URC Devotions

Daily Devotion 6th September 2018

Thu, 06/09/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 6th September 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 6: 18

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Reflection Ephesians draws us to another thread of truth about what standing firm in the faith might mean.

It’s all about prayer -  it’s source and context. The source involves the most staggering interaction captured in this short verse. Prayer is from within; it is that offering up -  in glorious language, stumbling silence, or anguished groans - of all we would share with, and hope to receive from, God. Prayer is our ongoing conversation with our creator and redeemer; our source, guide and goal.  It comes from the powers of our minds and the deep wells of our hearts. It can be laughter and tears. It can carry passion and hold fear. It cannot ever be just about me, or just from you. If it is, then prayer has slipped into something less, something self-centred. God save us from that.  And, writes Paul, God has.

We pray: “in the Spirit at all times in every prayer…” Here’s the source. The assurance and promise is that, as we turn to Christ, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our praying is no solo effort, no private assault upon the hiding place of a distant God. The Spirit is God’s assurance that we have already found our true home within God’s love. The Spirit abides in each of us, breathing with us as we breathe into the silences and give ourselves to the words. Prayer is part of God’s collaboration with us in friendship. We cannot pray alone because, in prayer, the Spirit is.

This is prayer’s context. It isn’t about me  - it’s about us. As we live out our witness we need help that ultimately comes from God.  We play our part by responding to God through praying for one another. Just as the Spirit is the agent at work in my praying, so I become part of the symphony of prayers offering others into God’s grace and mercy.  Prayer reminds me that I belong to God. There is more; prayer reminds us that we belong to one another.
 

Prayer

Merciful God,
hear our prayers for your creation.
Hear our anguish at its agonies.
Hear our thanksgiving for its treasures.
Merciful God,
hear our prayers for your people.
Hear our anguish at their agonies.
Hear our thanksgiving for their treasures.
Merciful God,
hear our prayers.
For you have taught us to pray
and shown us your way,
through your Spirit,
in Christ’s name.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Neil Thorogood is Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge

Bible Version

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


 
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URC Prayer Handbook 2019

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 15:54
96 URC Prayer Handbook 2019 View this email in your browser

Seasons of the Spirit

Dear <<First Name>>

Each year the United Reformed Church publishes a Prayer Handbook which contains material from a range of URC people - many of whom write for the Daily Devotions project.  It gives two prayers for each Sunday of the year,  based on the Revised Common Lectionary readings, which can be used in private devotion or in public worship - many Ministers, Lay Preachers and Elders find it a useful resource in planning worship.
 
Seasons of the Spirit, the Prayer Handbook for 2019 is now available for £6.50 via the URC shop here.
with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  
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Daily Devotion by Ruth Browning

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Ruth Browning Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 6: 10 - 17

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.  Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.  As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.  With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Reflection Years ago I worked with someone whose hobby was being a re-enactor, a member of a group which re-enacts battles of certain historic periods.  Gradually, we were all inveigled into joining him in making chain mail during the lunch break.  

One of the intriguing things about this passage is the pieces of armour which the writer chose to highlight: belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, sword.  The undershirt to prevent chafing and which, together with the short leather skirt, help absorb the shock of blows, is not listed.  Nor is chain mail mentioned; lighter and more flexible than the earlier form: strips of metal fastened together.  

The writer doesn’t say if the belt carries sword and dagger or specifies the heavy broad sword and certainly doesn’t include the greaves and helmet guards to protect the legs and head from slashing long sword blows.   “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb 4:12

There is nothing in the list for comfort and little for protection, except what is almost the secondary use of the item.  Interlinked shields in ‘testudo’ formation effectively make individuals into a fighting whole.  We naturally tend to think of “we are all parts of the one body” solely in terms of eyes, ears, hands, feet etc.  Protected by interlinked shields of faith we are more than individuals: effectively becoming Christ’s body in the world.  

I am not surprised by the inclusion of the caligae, the iron-hobnailed shoe that carried the legions across a continent.   This is the call to arms begun in Eph 1:21, 22 now spelled out.  The age to come is imminent - be prepared with only the things that further the ability of Christ come again to rule with authority, power and all things under his feet.
 

Prayer

Lord you provide for our needs and equip us to help provide for the needs of others and for our world environment.   Even as we see the contrasts of people’s lives and the events happening around them you provide the belt of truth which help us to name them.

We lock our shields of faith together, in testudo formation, ready shod to deliver the gospel of peace in politics, to those in authority from governments to international companies and global organisations.

We think of those who have no voice and for whom we must proclaim, sharply as with the sword of the word, the possibility of education for all; freedom from sexual harassment and safety from armed conflict.

In this world of contrasts give us the breastplate of righteousness to protect us from self-righteousness so that, shod with the things which make us ready to proclaim the gospel, we can walk through your world in integrity.   Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Ruth Browning is a retired minister and member of Thornbury URC

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 4th September 2018

Tue, 04/09/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 4th September 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 6: 5 - 9

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ;  not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.  Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women,  knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality. Reflection When we think of slavery, most of us I suspect first think of the Atlantic slave trade. We should of course be glad that that time in our history is long gone. But the danger is that we make the mistake of living as if slavery itself was completely eradicated as it no longer seems to be a day-to-day reality for us.

We occasionally hear in the news stories of so called ‘modern day slavery’, and people trafficking, and it is of course right that we make every effort to end this scourge of our time too.

However, this too is something far removed from most of our realities.

Much closer to home however is the so-called ‘gig economy’. Not slavery perhaps, but insecure employment where workers on extremely low pay, irregular hours, and no employment rights, try to make a living knowing if they do not ‘obey their masters’ there will be no work for them and another will simply take their place. This work does suit some as ‘pocket money’ to be earned flexibly around their primary commitments. But for an increasing number of people this kind of work has become their only source of income, without which they wouldn’t survive.

May our eyes be opened to ‘slavery’ all around us, when buying a drink, having takeaway delivered, or ordering an online taxi.
 

Prayer

Generous God,
We know everything we have
comes from you,
and what may seem
like the fruits of our labour
comes to us as much through good fortune as our endeavours.

We pray for those who work just as hard,
whose material needs are just as many,
who do not receive just reward
for their labour,
who are trapped in relative poverty
and have little choice
but to ‘obey their masters’. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Mike Walsh is a Special Category Minister in Chorlton, South Manchester.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 3rd September

Mon, 03/09/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 3rd September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

The Martyrs of Papua New Guinea

The Church in Papua New Guinea has been enriched by martyrdom twice in the twentieth century. James Chalmers, Oliver Tomkins and some companions were sent to New Guinea by the London Missionary Society. They met their death by martyrdom in 1901. Forty years later, during the Second World War, New Guinea was occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army and Christians were severely persecuted. Among those who died for the faith were two English priests, Vivian Redlich and John Barge, who remained with their people after the invasion of 1942 but were betrayed and beheaded, together with seven Australians and two Papuan evangelists, Leslie Gariadi and Lucian Tapiedi.

Romans 8: 35 - 39

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Reflection The consolation of these words from Romans was hard-one by a persecuted Early Church.

They are likely to be familiar to most of us, as they are often used at funeral services, giving confidence to those who go on living that God’s love is constant across all time and space.

Such reassurance cannot be underestimated when we learn of the circumstances surrounding the massacre of James Chalmers (known as ‘Tamate’), Oliver Tomkins and companions in Papua New Guinea.

Such reassurance is needed as we face the constant stream of bad news in the media; the relentless examples of human pain and brokenness.  

We are never – never separated from God’s love.

Just take a moment to know that truth. Breath it in.

When we proclaim that ‘all are welcome’ in the Church, it is this truth from Romans that underpins our declaration. For just as it is true that nothing separates you from God’s love, I’m afraid it is also true that nothing separates me either.

Nothing separates Donald Trump, immigrants crossing borders, Teresa May, those still facing screams of abuse at Pride marches, Syrians (who seem to have slipped our minds), the lonely living next door, or the 215 million Christians facing extreme persecution worldwide.

Nothing separates (insert list of all humanity here…)

God’s endless love is the place we start with faith.

Following Jesus on the way of mercy, justice, light and resurrection are what follow. They are the truths that judge us and shine light into the darkness that causes us to need reminding of God’s love in the first place.
 

Prayer

God of never-ending, lavish love
What have we done
that has hidden this gift
from those around us?

What have we done
that means our response
to Paul’s words in Romans is not
“well of course we are loved!”?

What have we done.

Words that we have spoken
at the foot of the cross.

How rich is your gift to us?
How strong is your love in the face of us?
How bright is its light,
searching all our gloom?

As we begin or carry on with this day,
give us a renewed sense
of the boundless nature of your love
and the desperate need for us to live it.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is Minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 2nd September 2018

Sun, 02/09/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 2nd September 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 62 

1 My soul finds rest in God alone;
From him comes my salvation sure.
2 My safety, fortress, sheltering rock—
In him alone I am secure.

3 How long will you assault a man?
Do you all seek to lay him low—
This leaning wall, this tottering fence—
And bring about his overthrow?

4 They plan his fall from his high place;
They take delight in spreading lies.
With false and flattering mouths they bless,
But in their hearts curse and despise.

5 Find rest, my soul, in God alone;
In him my hope is ever sure.
6 My safety, fortress, sheltering rock—
In him alone I am secure.

7 My honour and salvation rest
On God, my rock and mighty fort.
8 O people, trust in him always;
To him alone pour out your heart.

9 The low-born man is but a breath;
The high-born man is but a lie.
Weighed in a balance, side by side,
They come to nothing but a sigh.

10 Do not seek after wealth by force,
Or triumph in ill-gotten gain;
And even though your goods increase,
Set not your heart on what is vain.

11 My God has spoken; I have heard
12 That you are strong and loving, Lord.
Each one according to his deeds
You will assuredly reward.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the lovely tune Fossebridge here.
Reflection Our manse is situated on the side of a hill on the southern side of the Clyde valley. Its location gives a fine view north, and exposure to prevailing westerly winds that a short time before were whistling over the Atlantic.

Looking down from my study window, our garden is surrounded by a fence, which consequent of the winter’s wind, is distinctly ‘tottering’. Looking up from my study window, the vista is over the Clyde valley to the Campsie Fells and Kilpatrick Hills, and on a clear day to distant Ben Lomond; ‘rocks that shelter’ Glasgow cradled below.

‘Tottering fence’ and ‘sheltering rock’ are pictures the Psalmist paints to speak of life and struggle and God. The Psalmist opens proclaiming trust in God, then with seeming undue haste, opens the heart in anguish, challenging God with tales of the enemies that assail in the bad lands of life.

Then the Psalmist changes tack, offering a way through the maelstrom. The line, “to him alone pour out your heart” reads as an invitation to try prayer. In doing so, perhaps, just perhaps, a new perspective may be perceived.

When the Westerlies of life hit, it can be easier to blame God than turn openly to God. It can be easier to advise of a path to peace than to navigate it. But if our tottering fence reminds me of being overwhelmed in life, then the distant hills remind me that God is there, even if obscured on a dreich day. May our tottering fence also remind me that when life is buffeted, it is time to go out on an intentional walk, to seek and then chew the fat with God, and be open anew to God’s rock-like presence and purpose, and maybe to find a path to peace.
 

Prayer



When life gets stormy,
nudge me to seek your haven,
my sheltering rock.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr David Pickering, Moderator of the National Synod of Scotland, member Rutherglen URC

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © Free Church of Scotland,15 North Bank Street,Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 1st September

Sat, 01/09/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 1st September Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 6: 1-4  

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  ‘Honour your father and mother’—this is the first commandment with a promise:  ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Reflection As we are reminded, this is the only Commandment which comes with a promise of a good if it is obeyed. Others of course come with a warning and still others are stated baldly as being somewhat obvious.

The author of Ephesians extends this Commandment from "honour" to "obey" and introduces a counterpart obligation on fathers, with perhaps the promise of a long life for both parent and child. There is no mention of mothers, so perhaps the unstated assumption is that the father is responsible for ensuring the good behaviour of the child whereas the unconditional mother love for the child she bore encompasses and ensures its general welfare, so no reward is necessary. As for the child, obeying probably leads to a quieter life all round.

Of course, there is that word "discipline". Down the years many a father has interpreted this in the light of the aphorism "spare the rod and spoil the child". But surely that goes against the extended requirement not to provoke the child to anger. Ignoring this has resulted in many a life being blighted by the smouldering anger of resentment built up against a harsh (but not necessarily cruel) father who no doubt felt he was acting in the best interests of the child in the long run.

Society has moved on and it is thankfully not now acceptable to discipline a child harshly either physically or mentally.

But that word discipline remains.

We as a denomination are engaging in Walking the Way - the way of discipleship. Same root. Discipline: discipleship: discipling. Which should be our priority? Fathers (and mothers) what can you do better than try to disciple your children by and in your life so that their days (and yours) may be long on the earth. A good for all.
 
 

Prayer

Father God and Mother God
help us to treat our children
and the children of others
with respect
so that in our lives
and in our behaviour
we may provoke them
to catch discipleship
from us.
Amen.
 

Today's Writer

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

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Andy Braunston

Fri, 31/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Andy Braunston Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 5: 22 - 33

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the Church, the body of which he is the Saviour.  Just as the Church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her,  in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word,  so as to present the Church to himself in splendour, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish.  In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the Church,  because we are members of his body.  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.  Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband. Reflection This passage  leaves us scratching our heads due to  the content and the way the it has been used over the centuries.  Of course the injunctions to husbands were never preached on as much as those to wives,  the context of ancient Rome, with its brutal patriarchy and slavery based economy (more disturbing passages there!), is different to our own, but what does one do with this passage?

Some preach against it: the writer was wrong just as we sometimes get it wrong; the way this text has  been used to oppress just proves the point.  Others try and look at the writer’s context and say it is so different to our own that we can’t take anything from the passage - he may have been right then but he’s not right now.  Others still see this passage as having divine origin and words of divine truth and would wish to uphold the literal truth of the passage.  All these approaches have their merits and problems.

I think, however, it’s a passage we have to wrestle with - there are plenty of those in the Scriptures after all.  There is a truth in being subject to each other - responsible to each other for our journeys of discipleship.  There is a truth in that our marriages (which may be rather more complex than in the writer’s time - my own, for example, may not have been approved of by the writer) need to reflect God’s love poured out in Christ. There is a truth in seeing the relationship between Christ and the Church as being as sacred, strong and intimate as the marital bond.  

Maybe we have to struggle to separate out timeless truths in the passage from problematic patriarchal pronouncements recognising the harm that these have caused. Of course this approach is no easier than the others outlined above but I think God wants us to wrestle with difficult passages, and difficult questions so that we are both changed and challenged.
 

Prayer

Lord of the Church
remind us of the bond you have with us,
as close as the marital bond,
as fierce as a husband’s love,
or a wife’s fierce tenderness.
Open our hearts and minds,
so that when we struggle
with Biblical passages,
you meet us in that struggle,
and strengthen our faith.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston, Minister of Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs in the Synod of Scotland

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Hilary Collinson

Thu, 30/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Hilary Collinson Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 5: 6 - 14  

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them.  For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light -  for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly;  but everything exposed by the light becomes visible,  for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

‘Sleeper, awake!
   Rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.’
Reflection A prisoner once told me that the day he became a Christian was ‘the best day of my life but also the worst’. He had spent seven years in prison before he came to faith and thought of it as ‘part of what happens in my line’. When he became a Christian he told me ‘I understood all the pain and hurt I had caused others, that will never go away now, but I also know that I can lead a different life’. Now he was approaching the end of his time in prison, seven years on in his faith, he was given an opportunity to become a chef in a Church café on release. In many ways he could be described as someone who had woken up to things and would not go back to sleep.

But I have to wonder about Paul in this passage. What if there were no prison chaplains or others to step beyond the perimeter fence to engage with the people who find themselves behind bars? I am very reluctant to say ‘step into the darkness’ because in my time as a prison chaplain I have seen a lot of light in prison, as well as many who are in the darkness of despair and hopelessness.

However. Paul talks elsewhere about being ‘ambassadors for Christ’. As ever, Paul is speaking into a particular context in this passage. Chaplains – of whatever sort (hospital, industrial etc) are precisely that, people of faith – here I include my fellow Muslim, Sikh, Jewish etc. colleagues as well – who go to where people are and remind them that where they are right now need not be where they are tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that.

But we also are reminded of the Church who decided to employ this ex-offender on his release. They had woken up to the possibility of helping people back into society and into Church-life on release. Could your church community do the same?
 

Prayer

‘When I was in prison you visited me’
says Jesus to the sheep.

Loving God today we pray
for all those in the criminal justice system.
Those who work and those who are imprisoned.
We pray for the victims of crime
and their families and friends.
We ask that you will be
in all the dark places of our world
and that there may be
ambassadors of light
and hope to make your presence clear.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

Today's Writer

The  Rev’d Hilary Collinson is a  minister in the Tees and Swale Pastorate

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 29th August 2018

Wed, 29/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 29th August 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 5: 3 - 5

But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving.  Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Reflection It’s fair to say the reason I chose this reading today, isn’t because I love it, it certainly doesn’t rank as one of my all-time favourite scripture! Rather, it’s because I signed up late and it was one of the very few ‘left-overs’.  It isn’t a passage, I’ve ever preached on without its surrounding, more encouraging context, when we are called ‘light of the Lord’ and exhorted to ‘Be filled with the Spirit’. It would be lovely, if we could extract the difficult bits, from the Bible.  To have ‘light’ without ‘darkness’, ‘fragrant offerings’, without ‘sacrifice’. But it isn’t an option and light reveals shadows.

Paul refers to these shadows, the ‘unspeakable, that must not even be mentioned among you’.  ‘Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them, for everything exposed by the light becomes visible’. Ephesians 5:11-12.

We may have shadows, needing to be brought into the light, confessed to God, for his mercy and forgiveness. But, urges Paul, don’t forget in all things thanksgiving.
 

Prayer

Sorry Lord for the times I’ve been selective about your Word, seeking comfort not challenge. Help me to engage with your word, even when it means revealing the shadows in my life. Transform me, by the power of your Holy Spirit and equip me, to be an instrument of praise, giving glory to you. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev'd Sally Willett is minister of Thamesmead Community Church and an Evangelism and Renewal Advocate for the Group for Evangelism and Renewal in the URC.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 28th August

Tue, 28/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 28th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 5: 1 - 2

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,  and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Reflection There is a suggestion, here, that we have a duty to emulate our parents. As strange as that may sound now, it is only a couple of generations since children routinely lived lives indistinguishable from those of their mothers, fathers, or other caregivers. Children dressed in miniature versions of adult clothing and here, in South East Northumberland, boys typically followed their dads down the pit until the 1980s.

Today, we perceive teenage rebellion as a cultural norm - a rite of passage - with some parents becoming worried if their youngster doesn’t wear questionable clothes or have appalling taste in music. Focusing on the ways that generations differ, we ignore all that we have in common until, that is, the day when we hear ourselves saying one of our parents’ catchphrases and discover that we too have unconsciously become replicas of what went before.

If it requires no effort - or even will - to become like somebody we haven’t chosen as a role model, why is it so difficult to imitate God as today’s passage requires? Sadly, it goes against the standards and customs of our place and time to give as freely as Christ. In fact, if there is one thing our capitalist society is firmly against, it is giving something for nothing. So much so that we are even afraid of getting something for nothing and most people look for a catch when unexpected generosity occurs. Perhaps, then, a first step to giving as freely as God is to learn to receive freely, simply saying “thank you”.
 

Prayer

Beloved Father,
help us to receive gratefully
allowing others the pleasure
of offering us their love and care.
Let us learn
how to emulate your generosity
through example
and make our lives a fragrant offering
and sacrifice
to the Christian doctrine of love. Amen.

Today's Writer

Helen Wilson, Local Preacher, South East Northumberland Ecumenical Area.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Alan Yates

Mon, 27/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Alan Yates Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 4: 25 - 32

So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbours, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labour and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.  Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,  and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Reflection I have to admit I don’t always find Paul easy to understand, but this passage is really clear.  Maybe, because in this, his most impersonal of letters, he is being careful to give guidance that is more general and not tightly engineered for a particular group to meet a particular need.  Whatever the reason, we see a clear list of things that a disciple of Christ should do and not do. In simple terms, this is an explanation of what it means to love your neighbour as yourself.  It is quite a test to mark ourselves against this standard!

There is, perhaps, one small exception to the clarity.  In verse 26 we are asked to be angry, but not in a sinful way.  At first sight this is a strange request, but It won’t take you long to list a few times where Christ’s anger was recorded in the Bible; and this is our guide to non-sinful anger – Jesus was angry on behalf of others, when he saw them being maltreated.  Some time ago, a Muslim friend of mine presented me with a sobering thought. “You see Christians around the world being persecuted, tortured and murdered why are you not angry? When we see our Muslim sisters and brothers being hurt we get angry.” Let me finish with a couple of sentences from William Barclay’s commentary: ‘The anger which is selfish and uncontrolled is a sinful and hurtful thing, which must be banished from the Christian life.  But the selfless anger which is disciplined into the service of Christ and our fellow [women and] men is one of the great dynamic forces of the world.’ Amen
 

Prayer

Lord, I pray
that you will give us all
the wisdom, courage and stamina
to live our lives
in the light of your example.  
Enable us to forget self
when we are tempted to become angry
because someone has hurt us.
Help us to channel our anger
towards those who deprive our neighbours
of your great blessings and freedoms.  
Amen.

Today's Writer

Alan Yates, Immediate Past Moderator of General Assembly

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 26th August

Sun, 26/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 26th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 61

1 O hear my urgent cry, my God,
and listen to my plea.
2 From earth’s remotest bounds I call
when my heart faints in me.

O God, conduct me to the rock
that’s higher far than I.
3 For you’re my refuge from the foe,
my tower of strength on high.

4 O let me dwell within your tent,
for ever there to live!
O for the shelter of your wings,
the refuge which they give!

5 For you have heard my vows, O God,
and you have given me
The heritage of those who fear
your name continually.

6 Prolong the days the king will live;
his sovereign rule extend
For many generations more,
established without end.

7 May he for ever sit as king
enthroned before God’s face;
Appoint your love and faithfulness
as his protecting grace.

8 Then will I ever bless your name
with songs of joy and praise,
And will fulfil my holy vows
with care throughout my days.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Wetherby here or the lovely American tune Land of Rest here.
 
 
Reflection
Writing around the middle of the 20th Century, the psychologist Abraham Maslow outlined what he called a “hierarchy of needs”. He suggested that human needs and motivations can be portrayed as a kind of pyramid, with the most basic and fundamental requirements for survival at the bottom, and the more esoteric and aspirational goals further up; at the top of the pyramid is “self-actualization”, meaning a person's desire to fulfil her or his own potential.  We start at the bottom and build upwards.



Although Maslow's methodology and conclusions have been criticised (and indeed he himself continued to refine his theory over time), in broad terms this is an idea that seems to make sense, and to resonate in our experience: when we're deprived of food or physical warmth, for example, we'll worry more about meeting these needs than about adding to the books on our shelves.

There's a trace of this, in miniature, in today's Psalm: the general progression from desperate plea towards confident praise, and the particular progression in the detail of what the Psalmist is seeking. First comes the cry to “conduct me to the rock that's higher far than I” - to be brought simply to a place of physical preservation from surrounding danger. Then, the request to “dwell within your tent” - to enjoy the comfort and hospitality that can be found in an offer of sanctuary. Yet once this is in place, the very next phrase reveals a yearning for an even closer intimacy: “O for the shelter of your wings”, a feeling of being held close within the presence and protection of God.

We, and the people among whom we serve, may each be at different places on the journey – at different points on a pyramid of personal needs and concerns. So in our worship, work, and witness, in aspiring towards spiritually mature and cohesive communities, let us not overlook the more fundamental needs close-at-hand: shelter, food, and a place of safety.
 

Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
your name be praised,
your kingdom come,
and earth and heaven enact your will.
Give us the food we need this day...
(and when hunger is assuaged:)
bring release from guilt and from debt...
(and when freedom is known:)
keep us from being put to the test,
and rescue us from evil.
For you rule, God, eternally,
and the power and the glory are yours.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dominic Grant, minister, Trinity URC Wimbledon

Bible Version

 
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: © Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion 25th August

Sat, 25/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 25th August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 4: 17-24

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practise every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts,  and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Reflection It would be very interesting to hear how Paul preached to a new set of people. We know he preached the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus, but did he also tell them the stories of Jesus’ actions and words which we presume he heard from those who had met Jesus in human flesh?

Here in his letter to the Ephesians, he seems unsure of what they have learned because they do not seem to have learned anything from Jesus’ teachings, or at least, not enough to have changed their lives completely. They have not had a complete change of heart and mind which surely should show in the way they live their lives. Their hearts are hard; they enjoy the things of the body far too much, in fact they are behaving like those around them who have not heard of Jesus.

Paul is saying here that it takes a complete new mindset to follow the way of Christ and a change of heart. It’s an interesting thought that the two are separate; you would think that one would change the other and this is what Paul seems to say. Hardness of heart has made Gentiles ignorant, literally, “not knowing”. Presumably he is using the word “gentile” to mean those who have not received the good news, rather than those who are not Jews.

What would Paul think of us today? I hope he would not find us hard-hearted and callous. I hope he would see the love in our churches which should be the fruit of the knowledge we have of Jesus, rather than ignorance of him. Perhaps as a precaution, we should look back at the teaching about Jesus we have received and measure ourselves up to it. See if the new body is better than the old!
 

Prayer

Lord,
Preserve us from being
hard-hearted and bigoted.
In our lives we should reflect
the likeness of Jesus to those around us.
Help us to do this
and keep our minds
in the love and knowledge
of him and his teachings. Amen

Today's Writer

Chris Eddowes, elder and lay preacher, St. George’s URC Hartlepool

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion - this time with the reading!

Fri, 24/08/2018 - 09:11
96 Daily Devotion - this time with the reading! Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 4: 14 - 16

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. Reflection “Grow up!”, or more often, “act your age, not your shoe size!” were things that I remember hearing said in school (not always directed at me!), and I think this is what Paul (I know that is a matter of debate) is getting at in this passage.  “Craftiness in deceitful scheming” sounds very deliberate, but the preceding metaphors are rather haphazard.  A boat without a rudder goes where the wind and waves takes it, a game of dice depends upon luck, and many children (and some adults) believe everything they are told without question.  Paul is suggesting that mature Christians would be well advised to develop discernment and wisdom, and that this goes on throughout life.
When children literally grow up, they become more and more distinct as their bodies, personalities, and souls all develop and grow.  But the metaphorical process of growing up spiritually is the opposite, because spiritual maturity comes as Christians grow closer together in love and in relationship with Christ.  How do we go about this?  What does this mean for us, wherever we are on our journey through life and our journey with God?
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, teacher and friend, you are with us when we take our first steps in the discoveries of life.  And you are in our last steps, however faltering they may be.  Bless those near the beginning of their journey.  Strengthen those who have come a long way.  And cherish those whose steps of life have all been trodden.
Help us to encourage one another as we travel and to know that although it seems as if we are forever learning and forever making mistakes, there is nowhere we can go where your love will not surround us and no mistake that can separate us from you, not in life, not in death, not ever.  For you are our gracious Redeemer, not our menacing judge.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins, Minister of Farnham and Elstead URCs, and Clerk of the General Assembly.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Michael Hopkins

Fri, 24/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Michael Hopkins Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 4: 14 - 16

“Grow up!”, or more often, “act your age, not your shoe size!” were things that I remember hearing said in school (not always directed at me!), and I think this is what Paul (I know that is a matter of debate) is getting at in this passage.  “Craftiness in deceitful scheming” sounds very deliberate, but the preceding metaphors are rather haphazard.  A boat without a rudder goes where the wind and waves takes it, a game of dice depends upon luck, and many children (and some adults) believe everything they are told without question.  Paul is suggesting that mature Christians would be well advised to develop discernment and wisdom, and that this goes on throughout life.

When children literally grow up, they become more and more distinct as their bodies, personalities, and souls all develop and grow.  But the metaphorical process of growing up spiritually is the opposite, because spiritual maturity comes as Christians grow closer together in love and in relationship with Christ.  How do we go about this?  What does this mean for us, wherever we are on our journey through life and our journey with God?
Reflection “Grow up!”, or more often, “act your age, not your shoe size!” were things that I remember hearing said in school (not always directed at me!), and I think this is what Paul (I know that is a matter of debate) is getting at in this passage.  “Craftiness in deceitful scheming” sounds very deliberate, but the preceding metaphors are rather haphazard.  A boat without a rudder goes where the wind and waves takes it, a game of dice depends upon luck, and many children (and some adults) believe everything they are told without question.  Paul is suggesting that mature Christians would be well advised to develop discernment and wisdom, and that this goes on throughout life.
When children literally grow up, they become more and more distinct as their bodies, personalities, and souls all develop and grow.  But the metaphorical process of growing up spiritually is the opposite, because spiritual maturity comes as Christians grow closer together in love and in relationship with Christ.  How do we go about this?  What does this mean for us, wherever we are on our journey through life and our journey with God?
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus, teacher and friend, you are with us when we take our first steps in the discoveries of life.  And you are in our last steps, however faltering they may be.  Bless those near the beginning of their journey.  Strengthen those who have come a long way.  And cherish those whose steps of life have all been trodden.
Help us to encourage one another as we travel and to know that although it seems as if we are forever learning and forever making mistakes, there is nowhere we can go where your love will not surround us and no mistake that can separate us from you, not in life, not in death, not ever.  For you are our gracious Redeemer, not our menacing judge.  Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins, Minister of Farnham and Elstead URCs, and Clerk of the General Assembly.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 23rd August

Thu, 23/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 23rd August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 4: 7 - 13  

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it is said,

‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
   he gave gifts to his people.’

(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)  The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.
Reflection Ephesians 4:7-13 is basic to what our Basis of Union (our constitution written at the formation of the URC in 1972) says about the ministry of the whole people of God, and about particular ministries to equip us all for this service.

You may find it helpful to look at that again now, while seeking to understand more of what God expects of us when walking the way: living the life of Jesus today.

19. The Lord Jesus Christ continues his ministry in and through the Church, the whole people of God called and committed to his service and equipped by him for it. This service is given by worship, prayer, proclamation of the Gospel, and Christian witness; by mutual and outgoing care and responsibility; and by obedient discipleship in the whole of daily life, according to the gifts and opportunities given to each one. The preparation and strengthening of its members for such ministry and discipleship shall always be a major concern of the United Reformed Church.
20. For the equipment of his people for this total ministry the Lord Jesus Christ gives particular gifts for particular ministries and calls some of his servants to exercise them in offices duly recognised within his Church.


Here are some suggestions for meditating on those paragraphs from the Basis of Union together with today’s verses from Ephesians:

a)  Visualise and think about the components of ministerial service listed.
b)  What are the gifts and opportunities given to each person in your situation?
c)  How are you all opening yourselves to being further equipped?
d)  Who is being called to new areas of service?
e)  What is the aim or purpose of all this, in relation to Christ?
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for your gifts of grace,
in and through the Church,
for the world.
Help us to fulfil our parts
in your ministry
together.
And to you be the glory,
to all generations,
for ever. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Bernie Collins is a member of Avenue St Andrew’s URC, Southampton, Convenor of the Mission Committee and a retired minister.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 22nd August 2018

Wed, 22/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 22nd August 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 4: 1-6

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,  with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. Reflection Mission statements are as popular as ever – and that’s no bad thing.  Being able to sum up, in one or two sentences, who we are and what we are about helps us to keep focus and gives people a sense that everyone is pulling in the same direction.  However, I don’t know of any church’s mission statement that says, ‘As God’s beloved children we will make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’, yet for Paul this was one of the most important things that members of Christ’s body should strive for.

It would seem, from the language Paul uses, that he was also fully aware of how difficult this is.   He pleads with the church to make every effort, and to do so with humility, gentleness and patience – to bear one another in love.  And why? Because of our oneness in Christ. In verses 4 – 6 he uses the word ‘one’ seven times – one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.  This says to me that Paul cannot stress enough how important one-ness is for those who are one in Christ.

So how does this play out in the life of the Church today?  At times it seems that we are further than ever from realising the vision that Paul had for the Church – although I hope this isn’t true.  As the United Reformed Church we know only too well the effort it takes to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’. But Paul speaks to us as individuals too.  He urges us to have the grace to recognise Christ in others, and with the Spirit’s help, so treat them as though each were part of us – which, of course, they are.
 

Prayer

Holy God, undivided Trinity,
who is above all and through all and in all.
In the diversity of life
and the complexities of living
help us, as your chosen people,
to live in unity with one another
and by doing so, bring glory to your name,
for the sake of Christ our Lord and Head.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Salsbury is Minister of Dyserth and Holywell and Training & Development Officer in the National Synod of Wales

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 21st August

Tue, 21/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 21st August Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 3: 14 - 21

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. Reflection These well known, and loved, words seem to almost act as a doxology or closing point at this juncture of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesian Church. However, it is anything than that; there is quite a chunk of solid teaching to follow. Here Paul is pouring out his gratitude to the Lord regarding the ministry which God has given him and his overwhelming commitment to the task in hand. Throughout it all it is clear to see just how he longs for all the believers there to experience the love of God not in little, rationed, portions but in its entirety. Paul knows that he has been transformed by God’s love and wants everyone to similarly experience and enter into such a great love for themselves.

However, Paul readily acknowledges that this has only been possible due to the Heavenly Father enabling him to partake in the riches of His glory. It is this as well as being endued with the power of the Holy Spirit, which gives him the abilities to enable him to fulfil his God-given ministry.

In essence Paul is longing that all may be given the spiritual understanding to know unreservedly a love such as this for themselves. He is mindful of the fact that he, as much as anyone, needs that fullness which he commends to his readers.

So filled is he with humble adoration and appreciation that he can only do one thing and that is, bow his knees willingly to the One who has made all of this possible.

The final two verses are a reminder of what he knows so well. This is that it is only through the Lord being at work in each one of us who can accomplish such, bringing us to that fulfilment of knowing the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. What confidence and assurance these words give us as we seek to be faithful ourselves wherever the Lord has placed us to serve Him.
 

Prayer

God of extreme and lavish love,
We fall in wonder on our knees,
To bask in your presence
And to experience even more

Of the love that you offer to each one of us.
Teach us the lesson of humility,
That we can only serve you completely,
If we open ourselves to your divine love
And receive from you
the love that knows no limits.
In Jesus’ name and for his glory alone.
AMEN.

Today's Writer

Verena Walder    Lay Preacher and Elder; Tabernacle, Mumbles.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 20th August 2018

Mon, 20/08/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion 20th August 2018 Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ephesians 3: 7 - 13  

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power.  Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ,  and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;  so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,  in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.  I pray therefore that you may not lose heart over my sufferings for you; they are your glory. Reflection St Paul refers to himself as “servant” and “the very least of all the saints”. In doing so he echoes the call of Jesus upon us all: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all”. (Mark 9: 35)

A willingness to be a servant of others is a core consequence and mark of faithful discipleship but it is far from being an easy option. Those familiar with the annual ‘Covenant Service’ of the Methodist Church will recognise these lines from its preface:

“Christ has many services to be done:
some are easy, others are difficult;
some bring honour, others bring reproach;
some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests,
others are contrary to both;
in some we may please Christ and please ourselves;
in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.”

A willingness to embrace such servanthood – when we feel like it, and when we don’t – may sometimes be something we are inclined to resist but it is a mark of faithfulness to the One who “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” (Philippians 2: 6-7). St Paul underlines the fact that it is God’s grace that enables him – and us – to fulfil our calling.

When it comes to regarding ourselves as “the very least” there is no shortage of parables told by Jesus in which those who think too highly of themselves are put in their place. Nevertheless, today’s reading assures us that “in Christ Jesus our Lord … we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him”. There is an implicit irony: invited to embody humility nevertheless we can have boldness and confidence in approaching God.

If we are open and willing today may well offer us a fresh opportunity to serve others and to embody humility. May what we do and who we are enable others to see “the mystery hidden for ages”.
 

Prayer

A Prayer by
St Ignatius of Loyola
(1491-1556):

Teach us, good Lord to serve thee
as thou deservest,
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward;
except that of knowing that we do thy will. Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke, Minister, The Crossing Church & Centre, Worksop & Wales Kiveton Methodist Church

Bible Version

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


 
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