  if only...
 
Jesus’ words might be the ones we need to hear:  “Who do you say that I am?”
 
and alongside them, Isaiah’s words: “Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug.”
 
Jesus is the rock of salvation from whom you are hewn.  You share in his life and he in yours.  Whatever rubble and desolation plagues your life, this is the only sure foundation for your hope, it is the very foundation on which the church is built.  Amen.
 
Hymn:      Rock of Ages Cleft for Me
 
Rock of ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
Rock of ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
 
2: Let the water and the blood
From Thy riven side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure
Cleanse me from it's guilt and pow'r

3: Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to Thy cross I cling
 
4: Naked, come to Thee for dress
Helpless, look to Thee for grace
Vile, I to the fountain fly
Wash me, saviour, or I die

5: Rock of ages, cleft for me
let me hide myself in Thee
Rock of ages, cleft for me l
et me hide myself in Thee

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.
 
Prayers of intercession
 
Circumstances have conspired to keep us in our homes for worship on Sundays, which brings us closer to our neighbours and our neighbourhoods as we pray.  Isaiah’s words about the God of hope bringing new life from the rubble of exile and new growth in the arid desert is for them as well as for you and for me.
 
Somewhere nearby, maybe in a house I pass when I go out to walk, someone is grieving.  She has been unable to travel and share her grief with friends and family, she is grieving alone and not coping well.
 
Somewhere nearby, maybe in a house I can see from my bedroom window, a couple is celebrating new life, grandparents for the first time.  Pictures and Skype will do for now, but they long for the day when they can hold her for the first time.
 
God of hope, you bring joy and gladness from the wilderness,
you bring thanksgiving and the voice of song from desert places.
Hear my neighbour’s cry; hear my neighbour’s delight.

Somewhere nearby, maybe in one of those houses that we moan about with the dog outside barking all the time, someone is at their wit’s end.  Life is too much, everything is too much.  He knows the bottle’s solution will not last, but it might numb things for now.

Somewhere nearby, maybe in one of those houses with a cheery rainbow in the window, someone is enjoying the space and the time that lockdown has given xem.  Xe has really flourished through new opportunities online and has benefited from the chance to renew and refresh xemself.
 
God of hope, you bring joy and gladness from the wilderness,
you bring thanksgiving and the voice of song from desert places.
Hear my neighbour’s cry; hear my neighbour’s delight.

Somewhere nearby, maybe in one of those really tired and unkempt houses, garden overgrown, weeds along the path, someone is fearful for her safety.  The bruises don’t always show but she dare not go out now.  She feels totally trapped, escape routes totally cut off.  Her partner still works but she will be home early today and she’ll be angry as usual.
 
Somewhere nearby, maybe in one of the new houses on the new-build bit, a family is excitedly planning a holiday.  It’s been touch and go, but they have been given the green light, they CAN go and the tensions of home-schooling seem already to be melting away.
 
God of hope, you bring joy and gladness from the wilderness,
you bring thanksgiving and the voice of song from desert places.
Hear my neighbour’s cry; hear my neighbour’s delight.
 
Somewhere nearby, maybe in one of those bigger, expensive houses I have often envied, someone is anxiously scouring the bank statements.  He has lost his job.  He was furloughed, but now he’s redundant.  It was like a long slow torture.  He knew it was coming, but hoped it wouldn’t, and now he has no idea how they will afford the mortgage.
 
Somewhere nearby, someone is celebrating.  They’ve weathered the storm and now life is opening up again.  She can open her business again, and rediscover some sense of normality.  During lockdown she’s had all sorts of new ideas and can’t wait to get started.
 
God of hope, you bring joy and gladness from the wilderness,
you bring thanksgiving and the voice of song from desert places.
Hear my neighbour’s cry; hear my neighbour’s delight.
 
Hymn:      O Lord All the World Belongs To You
©1965 Josef Weinberger
 
O Lord, all the world
belongs to You
and You are always
making all things new.
What is wrong, You forgive,
and the new life You give
is what’s turning
the world upside down.
 
2: The world’s only loving
to its friends,
but Your way of loving
never ends,
loving enemies too;
and this loving with You
is what’s turning
the world upside down.
 
3: The world lives divided and apart,
You draw folk together, and we start
in our friendship to see that in harmony we
can be turning  the world upside down.
 
 4: The world wants
the wealth to live in state,
but You show a new way
to be great:
like a servant You came,
and if we do the same,
we’ll be turning
the world upside down.
 
5: O Lord, all the world
belongs to You
and You are always making
all things new.
What is wrong, You forgive,
and the new life You give
is what’s turning
the world upside down.

Who do you say that I am?  (Meditation)
 
Who do you say that I am?
Do you say I am the one who redeems,
sanctifies, justifies, glorifies?
Have you jargonised me into obscurity?
Have you encased me in impenetrable dogma?
Have you codified me
and placed me in the filing cabinet of belief?
Have you serialised me into a 4-step program for salvation?
Try again…
 
Who do you say that I am?
Do you say I am fully God and fully human,
historical yet eternal, both beginning and end?
Have you wrapped me in a pea-soup fog of mystery?
Have you set me outside the bounds of possibility?
Have you left me at the mercy of arcane philosophers
debating the meaning of reality?
Have you declared me too big to be understood or known?
Try again…
 
Who do you say that I am?
Do you say I am Immanuel, God with us?
Have you noticed me with you today – have you looked?
Have you acknowledged me today, spoken to me, listened to me?
Have you turned to me today, for strength, guidance, wisdom?
Have you changed course today
because my presence has pointed you to the Christ-like?
Try again…
 
Who do you say that I am?
Do you say I am Lord?
Have you thought about what that means for your life today?
Have you given me your voice to speak out
against injustice and prejudice today?
Have you given me your hands for acts of selfless service today?
Have you given me your feet today that I might take you across boundaries to new places?
Try again…
 
Who do you say that I am?
 
Blessing
 
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (Romans 15:13)  Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, in the name of Christ. Amen.
 
Sources and Copyright
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France.
All prayers and meditations by Phil Nevard (except the Prayer of Confession which is from the URC Worship Book’s Service of the Word
 
'I lift my eyes' by Timothy Dudley-Smith (b. 1926) © Timothy Dudley-Smith in Europe and Africa. © Hope Publishing Company in the United States of America and the rest of the world. Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
We limit not the truth of God:  George Rawson (1807-1889)
Recording:  Organist, Mr Rob Charles, All Saints Church, Oystermouth, Swansea  Singers: Phil & Lythan Nevard
 
Rock of Ages  The Rev’d Augustus Montague Toplady   recording: Amy Grant, UMPG Publishing, Music Services, Inc. (Publishing), BMI - Broadcast Music Inc., BMG Rights Management (US), LLC, AMRA, Kobalt Music Publishing, LatinAutor, and 5 music rights societies
 
Turning the World Upside Down  Patrick Appleford ©1965 Josef Weinberger performed by: Seraphim Choir, Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Singapore.  (The Seraphim Choir that sings at the 9.15am Sunday Mass was formed in February 2008 and its name was suggested by Fr Siew, to refer to the many angelic voices of its young members. The initial aim was to provide formation for the children, encouraging their commitment to the service of God in a church ministry. It has now evolved into a choir comprising families from many nationalities, where parents and children serve together.)
 
Thanks to Phil, Lythan & Carys Nevard for reading the spoken parts of the service, to the choir of Barrhead URC for recording the Our Father and 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

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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 23rd August 2020 Psalm 11

URC Devotions - Sun, 23/08/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 23rd August 2020  Psalm 11
 
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
 
2 Fear not, He is with thee, O be not dismayed,
For He is thy God, and will still give thee aid;
He’’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by His righteous, omnipotent hand.
 
3 When through the deep waters He calls thee to go,
The rivers of grief shall thee overflow;
For He will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
 
4 When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
His grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; His only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”
 
5 “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake!”
 
from Rippon’s Selection of Hymns 1787
 
you can hear this sung by Maddy Prior and the Carnival band here
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G68FV4xPhrE
 
 
Reflection
 
This is a Psalm of trust. It begins with the greatest trust we can place in anyone, taking refuge. Trusting God to look after our lives. God offers us a firm foundation, through the promise and love.
 
There are a great many words of comfort to be taken from this Psalm. Particularly the words surrounding being able to find rest, and find comfort. It says repose, but I’ve never used that word in my life!
 
Though we may get battered and bruised, and be facing the storms of life. We know we can find rest and solace in God’s welcoming arms.
 
In the second stanza, we hear of being strengthened, helped, and caused to stand.
 
It reminds me of these words from the Rend Collective song ‘Resurrection Day’:
 
“Because You're risen I can rise
Because You're living I'm alive
Because Your cross is powerful
Because You rose invincible
I can get up off the floor”
 
This is about us getting off the floor, about us being empowered to do so. As the chorus continues “This is my resurrection day”. Easter seems like a long time ago, but I’d encourage you to have your own Easter now!
 
This is not something to expect God to do without upholding our side of the bargain! We have been enabled, and given blessing to get up off the floor, but it’s still us who need to get up.
 
Our relationship with God is a 2-way one, one we must partake in, not just receive. But if we give, then truly, freely, we shall receive.

Prayer
 
This is my resurrection day
Nothing's gonna hold me in the grave
This is my resurrection day
Nothing's gonna hold me down
Say goodbye to my yesterdays
Ever since I met You I am changed
This is my resurrection day
Nothing's gonna hold me down.
 
© Rend Collective
-->

Today's writer

Dan Morrell, Media for Ministry Consultant (Yorkshire Synod), member of St Andrew’s Roundhay, Leeds. 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 22nd August 2020 From Ramases to Succoth

URC Devotions - Sat, 22/08/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 22nd August 2020 From Ramases to Succoth 

Exodus 12: 33 - 42

The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said, ‘We shall all be dead.’  So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading-bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders.  The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewellery of silver and gold, and for clothing, 36 and the Lord had given the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians.

The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds. They baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt; it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.

The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.  At the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations.

Reflection

One of the interesting things to emerge from our time indoors earlier this year was a renewed interest in baking bread at home.  Some people have been doing it for ages, others had dropped the habit out of busyness or simply the availability of good bread on the High Street and others had never even thought about it as a possibility.   But suddenly by the middle of April people were creating and nurturing ‘sourdough starters’ up and down the British Isles and publishing recipes for every variation of bread product  you could imagine using these feisty little bowls of bubbling life.   It even lead to a shortage of flour for some time.  For those unfamiliar with the process a ‘starter’ is a mixture of flour and water which catches naturally occurring yeast from the air and starts to ferment. This fermentation is what makes bread rise and the starters can be kept and fed for years, with care, and each one can give rise to a new generation of bread.  It was a process that Jesus was very familiar with judging by the number of times he uses bread and uses yeast as an illustration of his teaching. 

This rising and fermenting takes time and patience neither of which the people leaving Egypt had on that fateful Passover night. The bread had been prepared for the next days but there was no time to let the yeast work and so it was unleavened. As they travelled they baked what we would now call flatbread.  The utmost importance of this food is demonstrated by the list of things that were carried away including kneading troughs.  Kept only for that purpose it was where the dough was pummelled into submission before baking in a hot oven or over a hot fire.  Keeping 600,000 people (plus women and children and livestock) fed on the march would have been a challenge for anyone and it’s no wonder that there were often complaints and shortages  as the wandering years unfolded in the wilderness.  As I write this we are still wandering in our own wilderness not quite knowing where we are heading except that there is a promised land of a new normality out there somewhere.   One thing is for sure, we all need bread for survival and the bread of life to feed us.

Some of us have made incalculable sacrifices and all of us have had to learn to adapt and think in new ways and to make do.  By the time this is read no doubt we will have retrieved some golden moments and celebrated them but we will also be grieving the losses of people and the loss of the old ways.  As we travel where we are led may the leaven of love help us rise to the occasion what ever may befall .  

Prayer

Take my gifts and let me love you, 
God who first of all loved me, 
gave me light and food and shelter, 
gave me life and set me free. 
Now because your love has touched me, 
I have love to give away,
now the bread of love is rising,
loaves of love to multiply!

Shirley Erena Murray 1931-2020
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Carole Elphick, retired minister, worshipping at Muswell Hill URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Friday 21st August 2020 The Death of the First Born

URC Devotions - Fri, 21/08/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 21st August 2020 The Death of the First Born

Exodus 12: 29-32

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, ‘Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!’

Reflection

Have you noticed how prominent the theme of children under threat of death is in the Exodus story?  Firstly, Pharaoh’s attempt to control the Hebrew slave population by killing male children.  Then Moses, adrift on the Nile and rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter.  And now the slaughter of Egypt’s firstborn by God, which triggers Israel’s final liberation from slavery.
 
And have you noticed how crucial perspective is to how we read this story?  It’s Passover if you’re a Jew, but holocaust if you’re Egyptian.  Salvation or genocide – and both at the hand of God!
 
We can’t escape the really uncomfortable questions this raises about God and salvation – especially because of our direct line from Passover to the Cross via the Last Supper.
 
It’s important to note that we’re in the thick of the “God vs Pharaoh” battle for the future of the world.   Just as Pharaoh’s armies would slaughter the firstborn of their enemies to deny them any future, God’s final act will complete the destruction of the slave-Empire and result in liberation – salvation.
 
But there’s the problem: God may be saving the slaves and crushing the Empire in order ultimately to benefit the whole creation, but is playing by Pharaoh’s rules!  The slaves cannot be saved without the death of the (innocent) Egyptian children!
 
There is a mystery to salvation.  For whatever reason, God saves only by entering into the mess and destructiveness of our world and defeating the forces ranged against God’s intentions for life and flourishing.  Israel is saved at the expense of the Egyptians - explicitly to be a blessing to the whole world.  Pharaoh recognizes this and asks for a blessing from the departing Moses.
 
At Easter, we see God’s own firstborn slaughtered.  As a sacrifice.  God saving the world – by bearing the cost. 

Prayer

I pray fervently for the coming of your Kingdom, O God -
This world as you intended, full of Life and laughter and future!

I forget, though, that its coming is Bad News for those who will not welcome it
Because they refuse to let go of their advantage.

Help me to find no glee in their downfall
But mourn them as lost, beloved children of God,
As you do.

May we all find our salvation in the New World of your Kingdom.
Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

Lawrence Moore, Mission & Discipleship consultant, Worsley Road URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 20th August 2020 Passover

URC Devotions - Thu, 20/08/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 20th August 2020 Passover

Exodus 12

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.  Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day shall be cut off from Israel.  On the first day you shall hold a solemn assembly, and on the seventh day a solemn assembly; no work shall be done on those days; only what everyone must eat, that alone may be prepared by you.  You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your companies out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance.  In the first month, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day, you shall eat unleavened bread. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether an alien or a native of the land.  You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread.

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go, select lambs for your families, and slaughter the passover lamb.  Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood in the basin. None of you shall go outside the door of your house until morning.  For the Lord will pass through to strike down the Egyptians; when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over that door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you down.  You shall observe this rite as a perpetual ordinance for you and your children.  When you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this observance.  And when your children ask you, “What do you mean by this observance?”  you shall say, “It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians but spared our houses.”’ And the people bowed down and worshipped.

The Israelites went and did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.

Reflection

There have already been 9 plagues on the land of Egypt, but Pharaoh’s heart is hard, and he will not let the Israelites go. Moses, however, has told the Pharaoh that another plague is coming.

God had heard their cries for help and remembered the promise to the Israelites.  God was a covenant-keeping God. They were to kill a lamb and smear the blood on the doorpost.  The blood on the door post was evidence that the people in that household had been obedient to God’s instruction and because of their faith in acting on God’s instructions, they were going to be saved.  It was a late-night meal, eaten in their travelling clothes.  They were to eat it hurriedly and leave. 

As I write this, we have just celebrated VE Day, marking the end of the 2nd World War in Europe.  Many remembered evacuation with very quick decisions about whether they wanted to go or stay.  It was literally a matter of life or death. Remembering such dates is special because of their uniqueness and importance, whether good or otherwise.  Festivals are celebrated in religion to remind their followers that something special happened. The institution of the Passover was, and still is, very important to the Jews as it reminded them of a special night in their history. It was the starting point of their exodus from slavery in Egypt and a milestone in their learning journey of their knowledge of God. 

The Passover meal was to eaten by people ready to make a journey.  It was the start of an adventure of faith. The Israelites, now ready to leave Egypt, like present–day believers in Jesus, are a pilgrim people with a destination. We are part of that free, but holy, nation a people set apart for God. 

Prayer 

Blessed are You, Our God, Sovereign of the universe. In Your love, our God, you have given us feasts of gladness, and seasons of joy.  At this Festival of Pesach, season of our freedom, a sacred occasion, we remember the Exodus from Egypt and we celebrate all you have done for us in Jesus.

(Adapted from the Jewish Passover Kiddush)   -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Sue Henderson, retired URC minister, member of Bradford on Avon United 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.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

URC Devotions - Wed, 19/08/2020 - 11:15
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday’s service is led by the Rev’d Phil Nevard, minister of Kingsteinton URC in Devon.  Hymns include: Timothy Dudley Smith’s I Lift My Eyes, George Rawson’s We Limit Not the Truth of God, Augustus Montague Toplady’s Rock of Ages, and Patrick Appleford’s Turning the World Upside Down.

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

with every good wish


Andy


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

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

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 19th August 2020 Pharaoh Warned Again

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Wednesday 19th August 2020 Pharaoh Warned Again
 
Exodus 11 
 
The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away.  Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbour and every woman is to ask her neighbour for objects of silver and gold.’  The Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, Moses himself was a man of great importance in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s officials, and in the sight of the people.
 
Moses said, ‘Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go out through Egypt.  Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock.  Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been nor will ever be again.  But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites—not at people, not at animals—so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.  Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me, and bow low to me, saying, “Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.” After that I will leave.’ And in hot anger he left Pharaoh.
 
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not listen to you, in order that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.’ Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.
 
Reflection
 
… And we find ourselves at the climax of the series of plagues to befall Egypt. This ominous account, which seems to completely invert the massacre of the innocents in Luke’s Gospel, is indeed hot to handle for many a theologian. Its content is enough to disturb anyone. How do we respond?
 
We could take shelter behind the narrative device that the text may be stylised rather than literal. (Did it really happen?) Or we could argue that the impending deaths of the first-born is the final act against the tyranny of Pharaoh. (Could Pharaoh's refusal to release the Hebrews force God’s hand?)  But both responses still leave us with the haunting conclusion that God, who is “slow to anger … and abounding in love” (Ps 103.8), is capable of such a terrible act.  
 
This account can leave us feeling that we may not recognise God. This shows a characteristic of God that is hard to get our heads around. The Creator of the Universe, who was willing to let his own Son die for our sins, is beyond our comprehension. God is, indeed,  alien to us.
 
Maybe we also need to consider our own cultural position. We often find ourselves believing that Western culture is the pinnacle of human civilisation. We often stand in judgement over the actions other societies, ancient or modern, while betraying our own claims to egalitarianism and equality. Maybe we are exporting a degree of our own imperialism onto God.
 
I cannot find an easy way to justify the last plague to befall Egypt. Maybe all we can do is recognise that God, who came to earth in the human form of Jesus Christ, is also alien to us: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55.9)
 
Prayer
 
Creator God, we struggle and wrestle with the realisation that you are alien to us.
And yet, you fight on behalf of the alien and foreigner among us
and stand against those who oppose the Kingdom of God.
Help us to understand your ways.
Give us peace to live with the knowledge
That you are also beyond our understanding. Amen.
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Daniel Harris, Minister with the North Manchester Mission Partnership 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 18th August 2020 The Plague of Darkness

URC Devotions - Tue, 18/08/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 18th August 2020   The Plague of Darkness

Exodus 10: 21 - 29

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand towards heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand towards heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days.  People could not see one another, and for three days they could not move from where they were; but all the Israelites had light where they lived.  Then Pharaoh summoned Moses, and said, ‘Go, worship the Lord. Only your flocks and your herds shall remain behind. Even your children may go with you.’  But Moses said, ‘You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt-offerings to sacrifice to the Lord our God.  Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must choose some of them for the worship of the Lord our God, and we will not know what to use to worship the Lord until we arrive there.’  But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was unwilling to let them go.  Then Pharaoh said to him, ‘Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.’  Moses said, ‘Just as you say! I will never see your face again.’

Reflection

Read the description of the three days of darkness and try and imagine how terrifying it would be to experience.  CS Lewis captured something of that terror in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where the ship sails into a cloud of utter darkness in which people’s worst nightmares become real.
 
The plagues are a story of struggle between two worlds: the brutal, anti-God slave-empire of Pharaoh and the world that God intended at creation (what Jesus calls the Kingdom of God).  The darkness is a reversal of creation: light is God’s first creative act that rolls back the primordial chaos.  The writer wants us to know that Pharaoh’s slave Empire is the great disruptor of creation.  It is a world that can deliver only misery, despair and death.  If Pharaoh is not willing to dismantle it voluntarily, it needs to die - it cannot be reformed or repaired.
 
We must not flinch from the picture of God in this story.  As with the stories of the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, God is presented as responding to challenges to divine sovereignty with “shock and awe” (remember Desert Storm?), which may be impressive and irresistible, but are brutal and bloodthirsty.  And partisan! 
 
But the story isn’t finished.  In Jesus, God enters into our darkness as companion and liberator of all humanity.  As Jesus hangs on Empire’s cross, darkness falls again for three hours.  We humans have chosen to be godforsaken rather than receive the gift of the Kingdom.  And Jesus cries out in bewildered terror, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” We discover on Easter Sunday that God has not abandoned Jesus, but is “in Christ, reconciling the world to himself”.  Jesus’ resurrection is nothing less than the death of Empire and the birth of the New Creation!

Prayer

You, O God, are Light,
And in you there is no darkness at all.
We are at home in darkness.
We expect it,
Are resigned to it,
Unsurprised when it eclipses light.
We befriend it, even as we fear it.

Yet there is nowhere your love will not go to be with us and save us.
Teach us to discover you in our darkness.
Show us how to live as Children of Light,
Because that is who you have made us to be.

Thank you!
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Lawrence Moore, Mission & Discipleship consultant, Worsley Road 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 17th August 2020 The Plague of Locusts

URC Devotions - Mon, 17/08/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion Monday 17th August 2020 The Plague of Locusts View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 17th August 2020  The Plague of Locusts 
Exodus 10: 1-20
 
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his officials, in order that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I have made fools of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them—so that you may know that I am the Lord.’
 
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me.  For if you refuse to let my people go, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country.  They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They shall devour the last remnant left you after the hail, and they shall devour every tree of yours that grows in the field.  They shall fill your houses, and the houses of all your officials and of all the Egyptians—something that neither your parents nor your grandparents have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.”’ Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.
 
Pharaoh’s officials said to him, ‘How long shall this fellow be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God; do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?’  So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, ‘Go, worship the Lord your God! But which ones are to go?’  Moses said, ‘We will go with our young and our old; we will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, because we have the Lord’s festival to celebrate.’  He said to them, ‘The Lord indeed will be with you, if ever I let your little ones go with you! Plainly you have some evil purpose in mind.  No, never! Your men may go and worship the Lord, for that is what you are asking.’ And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.
 
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt, so that the locusts may come upon it and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.’  So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night; when morning came, the east wind had brought the locusts.  The locusts came upon all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever shall be again.  They covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was black; and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left; nothing green was left, no tree, no plant in the field, in all the land of Egypt.  Pharaoh hurriedly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you.  Do forgive my sin just this once, and pray to the Lord your God that at the least he remove this deadly thing from me.’  So he went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord.  The Lord changed the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea;  not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt.  But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.
 
Reflection
 
This story brings to mind an African farmer I saw on television earlier this year. He was surrounded by a cloud of locusts: he was frantically beating the air with a cloth, desperately trying to protect his crops. His actions seemed a futile act of resistance but faced with the onslaught of millions of locusts he was unwilling to give in.
 
Pharaoh is facing the cumulative effects of the plagues but remains unwilling to give in. The crops already damaged by hail are being ravaged by locusts which will strip vegetation bare. The crops will disappear and food shortages may result if reserves become depleted - this latest plague is a challenge to the pride of a nation used being economically self sufficient in food and able to control its neighbours through exports (a bit like the OPEC countries control of oil).
 
Faced with wave after wave of disaster, surely Pharaoh’s resistance will be weakened and he would accede to the demands of the Hebrew leader? His spiritual authority is also being challenged and he remains unwilling to surrender fully in the face of this latest attack.
 
‘Natural’ disasters raise difficult questions - why is this happening? What is God saying? How can I stop this happening? What can I learn from this? Pharoah is probably the most stubborn character in the Old Testament in his refusal to really acknowledge the supremacy of the God of the Hebrews.
 
Hearing this story each year at Passover the Jews would be reminded of God’s sovereignty over the the natural world and all nations - they would be reminded of the folly and pride of Pharaoh and be encouraged not to repeat it but learn from it.
 
I wonder what God is saying to us today?
 
Prayer
 
Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise.
Rejoice  & Sing 492 J. G. WHITTIER (1807-92)
 
Forgive us Lord for laughing at others predicaments.
Reclothe us in our right minds.
Give us wisdom to depend on you, to hear your voice in the events unfolding around us
For you alone are worthy of our worship and enable us to dwell in safety. Amen
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Viv Henderson is Minister of Minehead URC & a mental health chaplain with Elysium Healthcare in Wellington 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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Worship for Sunday 16th August 2020

URC Devotions - Sun, 16/08/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
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URC Daily Devotions Worship
for Sunday 16th August 2020
 
 
 
 
 The Syro-Phoenician Woman by Robert Lentz
 
 The Rev’d Lythan Nevard

Introduction
 
Welcome to worship for 16th August 2020. I’m Lythan Nevard, Minister for Cranbrook. I work for the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of England building church and community in the new town of Cranbrook, which is still being constructed on the edge of Exeter. I work from the untidy end of the study I share with Phil who is also a URC minister. Cornerstone Church does not have its own building so most Sundays outside of lockdown involve an early start creating a worshipping environment for Cornerstone Church in our wonderful Church of England primary school St Martins. But we might be doing Forest Church or sharing breakfast and reflections in a house after helping to marshal at the town’s Junior Park Run. Whether you are at home alone, in the garden with birds singing or on a carefully managed holiday – we are the gathered family of God, and can lift our voices together in worship.
 
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:      Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of Creation
Joachim Neander (1650 – 1680)
translated by Catherine Winkworth (1827-78)
 
 
Praise to the Lord,
the Almighty,
the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him,
for he is your
health and salvation!
Come all who hear! Now to his altar draw near,
joining in glad adoration!
 
2: Praise to the Lord,
who shall prosper our work
and defend us;
Surely His goodness
and mercy shall daily attend us.
Ponder anew
what the Almighty can do
when with His love
He befriends us.
 
3: Praise to the Lord!
O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that has life and breath,
come now with praises before Him!
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Now as we worship before Him!
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Forgiveness
 
O God we praise you!
With body, mind and soul we praise your holy name
 
We thank you for all that you have given to us
For our health
For our ability to worship and adore you
O God we praise you!
With body, mind and soul we praise your holy name
 
We thank you that you are Lord of all
And yet are ready to gently shelter us under your wings
For the way that you give us everything that we need
O God we praise you!
With body, mind and soul we praise your holy name
 
We thank you that you work in all things for good.
You fill our lives with goodness and mercy
We spend a moment in quiet, with hearts overflowing with love
as we thank you for the blessings you have given us this week
our friend indeed
 
O God we praise you!
With body, mind and soul we praise your holy name
 
And yet, despite our declarations of love and praise we know
That we also need to come asking for forgiveness
For there are things we have done, things we have said, that we wish we had not
Ways in which we have let you down that weigh heavy on our hearts.
And so we bring them to you now
 
We are truly sorry and ask to be forgiven.
 
And the good news is that through Jesus Christ you offer us new life
Jesus says “you are forgiven” and calls us again to walk in his way.
O God your love overwhelms us may we live our days in thanks and praise. Amen! Amen! Amen!
 
The Lord’s Prayer

Prayer of Illumination
 
As we hear your Word Lord Jesus
May we enter into the story and walk with you
As we reflect on your Word Lord Jesus
May your Holy Spirit inspire and challenge us
As we act on your Word Lord Jesus
Enable us to manifest your love in our actions and our speech
So that we truly walk in your way. Amen

Reading   St Matthew 15:10-28

Jesus called the crowd together and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”  Then his disciples came over to him and asked, “Do you know that you insulted the Pharisees by what you said?”  Jesus answered, “Every plant that my Father in heaven did not plant will be pulled up by the roots.  Stay away from those Pharisees! They are like blind people leading other blind people, and all of them will fall into a ditch.” Peter replied, “What did you mean when you talked about the things that make people unclean?” Jesus then said:
 
Don’t any of you know what I am talking about by now?  Don’t you know that the food you put into your mouth goes into your stomach and then out of your body?  But the words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. And they are what make you unfit to worship God.  Out of your heart come evil thoughts, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, vulgar deeds, stealing, telling lies, and insulting others.  These are what make you unclean. Eating without washing your hands will not make you unfit to worship God.
 
Jesus left and went to the territory near the cities of Tyre and Sidon.  Suddenly a Canaanite woman from there came out shouting, “Lord and Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is full of demons.”  Jesus did not say a word. But the woman kept following along and shouting, so his disciples came up and asked him to send her away.  Jesus said, “I was sent only to the people of Israel! They are like a flock of lost sheep.” The woman came closer. Then she knelt down and begged, “Please help me, Lord!” Jesus replied, “It isn’t right to take food away from children and feed it to dogs.” “Lord, that’s true,” the woman said, “but even dogs get the crumbs that fall from their owner’s table.” Jesus answered, “Dear woman, you really do have a lot of faith, and you will be given what you want.”
 
At that moment her daughter was healed.

Hymn:      Send Down The Fire of Your Justice
                  Marty Haugen © 1989, GIA Publications, Inc
 
Send down the fire of your justice,
send down the rains of your love;
come, send down the Spirit,
breathe life in your people,

and we shall be people of God.
 
Call us to be your compassion,
teach us the song of your love;
give us hearts that sing,
give us deeds that ring,
make us ring
with the song of your love.

2: Call us to learn of your mercy,
teach us the way of your peace;
give us hearts that feel,
give us hands that heal,
make us walk
in the way of your peace.

3: Call us to answer oppression,
teach us the fire of your truth;
give us righteous souls,
'til your justice rolls,
make us burn
with the fire of your love.

4: Call us to witness your Kingdom,
give us the presence of Christ;
May your holy light
Keep us shining bright,
Ever shine
with the presence of Christ.
 
Sermon
 
Are you sitting comfortably?
That’s the way Listen with Mother would start on the radio.
Bliss for me as a child as I would snuggle in for a cosy story.
Bliss for my mother as she would get 10 minutes peace…
So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Make sure you are comfortable now as you may not be later.
Because this isn’t a cosy story.
This may involve some wriggling, some niggling and some downright uncomfortable feelings. Not 10 minutes of peace at all.
But if you can, stay with me.
Here’s the thing. I had a plan for this sermon. It involved opening with a not really that funny joke about a baptism for a dog and a few mentions of what the Greek words used actually mean. And then two things happened. Followed by a third.
 
The first thing was the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis – a black man killed by a police officer in an horrific manner. In the outpouring of anger and outrage that followed I started to listen to what black people are dealing with. I thought I had listened before. I thought I was a good advocate. I now know I was wrong.
 
The second thing was learning about a method of Bible Study advocated by Fresh Expressions called “Discovery” where the first question you ask is “If the story happened today what would it look like?” And I sat and imagined what it would look like. I visualised a black woman facing up to Jesus and telling it to him straight. And the story became real and fresh in a different way. And I tore up my notes and realised I was going to have to have a rethink.
 
Which brings me to my third thing. I remembered that the last time I had to totally rewrite a sermon because current events broke into the Lectionary was in fact the last time I preached about this very same passage. It was August 2011 – when riots happened all across the UK following the death of Mark Duggan, a black man killed by police officers at Broadwater Farm.
 
I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that when things come together like this, the Holy Spirit is at work.
And yet I stilled cried out to God  “Lord, isn’t this passage hard enough without putting racism front and centre?”
 
And I sense a reply to my prayer: “What did you think it is about?”
 
What is it about?
 
A woman approaches Jesus. A non-Jewish woman.
 
She cries out for help, “have pity my daughter is tormented by spirits”.
 
Jesus ignores her.
 
She persists, following and calling out so much that the disciples ask Jesus to send that woman away. (Why couldn’t they have talked to her?)
 
Jesus dismisses her  "I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel."
 
She falls at his feet. She pleads.
 
And then Jesus says the most difficult to figure out sentence of his ministry - "It isn't right to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."
 
She gives a smart comeback ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ and Jesus says “you’ve got great faith” (the Greek is more like “MEGA faith” and her daughter is healed.
 
Why does Jesus react like this, this is poles apart from what happened with the centurion and his servant – which comes much earlier on in Matthew’s gospel
 
Is it because she is a woman?
Is it because she is not Jewish?
Is he making a joke?
Is he tired and irritable?
Is he trying to get the disciples to intervene?
Is he being sarcastic?
Is he wrong – and the woman changes his mind?
It’s even more of a puzzle when you look at the first part of today’s reading.
 
Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, "Listen and understand! It is not what goes into your mouth that makes you ritually unclean; rather, what comes out of it makes you unclean." Which offends the Pharisees
 
Yet the very next thing you hear Jesus say is something that the Pharisees would approve of but surely would leave Jesus ritually unclean by his standards.
 
The way Jesus behaves here to start with leaves me cold.
 
This is not the Jesus I love.
 
But he – eventually – listens.
He allows himself to be challenged. He is changed.
 
And he acts. There is never such an encounter again.
 
You can- and I probably have in the past – explain this away with Jesus making a joke about dogs (not the one I was going to use but also not really funny).
 
I think that theory diminishes Jesus. If we believe in an incarnate Jesus, both fully human as well as divine then surely, he can sometimes be tripped up by his privilege.
 
Whether it was because it was a request from a woman or a non-Jew or both, just for a moment he acts in a very human way.
 
He doesn’t see a person, just a problem.
 
This woman filled with love for her daughter and desperately worried, persists.
 
And his eyes and heart are opened.
 
Are you sitting comfortably now?
No? Good.
Neither am I.
 
“If the story happened today what would it look like?”
 
I see a black woman making a lot of noise, running after Jesus, throwing herself at his feet.
I see myself like one of the disciples muttering about fuss and hoping she would go away.
I’m so glad she is not listening to me.
 
The Discovery Bible Story method also asks “what is the story showing me?”
That is a question for you to ask yourself later.
I think it is showing me that there is always capacity to change my mind and see things from a new perspective.
 
I think it is showing me that sometimes this feels very uncomfortable. Our ways of understanding how the world works are hard wired into us and it is all too easy to go back to a default position as Jesus does here.
But I think I need to sit in that discomfort. To think about whether I am feeling frailty.
 
I think the Holy Spirit is using this feeling to help me to really see. To open my eyes and heart and become aware of my own privilege and how that can cast a shadow over others.
 
I’ve approached this from the perspective of a white woman because that is what I am.
To those of you who are black, I say – I’m sorry you sometimes have to shout to be heard. I hear you and I am ready to listen more. Challenge me. To those of you of other ethnicities - I say the same.
 
I hope that for those who are white like me, you are ready to also think carefully about where we are in this story and be ready to listen. And to act. To find out more of what white privilege is all about and work for justice. It’s not comfortable. It’s not easy.  But it is kingdom work.
 
Stay with this story today if you can. Ask what is it showing me?
And one last question – could this story make a difference to my life?
 
This is a rare time when Jesus is not the hero. Instead it is the woman of mega faith. And how awesome it is that a foreign woman– can dare to approach, can dare to question, can dare to challenge and still be accepted in the kingdom – given a radical welcome.
 
Hymn:      Inspired by Love and Anger
                John L Bell and Graham Maule ©Wild Goose Resource Group
 
Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by need and pain,
informed of God's own bias, we ask Him once again:
"How long must some folk suffer? How long can few folk mind?
How long dare vain self-interest turn prayer and pity blind?"
 
2: From those forever victims of heartless human greed,
their cruel plight composes a litany of need:
"Where are the fruits of justice? Where are the signs of peace?
When is the day when prisoners and dreams find their release?"
 
3: From those forever shackled to what their wealth can buy,
the fear of lost advantage provokes the bitter cry:
"Don't query our position! Don't criticise our wealth!
Don't mention those exploited by politics and stealth!"
 
4: To God, who through the prophets proclaimed a different age,
we offer earth's indifference, its agony and rage:
"When will the wronged by righted? When will the Kingdom come?
When will the world be generous to all instead of some?"
 
5: God asks, "Who will go for me? Who will extend my reach?
And who, when few will listen, will prophesy and preach?
And who, when few bid welcome, will offer all they know?
And who, when few dare follow, will walk the road I show?"
 
6: Amused in someone's kitchen, asleep in someone's boat,
attuned to what the ancients exposed, proclaimed and wrote,
A saviour without safety, a tradesman without tools
has come to tip the balance with fishermen and fools.
 
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
 
It is time to take up our offering. We give in different ways, through our actions as well as our money. This may at the moment mean being less active and staying at home. It may mean taking up new challenges or picking up the pieces of old ones to support your church and community. All are valued.
 
Offerings are also about sharing what we have in terms of our financial resources – to charity and to our local church
 
In whatever way we choose to give, it’s important to continue - to offer our money and ourselves to God
So, let us pray together
 
Lord Jesus,
Take my life, my voice, my whole self
Take my money, my mind and my love
All given whole heartedly to you.
Bless them, use them, enable us to be sharers of your good news
That all are welcome in your love. Amen
 
Intercessions
 
Welcoming God,
we bring our prayers for those who are the outsiders in our society.
We pray for those in poverty,
living on the crumbs and scraps of others’ riches.
We pray for those who are denied the basics of living,
food and water, shelter, housing or healthcare.
We pray for those who have no place of safety,
for refugees and asylum seekers who have no home to call their own.
God of the outsider,
we pray that you will bring healing and welcome to all.

Listening God, we bring our prayers for those who are denied a voice.
We pray for those whose voices are silenced
by the denial of human rights and freedom of speech.
We pray for all those who are prisoners of conscience,
suffering because they have taken a stand for justice and freedom.
We pray for those who are excluded and pushed aside,
mocked, insulted or abused for their race, gender or sexuality.
God of the voiceless,
we pray that you will give power and hope to all.

Faithful God, we bring our prayers for all those who struggle with faith.
We pray for those for whom faith is lifeless,
stifled by rules and regulations.
We pray for those for cry out in desperation,
feeling that their prayers are unanswered.
We pray for those who feel unwelcome at your table,
excluded by their own weakness or the prejudice of others.
God of the gospel,
we pray that you will give living, life-changing faith to all.
 
In the name of the Christ who brings welcome, hope and change, we pray. Amen
 
 Hymn       And can it be?
                 Charles Wesley
 
And can it be that I should gain
an int’rest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me,
who caused His pain —
for me, who Him
to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
that Thou, my God,
shouldst die for me?
 
2: ’Tis myst’ry all:
th’ Immortal dies:
who can explore
His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
’tis mercy all!
Let earth adore,
let angel minds
inquire no more.
 
3: He left His Father’s
throne above —
so free, so infinite His grace —
emptied Himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’tis mercy all,
immense and free,
for, O my God,
it found out me!
 
4: Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin
and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused
a quick’ning ray — I woke,
the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off,
my heart was free,
I rose, went forth,
and followed Thee.

5: No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
alive in Him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th’ eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Blessing
 
We go now into whatever experiences the week will bring always prepared to hear the Word of God even when it challenges us from unexpected sources, ready to offer a welcome to all, and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore.
Amen
 
Sources
 
Call to Worship from Feasting on the Word Year A
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France.
All other liturgical material by Lythan Nevard.
 
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation by Joachim Neander translated by Catherine Winkworth performed by the OCP Session choir.  Send Down the Fire of Your Justice by Marty Haugen © 1989 GIA Publications.  Unknown performer at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in St. Paul, MN.  Inspired by Love and Anger written by John L Bell and Graham Maule of the Iona Community © WGRWG performed by Stephanie Hollenberg and Luke Concannon. And Can It Be by Charles Wesley performed by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band.
 
Organ Pieces  Opening: Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (“Now the Gentile saviour comes”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020). Closing Songs of Praise Toccata by Robert Prizeman (organ of St Andrew’s, Farnham – 2019)Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks To….
 
John Young, Carol Tubbs, Ruth Watson, Emma and Phil Nevard for recording various parts of the service.  Thanks 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.
 
 
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