URC Devotions

Pandemic Prayers

Sat, 17/04/2021 - 10:37
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Pandemic Prayers

Hi folks,

this week's pandemic prayer was written by the Rev'd Jenny Mills, our Secretary for Education and Learning and is now on the URC website here.

We've also now sent out to local church contacts the material for May's services.  If you haven't received this and would like to have the material to reproduce locally - for the housebound, for members of your congregation who are shielding or if your church hasn't returned to worship please do drop me a line and I will send you the material.

best wishes

Andy

The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->
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URC Daily Devotion 17th April 2021

Sat, 17/04/2021 - 06:00
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Saturday 17th April
 
Jesus’ Views on Family are Startling when compared to this Commandment.

Exodus 20: 12 

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

Reflection

Honour your father and mother – what would Jesus do?  Well we know that as a twelve year old he felt no need to put them ahead of his desire to hang out in the Temple ‘Child, why have you treated us like this?’ asks his less-than-honoured mother (Luke 2:48).  Later he refuses to respond to his family’s concerns, asking ‘Who is my mother?’ (Matthew 12:48).  Yet at the hour of his death on the Cross he asks his best friend to take on his responsibilities as a son to his mother: ‘Woman, here is your son’ (John 19:26).

Jesus provocatively declares he has not come to bring peace but a sword: ‘For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother’ (Matthew 10: 34).  Nothing warm and fuzzy here, nor in this call to follow wholeheartedly: ‘Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple’ (Luke 14:26).  Extreme language to describe family relationships, about as far as you could get from expressing honour.  And yet Jesus lays into the Pharisees and scribes for breaking the fifth commandment – saying you are giving God what might otherwise have been due to your parents ‘makes void the word of God’ and demonstrates how far hearts are from God (Matthew 15:3-9).

So how do we make sense of what Jesus would have us do in relation to honouring our fathers and mothers?  Perhaps the key is in honouring our ultimate Father and Mother, the true source of our being, and not letting any other claim, even that most legitimate of our duty to those with whom, through biology and relationship, we have mutual dependency and responsibility, come first.   Seek first the kingdom, then live like kingdom people and show love to all, however easy or difficult those relationships might be.

Prayer

Jesus – it is so hard to keep the most important thing in focus.
Help us live up to being called your brothers and sisters.
Help us be faithful children of God, giving honour where it is due.
Help us in all our family and wider relationships,
particularly at this challenging time,
to share your love and honour one another
in the stresses and strains of everyday life.  Amen.
 
 
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Today's writer

Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work ,member of mayBe Community, Oxford.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 16th April 2021

Fri, 16/04/2021 - 06:00
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Friday 16th April

Exodus 20: 12 

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

Reflection

A number of years ago I heard the story of a family who had to arrange for the burial of their abusive father. Understandably, they struggled to find words for the gravestone which could be described as honourable. 

How do we show honour to our parents in the modern era? Many of us do not live in honour cultures and, instead, might subscribe to the notion that honour and respect have to be earnt. Coming from a broken family myself, I would often describe today’s scripture as aspirational rather than the reality.

Or maybe we should regard this as a lost story. Once upon a time, for many, this was (and still is)  the reality. Parents can be honoured. But we are all too aware of the consequences of broken parental relationships, and families put under pressure through poverty, social policy and other such circumstances. Instead, this could be a story which we seek to re-discover and re-invest in. Hopefully, when family life is well, we, the children of those families are well too.

Prayer

Holy Trinity,  in whom the most honourable expression of parenthood and family is expressed,
We offer thanksgiving in unease and discomfort.
We thank you for those families which encompass the sentiment of todays’ reading.
We mourn with those families which have experienced distress;
We pray for healing, forgiveness where possible, and protection where necessary.
In all circumstances, may Your grace come alongside us,
Helping us to rediscover the lost story of the family.
Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Daniel Harris, Minister with the Rochdale, Bury and North Manchester Missional 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 15th April 2021

Thu, 15/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Thursday 15th April

Exodus 20: 12 

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

Reflection

The 10 Commandments were offered to people in the Wilderness between escape from Egypt and being settled in the Promised Land. This sets the story in the Ancient Near East somewhere around 1200 BCE. The infrastructure of society at that time was based around tribal family. If people found themselves in need, it was to the broad tribal family they turned. It was the tribal family structure which protected the vulnerable and maintained order. It was the strength of the tribal family as a whole which enabled survival into “long days”. To honour the structure was to respect it, uphold it and enable everyone to survive. To honour the structure was to know where you came from and where you belonged. Of course, this will have worked well for some and less well so for others, and evolved and changed over time.

In UK society today, we often think of our mother and father in terms of the nuclear family and in relation to this commandment, either dismiss it or angst over it. If we understand honouring our parents to mean submitting to behaviors and perceptions which are destructive or diminishing of human worth, I believe we are entirely missing the purpose of this commandment which is about supporting a society which protects.

How does it affect us to think of honouring our mother and father not just as 2 individuals but representing the wider, longer and diverse heritages, cultures and communities to which we belong? What could it mean for our world if we respected our diverse heritage and through it sought to build communities in which everyone belonged and was protected? I believe doing this may draw us in the direction of why this commandment was given to people wandering in the wilderness nearly 3000 years ago.

Prayer

Holy One, Jesus showed us that each life is precious, valuable and interconnected.
May remembering our heritage deepen our humanity and lead us to build your Realm on earth through relationships which respect, include and protect all. In the name of Jesus.
Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Fiona Bennett, minister, Augustine United Church Edinburgh Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Sunday's coming

Wed, 14/04/2021 - 15:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service will be led by students from the Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College. Lesley, Roberta, Kevin + Louise will take us through the service on the theme of 'Peace'. Hymns include John Bell's We Cannot Measure how You heal, Make me a channel of Your peace, and Stuart Townend's How deep the Father's love for us.

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 blessing,


Dan


Dan Morrell
Editor, Daily Devotion Sunday Services from the URC -->

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URC Daily Devotion 14th April 2021 The Rev’d William Young

Wed, 14/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Wednesday 14th April

Exodus 20: 8-11

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

Reflection

This is the first of three major moments in the Torah where the law to keep Sabbath is asserted, and each time there is a different meaning attached to its importance. In Exodus, keeping Sabbath is a reminder of creation: God rested after the creation of the universe, likewise for us. In Deuteronomy, their liberation from Egyptian slavery is referenced. Between the two stands the detailed legal account in Leviticus 23, with the explanation that it is to be a holy occasion and a sign for the generations after them.
 
The late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explained that these three moments explain the three major elements of religion: creation (God’s relationship to the world), revelation (God’s relationship to us), and redemption (the union of God’s will and ours).
 
So, keeping Sabbath is not supplementary. Yet, nearly two millennia later, Jesus places his own interpretation of Sabbath for a generation for which Sabbath keeping has lost meaning: Sabbath is made for us, we are not made for the Sabbath. Meaning, far from it being an ‘obligation’ or imposition, it is supposed to be a source of liberation, connection and transformation.
 
We hardly consider Sabbath in this way. We are caught up in what Walter Breuggemann calls “a culture of restlessness.” Before the pandemic, weekly worship was side-lined by football matches and sleeping in on Sunday. These days, in streaming worship, I must remind the virtual congregation of rules of etiquette; like keeping the audio on mute, etc. Surprisingly, it is more difficult for us to offer space to God in our own homes than it is in a sanctuary. We seek experiences of worship that allows us to stay just the way we are, and at our peril, that maintains predictability even as the world around us is changing.
 
To ‘keep Sabbath’ is to be mindful of the sacredness of time, that time itself belongs to God and is for our benefit.
 
Prayer/ Meditation
 
Neither a vacation or a heavy load;
Time with You is a joy and a treasure.
May the busyness and burden of life
Never separate us from the holiness of rest
and the wholeness of Divine kinship.
Amen.
 
 
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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.
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URC Daily Devotion 13th April 2021

Tue, 13/04/2021 - 06:00
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Tuesday 13th April

Exodus 20: 8-11

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

Reflection

Sometimes the most urgent and vital thing you can do is take a complete rest. Hard for some of us though.  Yet a regular time of rest is there in the opening chapters in Genesis.  After working for six ‘days’, God establishes a pattern of resting on the 7th building a rhythm into the DNA of creation.
 
All Ancient Near Eastern cultures held customs of keeping rest days.  But for the Israelites, sabbath rest took on special meaning not because of its regularity or various prohibitions, but in the fact that the day is made holy because of its relationship to God: God stopped, then he was able to make a covenant with his people.
 
In Exodus, God calls his people to observe not just remember the sabbath: a day for everyone and not just for one day a week: every seven years, land is rested … debts are forgiven… slaves go free…Sabbath, then, is about an entire way of life.  If you don’t learn how to rest well, you will never learn how to work well (and vice versa). Work and rest (not sleep) live in symbiotic relationship. 
 
Sabbath is not a day off to do housework or go to Ikea. Sabbath (shabbat) means ‘stop’, ‘cease’, ‘be complete’. It needs to be held alongside another word for rest (nuakh), a time to be restfully present in God’s presence. God calls us back into this rhythm of grace from the busyness of our digital lives, to reflect on the work of the last six days, and just enjoy. Jews have been practising Sabbath for millenia.  They talk about ‘menuha’ (another word for ‘rest’) often translated as happiness or delight. As you keep the Sabbath, delight in the life you have in partnership with God, delight in the world around you, and delight in God himself.  That is what the Sabbath is for. Such is the beauty of rest.
 
Prayer/Meditation
 
Be still and know that I am God…
 
Be still and know…
 
Be still…
 
Be…
 
Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Nicola Furley-Smith, Secretary for Ministries 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 12th April 2021

Mon, 12/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 12th April

Exodus 20: 8-11

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

Reflection

In the Wilderness where this story is set, the Hebrew People were cut off from many of the habits, routines and opportunities which had shaped them in Egypt. The 10 Commandments were a covenant to forge a renewed society, a society unlike Egypt, which was built of healthy relationships between God and the Hebrew People, the People with each other, and the People with the world at large.

The Sabbath commandment in Exodus, implies a rhythm built into the very fabric of creation which includes a pattern to set aside time to focus on God. While I understand that every moment of life is an opportunity to encounter holiness, this commandment suggests a fundamental human need (like our need for exercise or healthy food) to make time to keep our perception of holiness ever growing and open. Moving with the Sabbath Rhythm enables us to be continually refreshed in maintaining those healthy relationships with the Holy One, each other, the world at large, and perhaps even with ourselves. For many people that fundamental need to keep our perception ever growing and open, includes being with others for worship, growth and support.

The period of the Covid 19 Pandemic has been a wilderness space where we have been cut off from habits, routines and opportunities which have shaped our lives and society. For many, setting aside time to come together to focus on God has been challenging and we have had to forge new habits, routines and opportunities which previously were laid out for us. Having now lived with these ever-adapting restrictions for over a year, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the new patterns we have developed and to notice what in these new habits has been effective and what less so? Which of our new routines might we want to continue into a post Pandemic world? How have these new opportunities to focus on God refreshed us and equipped us to develop and sustain healthy relationships with God, each other, the world and ourselves? How has this Pandemic wilderness revealed to us new ways of moving with the Sabbath Rhythm to keep our perception ever growing and open to the God who holds us in a Covenant of love today?

Prayer

Holy One, Thank you for your Covenant of love which has held us through times of sorrow and joy.
Thank you for your Sabbath Rhythm beckoning us deeper into wholeness.
Grant us the wisdom and energy to seek regular refreshment, so that our relationships with you, with others, with ourselves and with the earth, may offer a taste of your Realm.

Amen
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Fiona Bennett minister Augustine United Church, Edinburgh 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 Devotions Sunday Worship for 11th April 2021 - The Revd. Elizabeth Gray-King

Sun, 11/04/2021 - 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.
URC Daily Devotions
Worship for Sunday 11th April 2021
 
The Rev’d Elizabeth Gray King
 
Call To Worship
 
One:         Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
 
Many:      He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
 
One:         Rejoice, heavenly powers!   Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
 
 One:         Rejoice, O Earth, in shining splendour, radiant in the brightness
of our King! Jesus has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!
 
Many:      Rejoice, heavenly powers!  Sing, choirs of angels!
 
One:         Rejoice, O holy Church! Exult in glory! The risen Saviour shines
upon you! Let this place resound with joy,  as we sing, echoing the mighty song  of all God’s people!
 
Hymn       Jesus is risen, alleluia!
Bernard Kyamanywa, English version © John Bell (b1949)
 
Jesus is risen, alleluia!
Worship and praise Him, alleluia! Now our redeemer
bursts from the grave
lost to the tomb,
Christ rises to save.
 
Come let us worship Him, endlessly sing;
Christ is alive  and death loses its sting.
Sins are forgiven, alleluia! Jesus is risen, alleluia!

2: Buried for three days,
destined for death,
now he returns
to breathe Easter breath.
Blest are the ears
alert to his voice,
blest are the hearts
which for him rejoice.
 
3. Don’t be afraid!”
the angel had said,
“Why seek the living
here with the dead?
Look where he lay, his body is gone,
risen and vibrant, warm with the sun.”
 
4: Go tell the others,
Christ is alive.”
Love is eternal,
faith and hope thrive,
What God intended,
Jesus fulfilled,
what God conceived
can never be killed.
 
5. Let heaven echo, let the earth sing”
Jesus is saviour of everything.
All those who trust him, Christ will receive’
therefore, rejoice, obey and believe!
 
Introduction
 
Welcome to worship from the United Reformed Church.  I’m Elizabeth Gray-King, URC Minister, project manager and visual theologian.  With the Education & Learning team, I support the continuing professional development of URC Ministers part of my working life and the rest of the time I either create visual theology or support affirmative management of charities via elizabethgrayking.com.  Let us worship in joy and hope.
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and forgiveness
 
God, tireless creator,
With ever new energy, you make a way for our tired souls to find you.
 
When we are exhausted, you wake us to the depths of your love.
When we are strong and eager, you bring us to the heights of your pain.
 
You who gave light as gift to the dark, call us into your powerful reality and we praise you.
 
You dared flesh.  You lived it, touched it, named it, healed it, challenged it.  You named the lies and walked in truth.  Jesus Christ, flesh of all flesh, bone of all bone, life of all time, we praise you.
 
You dare flesh still.  Your creative eyes see through all eyes, damaged or free.  Your energy, pain and power move through the flesh that will have you; touch the flesh which fears you.  Holy Spirit, wind of all time, breath of all life, love of all todays, we praise you.
 
God, tireless creator, flesh of all flesh, love of all todays, you hear us this day.  We confess our tiredness—of living, of understanding, of knowing.  We confess as we hold our breath against the realities we fear.  We complain that you are absent, that we are unknown. 
 
As you know us, forgive us.  In this silence, we bring our confession.
(pause)
 
Tireless, loving, daring God. You hear us and we praise you.  You know us and as we are afraid, we are somehow grateful.  Let us know, O love of all todays that this day we are yours again.  You name us as your own.  We are forgiven.
 
Hymn       Breathe on Me Breath of God 
Edwin Hatch (1835-1889)
 
Breathe on me, Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love
what Thou dost love,
and do what Thou wouldst do.
 
2: Breathe on me, Breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until with Thee I will one will,
to do and to endure.
 
3: Breathe on me, Breath of God,
till I am wholly Thine,
until this
earthly part of me
glows with Thy fire divine.
 
4: Breathe on me, Breath of God,
so shall I never die,
but live with Thee the perfect life
of Thine eternity.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
O Holy God of all time and this time, open our minds and hearts that we hear you and know you more. Alleluia, Amen.
 
St John 20:19-31
 
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’  When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’  Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
 
Acts 4:32-35
 
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
 
Hymn:      Faith Begins by Letting Go
                  Carl P Daw
 
Faith begins by letting go,
giving up what had seemed sure,
taking risks and pressing on,
though the way feels less secure:
pilgrimage both right and odd,
trusting all our life to God.
 
2 Faith endures by holding on,
keeping mem’ry’s roots alive
so that hope may bear its fruit;
promise-fed, our souls will thrive,
not through merit we possess
but by God’s great faithfulness.
 
3 Faith matures by reaching out, stretching minds, enlarging hearts,
sharing struggles, living prayer, binding up the broken parts;
till we find the commonplace ripe with witness to God’s grace.
 
Sermon
 
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen in us!  Alleluia!
 
Christ is Risen.  So? We heard it last week, people have told us this again and again, as if, if we don’t believe it for ourselves, something large is missing in our lives. We retell the story of dear Thomas annually as if we are being told not to be like Thomas, or that we can be like him and it’s really OK.  But no, Oh no.  If we had been in that room, we’d believe.
 
Yet believing in something in and of itself is just that, belief.  The Gospels show us in so many ways that the community of faith grew around Jesus not because of what Jesus believed, but because he acted in the power of that belief. He believed in justice so he challenged situations where he didn’t see it.  He acted by turning the tables in the Temple.  He healed on a sabbath; he spoke to women others refused to see. He worked with men who weren’t accepted in the mainstream.  We are shown that Jesus believed God-power in the physical geography of his time and in the reality of himself and the people who followed; so he named that power in others and they acted by changing their lives with him.
 
We can believe in justice as a thing. We can believe in love and care and kindness and humility.  But until we start living and acting as love, living out that care, graciously spilling over with kindness and working with others in humility as compared to power, a belief is just a belief, almost an object to be admired.  Thomas wanted to move his belief into tangible territory, touching what he hoped to know as true. Believing in resurrection is OK.  Living resurrection is quite another thing.
 
I need to stop for a moment because I’ve been talking about belief and that’s a hot topic in our civil society right now. We wonder what is true and what is not. We can believe strongly in many things. Most painfully recently, we can see the results of blind belief in charismatic leaders which makes people act in toxic and life denying ways, attempting to or actually overthrowing governments. People can act on their belief in a way which brings destruction and injustice. We are called to be very cautious of and discerning about who we follow, testing truth as we go. 
With that absolutely affirmed, I go back to our narrative - by the time Resurrection itself had arrive in this upper room, these disciples had evidence of quite another power; love itself in active reality.
 
Let’s look at that upper room story.  I have a hard time taking any of the Bible literally, coming as it is in waves of myth, poetry, prophesy, remembered relationships and political writing for certain points of view.  Like others, I try to probe just why some texts ended up the way they did, what the eventual author wanted to say and why a group of scholars decided to save the tales for posterity.  Whoever John is wrote this story after Jesus was executed and about 20 years after Rome destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was seen as a sign of rebellion, part and parcel of heaps of Jewish people’s reaction to Roman occupation.  Crucifixion was a deadly Roman stunt to create fear and it worked. Jesus’ followers were afraid. Of course. And fear makes people do things against their nature. Perhaps John tells this moment around Thomas to identify with our humanity and hint at what John knew to be true.  The story has these humans gathered in fear in their old nature, against the new natures they had lived with Jesus.  So John shows us that resurrection is not a thing to be believed, but a thing to experience, and experience changes what we do.  The deep truth of ‘Christ is Risen’ woke this fearful bunch in that upper room, and the continued stories of those followers showed their courageous lives as not believing resurrection, but living it.
 
The Acts reading shows us some of the fruits of living our own resurrection – community, common wealth, the companionship of mutual support.  Yet I hesitate with this and wonder whether the compiler of Acts was more aspirational than not. Living resurrection so that one is free to be generous goes against most of our natures. It is difficult. It’s not that we can’t be generous, but trying to be generous because it is a good thing to be can be like believing because we feel we must.  It is taking on a behaviour in hope that our deeper selves will be better – indeed that God will love us more.  Though we know that God loves us no matter what, many of us have an exhausting list of all the reasons God shouldn’t.  If God really knew, God wouldn’t love us.  So we’d better be good. Whether this is you or not, so many of us behave in order to believe, or believe in order to behave.
 
What Easter calls us to do is neither.  Easter’s message ‘Christ is Risen’ calls us not to believe, or to behave, but to live resurrection.  Fine, Elizabeth. HOW?!
 
First of all, look back at your own life.  You are here now, this moment, in this podcast, listening to these words.  You are here.  Now.  You know that there were times when you thought you wouldn’t be here.  You might have been near death as I have been, or you might not have had your mental health, or your physical health has been so limited, or you might not have had the courage to make the commitment to open this service and listen.   You have been through an enormous amount in your lives no matter what age you are, and much of what you’ve been through most people don’t even know. 
 
Second, name that truth.  You are here. Physically. Alive, even while you grieve. 
 
Third, have a go at naming the deeper truth of your being here.  Each moment you thought you’d die, each time you thought you wouldn’t make it, you did. Each and every time you thought it was the end, it wasn’t.  It may not feel fair.  Let’s lay that down. You are here no matter what.
 
Dare to call each survival resurrection.  In real time, you faced your own hell and you have come out of it. With help sometimes, other times, all on your lonesome.  You may be more fragile as a result or you may have more character or more courage or less worry.  However, you’ve come out, you’re here.  I call that resurrection.  Life from death.
 
Finally, breathe that in.  Let Holy Spirit, God’s self in this present moment, affirm that you are indeed a person of resurrection experience.  You have lived it.  It isn’t someone else’s story.  Your story is that you are already living resurrection. You have had your own upper room of fear, and you are here.  You have met ‘Christ is Risen’ and you are living resurrection.
When that happens, you, we, can do anything.  No longer afraid, swept out of our fear by the resurrections we have truly and literally experienced, we can live that resurrection where we see others who are in fear.  Full of Holy Spirit, we can walk the way of Jesus, working with power where injustice needs resurrection power.  We can talk to politicians without undue awe – we’re resurrected people.  We can look others in the eye with humility, care and respect because we don’t need them to affirm us.  We’re are resurrection lives. We can read what we’ve been afraid to see and write what we’ve kept ourselves from writing. There is no stopping us.  There is no stopping you.
 
For many of you listening, you are rightly full of scepticism.  I gently ask you to look back.  See a moment you survived.  Try saying to yourself, “I lived after that.” “I am living resurrection.” “I can walk this walk.”
Bless you.
 
Christ is Risen! You are Risen!
Alleluia, Amen.
 
Hymn       Father of Mercy, God of Consolation
                  Fr James Quinn SJ
 
Father of mercy,
God of consolation,
Look on your people,
gathered here to praise you,
Pity our weakness,
come in power to aid us,
Source of all blessing.

2: Son of the Father,
Lord of all creation,
Come as our Saviour,
Jesus, friend of sinners,
Grant us forgiveness,
lift our downcast spirit,
Heal us and save us.
 
3: Life-giving Spirit,
be our light in darkness,
Come to befriend us,
help us bear our burdens,
Give us true courage,
breathe your peace around us,
Stay with us always.
 
4: God in Three Persons,
Father, Son and Spirit,
Come to renew us,
fill your Church with glory,
Grant us your healing,
pledge of resurrection,
Foretaste of heaven.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
God’s reconciling act in Jesus Christ is a mystery
which the Scriptures describe in various ways.

 It is called the sacrifice of a lamb, a shepherd’s life given for his sheep, atonement by a priest; again it is ransom of a slave, payment of debt, vicarious satisfaction of a legal penalty, and victory over the powers of evil. These are expressions of a truth which remains beyond the reach of all theory in the depths of God’s love for humankind.
 
They reveal the gravity, cost,
and sure achievement of God’s reconciling work in which we trust.
 
Intercessions
 
Please find an object you are happy and comfortable to hold.  It could be a cushion, a small figurine, a stone, a stuffed animal.  Find anything you are happy to simple be with, and join in prayer. I’ll wait a moment whilst you find and hold it.   (pause for 30 seconds)
 
Living God of this time and place, we come to you for ourselves, desperately seeking to love ourselves as much as we love our neighbours.  We come to your for our neighbours, desperately seeking to love all of our neighbours as much as we love ourselves.
 
Lord God, I hold this thing in my hands.  It is real, I can see it, I can feel it.  It reminds me of my reality and the realities of my life.  I thank you for my resurrection times.
 
I so want others to know this too.  In this silence, I name those who are dear to me who I want you to touch and heal.
 
Oh God, I see the faces of people in the news and imagine their agony.  I hold this thing in my hands and move myself to more care than I have had, as if by holding this object, I hold them.  Move more people to care, dear God.  Move more to speak out instead of keeping silent.  I am together in this prayer time with others.  As we all hold something now, let us all see the path to actions, bringing resurrection life and anger to what appear to be hopeless things. In this silence, we name all those people, places and situations in our world which cry out for meaningful connection and justice; structures, our planet, our societies and for all of those touched by them.
 
We bring all of these prayers to you O God, confidently and hopefully, for you are our Saviour, our own resurrection life. 
 
We pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the power and presence of Holy Spirit.  Amen.
 
Offertory
 
We offer now what we can.  It comes from our personal commitment and by your gracious resurrection life.  As we thank you that we have it to offer, let the gathering of this which we can give be blessed to change as much as it can into loving service and relief.
 
Hymn       Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Robert Robinson (1735-1790)
 
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it
mount of Thy redeeming love.
 
2: Here I raise my Ebenezer.
Here there by Thy help I come.
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger
wandering from the fold of God.
He, to rescue me from danger
interposed His precious blood.

3: Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be.
Let that goodness like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it - prone to leave the God I love.
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it seal it for Thy courts above.

Blessing
 
May God who is light shine in your darkness
May God who is love be the love between you
May God who is life be your life everlasting
And the blessing of God, Creator, Christ and Spirit be with you and remain with you now and forever.
Amen
 
Sources and thanks
 
Jesus is risen, alleluia! - Bernard Kyamanywa, English version © John Bell (b1949)  sung by Scottish Festival Singers, Ian McCrorie (Conductor), John Kitchen (Organ)
Breathe on Me Breath of God- Edwin Hatch (1835-1889) - BBC’s Songs of Praise
Faith Begins by Letting Go - Carl P Daw © 1996 Hope Publishing Company- Sung and played by the Rev’d Paul Robinson
Father of Mercy, God of Consolation - Fr James Quinn SJ - sung by the choir of Marlborough College Chapel
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing - Robert Robinson (1735-1790) - sung by the group All Sons and Daughters
 
Organ Pieces:
Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Procession by Arthur Wills
(organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014)
 
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com

Thanks to Andrew Wilson-Dickson, John Marsh, Pam Carpenter, Adrian Bulley, Jenny Sheehan and David Shimmin for reading various spoken parts of the service.
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th April 2021

Sun, 11/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 11th April

Psalm 38
1 Rebuke me not in anger, Lord:
restrain your wrath, I pray;
grant that your child be yet restored,
not judged and cast away.
I feel your arrows deep within,
I sink beneath your hand
and underneath a weight of sin
too great for me to stand.

2 For sinful folly now I pay:
I'm humbled to the ground,
as I go mourning all the day
and no relief is found.
I feel my body racked with pain,
diseased in every part,
so crushed that I cannot contain
the groanings of my heart.

3 My longings, Lord, to you are known,
you see my every tear;
my strength, my sight are almost gone,
my friends will not come near.
And others lay their deadly snares,
all day they plot and lie;
like one who neither speaks nor hears,
I offer no reply.

4 In you, O Lord, my hope I place:
Lord, answer when I call;
let those not jeer at my distress,
who long to see me fall.
My foothold is about to go,
my torment will not cease;
and my iniquity I know:
my sin permits no peace.

5 My foes are many and are strong,
their hatred has no cause;
my kindness they repay with wrong,
although I keep your laws.
O Lord, be with me to the last,
remain for ever near;
come to my rescue, come with haste:
O Lord, my Saviour, hear!

David G Preston (born 1939) from Psalm 38
This works well to Kingsfold which you can hear here
https://hymnary.org/media/fetch/199009

Reflection
The writer is recalling a time that they felt completely isolated, both from God and from other people. There is no assurance of, or thanksgiving for, healing. It doesn’t seem to fit in with a religious ceremony. It is a lament, a Psalm with an “alphabetic” structure (has the same number of verses as the number of letters in the alphabet) and was probably used for personal devotion.

Whilst I can understand the feelings that gave rise to the words, I cannot take them literally:


Holy God, I beg for mercy. I feel completely alone. I try to centre myself on you and all I sense is absence, and that leaves my heart and spirit broken. Feeling separated from you is like an arrow in my side, my strength has gone, and dark clouds fill my horizon.

Why? What have I done for this to be my fate? Reveal to me what I should do! Help me!

My circle of family, friends and neighbours, all those closest to me, step back lest they fall into the pit I am in. They fear saying the wrong thing, making matters worse, or risking the balance of their own fragile lives.

I imagine all kinds of traps being set for me as I sink deeper. I can hear no consolation. I can speak no words of kindness. O God I need your presence, and to hear your Word.

Why would anyone relish my discomfort? I feel the abyss before me. My sorrow is overwhelming. I believe I am worthless. Forgive me!

I think that everyone is against me. I see anger and hostility all around me. I try my best, but no-one considers me worth their effort.

Holy God, have mercy. Draw close to me. Hurry to my side. Save me, O God.

Prayer
Thank God for the NHS! Thank God for our forebears and peers who by trial and error, theory and experiment, modelling and recommendation, revealed, explored, and affected our health, well-being, and lives. Even though they at times faced ridicule, persecution or were overlooked, they continued in their endeavours trusting that Creation was comprehendible, consistent, and creative. Thank God for the invitation to be co-creators, custodians, and observers of Creation. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Rev’d David Coaker serves with Grays URC in Essex.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 10th April 2021

Sat, 10/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 10th April

Can we take oaths in God’s name then?

Exodus 20: 7

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

Reflection

In January President Biden and Vice-President Harris took oaths of office ending “so help me God”. Both also rested a hand on chosen Bibles to underscore the solemnity of their oaths. This is a tradition, despite the strict separation of State and Church in the USA.

In Exodus the people were warned against wrongful use of God’s name, not against using God’s name at all. So when could they call on God’s name and God’s power, for the name of God is powerful? Disclosed to Moses in Exodus 3.13-20 as “I AM” or alternatively interpreted as “I will be what I will be” the name shows that God’s freedom could not be constrained. God chooses to be present in the name and trusts fallible human beings to use it rightly. God’s name was to be used by Israel alone, for blessings, solemn undertakings and, sometimes, overcoming enemies. Improper use would be in lying, bearing false witness, or trying to bind God to human purposes. Breaking the duties of a promise taken under oath invoked divine punishment. “So help me God – you can punish me if I fail.” How many violent intentions have been carried out to their conclusion because of a promise made in fear of God?

The early Church was clear on the point of not using God’s name for oaths. Matthew 5. 33-37 and James 5.12 state “let your ‘Yes’ be yes and your ‘No’ be no”: integrity as a Christian and as a human being was enough, without bringing God overtly into the matter. The divine was already present in a life lived in reliance on God.

So when encountering systems of justice Christians should perhaps choose to “solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm” the truth of their testimony rather than swearing by Almighty God.

Prayer
God who is and will be,
source of truth,
expression of complete integrity,
give us the courage to face whatever must be endured
relying on you
so that your name will be known
whether we use it or not.

Amen
 
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Today's writer

Revd Fiona Thomas, freelance facilitator, member of Christ Church, Bellingham.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Liturgical Resources following the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 12:30
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Liturgical Resources following the death of
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh



 
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Dear <<First Name>>

The United Reformed Church has prepared the resources, below, for individuals and congregations to use following the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.


with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

Reading Psalm 107: 23-31

Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.

Reflection

The death of HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, brings a moment to reflect on an extraordinary life. For many, this death will leave them feeling shaken, as the life of someone who has for so many decades been at the heart of our nation comes to an end.

He was born in Corfu and baptised into the Orthodox Church. Later received into the Church of England, many who have known the Duke of Edinburgh bear witness to the depth of his faith and his theological knowledge. A regular visitor to Mount Athos, and a keen questioner of preachers, his faith was much more than nominal.

With a childhood marred by political turmoil and danger, as his family fled from Greece, Philip was, in many ways, often almost alone in the world as he grew up. Gordonstoun School and the British Royal Navy gave him roots and a home, and with marriage to Princess Elizabeth his life’s path was set. She described him, in 2012, as a ‘constant strength and guide’ and his supportive role as a husband was one he fulfilled over decades of marriage. It is often said that he felt the loss of his own career keenly, but he became a hardworking member of the Royal Family, taking up causes and projects with formidable energy.

Many of us will have been, or will know, someone who learned a love of the outdoors, spurred on by the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. Countless young people have learned endurance and survival skills, navigating maps and building fires, walking in the hills and bedding down in tents, achieving things they would not have imagined possible. Prince Philip has also been a tireless campaigner on behalf of threatened wildlife and for the preservation of the earth.

Known for his blunt and forthright speech, and for being the man who was always one step behind the Queen, he was a determined supporter of his wife, an energetic sportsman, a committed conservationist, with the strength of character to remain steady through changing and difficult times. Queen Elizabeth often acknowledged her debt to him and encouraged the whole nation to recognise it too.

At this moment of his death we have an opportunity to reflect and to give thanks, for a life of dedicated service to nation and commonwealth. We pray for his family and closest friends, for those who will mourn and miss him most. And we draw hope from the faith into which he was baptised, declaring that Christ is risen.


Prayer

O God, our rock and our redeemer,
we come to worship you
and to give thanks for your servant Philip.

We thank you for his long life,
for his dedicated support of his wife in her vocation as Queen,
and for his service to commonwealth and nation.

We thank you for the Duke of Edinburgh award,
for the work of the World Wide Fund for Nature
and for so many causes he inspired and supported.

We thank you for what he has meant
to each one of us…

We treasure memories
of meeting him ….

We rejoice that he lived and shared
the faith we hold,
and that, by your grace,
he survived danger and threat.

We pray for those who will miss him most deeply,
that they may find comfort and hope.

We celebrate and affirm our faith
that death is defeated,
that new life awaits your children,
and that creation is renewed in Christ.

And, in this day and time, we pray,
as we are always glad to pray,
may your Kingdom come. Amen.

 


Other suggested readings

Genesis 1: 24-26
(the creation of wild animals and the responsibility of humankind)
Psalm 121 (I lift up my eyes to the hills…)
Ephesians 5: 25-33 (the love of a man for his wife)
1 Corinthians 15: 17-26 (Christ has been raised from the dead)


 

  

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URC Daily Devotion 9th April 2021

Fri, 09/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Friday 9th April

Not misusing God’s name?

Exodus 20: 7
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Reflection

Ministering as a Pioneer, working mainly with young adults in cafes and bars in South Manchester I hear the words ‘Jesus Christ’ quite regularly … often followed by an apology! 

Exclaiming the name of Jesus as an expression of shock or surprise, disappointment or frustration, anger or ecstasy is a common thing in our society, and although I doubt any of those who apologise for the language used when in the company of a minister are directly concerned about Exodus Chapter 20 verse 7, it is from this verse where the idea of ‘using the Lord’s name in vain’ arises. 

Amongst those reading our Daily Devotions I suspect feelings will be diverse as to whether hearing the name of Jesus used in this way is offensive, uncomfortable, or of little concern. Whatever your personal feelings, I would suggest that in our engagement with others perhaps different from ourselves it is always better to listen carefully to what is being expressed, rather than the language used to express it.
 
All that said, to reduce this verse to concerns about swearing is to lose sight of much more troublesome behaviours which this commandment is much more likely to be warning us against, regarding swearing an oath, rather than swearing as bad language.
 
Reformed voices of the past have interpreted this verse to be a warning against several different ways of making commitments in God’s name, but failing to fulfil them, knowingly or not.

Whether we ourselves would ‘swear to God’ as if to guarantee our claims, perhaps this verse can serve as a reminder to all of us to avoid making promises to God and others with little sincerity; of making promises in haste with little regard for the difficulty of the task; of protesting our innocence when we know ourselves to be guilty, or swearing what we say is true, when we know it to be false.  

Prayer

God, whose name is holy
and can inspire the best in us,
we acknowledge the ways in which we can hide our frailty behind your name. 
When we speak the name of God, 
May it be to share our wonder of you and your love for us
in a world in little need of false promises, 
but yearning to know what is good and true. 

Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Rev’d Mike Walsh, SCM Pioneer Minister, Chorlton, Manchester.  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Pandemic Prayer and Improved Podcasts

Thu, 08/04/2021 - 11:53
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Pandemic Prayer and Improved Podcasts

Dear Friends,

This week's pandemic prayer was written by the Rev'd Fleur Houston and focuses on the Risen Lord who guides us through difficult times.  You can read this, and other prayers in the series by clicking here.

You will have seen, a few weeks, ago we managed to get our recordings of each Daily Devotion published as a "podcast" which now can be accessed by any number of podcast providers.  You can ask Google, Alexa or Siri (if you have these artifiicial assistants" to "play today's podcast of the Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church" (the word "podcast" seems to be needed!")  You can also hear it by clicking on the "podcast" link above and in each day's email.  Thanks to Leslie Schram a very clever member of my congregation in Stewarton we now have a short piece of music to start and end each day's podcast.  We hope this enhances the experience for those of you who prefer to listen to the reflection each day.

with every good wish


Andy --> --> --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend -->
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URC Daily Devotion 8th April 2021

Thu, 08/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Thursday 8th April

Exodus 20: 7

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

Reflection

What is your favourite name or title for the Triune God and why? Usually, names say something about who and how people are. There are about 80 different names for God in the Bible, mostly in the Old Testament. Each name depicts a specific attribute and essence of God. God appears to be more like a verb than a noun. God’s names often refer to what God has done and what God can do. So, God’s names can be strongly connected to the times, situations and settings, when they are used.

The prime name of God is YHWH, an expression of the eternal and unutterable character of God. Today, many people use God’s name in situations of shock, surprise and overwhelming:  somewhat calling God into their situation in a consumerist and irreverent manner.  Other people use God to make promises, many of which are not only lazy and cunning but also alien to God’s will. The biggest issue to me is when one uses God’s name for personal gain or fame. God’s name has been misused and misappropriated since the creation. In Acts 19.13, the seven sons of a Jewish High priest named Sceva, tried to use Jesus’ name to cast out evil spirits, like Paul did. Yet, they end up being mauled by those spirits. They did not know that Paul used Jesus’ powerful name out of an active relationship, intimacy, submission, reverence and cooperation.

More than just a noun, God’s name may be used like an incarnate verb in praise, selfless-service, prayer, petition and thanksgiving. We could do so, expecting God’s attributes to be embodied around us, for the expression and growth of the Kingdom. ‘God’ is like a relational, powerful and incarnate verb. If ever used, then to God alone be the glory.

Prayer

El Shaddai, You are almighty and sovereign
Adonai, at Your name every knee bow in heaven and on earth.
Elohim, thank you for making us wonderfully in Your image
El Roi, thank you for saving us
Jehovah Jireh, we lay our needs and longings at Your feet
Jehovah Rohi, be our shepherd in this pandemic wilderness
Jehovah Shalom, grant us peace, passing all understanding
Emmanuel, be in our waking, working and resting. 
Amen
 
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Today's writer

Rev’d Bachelard Kaze, Minister, Eastwood & Marlpool 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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Sunday's coming

Wed, 07/04/2021 - 15:15
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Sunday's service will be led by the Revd. Elizabeth Gray-King. Elizabeth is a person of many talents! I know her as having one of the most soothing, reassuring voices across the entire denomination. Which is probably why she excels as Programme Coordinator for the Education + Learning Team at Church House, Project Manager, Visual Theologian and URC Minister of Word and Sacraments.

Low Sunday, as well as being interestingly named, is an interesting Sunday to tackle. How do we ride the wave of Easter? What does Easter mean now for us? Find out more on Sunday! Hymns include Jesus is Risen, Alleluia, Breathe on me, breath of God, Faith begins by letting go and a wonderful rendition of Come thou found of every blessing.

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 blessing


Dan


Dan Morrell
Editor, Daily Devotion Sunday Services from the URC -->

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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 7th April 2021

Wed, 07/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Wednesday 7th April   Worship God alone
 
Exodus 20: 1 - 6

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Reflection

The last bit of this reading really doesn’t seem fair. Surely God doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents? As Christians surely we don’t believe in that kind of damning inherited karma?

Researching family history is a very popular occupation. It’s amazing just how far back a researcher can go using old censuses, newspapers, and other written material easily accessed online. And there’s the fascination of programmes like ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Celebrities discover ancestors of varying types and react, some with tears, others with pride….

We each have a backstory and some of us will have a backstory of folk who were more sinners than saints, folk who may indeed have rejected God. But that does not force us to reject God in our own turn. Their influence down the ages might have been less than helpful, a punishment in itself, but we each have our choice of the way we will take - and as a result, the influence our lives and choices will have on the generations that come after us.

I cling to a belief in a God of new beginnings, the one who not only has an ever-open door but comes running out to embrace us at the first sight of a step back towards him. 

Prayer

Open our eyes to our responsibilities to the generations that will follow us - both physically in terms of our responsibility for the environment we hand on to them, but also spiritually, that they might enjoy the loving relationship with God that he so desires, through his son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
 
 
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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.
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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 6th April 2021

Tue, 06/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Tuesday 6th April  Graven images
 
Exodus 20: 1 - 4 

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Reflection

‘And God spoke all these words’.
  Do we take it as a ‘dibrot’ something like an ‘utterance’ or perhaps even ‘inspired speech’ or does being ‘etched into stone’ make it outdated and not relevant for today?  Robert Alter describes: ‘Writing on stone an archaic medium of communication which lines up with archaic fire (roasting) and archaic baking (unleavened bread) earlier in the story’. Is a card in the post carefully written in your own hand an outdated mode of communication?

During Advent we used the worship song ‘Hush there’s a Baby’’*. Had we been in church, doing the actions would have been easy, but in front of your laptop . . .? How on earth can you do ‘Bow right Down’ when , in effect, you are trying to touch your toes! (Can you do that? ‘Touch your toes? Pre-lockdown maybe but as the pounds go on it might be more of a struggle!)

The ‘Bow right Down’ was about the magi visiting the Christ Child with precious gifts. Today’s text commands us not to bow down to the wrong things. An idol is anything that takes God’s place in our lives. Commentators suggest that these commandments are about naming who we follow. We cannot have two masters.  African culture teaches: ‘A person cannot choose two roads at the same time’ (Mali) while in Cameroon the saying is ‘One cannot chase two pigeons at once’. ( Do you remember the phrase ‘Catch the Pigeon’ from Dastardly and Muttley?)

The words of this commandment could be translated ‘no other God against me’ or ‘beside me’ or ‘above me’. During Lockdown I came off my bike spectacularly and found my face slammed against the concrete surface of the pavement. The Commandments were etched in tablets of stone, in your face. God is literally beside us, picks us up and says ‘Get back on your bike and keep going’.

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YurJsAVorg
 
Prayer

Gracious God, as I bow before you,
whether on my knees or trying to touch my toes,
You are beside me.
You are literally in my face, whether I am comfortable or not.
 
May I know your continuing presence right in front of me,
guiding and encouraging me.
When I fail and fall
and when I cannot physically
bow right down,
give me the courage to keep on going,
knowing you are beside me. 
Amen.
 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Andrew Royal, Minister, Maidstone & Staplehurst URC’s 
 
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 © 2021 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Monday 5th April 2021

Mon, 05/04/2021 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 5th April   Belief and worship only of God
 
Exodus 20: 1 - 4 

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;  you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Reflection

‘I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have none other gods but me’… 

thus boomed the voice of the vicar in the parish church I used to attend. 
The words of the Ten Commandments, used at the beginning of every Communion service, were jarring. 
It was as though, in some way, they always spoke to me.

I’ve often thought this, the first Commandment of the Ten, to be the hardest one. 

Most of us, I would suspect, find it fairly easy not to kill people; 
most of us try our best not to take the Lord’s Name in vain; 
most of us try to honour our parents… 
but having other gods before God? That one is a bit trickier.

But surely I don’t have any false gods? 
Surely I wouldn’t put anyone/thing in front of God? 
Surely not I, the supposedly respectable Christian?

Apart, perhaps, from the football match I choose to attend instead of coming to church; 
apart, perhaps, from the kudos I crave among my friends;
or the latest gadget I strive for;
the higher salary I covet;
or the latest position of importance I seek to occupy…

Do you have anything in your life that tries to occupy God’s place? Do you have anything that seeks to take your priority away from God?

If so, perhaps the first Commandment speaks as much to you as it does to me…?

Prayer

I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have none other gods but Me.
Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these Thy laws in our hearts, we beseech Thee. Amen

(taken from the Order for Communion from the Book of Common Prayer)
 
 
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Today's writer

Michael RJ Topple, Elder, Chappel URC, Essex Copyright
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The Ten Commandments

Sun, 04/04/2021 - 18:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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The Ten Commandments

Dear Friends,

First, I wish you and those you love a Happy Easter!  This is the second Easter we've celebrated under the shadow of Covid but we know that Christ is Risen and, in his risen life he gives us hope.  It is my fervent hope that as Spring continues and Summer comes we may be able to find some ways of returning to a more normal life.

I hope you've found our read through of St Mark's Gospel over the last few months rewarding.  The earliest manuscripts of St Mark end where we left of this morning with the women discovering the empty tomb and running off with fear and puzzlement.  Some think that an older ending has been lost, some thing the alternative endings often added to these verses in our Bibles are later additions by editors who wanted to round the story off nicely.  I like the stark ending as it shows the story moves to us.  The Risen One encourages us in our worship, our witness, our service and our evangelism.

We turn now to the Book of Exodus and the Ten Commandments which are at the heart of both Jewish and Christian morality; in ages past Christian children would be taught them by rote and many Protestant church buildings had them inscribed on the walls.  As one of our writers notes, some orders for Holy Communion have the Commandments read to the people as part of the liturgy! 

There is something of a dispute in how they are numbered.  The differing Biblical passages about the  commandments list 10 but the texts themselves have rather more than 10 direct commandments.  St Augustine of Hippo divided the commandments up into the order that Catholic and Lutheran churches use now.  Thinkers in the Early Church of the East divided them up slightly differently and this division is used by many Orthodox and Protestant Churches.  The content is the same, we start and end in the same place but there is some difference.  Catholics and Lutherans fold the commandment about graven images into the first commandment and separate out two commandments about covetousness.  We aren’t following either numbering system slavishly.  Sometimes there may be an extra Scriptural passage to help our reflections; each Commandment is given consideration over several days as we muse on what they might mean for us now - what does the command not to murder imply for pacifism?  What does the commandment about adultery, written in an age where women were seen as property, mean for contemporary relationships?  Can we not steal if we own property? 

Throughout April we will think more deeply about these Commandments and are helped by a range of writers from different places with different perspectives.  I hope you find them useful in your own journey of discipleship.


with every good wish


Andy


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