URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 4th July 2020

Sat, 04/07/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 4th July Jonah 4
 
Jonah 1:11-16
 
Then they said to him, ‘What shall we do to you, that the sea may quieten down for us?’ For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous.  He said to them, ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quieten down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.’  Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them.  Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.’  So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
 
Reflection
 
The sailors ask Jonah what they should do to resolve the situation, which was getting worse. Jonah admits he’s the problem and seems willing to bear the consequences; he tells them to hurl him into the sea. However this response leaves the responsibility for throwing Jonah to his death, firmly on their shoulders. Jonah could have taken responsibility himself and acted to save the ship and its crew by jumping overboard!
 
The sailors, though, respond by risking their own lives and going to great lengths trying to reach shore and save Jonah too; but to no avail. Then, remarkably, they (not Jonah!) cry out in prayer to Jonah’s God, by name, asking that God won’t hold them guilty of taking an innocent man’s life, if they do as Jonah suggests. Declaring this as God’s will, they hurl Jonah into the sea and the storm ceases. The sailors immediately worship the God of Israel wholeheartedly. Have they converted from their own faiths to Yahwism? Or have they added Israel’s God alongside whichever gods they previously worshipped? The text doesn’t say – but either way, unbeknown to Jonah and contrary to his intentions, he has brought pagan sailors into a meaningful relationship with the one true God. Where that relationship goes is left to God and them.
 
God saw an opportunity to reach out and touch the hearts of people who hadn’t heard the gospel. Jonah simply revealed God’s name and referred briefly to the power of God; and that opened the way for a relationship to begin.
 
This encourages me to believe that God can use my inadequate (and at times, reluctant) efforts at sharing the good news of Christ with others, to draw them into faith. It doesn’t matter what we say, as long as we say something about God and Christ as we engage with others.
 
Prayer
 
Almighty God, thank you for reaching out in love to all the peoples on earth.

Thank you for coming in Jesus to reveal yourself more fully, that we might know you and be drawn into relationship with you.
 
Forgive us when we keep silent about our faith because we don’t know what to say.

Help us speak of you as a natural part of every conversation with others, trusting your Spirit to complete your work. Amen
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge 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 3rd July 2020

Fri, 03/07/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 3rd July  Jonah 3


Jonah 1:7-10

The sailors said to one another, ‘Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.  Then they said to him, ‘Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?’   ‘I am a Hebrew,’ he replied. ‘I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’  Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, ‘What is this that you have done!’ For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.

Reflection

This part of the story tells of the sailors trying to discern the divine will and purpose by casting lots. This practice was also part of Israel’s religious tradition right down to New Testament times (see Acts 2:26). The lot falls on Jonah, identifying him as the cause of their predicament. We see the innate humanity of the sailors who don’t immediately respond with anger (or worse) but ask Jonah to explain who he is and question him about what’s going on.

Jonah’s replies are extraordinary and he fails to answer most of their questions. He identifies as a ‘Hebrew’, the term used of the community enslaved in Egypt before God’s people encountered the covenant God at Sinai and were formed into Israel. His words about the nature of that God , whom he names as the one he worships, belie what he apparently believed when fleeing the land of Israel (God’s realm of influence according to the polytheistic worldview of 8th century Israel) to escape the presence of the LORD.

The last sentence of our passage doesn’t correspond with any words attributed to Jonah in his dialogue with the crew. Nonetheless, what he does say affects the sailors deeply; they realise that defying the will of this God is not a very good idea! They are really scared now.

Jonah has spoken the truth about the creative power and presence of God; but his behaviour thus far hasn’t demonstrated such belief. Nor have we had any words of contrition from Jonah. Jonah is the only one who hasn’t prayed.

I wonder whether we are ever guilty of proclaiming the truth about Christ but failing to live as though we believe it. And I know that my prayer life needs to improve, in good times and bad – what about yours?

Prayer

Creator God, we often struggle to recognise your ongoing work in our world and to discern what you are saying to us today.

Open our hearts and minds, our eyes and ears, to the promptings of your Spirit; and help us to recognise Christ active in the lives of those around us.

Help us to be people of prayer at all times, because only through our relationship with you do we become our true selves. Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge 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 2nd July 2020

Thu, 02/07/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 2nd July  Jonah 2

Jonah 1:4-6

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up.  Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep.  The captain came and said to him, ‘What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.’

Reflection

Jonah was trying to get as far away from God as possible. He had gone down to Joppa and now goes down to the ship’s hold and lays down; but God is still present and active, high up in the heavens, controlling both winds and waves. The sailors are frightened, the ship is portrayed as trying to decide how to respond to God’s power; but Jonah is fast asleep. I wonder, do we ever turn our backs on the turmoil in the world and hope to sleep through it?

In contrast to Jonah, the ship’s crew are all praying to their own gods for help. As the wind is hurled at them, they hurl the cargo overboard; saving their lives is more important than material goods being traded for profit. Jonah sleeps on until the captain wakes him and urges him to call on his god too; but interestingly the text is silent as to whether Jonah responds or not.

All the sailors demonstrate faith in divine power. They believe the gods are in control of the forces of nature; and the gods are the ones who can save them from death. The captain also reveals a deep understanding that a true God has freedom to choose how divine power is wielded. May we always have the humility to realise that people of other faiths have things to teach us, as Christians, about faithful prayer and trust in God.

In any time of trouble it is important that we turn to God in prayer seeking divine help; but we should remember that God already knows our needs and doesn’t need to be nudged into action. Our prayers should express our faith and trust in God’s eternal love and mercy and our readiness to say, ‘Your will be done.’

Prayer

God of power, reveal yourself to us in mighty acts when we hide away and pretend that we can manage life without you.

Lift us up by the working of your Holy Spirit so that we can play our part in resolving the troubles of this world alongside all whom you give us to be our brothers and sisters.

Let us become beacons of hope as we live the life of Christ, confidently, through faith. Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge 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

Wed, 01/07/2020 - 12:15
96 Sunday's Coming View this email in your browser

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

I hope you can join us on Sunday when the Rev'd Ruth Browning, a retired minister living in Gloucestershire, will be leading worship for us.  As usual the email will be sent out in time for a 10am start but the service can be listened to at any time.  Ruth will be reflecting on Jesus words "My yoke is easy, my burden is light".   We will be singing Marty Haugen's Let Us Build a House, Horatrius Bonar's I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, John Bell and Graham's Maule's Will You Come and Follow Me? and Fr Cesáreo Gabaráin's Lord You Have Come to the Seashore.

with every good wish


Andy

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


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URC Daily Devotion 1st July 2020

Wed, 01/07/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 1st July  Jonah 1
 
Jonah 1:1-3
 
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying,  ‘Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’  But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
 
Reflection
 
A prophet might expect a word from God with a new commission; but a command to go ‘at once’ to an enemy nation is unprecedented in scripture. Nineveh became symbolic for the barbaric behaviour of the Assyrians who wiped out the northern kingdom of Israel in the 8 th century BCE. It represents the most wicked place imaginable on earth.
 
How would you respond if God called you to go and confront a regime such as the Khmer Rouge, or the perpetrators of the holocausts at the height of their powers? To call out their wickedness in the name of God?
 
I suspect I might react somewhat like Jonah and flee in the opposite direction. Nineveh lay far to the east, while Tarshish was possibly in southern Spain, in the far west, each at the end of the known world in the story’s context. But Jonah doesn’t just renounce his commission, he tries to flee from God.
 
The open sea was associated with the waters of Chaos by ancient Israelites; a deadly, godless, environment that threatened to overwhelm God’s created lands. Sailors were de facto foreigners, at best worshippers of other gods and idols. When Jonah buys a passage on a ship he’s fleeing to a realm which he believes is beyond God’s reach and entrusting himself to powers and agents he would normally regard fearfully. He is fleeing ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’; but also abandoning his covenant relationship with God.
 
Fear can cause us to make irrational decisions and to forget Christ’s promise to be with us always. It can cause us to say ‘no’ to God’s call before stopping to consider how God intends to equip and sustain us for any task. Thankfully, as we will discover from Jonah’s story, God never abandons us.
 
Prayer
 
Faithful God, forgive us when we run from you and your call to service because we’re fearful and feel inadequate for the task.
 
Forgive us when we seek security from the powers of this world instead of entrusting ourselves to your loving embrace.
 
Help us to recognise our foolishness and strengthen our faith in you.
 
Fill us with a desire to serve and a readiness to go wherever you send, that Christ’s kingdom might come. Amen.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge 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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The Book of Jonah

Tue, 30/06/2020 - 18:30
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The Book of Jonah

Dear <<First Name>>

I hope you have enjoyed our wander through Genesis and the early parts of Exodus over the last month.  We're going to take a break from that now and look at the Book of Jonah.  The Rev'd Janet Tollington is now retired but for many years was the Old Testament tutor at Westminster College.  She will be guiding us through Jonah and writes:
 
"I am writing these devotions at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic while we remain in lockdown across Britain. Nonetheless I am approaching the book of Jonah in a way that I hope will highlight its humour; and also its challenge to us, as the people of God, to see the bigger picture of God’s grace and mercy from God’s perspective, rather than our own.
 
"Jonah appears in one other place in the Old Testament, in 2 Kings 14:25 as a faithful, true, prophet to King Jeroboam II of Israel, which would make him a near contemporary of the prophets Amos and Hosea. However, the book of Jonah was probably written at a much later time (after the Exile, during Persian rule over Judah) as a fictional story built around that otherwise little known prophet. It is often described as a didactic story – intended to teach – and it conveys God’s living word to each and every generation that listens to, or reads, it with open hearts and minds.
 
"It is a book full of exaggeration and comic features that verge on absurdity. The author caricatures the prophet, who represents the inward looking, narrow nationalism, attributed to the long-lost Northern Kingdom of Israel. It speaks to a small community of God’s people, after exile, who were struggling to establish a new sense of identity and to work out what their role was in a world of empires under a fairly benign government that had no interest in the Jewish faith. The book challenges any mistaken understanding of being chosen by God in terms of ‘favouritism’, while emphasising the extraordinary length, breadth and depth of God’s love towards the recalcitrant prophet – and to all the other inhabitants of earth, both human and animal.
 
"Enjoy the story; but be prepared to learn some things about yourself and God as it unfolds over the next 10 days."

with every good wish


Andy


 
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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 30th June 2020

Tue, 30/06/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 30th June 2020 - Aaron’s Rod

Exodus 7: 8 - 13

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘When Pharaoh says to you, “Perform a wonder”, then you shall say to Aaron, “Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, and it will become a snake.”’ So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did as the Lord had commanded; Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake.  Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same by their secret arts. Each one threw down his staff, and they became snakes; but Aaron’s staff swallowed up theirs.  Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

Reflection

Exodus 7 and the account of the audience with Pharoah is the prelude to the 10 plagues of Egypt and Moses’s commitment to set his people free. He was a man of influence at Pharaoh's court (Exodus 11.3) but his brother Aaron was the better speaker, and so their 2-pronged campaign began. It was common practice at Pharaoh's court to look for magic signs and omens to decide policy, and the “stick trick” with snakes (baby crocodiles) was probably standard repertoire. Moses and Aaron win, but the Pharaoh is unimpressed. The plagues follow.
I reflect at a time of plague, Corvid-19. We don’t know whether it’s God’s judgement on our climate abuse or just one of those “acts of God” sent to try us. I worry because I know what the last plague is, and I’m a first-born. I reflect on Aaron: called to be a prophet. I’m humbled by Moses, called to be the voice of God, shouting “set my people free”. I remember the last of the prophets, John Baptist, and his fate at the court of Herod. I kneel before Jesus, the voice of God made flesh. He was sceptical about signs and wonders. When he healed the sick, he told his disciples to keep quiet. Feeding the hungry, he talked about the bread of life which banished spiritual hunger. He was wary of signs and miracles which were the trade of the mountebank and con-man. But when it came to the last plague, the death of the first-born, he offered himself, so that, as the High Priest in the Court of the Sanhedrin inadvertently prophesied, “One man should die for the people”. “Let my people go” said Moses, “No man has greater love than this, that he lays down his life for his friends”, says Jesus.
 
Prayer
 
God give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Amen
                                                                                    The Oxford Book of Prayer
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Peter Moth, retired minister, St Andrew’s URC, Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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A Wee Update

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 11:55
96 A Wee Update View this email in your browser

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A Wee Update

Dear Friends,

The Services

Many of you have been asking if the Daily Devotion services will continue now that dates have been set, in England at least, for when churches may offer public worship again.  We are conscious that not every congregation will wish to resume public worship straight away given our demographic, the style of worship that can be offered (no singing and socially distanced) and the sheer hard work that the extra cleaning and admin will require.  Two of my four churches have decided to wait until social distancing isn't necessary and the other two are making decisions this week.  We realise these are a good resource for the housebound and we are also conscious that many churches use lay preachers and retired ministers who are older and who may wish not to resume this aspect of their ministry until it is safe to do so.  All this means many congregations will be looking for worship resources regardless of whether they return to worship soon or if they wait until restrictions are no longer in place.    

For all these reasons the Daily Devotion services have been planned to run, at least, until the end of November.  We have people booked to take the services until then; we hope this is a resource that you continue to find useful in your own churches and individual lives.  We don't yet know what will happen from December onwards.  

I've been asked if previous services could be burnt to CD and used locally in a gathered service - yes of course!  I intend to make the "back catalogue" easily available for this to happen in the next few weeks; and of course we send out services around a month in advance for people if they distribute locally.  If you aren't on the early bird list you can sign up for it here.

Email Problems

Every week people email me to say they've not had a Devotion or Service.  In 90% of cases the email has gone into the Spam or Junk folder.  Please do add this email address to your contacts and, if your email programme has one, a Safe Senders' list.  That really helps!  Please do check your junk folder before emailing.  You can always catch up via devotions.urc.org.uk

Want to Change Your Address or Unsubscribe?

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And Finally

A couple of weeks ago I sent out a new hymn by John Bell from the Iona Community.  The Rev'd Ray Fraser has also written a hymn reflecting on the context that we find ourselves in and is pleased to share it with any who find it useful.  You can hear it here.

with every good wish


Andy



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URC Daily Devotion Monday 29th June 2020

Mon, 29/06/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 29th June 2020 -  Moses’ fear

Exodus 6: 28 - 7:7

On the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, he said to him, ‘I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I am speaking to you.’ But Moses said in the Lord’s presence, ‘Since I am a poor speaker, why would Pharaoh listen to me?’  The Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his land.  But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt.  When Pharaoh does not listen to you, I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring my people the Israelites, company by company, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgement.  The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them.’ Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them.  Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Reflection

Moses and Aaron had already spoken to Pharaoh to no avail.  The state of the Israelites became worse for they had no straw to make their bricks. 

Life is full of hard, impossible questions.  And the question “why?” often tops the list and we wonder what God is up to. 

God’s very patient with us.  How often have you felt, “I can’t do it, I haven’t the ability.” 

God said to Moses, I’ll give you my authority in Pharaoh’s eyes.  You shall do all that I command you and Aaron your brother shall do the talking and tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.

God is giving his reluctant servant Moses instructions for the task ahead.  God has already  listened to all of Moses’ “yes, buts” and has allowed Aaron to accompany him on his quest to free the people of Israel. 

First, God tells Moses that, in Pharaoh’s eyes, Moses will seem like a god – that is, he will be able to do things Pharaoh hasn’t seen before.  Moses and Aaron are to do exactly what God tells them to do.  But then God tells Moses that God will harden Pharaoh’s heart.  God will permit his stubbornness to remain, so that God may have the greater opportunity to multiply wonders in the land.

The miracles will just get greater and greater, but Pharaoh still isn’t going to listen. Until judgment will fall on Egypt and they will “know that I am the Lord and the Israelites will be brought out.  And then we’re told that “Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them.”

So, never be afraid if you’re asked to do something.  Be sure that God will give you the ability and the strength to do it whatever it is. 

Prayer
 
 
Loving God, thank you for the
account of history in Exodus
that shows You heard the cries
of your people and you rescued
them from their oppressors.
Help us to be people of Prayer.
Help us trust your faithfulness and 
be willing to serve you when you call
knowing that you will equip us for the task.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Sue Henderson, retired minister, 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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Worship for Sunday 28th June, The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber

Sun, 28/06/2020 - 09:45
96 Worship for Sunday 28th June, The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber View this email in your browser

Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 28th June
 
Today’s service is led by the Rev'd Dr Susan Durber
 
            



Introduction

 
Good morning, and welcome to worship! My name is Susan Durber and I am the minister of the United Reformed Church in Taunton, the county town of Somerset.  I’m sitting in my home, in the beautiful red-walled dining room of The Old Manse, in a village on the edges of Taunton.  In this village, during the past weeks and months, there has been a real deepening of community spirit and concern for others.  All of us, in different ways, are discovering the things that matter most to us.  For many of us, prayers have come more readily to our lips and our longing for God has grown, even while the usual practice of the church’s worship has taken a new shape. We might have found, in a new way, the importance of our faith as a daily habit, a practice for home as much as church, a gift that can sustain us through the most disturbing times. Whether we are lonely in isolation, or oppressed by too much company in a small space; whether we are working harder than ever or finding new ways to spend our time; whether we are afraid for our own health or worried about the economy that supports all our lives – we are connected to one another through the God who made us, in the church that welcomes us, in the company of the saints who surround us. So, come people of God, let us worship together.
 
Call To Worship
 
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love
who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain,  and heals our wounds.

God is our light and our salvation. In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us.
May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen
 
Hymn:      All Creatures of our God and King
                W H  Draper (1855-1933) altd based on St Francis of Assisi
 
All creatures of our God and King,
lift up your voice and with us sing
O Praise Him, alleluia!
Thou burning sun
with golden beam,
thou silver moon with softer gleam,
O praise Him,
O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
 
2 Thou flowing water,
pure and clear,
make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him, alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
that givest us both
warmth and light,
O praise Him, O praise Him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
 
3 Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him, alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father,
praise the Son,
and praise the Spirit,
Three in One,
O praise Him, O praise Him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
 
Prayers of Approach and Confession
 
God of all creation, though we are scattered, you call us together,
alone, you bring us into a great company, in unfamiliar times,
you draw us into the story of the Gospel.
 
Lord Jesus, teacher of wisdom for all ages, crucified one, enduring every pain, risen Christ, alive and present with us, we come to meet you here.
 
Holy Spirit, blowing where you will, never confined, never locked down,
bringing the presence of our holy God, we open ourselves to your touch.
 
A silence for praise…
 
In your loving and merciful presence, we look back over the last week and we review our living and our lives. We lay before you our regrets and our sorrows, our weakest moments and our strongest flaws, and we pray for forgiveness and grace, for your Spirit to change us and your love to move us.
 
Pause..
 
Jesus said, ‘Your sins are forgiven’. We too may rise to new life and rejoice. Thanks be to God.
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
Prayer of illumination
 
O God who speaks to us and who longs to be heard,  who gives us the words of the Scriptures  and the living Word in Jesus Christ,  come to your people today as we long to hear words to live by, words that bring good news of eternal life, living words that shine light into our darkness and bring alive the silent pages.  Speak, living God, for your people are listening. Amen.

Romans 6: 21-23
 
So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
Matthew 10: 40-42
 
‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’ 
 
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.

 
Sermon
 
I’m always impressed when people can quote the Bible, or Shakespeare or anything really. There are days when I can barely manage the Lord’s Prayer, though I keep trying. But there are some phrases that stay with me when I rather wish they wouldn’t – and some that escape me when I really want to carry them round with me and say them again and again because I know that they are the ones that bring me life and hope and in which God is made present in my days.
 
‘The wages of sin is death’ is one of those memorable phrases from the Bible that many of us can quote. It reminds us of that old-time hell-fire kind of religion. ‘The wages of sin is death’. There are echoes of the sinners’ bench of a former chapel culture, of the preachers who once used the high-up now abandoned pulpit in lots of our churches, or those cross-stitched Bible texts that you see sometimes in antique shops.
 
Why is it that we don’t remember the next phrase anything like so well? Paul wrote, ‘but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’.  I have to use copy and paste to get that phrase right, whereas ‘the wages of sin is death’ is safely secured in my memory.  Is it that I’ve heard the ‘wages of sin’ one more often?  Is it that I find sin and death more interesting than goodness?  Is it that I just have an ear for a portentous phrase?
 
And as I look at Paul’s writing closely, as you do when you have to preach a sermon, I see that what he actually says is not what my brain was expecting. There is something in any reader, I suspect, that is expecting the verse to be something like, ‘the wages of sin is death, but the reward for goodness is life’. That’s the way I often construct a sentence and the way my mind works. Not this, but that. Not death, but life. Not sin, but goodness. But the wonder is that Paul doesn’t say that at all. He talks about sin and its deathly reward, but he doesn’t give goodness a mention at all. He just tells us that God gives us life as a gift. It’s not a reward, it’s not a wage, it’s a free gift. We are suddenly in a different realm, with a different offer and a different deal. In fact, it’s no ‘deal’ at all, it’s just gift and grace.
 
My reader’s brain, even all these centuries later, seems determined to find some kind of deal, some kind of scheme, so that I can know how to make it work for me or for anyone. I’m somehow hardwired to look for the ‘pay’, so much so that I overlook the gift. I think that’s why I know the ‘wages’ idea better. It fits better with the world I know. It means I can make the world work for me. It puts me in control. But Paul tells me this is not the way of the Kingdom of God. In God’s kingdom I don’t earn a wage, I receive a gift. And he tells me that life is not a ‘reward’ or even a punishment, but always a gift. He talks about eternal life, not in terms of length but of quality, as something that couldn’t be construed in terms of payment, karma or reward, but just as gift.
 
One of my very favourite writers, Frederick Buechner, has said this…
 
“People are prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light. …. They are prepared for a God who strikes hard bargains but not for a God who gives as much for an hour’s work as for a day’s. They are prepared for a mustard-seed kingdom of God no bigger than the eye of a newt but not for the great banyan it becomes with birds in its branches singing Mozart. They are prepared for the potluck supper at First Presbyterian but not for the marriage supper of the Lamb….” (Telling the Truth: the Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale, Harper and Row, 1977, p. 70)
 
I know that I am one of those people, that I am not prepared for the gift of life that is so much a gift that I can’t earn it, that I lose sight of the miraculous grace of it all, that I sometimes have a way of asking God for my wages, when all the time God wants to give me more than anyone could ever earn or expect from life. I need moments, so many, and people in abundance, to remind me always that ‘…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’.
 
I realise I’m not alone. There is something in us all that wants life to be ‘fair’, in the sense of somehow a kind of return for what we put in. That’s why, sometimes, people say ‘Why me?’ when they don’t think it’s fair that they’ve become ill or infected or been bereaved. And it’s why sometimes we can’t quite believe the things we have been given in this life are quite ours to enjoy. But life isn’t a deal – it’s a gift. And, strangely enough, it’s often the very people who have got what many would think ‘a raw deal’ who show us most powerfully that life is a gift. Even in the deepest pain there are gifts to be found and treasured. Life is not a perfectly balanced account. It’s not even one that will be balanced out in some future reckoning. It is, first of all, a free gift of grace. And that’s the best way to receive it and live it – whatever ‘happens’.
 
It’s amazing how strong this inclination to see life as ‘wages’ really is. Even in that little piece of Matthew’s Gospel that we heard today the invitation to hospitality is given with a promise of a reward. It ends with the instruction that ‘…whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’ Of course it’s right and good to give a cup of cold water to a little one, but to do it in the name of Jesus Christ is not to do it for a reward. Later in Matthew’s Gospel, in the very same Gospel, Jesus tells the story of the sheep and the goats. And he tells how those who gave a drink to those who were thirsty didn’t do it for a reward. They didn’t really know the significance of what they were doing. And they get, not a reward, but an inheritance, a gift of grace.. the gift of life. And Matthew also shows us the thirsty Christ on the cross, the one who longs for a cup of water, but gets only a sponge soaked with vinegar, and yet who forgives and wins salvation for us all, the free gift of God that is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
 
In this time that we are living through now we are learning a great deal about the wages of past wrongs. Many tell us, and even sometimes take a rather unkind delight in telling us, that the sufferings of the present months are the wages of things we have done wrong. A pandemic is the wages of a globalised, exploitative economy, the inevitable result of our taking too much from the creation we are part of, and our predicament is the price we are paying for our hubris. And, of course, there is truth here. But it is not the way of God to give us ‘wages’, or to punish us like this. The suffering, in any case, falls unequally, and falls most on those who bear least blame. God does not work on wages or rewards, on punishment or cost. God works with gifts and grace, with beauty and hope, with salvation and redemption, and in the person of Jesus Christ who told us that he came to bring life in all its fullness. That is where we will find God coming to us; in all the ways that we re-connect with life as gift and grace. In the moments when we grasp that life is not a reward or a punishment, a wage or an investment, but a gift, pure gift.
 
For many of us, for all of us, we have learned, over the past months that we can take little for granted. We have seen our lives change radically. Some of us have suffered losses and griefs, anxieties and fears. We have lamented and sorrowed, been angry and afraid, grasped at silver linings, thrown ourselves into heroic kinds of coping. We have tried to make it better. In some ways we can, and in other ways we just can’t. But sometimes, in the midst of it all, we have, maybe, sensed something of the God who comes to us even in the darkest and least ‘rewarding’ of our days, to offer us once more the free gift of eternal life. We have found that we have been given the cup of life again, and we have drunk of it with eager thanksgiving, for life is beautiful. It is not our ‘wages’, because life doesn’t work like that, but it is the most precious and lovely of gifts. So, so as St Paul says in another of the letters he wrote, ‘Thanks be to God for this gift beyond words’. Amen.
 
Hymn:      There’s a Wideness In God’s Mercy (F W Faber 1814-63)
 
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in His justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
are more felt than up in Heaven;
there is no place where earth’s failings
have such kindly judgment given.
 
2: For the love of God is broader
than the measures of our mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
But we make
His love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
and we magnify
His strictness
with a zeal He will not own.
 
3: There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head.
There is grace enough
for thousands of new worlds
as great as this, there is room for
fresh creations in that upper home of bliss.
 
If our love were but more simple, we should take Him at His word;
and our lives would be all gladness In the joy of Christ our Lord.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
 
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in His reign.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
 
Offering
 
As we respond to God’s free gift of grace,  so we too offer freely what we have and own to God, in the name of Jesus Christ. 
 
O God, who created and redeemed me, I offer you my heart and my life,
all I have, all I am, and all I might yet become. May I speak love to my neighbour, do good in your world and look always to your Kingdom, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
Prayers of intercession
 
In what follows suggestions are made for prayer, with a pause after each phrase.  Please add in your own petitions… either in silence or spoken aloud.
 
Let us offer prayers for the world:
                 
for all who suffer and struggle…
for the grieving and the dying…
for carers and for policy makers…
 
Let us offer prayers for the church:

for all who nourish faith in us…
for those seeking meaning in dark times…
for all who are simply following Jesus with us…
 
Let us offer prayers for those known to us:
 
for our families and loved ones…
for those whose stories have touched us…
for all who cry out for prayer…
O God, who promised through Jesus that,  when two or three are gathered,  you will hear us, we offer these prayers, in confident hope that you listen and will have mercy upon us, in the name of Jesus with whom we are united, and through whom we pray, Amen.
 
Hymn:      Be Still and Know (Lex Loizides)
 
Be still and know that I am God:
I will be glorified and praised
in all the earth.
For My great Name I will be found,
and I can never be resisted,
never be undone;
I'm never lacking power
to glorify My Son.
The gates of hell are falling
and the Church is coming forth,
my name will be exalted
in the earth.
 
2: Be still and know that I am God;
I have poured out My Holy Spirit like a flood.
The land that cries for holy rain
shall be inheriting her promises
and dancing like a child;
a holy monsoon deluge
shall bless the barren heights,
and those who sat in silence
shall speak up and shall be heard:
My name will be exalted
in the earth.

3: Be still and know that I am God;
My Son has asked me for the nations of the world.
His sprinkled blood has made a way
for all the multitudes of India and Africa to come;
the Middle East will find its peace through Jesus Christ My Son.
From London down to Cape Town, from L.A. to Beijing,
My Son shall reign the undisputed King!

Blessing
 
In a time of distancing, God bless us with the company of the saints.
In a time of suffering, God bless us with the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
In a time of anxiety, God bless us with eternal peace.
The blessing of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be upon you, this day and always. Amen.

Sources and Thanks
 
Liturgy

Call to Worship from the Church of England’s New Patterns of Worship.
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France (translated by Andy Braunston)
All other liturgical material from Susan Durber.
 
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 Wilcox, Elfreda Tealby-Watson, John Young, Karen Smith, and the choir of Barrhead URC for recording various spoken parts of the service.
 
Copyright
 
All Creatures of Our God and King, BBC Songs of Praise
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (to Nettleton) performed by All Sons and Daughters
There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, BBC Songs of Praise
Be Still and Know, Lex Loizides. © 1995 Thankyou Music performed at the Stoneleigh Bible Week. --> 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 28th June 2020

Sun, 28/06/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 28th June 2020  Psalm 3 

 
O Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
 many are saying to me,
    “There is no help for you in God.”  
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy hill.  Selah
 I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around.
 Rise up, O Lord!
    Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.
Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
    may your blessing be on your people!   

Reflection

At the writing of this Psalm David was in a great deal of trouble. His own son, Absolam, had led what seemed to be a successful rebellion against him. Many of his previous friends and associates forsook him and joined the ranks of those who troubled him.  David’s situation was so bad that many felt he was beyond God’s help. Those who said this probably didn’t feel that God was unable to help David; they probably felt that God was unwilling to help him. They looked at David’s past sin and  decided that this was all what he deserved from God.   They said that God was against David, and he was just getting what he deserved.  This thought was most painful of all for David – the thought that God might be against him and that there really was no help for him in God.

Although many said there was no help for him in God, David knew that God was his shield.  Others – and there were many, couldn’t shake David’s confidence in a God of love and help.  When he was under attack from a cunning and ruthless enemy, David knew that God was his shield. This wasn’t a prayer asking God to fulfill this; this is a strong declaration of fact: ‘You, O LORD, are a shield around me’.  God was more than David’s protection. He also was the one who put David on higher ground, lifting his head and showing him glory. There was nothing glorious or head-lifting in David’s circumstances, but there was in his God.

Have we all not at times wondered how glorious it would be if we had a faith like David?  I know I have!  David knew beyond doubt that God would protect him.  Can we say the same?

God sustains us in our sleep, but we take it for granted. Think of it: we sleep, unconscious, dead to the world – yet we breathe, our hearts pump, our organs operate. The same God who sustains us in our sleep will sustain us in our difficulties.  Thanks be to God.

Prayer

You, O Lord, are the shield around me.  
You are my glory, the One who holds my head high.
Make me worthy of your protection.
Help me to endure and to show your love to others,
For Jesus’ sake,
Amen -->

Today's writer

Ann Barton - Worship Leader at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern 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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A Strange bit of Latin

Sat, 27/06/2020 - 10:51
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We're not sure why....
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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 27th June 2020

Sat, 27/06/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 27th June 2020 - God promises liberation

Exodus 6: 1 - 13

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.’ God also spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the Lord.  I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name “The Lord” I did not make myself known to them.  I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they resided as aliens.  I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.  Say therefore to the Israelites, “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians.  I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.”’  Moses told this to the Israelites; but they would not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery. Then the Lord spoke to Moses,  ‘Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his land.’  But Moses spoke to the Lord, ‘The Israelites have not listened to me; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me, poor speaker that I am?’ Thus the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them orders regarding the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, charging them to free the Israelites from the land of Egypt.

Reflection

Although this is ostensibly a promise of liberation, it is hard not to read this passage without thinking of the many places where land is disputed.  Whether Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, Crimea - or the colonial legacies in many other countries - we know the harm in such disputes, and it is difficult to imagine a loving God giving land that is already occupied to another group of people.  So while central to the story of God’s chosen people, it’s not straightforward for us today.

I had forgotten that Moses was reluctant to speak to Pharoah, and how defeated he felt about the Israelites’ reaction.  I suspect I’m not the only one for whom these feelings ring true.  The times when the boss asks you to do something that you think is impossible.  The times when you’ve tried to do something and it’s fallen completely flat.  The times when you can see a problem coming but no-one is interested in hearing bad news and doing something about it!  And just as that happens in secular workplaces, we have those experiences in churches too.  Setting up an event that no-one comes to.  Asking for volunteers and no-one steps forward.

God is clear, however, that Moses and Aaron are up to the task ahead, and we’ll read more about this in the days ahead. Most of us don’t feel we get quite such clear orders from God, and would probably question anyone who did feel quite so clearly directed!  But when we do feel called to act, perhaps we should take heart that just as the disheartened Moses would eventually lead Israel out of Egypt, we too may be able to achieve amazing things even though we may feel weak and ineffective.

Prayer

We give thanks for people attempting impossible tasks and achieving amazing goals.  We pray particularly for peace-makers in places where land is disputed.  May they have the energy to persevere even when the struggle seems overwhelming, the care to listen, and the courage to speak.  Help us to play our part in building a world where all your children can live in peace.

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.
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URC Daily Devotion Friday 26th June 2020

Fri, 26/06/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 26th June 2020 - Bricks without Straw

Exodus 5

Afterwards Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.”’ But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.’ Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.’  But the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labours!’  Pharaoh continued, ‘Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!’  That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors,  ‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves.  But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, “Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.”  Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labour at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.’

So the taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out and said to the people, ‘Thus says Pharaoh, “I will not give you straw. Go and get straw yourselves, wherever you can find it; but your work will not be lessened in the least.”’ So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt, to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent, saying, ‘Complete your work, the same daily assignment as when you were given straw.’ And the supervisors of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and were asked, ‘Why did you not finish the required quantity of bricks yesterday and today, as you did before?’

Then the Israelite supervisors came to Pharaoh and cried, ‘Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, “Make bricks!” Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people.’ He said, ‘You are lazy, lazy; that is why you say, “Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.”  Go now, and work; for no straw shall be given you, but you shall still deliver the same number of bricks.’  The Israelite supervisors saw that they were in trouble when they were told, ‘You shall not lessen your daily number of bricks.’ As they left Pharaoh, they came upon Moses and Aaron who were waiting to meet them. They said to them, ‘The Lord look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odour with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.’

Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.’

Reflection

I’m no archaeologist and I’m not going to get involved in which Pharaoh might have been Joseph’s and later which Pharaoh was the Pharaoh of the oppression / Exodus - every archaeologist has their favourite idea and I’ve heard at least 6 named.  But the Pyramids of the Middle Kingdom / 12th dynasty were built of bricks.  The earliest were bricks made of mud and straw.  Some think that one of these must be Joseph’s  Pyramid.  400 years later mud blocks without straw were used.  It appears that so much plant material had been removed from the delta that the type of grass/ papyrus was unable to regenerate. 

Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh stating that the Lord says “Let my people go”.  Pharaoh’s response that he does not know “the Lord” is reinforced by the demand for the same or more from “his people” with less available resources.  In v.16 ‘ “You are unjust to your own people” is odd, since the Israelites are not Pharaoh’s people.  The text is uncertain, and a better reading may be “The fault is with you.” ’*   I take the point but also see nothing odd about the language of slavery and ownership being used by Pharaoh, following the challenge of who is really the ruler, the Pharaoh, of this people.   The upshot is that the Israelite supervisors pass the blame on to Moses and Aaron, pushing Moses into speaking to God.   Pharaoh is about to discover who the Lord is.  

Like the Lord’s people, reliant entirely on the resources of Goshen, we live entirely on the resources of earth.  The more we use without allowing them to replenish, the more we become like the Egyptians trying to force the workers to make bricks without straw.   Like the Israelite supervisors facing Egyptians with swords, we see fights over food between people, trade tariffs and quotas between nations.  

*Walter Houston “Exodus” Oxford Bible Commentary accessed 6th March 2020

Prayer

Lord, when we forget that all we had, have and will have comes from you, be gentle with us so that we can allow the beautiful world you have given us to recover and replenish itself.   As people and nations selfishly demand more may your name be made known, for the good of us all.  Amen
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Browning, Retired Minister worshipping at Thornbury 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 25th June 2020

Thu, 25/06/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 25th June 2020 - Moses returns to Egypt

Exodus 4: 18 - 31

Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, ‘Please let me go back to my kindred in Egypt and see whether they are still living.’ And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace.’ The Lord said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go back to Egypt; for all those who were seeking your life are dead.’  So Moses took his wife and his sons, put them on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt; and Moses carried the staff of God in his hand.

And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord: Israel is my firstborn son.  I said to you, ‘Let my son go that he may worship me.’ But you refused to let him go; now I will kill your firstborn son.”’

On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord met him and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, ‘Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!’ So he let him alone. It was then she said, ‘A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.’

The Lord said to Aaron, ‘Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.’ So he went; and he met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him, and all the signs with which he had charged him. Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites.  Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and performed the signs in the sight of the people.  The people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped.

Reflection

“You can never go back” they say. I often hear this after leading worship but it is more commonly stated with regards to football managers returning to a club which they had previously served or some other return in the sporting field.  Moses actually WANTS to go back to Egypt despite the Lord telling him that he was definitely going to put some challenges in his path.

And he took his wife and sons to share the peril, what a guy! And, boy, was there peril. Zipporah’s quick, and somewhat lateral, thinking meant that the Lord did not kill Moses (although one of his sons lost a foreskin in the process) and Moses was able to meet with his brother, Aaron, who convinced the Israelites to bow down and worship the Lord.

At times it is difficult enough following God’s path without God adding to the difficulty. We are constantly tested in our faith by plenty of small things – words of ridicule from others or our desire for an easy life or the latest iPhone. Yet we stand strong in our faith that God will deliver us. At least, we try…

Prayer

All-seeing Lord
Watch over us as we struggle
Strengthen us as we falter
Forgive us as we fail
Love us as we are.
Amen
 
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Today's writer

Leo Roberts, Children’s and Youth Development Officer, North Western 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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Sunday's Coming

Wed, 24/06/2020 - 11:30
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

Our service this week is led by the Rev'd Dr Susan Durber who ministers at Taunton URC and with the World Council of Churches as Moderator of their Faith and Order Commission.  We will be singing W H Draper's version of St Francis' prayer All Creatures of our God and King, Robert Robinson's Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Fr Faber's There's a Wideness in God's Mercy, and Lex Loizides' Be Still and Know.  

I hope you can join us.  As normal the service will be sent out before 10am but it can be listened to at any point thereafter.

with every good wish


Andy


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


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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 24th June 2020

Wed, 24/06/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 24th June 2020 - Moses Commissioned

Exodus 4:1 - 17

Then Moses answered, ‘But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, “The Lord did not appear to you.”’  The Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.’  And he said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw the staff on the ground, and it became a snake; and Moses drew back from it.  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Reach out your hand, and seize it by the tail’—so he reached out his hand and grasped it, and it became a staff in his hand—  ‘so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’

Again, the Lord said to him, ‘Put your hand inside your cloak.’ He put his hand into his cloak; and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, as white as snow.  Then God said, ‘Put your hand back into your cloak’—so he put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored like the rest of his body—  ‘If they will not believe you or heed the first sign, they may believe the second sign.  If they will not believe even these two signs or heed you, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.’

But Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.’ But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send someone else.’  Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.’

Reflection

Often the more significant a Biblical character is, the more that we are told about their ancestry and background. In Moses’s case, we know more about his ‘back story’ than almost anyone else. We also hear more about the story of his call.
 
Moses took a lot of persuading to do what God was calling him to do. The list of reasons (excuses?) why he was the wrong person for the role goes on and on. I wonder whether Moses really did prevaricate more than anyone else, or if it’s simply that we hear a lot about it, because of his importance.
 
Either way, the important thing is that, despite the number of ‘buts’ in today’s passage, Moses did answer God’s call. As a result, despite the number of ‘buts’, God led Moses and God’s people out of slavery and through the wilderness to the brink of the Promised Land.
 
God helped Moses to work through his hesitations. Together, they overcame Moses’ reluctance and his lack of confidence in his abilities. Then God began to do great things in and through Moses. God can and will do the same for each of us and for all of us, if we are willing to turn aside, to listen and to work things through with God.
 
God forgave Moses his reluctance and used him greatly. So, let’s not worry about our own hesitancy or dwell too much on our lack of skills. Let’s simply turn aside, listen for God and allow God to steer us onto the next step along the way.

Prayer

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
open our hearts and minds to recognise the burning bushes that you light along our way.
Give us the courage to step aside and to meet with you there.
Help us to overcome our hesitancy and lack of confidence.
Give us courage to step out with you on whatever path you show us
for you know us better than we know ourselves.
Thanks be to God.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Jacky Embrey, Moderator of 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 Tuesday 23rd June 2020

Tue, 23/06/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 23rd June 2020 - The Divine Name

Exodus 3: 13 - 22

But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’  God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’  He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.”’  God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord,  the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:

This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations.

Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt.   I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”  They will listen to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; let us now go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.”  I know, however, that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.  So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that he will let you go.   I will bring this people into such favour with the Egyptians that, when you go, you will not go empty-handed;   each woman shall ask her neighbour and any woman living in the neighbour’s house for jewellery of silver and of gold, and clothing, and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters; and so you shall plunder the Egyptians.’

Reflection 

My surname is one the most common in the English-speaking world.  This means it isn’t very distinctive and is shared by millions of people.  Sometimes this might be a good thing, sometimes not.  One advantage is certainly that it’s very rare I have to repeat it, or that it gets misspelled.  But however common a name might be it still tells you something. You could make an educated guess at which nation was the land of my fathers (at least on one side of my family tree) and you’d be right.

Jesus also didn’t have a very distinctive name – there were many people called Jesus (or Joshua) son of Joseph, so often his home town is added. Jesus of Nazareth, to distinguish him from any others.

There’s something of that in this passage. How were the people of Israel to distinguish their God from false Gods? Moses is first sent to say ‘I am has sent me to you’ - a grammatically challenging and enigmatic sentence. But then he is to clarify, precisely by suggesting God can be understood only in relationship to people. The God of your ancestors, of Jacob, Isaac, Abraham. Our God, the God that we turn to and worship, the God we love and who loves us.

We have many names, titles and descriptions of God, precisely because no single one of them could ever be enough. Rather, they all tell us something about our own relationship with the God we worship and turn to.

Prayer

Lord, Mother, Father, Friend, ‘I am’,
whatever we call you,
however we address you,
whichever name we prefer,
we thank you that you are our God,
that you love us and know our names,
and that you have revealed yourself to us
as you did to Moses. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Nicholas Jones, Minister, Heswall URC & St. George’s URC, Thornton Hough 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 22nd June 2020

Mon, 22/06/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 22nd June 2020 - The Burning Bush

Exodus 3: 1 - 12

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.  Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’  When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’  Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’  He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings,  and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

Reflection

When Moses approaches the burning bush, I doubt he had considered that his whole world was about change. 
 
God has seen how oppressed the Hebrew people have become and has chosen Moses to go and challenge the oppressor and bring liberation for a whole group of people. God always sides with the oppressed and calls each of us to do the same. This isn’t easy work, God doesn’t lie to us and claim it will be easy, God does stand with us, teach us, equip us and empower us to call out oppressive structures. 
 
For some, this comes in a single burning bush moment, but for others it is a drip-drip effect. Neither is better than the other, they are just different. This passage reminds us that God calls each of us to make a stand against oppression, and when we are called, we often don’t think we are the right person, or that we have the right skills, enough smartness, the right words…the list can go on, and you will know what that “not ready/right for the job” thing is for you. But here’s the clincher, God already knows you are exactly the right person to break the oppressive chains you have been called to break and if you don’t have the “right stuff” right now, you will gain the “right stuff” as you work for God to bring liberation.
 
So I encourage you, in our world that has changed dramatically this year, keep standing with God to break oppressive practices and systems even if you don’t know how you are going to do it yet. Embrace the burning bush, and the drip-drip that is God’s call, and remember God is with you as you stand up for those who cry out to God for liberation.
 
Prayer

Great God, we thank you for having a heart for those who are most vulnerable and oppressed. Light the fire of righteousness in us to hear your call to come alongside those who are suffering and help break the chains of oppression knowing you are with us always. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

Kirsty Mabbott, CRCW, St Columba’s URC & Ansty Rd URC, Coventry 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 21st June The Rev'd Richard Church

Sun, 21/06/2020 - 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 21st June

The Rev'd Richard Chuch





 
 
Good Morning! My name is Richard Church.  My role, for a few more weeks, is as Deputy General Secretary (Discipleship) and I live in Streatham, South West London and I am speaking to you from my home.
 
Call to Worship
 
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love
who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain,  
and heals our wounds.

God is our light and our salvation.
In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus,
the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us.
May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen
 
 
Hymn:      In Christ Alone (Keith Getty / Stuart Townend)
 
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
here in the love of Christ I stand.
 
2: In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
scorned by the ones He came to save:
till on that cross as Jesus died,
the wrath of God was satisfied –
for every sin on Him was laid;
here in the death of Christ I live. 
 
3: There in the ground His body lay,
light of the world by darkness slain:
then bursting forth in glorious day
up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
for I am His and He is mine –
bought with the precious blood of Christ.
 
4: No guilt in life, no fear in death,
this is the power of Christ in me;
from life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no human plan,
can ever pluck me from His hand:
till He returns or calls me home,
here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

Prayers of Approach & Confession
 
Here in the familiar place, we come to you. Here in a familiar way, we bring our prayers. Here in our time, we want to meet with you, the Eternal One, and with the unseen company on earth and in heaven.
 
Yet you Lord startle us, with the fullness of your life, and the lengths to which you go in searching us out.
 
We are poor disciples - yet we often pretend not to be. We come as part of a compromised and compromising society, our warm worship words often conceal cold hearts, our passion for justice stops short of our own doors, we have set out on your way but have allowed ourselves to be diverted. We ask to be set right, with you and therefore with each other, In the name of Jesus who endured the cross to bring us back to life. Amen.
 
Here is the good news…God knows us, God, in Jesus, offers a new beginning, God the Holy Spirit gives power from within, to renew our walk with him, in the confidence that we are loved, thanks be to God! Amen.
 
Prayer of illumination
 
Help us now to listen deeply, deliver us from the echoes of our own prejudices, release us from routines of piety so that we can form new habits of faithfulness as we walk on with you, Amen
 
Readings
 
Psalm 86.1- 10
 
Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; be gracious to me, O Lord,
    for to you do I cry all day long.
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my cry of supplication.
In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me.
 
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
 
St Matthew 10.24- 39
 
Jesus said
 
‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!  So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.  Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father.  And even the hairs of your head are all counted.  So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven;  but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have 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, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;  and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

Hymn:      Lord of All Hopefulness (Jan Struther)
 
Lord of hopefulness, Lord of all joy
whose trust ever childlike no cares could destroy
be there at our waking and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
 
2: Lord of eagerness, Lord of all faith
whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe
be there at our labours and give us, we pray,
your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.

3: Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
your hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace,
be there at our homing and give us, we pray,
your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.

4: Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm,
be there at our sleeping and give us, we pray,
your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
 
Sermon
 
I wonder whether any of you have ever watched the Repair Shop on television? People bring much cherished objects in a poor state of repair to the shop and a range of skilled craftsmen and women go to work on them and bring them back to their former glory. On one occasion, a large tin bus was brought and when the work was done on it, it was decided not conceal all the blemishes so as not to destroy the link entirely between its past and its gleaming future.
 
I wonder as you listen to this, what objects in your life you might want to bring to the repair shed if you had the chance? Can you think of something which means enough to you to bring something for refurbishment? How might you feel seeing how broken and spoilt your item was, when it is completely restored to be useful once more? What do you think of the decision to allow something of the tin bus’s blemishes to remain when the toy could have been restored to be as good as new?

I think that when the writer of the Psalm said in verse 1  of Psalm 86 for you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God, he may well have been thinking about the work of God in renewing and repairing what had been broken. You may have noticed that the song writer says Incline your ear, O Lord and answer me, for I am poor and needy v 1. In this sense God is the court of final appeal, there is nowhere else to go. In fact, often the items brought to the repair shed are sometimes deemed by their owners to be almost beyond saving and certainly this is their last hope of restoring their former glory.
 
Jay Blades, the presenter of the Repair Shop was homeless four years ago after his marriage broke down. Fortunately he had someone who helped him get back on his feet by learning the skills to recycle old items of furniture. Of course, we are not concerned here simply with our possessions, however much sentimental value they might represent. Jay Blades’ life itself was turned around by having someone he called a’ guardian angel’ someone who believed in him and helped him. It was an exercise in personal rescue. Here we are led into an aspect of Christ’s redeeming work in his ministry on earth and culminating in the cross of coming alongside people and restoring them to their full potential and purpose. As we hear the psalmist put her or his whole trust in God’s skill and understanding of the human condition and the love which is always at work in the world to bring restoration and hope to what appears to be hopeless circumstances.
 
We have spent the last few years emphasizing Walking the Way, living the life of Jesus today. It is an attempt to put the identity of churches as communities of disciples back at the centre of the Church’s life. The Church, relying on the grace which God gives, can be the Repair Shop for lives that have become tired, broken, purposeless. Yet there is a cost to this work.
 
Jesus’ words to us about the nature of the call to discipleship in our reading appear daunting. Did he really mean that a willingness to give up life itself is a precondition to finding the life God has made us for? Was this just rabbinic hyperbole? And what about those uncompromising words about Jesus bringing not peace but a sword? How do we live faithful to that call at a time when social cohesion is valued and peace building between nations is a common longing? In other words, was following Jesus intended to be as costly and divisive as this teaching appears to make it?
 
I think that here we see Jesus managing the expectations of those who would follow him. He does so in two ways; one way is a realism about what lies ahead whatever happens to the master happens to the apprentices and the other is a constant refrain do not fear. Don’t fill your day with anxiety about what people might think of you. Don’t fear the authorities, their power is limited. Do not fear that your life counts as nothing for you are infinitely precious to God.  
 
Of course, how this call of Jesus sounds in a community facing persecution is very different to how it might sound to most of us. For the persecuted Church, secrecy about the Gospel is less an option, division in families is more probable and therefore it is with a thirst for assurance and comfort that the church has heard do not be afraid you are worth many sparrows. 
 
Years ago, I remember being in Israel/Palestine listening to a Palestinian Christian woman speaking in the Sabeel Centre about the situation in which she and her people found themselves. Even at that time the two state solution seemed unlikely, yet when asked she replied that she still had hope because we believe in a God of miracles. Now, this kind of hope has been castigated by some, yet it picks up this confidence that restoration and redemption are defining attributes of God. You are God and do wondrous things is a testimony in the intractable politics of the middle east, just as it was for the song writer.
 
But as God does wondrous things, our response still remains part of that restoration project. Jesus reminds us that a disciple follows the master not the other way around. So we have a tough uncompromising challenge to be a grounded follower of Jesus. Everything will be laid bare. The gospel is irrepressible and therefore our lives as bearers of the Gospel will be marked by openness rather than reticence, trust in place of intimidation, and a willingness to publicise the ways of God in fresh and creative actions.
 
This call to costly discipleship is issued so that the restoration project is fulfilled by people speaking and living out courageously. Losing their lives in order to find them as Jesus put it. We depend on them as signposts along the way. People like Corrie ten Boom whose birthday was marked by the URC on 15 April who hid Jews from the Nazis in the second world war and taught subsequently on the role of prayer and forgiveness, inspiring many along the way.
 
Building hope, living a life of grace, speaking truth in uncomfortable situations, and most of all believing that God is great and does wondrous things is best understood by watching, learning, and practicing what we see in the lives of others. Years ago, I remember wanting to make something for my wife. I found a gifted woodworker and went to him. He told me which wood to use and then showed me how to measure and draw and cut the joints and the left me to practice before making the piece.
 
In these confined times, the need for a social renovation project is ever more apparent. It is a time in which the call to take tired old practices and refresh them, to learn from others, new ways of remaining faithful to the call of Jesus, and to be creative in our encounters with others online or in neighbour interactions. It might be appropriate to be a champion for just one other person, and of course to be willing ourselves to be encouraged and guided by others just as Jay Blades found someone to mentor him and encourage him.
 
The call to follow Jesus in all the interactions of our life was never more urgent but we do not do so in our own strength but in trust that the One who said ‘I am making everything new’ will shape our inconstant efforts to his own loving purposes. With the Psalmist we pray:
 
Gladden the soul of your servant for to you O Lord I lift up my soul.
For you O Lord are good and forgiving abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you, Amen.    
 
Hymn:      I Cannot Tell  (W Y Fullerton 1857-1932)
 
I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship,
should set His love upon the sons of men,
or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wanderers,
to bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
when Bethl’hem’s manger was His only home,
and that He lived at Nazareth and laboured,
and so the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is come.
 
2 I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
as with His peace He graced this place of tears,
or how His heart upon the Cross was broken,
the crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted,
and stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
and lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
for yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is here.

Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
 
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in His reign.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
 
Offertory

 
As our buildings are closed, our churches as communities of faith are open. As communities of disciples we are aware of how freely we have received so many blessings, so may we freely give in money as well as in other ways to our local church, by either paying by direct bank transfer or by putting money aside for the time we will be able take ourselves as we gather once more as church. We present ourselves to you now, blessed in so many ways, in gratitude, we pledge our time, our skills and our money to your mission of renewing the world through Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Intercessory Prayers
 
Let us pray for our world. Come to us, Lord.  Renew and refresh us
 
Let us pray remembering especially the work of the World Health Organisation, Countries who lack the resources to care for their populations…
 
Come to us Lord. Renew and refresh us
 
We give thanks for artists and musicians and all who influence others,
We pray for those suffering from depression and who cannot sense the beauty of life
 
Come to us Lord.  Renew and refresh us
 
We pray this morning for those who restore lives by giving hope to people in the grip of addictions May the streams of compassion never run dry within all offering care to others.
 
Come to us Lord. Renew and refresh us
 
We pray for the church around the world…
 
Challenged by our vocation to share the good news, often overwhelmed by the burden of administration, seeking to be a sign of hope whilst experiencing smaller congregations…
 
Come to us Lord. Renew and refresh us
 
We draw our prayers to a close using a prayer reminding us of Jesus the worker..
 
O Christ, the Master Carpenter, who at the last through wood and nails purchased our whole salvation; wield well your tools in the workshop of your world, so that we who come rough-hewn to your work bench may be fashioned to a truer beauty by your hand. Amen.
 
As our saviour taught us, so we pray: Our Father…

Hymn:      All my hope on God is founded  (Joachim Neander)
 
All my hope on God is founded;
He doth still my trust renew.
Me through change
and chance he guideth,
only good and only true.
God unknown, He alone
calls my heart to be His own.
 
2 Human pride and earthly glory,
sword and crown betray His trust;
what with care and toil He buildeth,
tower and temple, fall to dust.
But God's power, hour by hour,
is my temple and my tower.

3 God's great goodness aye endureth,
deep His wisdom, passing thought:
splendour, light, and life attend Him,
beauty springeth out of naught.
Evermore, from His store
new-born worlds rise and adore.
 
4 Still from earth to God eternal
sacrifice of praise be done,
high above all praises praising
for the gift of Christ His Son.
Christ doth call one and all:
ye who follow shall not fall.

 
Blessing
 
May God the Creator, Christ the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit bless and equip you for your service in the world, Amen
 
Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship from the Church of England’s New Patterns of Worship
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France (translated by Andy Braunston)
All other liturgical material from Richard Church.

Organ Pieces. 

Opening: Prelude in E Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020).
Closing: Trumpet Voluntary in D by John Baston (organ of Basilica Santo Spirito, Florence, Italy – 2016). 

Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to

Addie and Barbara Redmond, Ray Fraser, Liane Todd, Carol Tubbs, John Young and to the choir of Barrhead URC for recording spoken parts of the service and to Phil Nevard who mixed the recordings into the finished service.
 
Copyright 

In Christ Alone Stuart Townend & Keith Getty Copyright © 2001 Thankyou Music taken from the album Homeward by  Celtic Worship. 

Lord of All Hopefulness sung by Romney Abbey Choir for  Songs of Praise

I Cannot Tell, BBC Songs of Praise 

All My Hope on God is Founded sung by the choir of  King’s College Cambridge.
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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