URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion 8th January 2020

Wed, 08/01/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 8th January 

1 Corinthians 1: 1 - 3

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection

‘… and our brother Sosthenes.’

In my Bible they have given this letter a title. Apparently, it’s The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, but what about Sosthenes? His name is right there with Paul’s, at the letter’s beginning. Was he just the scribe, writing whatever Paul dictated? (At the end of the letter Paul announces that the last few words are in his own handwriting.) If so, it’s strange to give Sosthenes such a prominent mention.

Maybe he’s there to provide visible support for Paul, to validate his message. After all, Sosthenes is “one of their own”. He’s someone who knew from painful personal experience the challenges facing followers of Jesus in this bustling Greek city-port (Acts 18:17).

Just imagine being part of that group of Corinthian Christians, listening to the newly arrived letter.

“What do Sosthenes and Paul want to say to us? You know, I’ve never been entirely sure about Paul but if Sosthenes thinks he’s ok …”

“They say we’re the ‘Church of God’ in this place. This local group is God’s Church. We belong to God.”

“They say, we’re ‘sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.’ Jesus has made / is making us into a holy people.”

“They say, we’re not the only saints. There are ‘saints in every place [who] call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.’ There’s little church and big Church, and we’re a part of all that.”

“Well, we seem to be on the same page there, so let’s hear what else they have to say. Yes, grace and peace to you too, Sosthenes (and to you, Paul), from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Prayer

Gracious God, I thank you,
For my local church which is your Church;
For the impact of Jesus Christ upon me and others;
For all your saints, past and present,
Not forgetting Sosthenes, Paul, and the Corinthian Christians,
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Trevor Jamison, Minister, St Columba’s URC, North Shields Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 7th January 2020

Tue, 07/01/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 7th January The Holy Family As Refugees 

St Matthew 2: 13 - 15

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’

Reflection

In recent years it has become customary to state that if the 3 wise men had been 3 wise women they would have: arrived on time, brought a casserole and cleaned the stable.  This was in reaction to the old fashioned understanding of the gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold as grave goods.  

In fact these are gifts as practical as the casserole.  Frankincense is, among other uses, an air freshener. When our older daughter was a teething baby an active ingredient in the gel we rubbed on was myrrh.  (By the time our younger daughter arrived it was known that myrrh can cause liver disease.) Frankincense and myrrh are both practical gifts in the circumstances and maybe any surplus can be used for bargaining.  And gold?  

Something had to be used to pay the bills for a long term stay in Bethlehem.  Somehow this poor carpenter was having to work his socks off to afford it all.  

Then, the worrying news brought by the visitors, confirmed in a dream, of Herod’s interest.  Not much time to consider what to do, only a reason to go. Familiar images of terrified people walking dry, dusty roads surely form in our mind’s eye.  A gift of gold turned out to be better than a lottery win for it was an acceptable medium of exchange for displaced people about to be thrust across countries as refugees.  A gift at the right time, it turned out.  

Matthew simply states their refugee status as fulfilling a prophecy.  We recognise so many modern situations, for individuals, families and nations within it, the suffering, loss of place and livelihood.  There is a short prose poem, though too long to quote here, about the judgement at the end of world. You can search for “The Long Silence” here.

Prayer

Lord, when we wonder what gifts to give, give us understanding,
when we wonder about unexpected interest, give us insight,
when we are undecided about a course of action, give us direction.
Amen 
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Browning, retired minister, member of 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 6th January 2020

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 6th January  The Visit of the Magi 


St Matthew 2: 1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people Israel.”’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Reflection

Charles Causley’s poem ‘Innocents song’ ends with this warning:

 ‘Watch where he comes walking
out of the Christmas flame,
dancing, double-talking:
Herod is his name’.

I do not come as an innocent, or wise man to this story. My familiarity with it has a dream like quality, infused with long memories of presentations of the story dressed up for children in church.

But this is not a story for my entertainment. King Herod is a homicidal despot whose reign, sustained by violence, enforced compliance to his will. Perhaps he was a psychopath - by turns charming and threatening – depending on what was advantageous. Such leaders are still to be found today.

Nor are the diligent searchers from the east a vehicle for gorgeous costumes to be admired. They are travellers exhausted from a long search, which might, or might not, have a successful conclusion. They travel in faith, which is not the same as certainty. T.S. Eliot well captures this: “A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year for a journey, and such a journey…”

A report of foreign astrologers passing through Herod’s territory would be more than ordinarily interesting to the King. Gaining their confidence, he extracts their mission from them. Meantime, Herod’s further research fuels his mounting paranoia. He makes his visitors promise to tell him of their mission’s success. Herod too wants to pay his respects.

The royal court of the baby, very different from that of Herod’s palace; brings the magi ‘overwhelming joy’, and the giving of their symbolic gifts to the child. Reflecting on their promise to Herod – the magi decide not to keep it – discreetly making their way home.

May this Epiphany bring you joy and wisdom, gifts the Christ child gives us for our living.

Prayer

Gracious God
we have read and heard
the story of your Son’s coming
amongst us so often that
it is easy not to pause in
wonder and adoration.
Open our hearts and minds
to accept your gift to us:
the one whose coming
brings fresh hope and life
to our tired world,
and refreshment to our souls.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John A Young, retired minister of the Synod of Scotland and member of Giffnock 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 5th January 2020

Sun, 05/01/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 5th January Psalm 130 

1 LORD, from the depths I call to you;
2 Lord, hear me from on high
And give attention to my voice
when I for mercy cry.

3 LORD, in your presence who can stand,
if you our sins record?
4 But yet forgiveness is with you,
that we may fear you, LORD.

5 I wait—my soul waits—for the LORD;
my hope is in his word.
6 More than the watchman waits for dawn
my soul waits for the Lord.

7 O Isr’el, put your hope in God,
for mercy is with him
8 And full redemption. From their sins
his people he’ll redeem.

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the tune Martyrdom here.

Reflection

This is one of the Psalms of Ascent.  Having just returned from the URC’s visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I have a new understanding of ascent – who knew Jerusalem was so hilly!?

It speaks to the (mistaken) idea that God is waiting for us to trip up, to get things wrong and so to judge us.  Let’s face it, if that were the case, we’d probably all be in trouble. But that is not God; God’s default position is to forgive and to respond to our sin with grace.  Thank God!

In this Psalm we meet, not a God who imposes his will by force, but one who makes himself vulnerable by being in relationship with us imperfect humans.  For despite all our faults and failings, we wait on the Lord in the steadfast hope of his redeeming forgiveness and in that forgiveness, we receive freedom to live as children of God.

This Psalm could have been written for the Palestinian Christians living and working in the West Bank who are crying out for justice.  It speaks to their condition as humans who are ‘in the depths’, they are in distress and drowning in a situation not of their making, and over which they have no control; armed checkpoints and a 26ft wall dominate their lives.  They are in need of a liberating, rescuing, redemption – they are in need of God’s saving love. 

Yet despite their situation, many of those we met remain hopeful, they were welcoming, showed generous hospitality and all they asked in return was, ‘tell our story’.  Their stories need to be heard so if you’ve not already, please speak to your synod rep who went on the trip. And remember the psalmist’s words, ‘from the depths I call to you; Lord, hear me’.

Prayer:

Creator God,
You call to us in our dark places and invite us to new life.
When we feel lost and hopeless you surprise us with your saving love.
May we be signs of your love and life for all those we meet as we walk the way and live the life of Jesus today.  Amen  -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Branwen Rees, East Wales Regional Minister Copyright
Sing Psalms! Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4th January 2020

Sat, 04/01/2020 - 06:15
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Saturday 4th January  Arise and Shine

Isaiah 60: 1 - 6

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and look around;
    they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
    and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
    your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
    the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
    the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
    all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
    and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

Reflection

The liturgical season that Isaiah 60 inaugurates is a season of revelation.  Epiphany, in the Early Church, was not about the arrival of the Magi but the revelation of Jesus Christ at his baptism, to the whole world as God’s only and beloved child. Epiphany is God’s self-revelation to the world, the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. It was one of the three major feasts of the liturgical calendar around which faith communities organized the rhythms of their life: Easter, Epiphany, Pentecost (not Christmas or a Nativity scene or Magi!).

Current thinking is that this passage is situated in the sixth century BCE as the exiles returned to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, a major conflict had arisen between those who remained and those who returned. Living conditions were extremely difficult. Jerusalem was in ruins. The people were now divided again - not against some outside threat or enemy, but among themselves.

Chapters 58 and 59 are characterized by gloom, by despair, by a call to repentance.  They are also marked by a yearning for light and glory to come.

The opening line of Isaiah 60 is like a thunderbolt of glory.  What surprises is the abruptness of the shift from doom and gloom to light and glory. God erupts!  He arises and shines forth in glory! God’s glory in the Hebrew Scripture is always God’s presence. God’s presence, His very own face, is designated by glory. God does not possess glory -- God is glory.

Now this glory and light arises among the people.  It is the Lord who arises among them, giving what the Lord gives: life and salvation.  But this giving is not just for the remnant of Israel, it is not just for those who have returned from exile, but for all the nations.  Now, all the nations will come to the Lord. Just as in Isaiah 6, the Temple could not contain the glory now also here, the people of Israel cannot contain it.   The presence of God expands outwards toward the whole cosmos. Thanks be to God.

Prayer

Brilliant God, we frequently wander around in deep, dull darkness.  
Lord, we ask that we may be illuminated by your grace and love.  
Let us radiate and reflect the brilliance of your light.  
Shine through us, so that we may share you with others.   
In Jesus name we pray, Amen -->

Today's writer

Ann Barton, member 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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URC Daily Devotion 3rd January 2020

Fri, 03/01/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 3rd January  Our real homeland
 
Hebrews 11: 13 - 22

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’  He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, ‘bowing in worship over the top of his staff.’  By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial.

Reflection

If there is one hymn we are bound to sing at least once during the coming year, it is ‘Who would true valour see’ (Rejoice and Sing 557), or a translation on the theme. It is a hymn dear to many, and is frequently sung at funerals, or at Remembrance-tide. It affects our psyche as we think of our forebears who were also travelling on a journey, on a pilgrimage of their own. Written by an imprisoned John Bunyan, the poem/hymn forms part of Part II of Pilgrim’s Progress.

The inspiration for the hymn came from Hebrews 11:13, our reading today. In the Epistle, the writer gives examples of the faith of certain historical Biblical figures: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Moses. It is within Abraham’s section that we hear the immortal words of the Authorised Version ‘and they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth’.

This is important, because we must remember and give thanks that this world is not all there is. At the heart of Christianity is the beating belief that, regardless of the apparent finality of death, there is something beyond, something still to come. For us pilgrims to understand fully would be impossible: as with so much of theology, it is trying to put into human terms things understood only by God. 

However, we can take comfort from these lines of Scripture. It is these fellow pilgrims who built churches of which we are a part, it is they who inspired our forebears, and who inspired us. 

We, in turn, will one day become the saintly building blocks on which others can build their faith. 

In years and decades to come, when others look back on our lives, I hope and pray they will say:

They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth… they desired a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. 

Prayer

Put thou thy trust in God,
so safe shalt thou go on,
walk in His strength with faith and hope,
so shall thy work be done.
Give to the winds thy fears,
hope, and be undismayed,
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head. 

Paul Gerhardt (1607 - 1676) tr. John Wesley (1703 - 1791) Rejoice and Sing #550 -->

Today's writer

Michael RJ Topple, Lay Pastoral Assistant of Long Melford URC, Lay Preacher and member of Chappel 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 2nd January 2020

Thu, 02/01/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 2nd January  The Meaning of Faith 

Hebrews 11: 1-12

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable] sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and ‘he was not found, because God had taken him.’ For it was attested before he was taken away that ‘he had pleased God.’  And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, ‘as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.’

Reflection

Another New Year begins. The past year with its yearnings, hopes, and fears is at an end. A new day is about to dawn. Or is it? Anticipation of what is to come still brings with it anxiety about some of the difficult things that have happened and might yet be repeated.

The passage from Hebrews brings with it a significant reminder of the role of faith in life’s journey. Faith is not a generalized or abstract concept but is embodied by reference to particular people for whom faith has been key to their life’s journey.

The start of a New Year is a helpful time to reflect back on all that has happened over the previous year and to make resolutions for what lies ahead in the coming year. But resolutions can be of the moment, lamented over in a week or two as being too difficult to implement, or forgotten in a month or two.

The stories of people of faith come as an encouraging reminder of the God who is with us for the long term, however much we might fail and falter on the way. This God sustains us through good times and bad.

When I’m tempted to look to the future and think that all is lost, that I can’t see where new light will come from, I remember the stories of the faithful people of God, from scriptural times to the present. These people have persevered against the odds, including Abraham and Sarah, who didn’t know what lay in front of them, but trusted in the one who called them, and in this trust bore fruit.

As I start this New Year, I pray for this kind of trust to be fruitful in my life in the year that lies ahead.
 
Prayer

Gracious God
as I start this New Year,
open my eyes to see you in all things.
Grant me the trust to live day by day in your way.
Gift me with the hope to see hidden possibilities that you hold in store.
When I feel I don’t know where I’m going,
remind me of those who have travelled faithfully in your way,
not knowing where you would lead them.
Thank you for the gift of faith.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, past Moderator of URC General Assembly, member of St Andrews URC Ealing. 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 1st January 2020

Wed, 01/01/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 1st January  For Everything a Time 

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 - 13

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil?  I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.

Reflection

This is a passage many people will recognise even if they don’t know where it comes from, partly because in the 1960s US folk-rock band The Byrds had a hit with a cover of Pete Seeger’s song ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ which sets these verses to music. The song sticks closely to the Biblical text, but does end pointedly with an addition of a line after ‘a time for peace’ - ‘I swear it’s not too late’ - making it into anti-war protest song. Back then, it was a time for war in Vietnam, whereas today bitter conflicts continue in Syria, Yemen, and many other places. We need to believe that they will not last for ever.

Yet is there really ever a right time for war, or to kill? Of course not, but the point isn’t that these things should happen, but that human life and experience is complex and many different things will occur in the course of a lifetime. The Book of Ecclesiastes often reads as a dialogue between different voices, holding conflicting ideas in tension. We will always have times of celebration and times of sadness, sometimes simultaneously, and it can be hard to remember in each that they will not last forever.

So what kind of time is it for you? New Year’s Day might be a time for looking ahead with either excitement or apprehension at what the year ahead might bring. (Alternatively, it might be a time for recovering from the rigours of the night before!) What time is it for us as individuals, for our nation, for the world? What can we do, as people and as God’s Church, to ensure it is a time for laughing and dancing rather than weeping and mourning, and a time for peace and not war?

Prayer

Gracious and eternal God,
we stand together in celebration
with people for whom it is a time for dancing and joy,
and we stand together in solidarity
with those for whom it is a time of sadness and mourning.
We give thanks that, whatever the time,
you will be with us and will love us.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev'd Dr Nick Jones is minister of 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 31st December 2019

Tue, 31/12/2019 - 06:00
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Tuesday 31st December Light of the World
St John 8: 12 - 18

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’ Then the Pharisees said to him, ‘You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid.’ Jesus answered, ‘Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.  You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgement is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf.’

Reflection

What is the central message from these verses? Is it about light or legalism or even judgment?
 
Here is Jesus claiming to be the light of the world. Not a new concept but one rooted in ancient Judaism with the understanding that God was calling the Israelites to be “a light to the nations,” (Isaiah 49:6). The theme of light shining into darkness runs through both Old and New Testaments. Possibly nowhere more so than in John’s gospel which begins with words which include “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people”. (John 1:4)
 
If it is about the Pharisees and their legalism, this too is not a new story line, it is a thread which runs through the New Testament as they try to trip Jesus up.

Actually, I think the central message here is about none of those things but it is found in verse 14 when Jesus says “I know where I have come from and where I am going”. The central message is a reminder that it is God who is in charge.

Once we are clear about that, we can think about what it means for each one of us. The message of light becomes the key. Called as we are to Walk the Way of Jesus, is a call not just to follow the light of Jesus but also a challenge to be light and life wherever we go. It may be time to put away the Christmas lights but the dark corners of the world need that light, life and hope of Jesus throughout 2020.
 
Prayer

Jesus, light of the world,
we have heard your call to follow the light
and to dispel the darkness.
We pray for wisdom and courage
to go into those dark places
and bring your light to shine
that all may live in the light of your presence.
Amen
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Today's writer

Val Morrison, elder and former General Assembly Moderator, Hall Gate, Doncaster.,  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 30th December 2019

Mon, 30/12/2019 - 06:00
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Monday 30th December Living by Faith
 
2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
 
Reflection

This reading recalls quotations from three minds greater than mine, so I can do little better than lay them before you.

The first is from Solomon, looking back on his life and concluding that all his fabulous wealth, power, learning and pleasure are meaningless, a mere “chasing after the wind”. Then, where is real meaning to be found? Solomon recognises an inner longing for what he cannot quite grasp, a longing so often masked by temporal shadows of eternal truths. God, he says, has “set eternity in the human heart” (Ecc 3:11).

Augustine describes that same heart-hunger: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” (Augustine, Confessions, Book 1) - the disquiet of perceiving a ‘beyond’, but being unable to reach it. Yet.

C. S. Lewis writes in ‘The Weight of Glory’ that our preoccupation with this world is “making mud pies in a slum because [we] cannot imagine … a holiday at the sea.” We catch hints occasionally, but that elusive pure beauty, joy, fulfilment is not in the sunset or music or friendship, but perceived though them. Our hearts are straining for “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

We are presently beyond the borders of our real country, on the wrong side of a door half open. Through the crack we may glimpse peace, honour, truth, and all other good things, but we cannot be those things we see. And yet, says Lewis, “all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.”

A Prayer

God of glory,
guide our eyes to see beyond what can be seen,
guide our hands to work as good and faithful servants,
guide our feet towards our eternal home,
that we may perceive, amid the present shadows,
our true home with you, in eternal light and glory.
Amen 
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Today's writer

Fay Rowland, graduate student of Wesley House, Cambridge, worshipping at Christ the King, Northants

  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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 29th December 2019

Sun, 29/12/2019 - 06:00
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Sunday 29th December

Psalm 129
The Rev’d Elizabeth Gray-King, Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba’s Oxford

1 They have oppressed me from my youth—
Let Israèl now make this known—
2 They have oppressed me from my youth;
Yet I have not been overthrown.

3 They drew their ploughs across my back;
The ploughmen made their furrows long.
4 The LORD is just; he cut me free
From cords of those who did me wrong.

5 May all who hate Jerusalem
Be put to shame and turned away.
6 May they, like grass upon the roof,
Not grow, but wither and decay.

7 Such grass can fill no reaper’s hands;
The gatherer has no reward.
8 May passers-by not say to them:
“We wish you blessing from the LORD!”

The Editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tune Soldau for this Psalm.

Reflection

What a curious poem for the height of incarnation celebrations!  Word made flesh in the incarnation of Jesus is high celebration. Flesh has become holy ground, loved with holy habitation.  Yet the fleshed body we meet in the first section of this poem is an oppressed furrowed thing. Celebration comes with release by the Lord, flesh cut free from oppressors. Sadly, the releasing celebration turns in on itself as this dear flesh moves to a different kind of oppression, weighed down by vengeance, calling others to refuse blessing to old perpetrators.  This poem is likely not about a person, but about a multitude – the state of Israel, a long story of oppressed people with particular preferenced relationship with God. Such a multitude is tasked with doing better than this, of moving beyond vengeance. But multitudes are made up of individuals. We humans, holy ground of God, often struggle with the holy task to forgive with no ill will called into action. 

It is hard work to believe that God has released us all from old oppression and will literally release us from present terrors. Jesus shows us profound connection with human flesh, connection with heart, mind, soul, strength.  That connection releases us from the need to turn old oppression into new vengeance. Our wonderful gnarled furrowed selves are free to welcome God to our own bodies, and in that physical connection, have the strength of God (truly) to let history be history, to put down the past and not carry it into our free and released futures. If we are still being oppressed – now, as we read this devotion - we can breathe to courage because of Jesus. We can find the deep strength from God inside us (inside the real bodies of you and me) to find a route to release. This is God’s work. God is with us.
 
Prayer

Holy God, this season always combines celebration and heartache. Oppression in families and communities moves in and out of familiar rituals. You know how hard it is to believe that you made a difference to the world as Jesus; that you continue to make that difference in us and others. Give us courage to believe, courage to receive, power to celebrate and freedom to forgive. In the name of Jesus and in the power and presence of Holy Spirit, Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Elizabeth Gray-King, Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba’s Oxford
 
Copyright
Sing Psalms (C) The Psalmody Committee, The Free Church of Scotland
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URC Daily Devotion 28th December 2019

Sat, 28/12/2019 - 06:00
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Saturday 28th December  Holy Innocents
 
St Matthew 2: 16 - 18

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.  Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

 ‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
    wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

Reflection

In wartime, everyone suffers. In times of conflict or oppression, those who suffer most are often those who are least able to fight back. Herod’s devastating decision wipes out a whole generation of young children who have no way to defend themselves. I can’t even begin to imagine the terrible agonies of their parents and families.

In some situations, all we can do is grieve with those who are grieving. In the face of such tragedy, there are no real answers and no easy words we can say. So often, as Christians, we want to offer hope and solutions, but sometimes such responses are simply inhumane. If it were not so, there would have been no need for the agonies of the Crucifixion and everything that entails. We are often too quick to seek the Resurrection before we have endured the dark night of Jesus’ death.

When tragedy occurs, sometimes the most prayerful response is tears cried before God and offered to Him in faith. Because God marks every tear and every sorrow of our hearts, and He is able to carry all our burdens through the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross.

Prayer

Dear God, give us compassion to stand alongside those who suffer. Help us to listen to the quiet voices of need in those around us and to respond to them with the help of Your gracious and ever-loving Spirit. Amen.
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Today's writer

Anne Brooke, Attender at Elstead URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 27th December 2019

Fri, 27/12/2019 - 06:00
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Friday 27th December  Wisdom Danced at Creation’s Birth
 
Proverbs 8: 22 - 31

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth—
when he had not yet made earth and fields,
    or the world’s first bits of soil.
When he established the heavens, I was there,
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
     then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
 rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the human race.

Reflection

When you read this, I guess most of you will be in that post-Christmas period where time often seems to stand still. The festivities are (probably) over, the tree is (probably) looking a bit tired, the prospect of left-over festive food is (probably) not to be welcomed with rapturous joy. So maybe the attraction of dancing with Wisdom to celebrate the dawn of Creation is (probably) not at the forefront of your consciousness at this time.
Those who know me will (probably) be muttering that the prospect of me dancing at any time is not an attractive proposition. They would be right. Even on a beautiful sunny autumn morning like today as I write this piece.

Yet a paean like this one to the place of Wisdom in the creative work of God at the dawn of time, indeed before time itself exploded into being, cannot fail to stir the heart and lift the spirits.

Our Editor has placed this devotion between reflections on the martyrdom of Stephen and the Massacre of the Innocents, reminding us that God reflected on His Creation and saw that it was good, but humanity mars that essential goodness. God’s creation is good, because the creative act was shot through with Wisdom. Humanity mars creation by acting without wisdom. Perhaps Wisdom, the master worker, no longer finds the human race so delightful.

A footnote in the NRSV suggests that an alternative reading of the Hebrew for “master worker” is “little child”. Maybe that reading fits the picture better – a little child rejoicing, delighting, dancing. A little child, the first born of creation. And God will delight.

As I write, school children are on strike, demonstrating against the lack of urgency in tackling climate change. Children embodying Wisdom. Like the Christ-child we have just welcomed.

Prayer

Creative God, imbue us with wisdom.
Set us up so that we can truly appreciate your creation
and cause us to strive to ensure that we do not mar
that which is good.
 
Stir us in our lethargy
and help us to dance –
in our minds
if not with our bodies.  Amen
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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 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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 26th December 2019

Thu, 26/12/2019 - 06:00
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Thursday 26th December On the Feast of Stephen

Acts 7: 59 - 8:8

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’  Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.  And Saul approved of their killing him. That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria.  Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah to them. The crowds with one accord listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did, for unclean spirits, crying with loud shrieks, came out of many who were possessed; and many others who were paralysed or lame were cured.  So there was great joy in that city.

Reflection

Would you give up your life for your faith? Perhaps it is not the kind of thing you’d like to think about on Boxing Day, when you may still be basking in the glow of family, friends, presents and fun. Yet this is also the Feast of Stephen, of whom we read in Acts 7 and who is seen as the first Christian martyr.  After the birth of Christ we are confronted with a story of martyrdom and persecution. It is as if to say: if you want to follow the Child of Bethlehem, the cost will be high.

Martyrdom and persecution are the reality of many people of faith around the world today. A government review earlier this year showed that one in three people suffer from religious persecution, and that Christians are the most persecuted religious group.

Around the world there are millions of people under pressure for their faith, yet they are holding on and continuing to witness in whatever way they can. I have had the privilege of meeting some of them: Christian community nurses in Bangladesh, Palestinian Christians in Nazareth and Bethlehem. Their stories witness to a deep encounter with the presence and love of God that is worth staking their life on. They witness to it in every way they can, sometimes at the expense of their own safety or well-being.

I am not sure I could do that and thank God that is not being asked of me. I am helped by the original meaning of the Greek word for martyr. It only later takes on the meaning of someone who dies for their faith. First and foremost, it means to point to a truth beyond oneself. And that is something to which we are all called (Acts 1, 8); that is something we can all do. We too can bear witness to how God is at work in our lives and in the world – we too can be people who bring grace, peace and joy to the world.

Prayer

We thank you, eternal God,
For the witnesses of all times and all places.
May the stories of their lives inspire us to look deep within our souls.
May they encourage us to take the risk of faith
and to serve you in new ways. Amen.
 
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Today's writer


Francis Brienen, Deputy General Secretary (Mission), Muswell Hill URC Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 25th December 2019

Wed, 25/12/2019 - 06:00
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Wednesday 25th December  Manifestation of God’s Glory
 
Titus 2: 11  - 14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly,  while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Reflection

May I wish our Daily Devotion readers a very Happy Christmas!

Take a moment to dwell on that opening: ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all’. 
This is true every day, but on this day it sings with special resonance. 
Whatever we are facing, however hard or joyful, there is hope in Christ.

I can’t help but hear Isaiah’s words set to Handel’s glorious music: ‘And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.’

The hearing and experiencing of this glorious truth is wonderful. 
How we go on to live it and share it ‘in this present age’ is what Titus is concerned with.

He is of his own age, which goes some way to explaining his exhortation, in previous verses, for women to be reverent, chaste and submissive; for slaves to ‘give satisfaction’ and not talk back.

How might we live in our age as a result of God’s grace appearing?

Today – Christmas meals will be shared with the lonely.
Today – someone will visit family and talk about the Christmas Services they’ve attended.
Today – somewhere a Christmas candle will lighten the darkness of human suffering.
Today and everyday – God’s grace will be revealed in our age. Alleluia!

Prayer

God with us,
on this day of wonder,
we pray in deep thanksgiving
for your hope
for your light
for your salvation.
May it show in our lives
and transform this age.
With the cries of Christ-Child we pray. Amen
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Martin Knight is minister of St Paul’s URC, South Croydon and South Croydon United Church (Methodist/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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 24th December 2019

Tue, 24/12/2019 - 06:00
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Tuesday 24th December  
Isaiah 9: 2-7

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
    on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
    and the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
    and all the garments rolled in blood
    shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
    and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
    and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
    He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Reflection

This familiar and well loved oracle is poetry and prophecy. Its song like character has helped expand its original historical setting (probably an accession oracle for a new king). Using rich metaphors of light breaking into darkness, divine absence relieved by divine presence, the joy of an abundant harvest, the spoils of victory, it has become an oracle of hope for all generations. It has found its way into the Christmas season as a messianic oracle.

Isaiah tells us that God will create a new wonderful possibility, one that is unqualified and unconditional. The darkness of despair will be flooded with light, God’s apparent absence will be relieved by the arrival of a divine presence. The signal for this is the birth of a child. This joyous epiphany is memorably captured in Handel’s majestic chorus from The Messiah ‘And the glory’. His combination of Scripture and music reinforces the Church’s claim that this passage is a prophetic foretelling of the coming of Christ.

The theme of transformation so vividly portrayed here is God’s work. Just as the character of the Davidic king, so longed for by ancient Israel would bring ‘justice and righteousness’, so the messiah of Christian understanding will embody all the graces God wants to bestow on the people of God. God’s glory will thus be revealed to all.

This Christmas Eve reading reminds us of God’s promise to us that even in the midst of difficulty, even despair, God, the eternal giver of hope, will journey with us in the person of his son, leading us towards a joyful future.

Prayer

Loving God,
speak to our hearts
of your presence
gifted to us
in the birth of Christ.
Calm our fears,
strengthen our spirits,
and prepare our hearts
to receive your greatest blessing:
the child who will transform our lives
for good. Amen
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John A Young, retired minister of Synod of Scotland and member of Giffnock URC  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion 23rd December 2019

Mon, 23/12/2019 - 06:00
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Monday 23rd December  Magnificat
 
St Luke 1: 46 -55

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.

Reflection

There they stand together, two mothers-to-be. Elizabeth has lived through many years of private sadness and public shame because she has borne no children – made worse because her husband is a public figure. Now at last, an old woman, she is pregnant. Her visitor, Mary, is young, hardly more than a child, also pregnant, her condition not yet obvious. She is without a husband, facing a future of disgrace in the eyes of her community. Before she set out to visit Elizabeth, Mary had accepted her condition as being from God and her child as God's Son – but there was no certainty that her older relative would see things in the same way. In fact Elizabeth is delighted, calling out for joy, and blessing Mary and her unborn child. Mary might have been expecting reproach, even rejection, from the older woman; instead she found blessing and strength.
Mary's joyful song of praise rings through the house. Magnificat – praise for the greatness of God the Saviour, the Mighty One, who chooses ordinary, lowly people and blesses them with justice; and is now, in Mary's child, through Mary's obedience, raising up one who will be their Saviour.

The words Luke attributes to Mary are not certainly his own: some scholars* believe them to be based on hymns sung in worship by early Christian communities. Their theme is fulfilment – jubilant confidence that God has kept faith with the people, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever (v.55).

In these busy days before Christmas in a time of uncertainty and division, as we work and pray for justice in our society, we join in Mary's joyful song … for He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly. Magnificat – Thanks be to God

Prayer

God, Maker of all that is eternal
Creator of all that is new,
make us unexpected agents of change
for the world around us.
Remind us that faith is
catching your vision of the way things can be.
Give us courage to speak
when the odds appear against us,
And help us to see the surprising results
that can come about
when unexpected people
bring about unexpected transformation
in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

*See The First Christmas – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Birth by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, published in GB by SPCK, 2008.
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Heather Pencavel, Retired Minister, Member of 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.
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URC Daily Devotion 22nd December 2019

Sun, 22/12/2019 - 06:00
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Sunday 22nd December

Psalm 128

1 How blessed are all who fear the LORD,
Who walk the way that he has shown.
2 Success and blessing will be yours;
You’ll eat the fruit that you have grown.

3 Your wife will be a fruitful vine;
And round your table will be placed
Your children like young olive shoots.
4 Thus he who fears the LORD is blessed.

5 May you behold Jerus’lem’s good;
From Zion may God’s blessing flow.
6 Your children’s children may you see.
May God on Isr’el peace bestow!

You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Duke Street here.


Reflection

I often find myself giving thanks to God for the simplicity of life lived according to this way of Christian faith, both the heartaches it has spared me from and the many joys it has given me. Such is the blessedness of God on this life of faith, and yet as I read this Psalm today, I am left with a sense of longing ‘If only life was this simple’.

On the surface there is a certain blessedness that flows from obedience, but there are also those who don’t see the fruit of their own labour. Families that face hardships and disappointments, that seem to flow not from their disobedience but from their best efforts to live as people of faith. So, what do we say to them, can God’s blessing fail? Or must we consider them crushed for some secret sin?

God forbid that we should ever look upon the struggles of others with such heartless insensitivity.

Sometimes we have to look a little deeper to uncover the true blessings God gives us.

Looking back at this Psalm, I am heartened by the fact that it is read traditionally on the feast of the Holy Family. A family whose obedience led them into messy relationships (insinuations of infidelity and questions of paternity), fugitives and exiles in a foreign land (opposed by religious and secular authorities),  and eventually to the heartache of watching their son die a criminal’s death (outside the city whose peace is prayed for here).

Jesus, who wept over Jerusalem and spoke of his desire to gather it as a mother hen gathers her chicks. Jesus, Mary’s olive shoot, who grows up to be an olive branch for us all. God’s gift of peace.

Prayer:

Loving Father, thank you for the many good gifts you pour upon us, 
For the gift of work, the fruits of which we share with our neighbours, 
For the gift of friends and family that we may both struggle with and celebrate,  
For the gift of faith in Jesus whose peace we receive, 
Even as we walk the way that he trod, in obedience to you. 
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d James Church, Minister, Lillington Free Church and Radford Road 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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 21st December 2019

Sat, 21/12/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 21st December 2019 View this email in your browser

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 21st December  The One Who Comes From Above

St John 3: 31 - 36

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony.  Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

Reflection

Welcome to the 21st December - the longest night of the year. 

We are in the depths of winter when the sun is low on the horizon. This time was tough for our agrarian forebears, reminding them that the land wasn’t producing harvest. And it’s still psychologically tough for many of us today. In the depths of winter, now is the time to remind ourselves that the sunshine and the growing season will return to the land. We would be wise to accept this message.

But another message of hope in the darkness is spoken of. This is the message that Jesus is in charge of the Universe, and brings the message of God to this planet’s inhabitants. The message is that Jesus brings so much life-giving power, it has overturned death and decay. Entropy is defeated.  We would be wise to accept this message too.

But we, frail creatures of this good planet, often struggle to accept it. It goes against our experience and upsets our autonomy. Jesus asks us to take Him at his word - a word that bears witness to a reality that is hidden from our senses. 

And what is the cost of ignoring this message? It is not that God is vindictive. Instead, we remain locked in our own self-imposed winter of the soul, living with a sparse measure of light, and still governed by the rule of death and decay. 

Jesus’ message is inviting - new light is coming. Bathe in God’s sunshine.

Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you that you bring to us news of another source of light and life.
This source is God’s love for the world and its inhabitants.
Even in our struggles, help us to embrace your love and light.
 
As the sun is above us
You are above all things holding the Universe together
And bringing news of God’s love of us.
Encourage our hearts
And warm our souls.
Amen.
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Today's writer

Daniel Harris, Ordinand, Westminster College.  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 © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 20th December 2019

Fri, 20/12/2019 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 20th December 2019 View this email in your browser

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Friday 20th December  God Sent His Son...


Galatians 4: 1-7

My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba!  Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Reflection
“Timing is everything in life and golf.” (Arnold Palmer)
Paul doesn’t mention if God plays golf, but he does say that God does what’s required as far timing and life are concerned: ‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law … so that we might receive adoption as children.’
This shouldn’t be a big surprise for Scripture readers. The opening verses of the Bible’s first book portray God creating the day and the night. And along with day and night come time and timing; God-made and God-given.
In God’s good timing, says Paul, the passage of time was filling up reality’s container, until the moment when fullness to overflowing was reached. Just then, at exactly the right moment, displaying immaculate timing, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came into the world.
Arnold, the golfer, exaggerated in order to make an important point. When your timing is off nothing seems to go right. Yet, vital though it is, timing is not everything. There’s also the question of purpose. Your timing might be great, but what about your aim?
God, who has been at work upon a cosmic scale from the first moment of time itself, chooses a special moment to be present with us in a human being (one ‘born of a woman’). In this moment God works with us through Jesus Christ. It’s far from aimless, for God’s good purpose is to include us within the family.
Good news! God has time for us and a place for us. So now it’s time for family members to give thanks, crying out with an echo of Jesus’s prayer, ‘Abba! Father!


 Prayer

Abba! Father!
Loving Parent,
Mistress and Master of good timing,
Thank you for taking time to include us within your family.
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Trevor Jamison, Minister, St Columba’s URC, North Shields
  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2019 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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