URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion Monday 13th July 2020 Basis of Union 1

Mon, 13/07/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Monday 13th July 2020

Scripture Deuteronomy 6:4 and Psalm 72:9

Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad!
Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One!
Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va-ed.
Blessed is God’s glorious majesty forever and ever.

Basis

There is but one Church of the one God. He called Israel to be his people, and in fulfilment of the purpose then begun he called the Church into being through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  (1)

Reflection

The Basis begins with the Church. But theologically the starting point is with God – God’s one-ness and God’s purpose and initiative in calling the Church into being. All the rest is, as we might think, footnoted elaboration of that great truth. All that follows is response and outworking.
 
What the Basis claims for the Church is stark, startling and wonderful. The characteristic mode of divine action is shown to be “calling into being”. The God who called and calls all that is into being, in due time called the Church.
 
Are we able to sit with that understanding for a moment? Just a moment before we go teasing out the implications and difficulties, qualifications and functions and limits of the church.
 
There is time enough for all of that, the Basis will tease out some small elements of it all in later sections - not least in that Statement on the Nature, Faith and Order that we have heard so often.
 
The Basis begins with the ‘one Church’, not with the United Reformed Church.
 
The truth we hear in the first sentences of Basis is beautiful in its generative instability.  It is supersaturated with meaning and questions. Questions of how this called-into-being community connects with Israel, and with the plural world, and with the Kingdom of Jesus’ teaching, are straining to be asked.
 
But for today: “There is but one Church of the one God”… called into being “through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

Prayer

Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One!
 
One God of all that is
living through history
always in community
calling community into being
in your image
 
Let us love you with all our heart and soul and might
 
Blessed is God’s glorious majesty forever and ever. Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr John McNeil Scott is principal of the Scottish United Reformed and Congregational College in Glasgow Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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The Basis of Union

Sun, 12/07/2020 - 18:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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The Basis of Union

Dear Friends,

I hope you enjoyed our tour though the Book of Jonah.  Tomorrow morning we start a new series looking at the URC's Basis of Union.

Unlike Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox or Lutheran churches we don’t always recite a credal statement in our weekly worship; sometimes leading to a sense that we don’t have firm or fixed beliefs as a denomination.  We do, of course, use the Statement on the Nature, Faith and Order at inductions and ordinations of ministers and elders and this is reasonably well known in its responsorial form. 

Less well known, however, is our
Basis of Union.  The Basis  is a foundational constitutional document of the United Reformed Church which sets out our theology.  It was adopted at the our formation and can only be amended by the General Assembly after a full consultation process.  It is the theological foundation upon which our denomination is built and deserves to be better known. 

Over the next few weeks we are going to be reading through the Basis, often with a piece of Scripture, and reflect upon each part of our theological foundations.

We hope you find this next series useful as we more fully understand the theology which undergirds the URC.

with every good wish


Andy

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


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Worship for Sunday 12th July 2020

Sun, 12/07/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
United Reformed Church Daily Devotions Sunday Service
for Sunday 12th July

 
The Last Supper, Fr Sieger Köder
 
The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington
 
Introduction
 
Good morning, I am Janet Tollington, a retired United Reformed Church minister, and I’m speaking to you from my home in Willingham, a few miles outside Cambridge.   Later in the service, in memory of, and obedience to Christ I will be inviting you to share bread and wine with me.  So if you wish to participate in this act of Holy Communion, now may be a moment to pause this recording and get yourself some bread and wine, or juice, in readiness.    Today would have fallen during General Assembly of the URC; the occasion when we gather to conduct the church’s business and to celebrate endings and beginnings by some of significant spheres of service in the life of the church, amongst other things.  Because of Covid-19 Assembly had to be cancelled but thankfully some of these matters were conducted on Friday and Saturday by Councils convened through video conferencing.  There will be some reference to this in our prayers; but I think it is appropriate, at this moment, to give thanks to God for John Proctor’s service as General Secretary as he enters retirement and to pray for John Bradbury as he succeeds in this role.  Likewise we thank God for Nigel Uden’s and Derek Estill’s service as Moderators of Assembly and remember Clare Downing and Peter Pay as they take up these batons.
So now, let us worship God.
 
Call to Worship
 
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love
who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain,  and heals our wounds.
 
God is our light and our salvation. In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us.
May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen
 
Hymn       Thou Whose Almighty Word
John Marriott 1780-1825; Tune Moscow
 
Thou, whose almighty Word
chaos and darkness heard,
and took their flight;
hear us, we humbly pray,
and, where the Gospel day
sheds not its glorious ray,
let there be light!
 
2: Thou, who didst come to bring
on Thy redeeming wing
healing and sight,
health to the sick in mind,
sight to the inly blind,
O now, to humankind,
let there be light!

3: Spirit of truth and love,
life giving, holy Dove,
speed forth Thy flight;
move on the water’s face
bearing the lamp of grace,
and, in earth’s darkest place,
let there be light!
 
4: Blessèd and holy Three,
glorious Trinity,
Wisdom, Love, Might!
Boundless as ocean’s tide,
rolling in fullest pride,
through the world far and wide,
let there be light!
 
Prayers of Approach, Confession and Assurance
 
Eternal God, you said, ‘Let there be light’ and it was so.   You brought the universe into being and set us in the beauty of the earth; and we are amazed that you entrust us with its life.  You are sovereign over all that exists; and yet your love is personal and you know each one of us in intricate detail.  We praise you, living God.   We thank you for the invitation to come into your presence to offer our worship; and we open our hearts to you in adoration and in prayer.  Draw near to us in Christ, O God.
 
We come, believing you have called us, a strange mix of people, confident in our status as your children, yet often cowardly.  Forgive us.

We profess obedience, yet often we indulge ourselves and try to assert our desires as your will.  Forgive us.
 
We devote ourselves to you; and yet often we fail to recognise your presence or to discern where you are leading.  Forgive us. Renew us by your Spirit that we might live as Christ’s body in the world.  Amen.
 
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  The promise is given to all who repent and turn to Christ: Your sins are forgiven.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Holy God, open our ears to your living word.  Penetrate our jadedness or fatigue and awaken our yearnings by your truth.  Speak to us with clarity that we might hear good news.  Amen.
 
Readings  Isaiah 55: 10-13
 
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
 
For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
                    
St Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23
 
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake.  Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.  And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  Let anyone with ears listen!’ 
 
‘Hear then the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;  yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.   But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
 
Hymn:      Come Thou Everlasting Spirit
                  Charles Wesley 1745
 
Come, Thou everlasting Spirit,
bring to every thankful mind
all the Saviour’s dying merit,
all His sufferings for mankind!
 
2: True Recorder of His Passion,
now the living faith impart;
now reveal His great salvation;
preach His Gospel to our heart.
 
3: Come, Thou witness of His dying;
come, remembrancer divine!
Let us feel Thy power, applying
Christ to every soul, and mine!

Sermon
 
May I speak in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.
 
Jesus said, ‘Listen! … Let anyone with ears listen,’ and again he said, ‘Hear the parable’.  During lockdown many commented on being able to hear so much more bird song and on the delight it brought – and there were those spontaneous outdoor concerts by talented musicians that delighted neighbours able to listen from balconies or doorsteps.  Then we can probably all recall being entertained by hearing a good story or a well-crafted joke – but I doubt whether this kind of listening (or hearing), that delights our senses, or captures our attention for just a short while, to divert us from the routines of life, is what Jesus meant when he spoke to the crowds and his disciples.
 
He would have been speaking Aramaic, a language closely related to Hebrew – and in the Bible the Hebrew word (shama’) can be translated by hear, listen, heed, hearken to, obey, understand … the list goes on – and I imagine that Jesus’ disciples realised that he was calling them to pay attention, to heed carefully what he was saying, to strive to understand what it meant, in the hope that they might then act in accordance with his teaching through lives that had been transformed as a consequence.
 
As Jesus explained the meaning of his parable to them, he referred to it as ‘the word of the kingdom’.  Now that word ‘word’, (dabar) in Hebrew, is another one with a huge range of meanings – saying, report, message, command (as in the 10 words), tidings,  news, matter, promise, are just some of the possibilities.
 
At this point let’s recall the passage we heard from Isaiah where the prophet was proclaiming to God’s people in exile about God’s word.  It is generally thought that this passage ends the section of the book in which prophecies offer hope to those in Babylon that God would enable them to return to their homeland and make a fresh start.  The chapters challenge the people to grasp a bigger vision of God’s nature and purpose, of God’s power over creation and control of history, to recognize the reach of God’s love beyond the bounds of Israel to embrace all peoples; and to encourage them to deepen their faith and trust in God.
 
In our passage the imagery focuses on the natural world and reminds us how the rain and snow awaken fertility in the earth, with water transforming barren land into harvest that provides food for all and seed that can be sown to begin the cycle again.  There may be good years and bad, but the prophet declares that we can trust the continuation of the seasons, of seedtime and harvest. By analogy, he tells the exiles, so it is with God’s word – God’s words of the covenant; God’s promises of salvation and restoration; God’s message of hope and righteousness, justice and peace.  God’s word can be trusted to fulfil what it promises, for God’s word is active, enlivening, transforming; God’s word has power to accomplish what it intends – it is purposeful – and it was good news for the exiles.  The following verses picture a joyful return to Jerusalem during which the natural world joins in the celebration and praise of God, as those promises of old were fulfilled.
 
These ideas of God’s word as promise and purposeful good news underlie Jesus’ focus on ‘the word of the kingdom’.  It is a kind of shorthand to summarise all his teaching about the nature of God’s kingdom – a realm where justice prevails, where sinners and outcasts are welcomed, where forgiveness is offered, where the hungry are fed, the homeless are housed, those imprisoned by fear, disease, persecution are released, where all can enjoy the fullness of life, where ultimately, when all is fulfilled, evil and death shall be no more.
 
This is what God intends for all creation, says Jesus; and we can believe it, it will be accomplished because God’s word is faithful and true.

But of course there is a gulf between what will be, in God’s good time and what is, now – as there was for the exiles between their hopes for a new Jerusalem and the realities of Babylon.  Jesus call us to listen, to hear – how do we respond?
 
We could simply say ‘I enjoyed that delightful story about a sower and what happened to his seeds’ – or, we can grasp the vision of what God intends; and commit ourselves to following the example and teaching of Jesus in all we say and do; and invite the Holy Spirit to equip and empower us to live as signs of hope to the world, witnesses to what life can be, by God’s grace, as we share our faith and challenge the powers that try to undermine the purposes of God.
 
Jesus says, ‘Let anyone with ears, listen!’ So be it and to God be the glory.  Amen.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
 
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in His reign.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
Holy God, you came among us in your Son, Christ Jesus, because you loved the world so much and now we bring to you our prayers for the world and all its peoples.
 
We pray for peace and justice throughout the world.  By your Spirit, move among us, breaking down barriers of fear, suspicion and hatred, wherever they exist.  Bring an end to conflicts and heal humanity of its divisions.  Draw us together into one united family.
 
We pray for our nations that together constitute the United Kingdom.  Enrich our common life and strengthen the forces of truth and goodness in our midst.  Grant wisdom to our politicians and guide us in the ways that lead to a fairer society where resources are allocated in response to need, that all may live with dignity and joy.
 
We pray for those who are suffering in body, mind or spirit.  Surround them with your love and give them strength.  Grant that we, and all people of good will, may be channels of your grace, bringing hope and renewed courage to face the present situation.
 
We pray for the Church in all its forms and traditions, that it may be true to the Gospel and faithful its worship, its witness and its service.  For the United Reformed Church we pray that our corporate life may be sustained through the work of its councils.  As we give thanks for all that has been transacted in the name of Christ over the last two days, we pray for those who have taken on new responsibilities, or moved into new areas of service.  Uphold them by your Spirit and grant them the discernment to know your will; and may all our congregations be enriched by the leadership they receive.
 
Finally we pray for those we know and love, lifting up by name any who are especially in our thoughts today …  Loving God, be to each one according to their need; and what we pray for others, we pray too for ourselves, in the name of Christ.  Amen.
 
Offering
 
It may not be possible for us to worship with our own congregations at this time but the work of the church goes on and its costs continue.  It is important that we make our regular contributions, as we are able, through whatever channels are open to us, alongside offering our gifts of time and talents in the service of Christ. 
 
So as we prepare to gather round the Lord’s table let us pray:
Gracious God, we bring to you our gifts of money; and we bring ourselves, all that we are and own.  With these we bring the ordinary things of life, food and drink, that all may be transformed by your love into the life of your kingdom, through Christ our Lord, Amen.
 
Hymn:      Gifts of Bread and Wine
                Christine McCann © 1978 Kevin Mayhew Ltd.
 
Gifts of bread and wine,
gifts we've offered,
fruits of labour, fruits of love;
taken, offered, sanctified,
blessed and broken;
words of one who died:

Take my body, take my saving blood.'
Gifts of bread and wine: Christ our Lord.
 
2: Christ our Saviour,
living presence here
as He promised while on earth:
'I am with you for all time,
I am with you in this bread and wine.’
 
3: Through the Father, with the Spirit,
one in union with the Son,
for God's people, joined in prayer
faith is strengthened by the food we share.
 
The Communion
 
It is Christ who invites us to come to this sacred table, not because we must but because we may; not because we are strong but because we are weak; not to testify to any righteousness of our own but because we stand in need of heaven’s mercy and help.  So let us come, whoever we are, because we love the Lord a little and desire to know and love him more.
 
We recall how Jesus sat at table with his friends, the night before he was betrayed, and took bread.  He gave thanks to God and broke it, saying,
 
‘This is my body, broken for you. Do this is memory of me.’ 
 
Likewise, after supper, he took a cup and shared it with them saying,
 
‘This cup is the new covenant sealed by my blood, which is poured out for many.  Drink this in memory of me.’
 
As Jesus took bread and wine, I take such elements to be set apart to this holy use and mystery; and as he gave thanks and blessed, let us draw near to God with our prayers and thanksgivings. 
 
Please join in with the responses, and eat and drink, as far as you feel able.
 
The Lord be with you!  And also with you.
 
Lift up your hearts! We lift them to the Lord.
 
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God!
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
 
It is truly right and our greatest joy
to give you thanks and praise,
O Lord our God, creator and ruler of the universe.
You formed us in your image
and breathed into us the breath of life.
You set us in this world to love and serve you,
and to live in peace with all that you have made.
 
You spoke your word to those whom you had chosen;
in disobedience they turned from your commands;
but you did not turn from them.
You came yourself in Christ, the Word made flesh;
but he was shunned, forsaken in the darkness of the Cross.
You made that tree of death, the tree of life,
the empty grave a sign of eternal hope.
You raised Christ to life and to your side.
You give to us your Holy Spirit, to lead us into truth and understanding.
 
Therefore we praise you,
joining our voices with all people in heaven and on earth
who forever sing to the glory of your name:
 
Holy, most holy,
all holy the Lord,
in power and wisdom,
forever adored.
The earth and the heavens
are full of your love;
our joyful hosannas
re-echo above.
 
Blessèd, most blessèd,
all blessèd is He,
whose life makes us whole,
and whose death sets us free;
who comes in the name of
the Father of light,
let endless hosannas
resound in the height.

We praise you that we are gathered around the table of Jesus,
who revealed your love, healed the sick,
lifted up the broken, made sense of life.
We thank you for his ministry, his teaching,
his striving to bring freedom, justice and peace to all.
We thank you that in Christ we have forgiveness
and through his death and resurrection, the promise of new life.
 
Remembering your gracious acts in Jesus Christ,
we take bread and wine and proclaim the mystery of faith:
 
Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.
 
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, your people, and on our bread and wine,
that we may become one with Christ and be formed into Christ’s body in the world, ready to live for you and to do your will today and every day.  
 
Creator God, we offer this prayer through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God to whom all glory and honour be given, now and forever. 
 
And now, as our Saviour taught us so we pray:
 
Our Father who art in heaven ..
 
(The Breaking of the bread)
 
Because there is one loaf,
we, many as we are, are one body;
for it is one loaf of which we all partake.
 
The body of Christ was broken for us.  Let us eat with faith. 
(Eat the bread)
 
When we take the cup, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ?
 
Jesus said. ‘This is my blood, poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins.’  Let us drink with thanksgiving.  (Drink the wine)
 
Music for Reflection:      The King of Love My Shepherd Is
Jo Baird, Nairn URC
 
Post Communion Prayer
 
Loving God,   we thank you for what you have given and promised to us here. Renewed by faith, fed by Christ, made one by your Spirit’s power,
send us out in joy to make known your salvation and love to all the world. In the name of Christ.  Amen.
 
Hymn:      You shall go out with joy and be lead forth in peace
Stuart Dauermann – Tune ‘Trees of the field’
 
You shall go out with joy
and be led forth with peace;
the mountains and the hills
will break forth before you.
There’ll be shouts of joy,
and all the trees of the field
will clap, will clap their hands.
 
Blessing  
 
May God, the creative word, bless you,
May Christ, the living word, accompany you,
May the Holy Spirit lead you into a deeper understanding
of the one God, holy and true, forever. Amen
 
 
Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship from the Church of England’s New Patterns of Worship.
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France (translated by Andy Braunston)  All other liturgical material from Janet Tollington.
 
Organ Pieces  Opening: Lobt Gott Ihr Christen (“Praise God ye Christians”) by Johann Gottfried Walther (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)  Closing: Procession by Arthur Wills  (organ of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice, Italy – 2014) Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to the choir of Barrhead URC, Ruth Watson, Ray Fraser, Marion Thomas, Anne Hewling, Jonnie Hill, Gordon Smith and John Young for recording various parts of the service. 
 
Thou Whose Almighty Word  John Marriott 1780-1825 sung by the Scottish Festival Singers.
Come Thou Everlasting Spirit by Charles Wesley performer unknown.
Gifts of Bread and Wine by Christine McCann © 1978 Kevin Mayhew Ltd sung by Kathryn Crosweller on the 2008 album Still is the Word.
Sanctus by the Rev’d Michael Forster © 1993, 1995 Kevin Mayhew Ltd performed by Lucy Bunce.
The King of Love My Shepherd Is sung by Jo Baird of Nairn URC
You Shall Go Out With Joy by Stuart Dauermann © 1975 Lillenas Publishing Company / Thank You Music
 
--> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

  Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 12th July 2020

Sun, 12/07/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 12th July  Psalm 5

Hear O Lord my urgent prayer
As I come to seek Your care
With each morning light I raise
Voice and heart in prayer and praise

You do not delight in sin
Or in tales that liars spin
Haughty ones You will defeat
With all those who love deceit

By Your mercy and Your grace
I will come before Your face
Fearing foes I bow to pray
Lead me Lord make straight my way

Save me from deceitful ways
Liars' throats are open graves
Make them bear their guilt O Lord
For by choice they spurn Your word

Let those trusting You sing praise
Grant them joy to fill their days
Those who always seek the right
Are protected by Your might


You can hear a verse of the Psalm sung here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-oqXg-sgC8

Reflection

Given Covid 19’s unwelcome progress, the Psalmist’s urgent plea for God’s support during a time of distress and anxiety strikes a ready chord in us.

Verses 1 ’You do not delight’, 3 ‘By Your mercy and Your grace’, 5 ‘Let those trusting You sing praise’, are directed towards God. They express the singer’s need for and faith in God. The remaining two, verse 3 ‘You do not delight in sin’, and, 4 ‘Save me from deceitful ways’, deal with the activity and the fate of the singer’s enemies.

The Psalm is an open hearted morning prayer, with the singer watching and waiting for a sign from God. A new assurance is sought, not just that that God will hear and answer, but above all deal with the liars, the haughty, the deceitful; the enemies who so beset life. The singer acknowledges God’s own character as merciful and gracious, which contrasts totally with the character of those who spin lies. The psalmist is not above reminding God that they should be hoist with their own petard. While we might baulk at describing our enemies as having throats ‘like open graves’ the singer has no such qualms. This powerful and emotional appeal to God is rooted in the belief that God will judge justly and act to save those who come for help.

God’s protection will be extended to all who take refuge in God’s merciful and steadfast love. We, on our part, though we cannot but be dismayed from time to time, should know that we shall be given cause to praise God’s loving kindness again, and again.
 
Prayer

Faithful God,
even when we prove faithless,
come close to strengthen and support.
When doubts and anxieties press in,
let your Spirit’s calm and comfort relieve.
Help us to rise above ourselves
and trust you for the future
you offer us in the life of your Son,
our living Lord, Jesus Christ  AMEN.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d John A Young, retired URC minister National Synod of Scotland, member Giffnock URC. Copyright
Words Marie J Post 1983 © 1987 Faith Alive Christian Resources
CCLI Licence No 1064776
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 11th 2020 July Jonah 10

Sat, 11/07/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Saturday 11th 2020 July Jonah 10

Jonah 4:9-11

But God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?’ And he said, ‘Yes, angry enough to die.’ Then the Lord said, ‘You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night.  And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?’

Reflection

Having heard Jonah’s repeated request to die, God again responds with a question asking Jonah to reflect.  The question presumably refers to the demise of the bush and this time Jonah answers God but only to insist that he is justified to feel as he does.

The covenant God then poses a final question to Jonah, which of course is really directed at us, the readers of this story.  A contrast is drawn between a wild plant that has a fleeting existence and the inhabitants of Nineveh - not forgetting the animals.  It’s a rhetorical question that prompts us to think about God’s relationship with everything in creation – from a fairly insignificant plant to a huge populated area - and what that reveals about God’s nature.  It also challenges us to reflect on what is expected of us, as God’s people, in our attitudes.

The point is; why do we feel compassion towards small things for which we have no responsibility?  God, on the other hand, brought everything into being; therefore we should expect God to have equal compassion towards everything.  Nineveh’s way of life was the result of ignorance, not culpability.  Jonah had completely misunderstood his commission from God.  He wasn’t being sent to Nineveh in order to condemn it but to let its people know about God and of God’s love for them.  His message was intended to be a call for Nineveh to repent and receive the good news.

In the story Nineveh has repented but sadly the people still haven’t heard anything about the true God because Jonah hasn’t told them.  They remain in ignorance.

So where does this leave you? – and me?  Do people still live in ignorance?  May we be ready to go among them with an invitation to discover new life in Christ.

Prayer

Amazing God, your compassion reaches to the ends of the earth and you invite us to show that same compassion towards all that has existence.

Help us to respond with joy to your invitation and send us out to the people and places that still need to hear about your love for them.
Challenge us to catch the vision of your kingdom come on earth; and in this hope to go in the name of Christ.  Amen
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 10th July 2020 Jonah 9

Fri, 10/07/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 10th July 2020 Jonah 9
Jonah 4:4-8

And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’  Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’

Reflection

God’s response challenges Jonah to reflect on his behaviour.  This isn’t what Jonah expected and he turns tail and goes right through the city further east, sets up camp as though anticipating that God would nonetheless act in some dramatic way against Nineveh.  He’s behaving somewhat like a sulky, defiant, child who refuses to admit they may have got things wrong.

However, God goes after Jonah and recognises how inadequate Jonah’s attempts to shelter himself actually are.  God initially provides additional comfort for Jonah against the heat of the day, which delights him.  God then removes the protective canopy the following day that prompts a totally opposite response from Jonah; he repeats his request to die.  Jonah’s reactions are out of all proportion to the situation and his volte face is extreme. 

This bit of the story reminds us that the natural world is under God’s control.  Plants flourish, tiny creatures play their part in the cycle of life and death, the weather changes, all through God’s creative power.  As humans we experience these wonders; and perhaps simply take them for granted all too often without acknowledging that they reveal God’s glory.  We do well to reflect how little we understand the intricate complexity of the world around us; and how little control over it we really have.

The story also tells us that God’s love towards Jonah, who represents God’s chosen people, never falters.  However much Jonah fails, wherever he goes in an attempt to escape God’s presence, he discovers that God is still with him, watching over him, providing for his needs.  But God also challenges Jonah to look at things differently and discover more of God. 

Am I guilty of imagining I can look after myself or of ignoring God’s challenge?  God save me from my folly!

Prayer

Loving God, thank you for your presence with us, through the risen Christ, and for the constancy of your love.

Help us to discern your loving purposes at work in our lives when things go well and when they don’t.

Teach us to look beyond the blessings we receive that we might praise you for all the experiences that help us grow into the likeness of Christ, who gave his life, so we might live.  Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 9th July 2020 Jonah 8

Thu, 09/07/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 9th July 2020 Jonah 8

Jonah 3:10 – 4:3

When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.  But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry.  He prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.  And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’

Reflection

Here the depth and extent of God’s love is revealed to Nineveh.  The people in that city change their minds and renounce their wickedness and there is a divine change of mind in response.  Nineveh is not destroyed.

In the Hebrew the same noun (ra’ah) is used to describe Nineveh as ‘evil’ and for the ‘calamity’ God had intended to inflict on them.  The author is making a claim that if God destroyed the Ninevites, who lived in ignorance about the nature of the true God, then God would be acting as wickedly as their behaviour had been.  The force of this is lost in most English translations - it is strong stuff!  The same noun is used again in 4:1 where it is translated as ‘displeasing’ with regard to Jonah’s reaction.  A point is being made: Jonah’s anger, Nineveh’s wickedness and even destructive action by God are equally ‘evil’ and contrary to God’s nature, which is to love unconditionally.

Jonah prays once more, but in protest to God.  In the text Jonah said none of the things he claims to have declared as his reason for fleeing.  He dislikes the fact that God is showing kindness to Nineveh.  He cites Exodus 34:6, expressing God’s covenant commitment towards Israel; an eighth-century Jonah believed this applied solely to the chosen people.

Jonah effectively says to God, ‘If you’re going to behave like this to other people – especially towards Israel’s enemies – then I want no part of it, let me die’.  He is throwing the gift of his life back at God.

Jonah wants God to punish Nineveh for its violence towards Israel.  He understands justice from his own perspective, in terms of retribution, and finds no place in his heart for forgiveness and reconciliation, even when repentance is shown.  Do I?

Prayer

Gracious God, forgive us when we get things out of perspective and focus our prayers on what we want, on what satisfies our desire to see wrong-doing punished.

Forgive us when we imagine that our concepts of justice are the same as yours.

Help us to remember that it is not by merit but by grace that we are accepted as your children.

Renewed by your love may we share it abundantly with the world.  Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

Wed, 08/07/2020 - 12:15
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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

On Sunday the Rev'd Dr Janet Tollington will lead us in a Communion service and reflect on God's spirit as an eternal source of hope and joy.  Janet, now retired, taught the Old Testament for many years at Westminster College.  You may wish to have some bread and wine at hand so we can share Communion together, even though we are apart.

To help us as we worship we have a lovely range of music.  We will sing:  Thou Whose Almighty Word by John Marriott, Come Thou Everlasting Spirit by Charles Wesley,  Gifts of Bread and Wine by Christine McCann, a version of the Sanctus by the Rev’d Michael Forster and You Shall Go Out With Joy by Stuart Dauermann.  Jo Baird of Nairn URC will sing The King of Love My Shepherd Is during Communion.  

I hope you can join us on Sunday - the email will go out in time for a 10am start but you can listen in at any time.

best wishes

Andy

The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Co-ordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC
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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 8th July 2020

Wed, 08/07/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 8th July Jonah 7

Jonah 3:6-9

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water.  Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.  Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.’

Reflection

The king hears the news via Nineveh’s version of the grapevine.  Tyrants usually react badly when they’ve been by-passed over minor matters, let alone threats of destruction; but here the king responds with abject humility.  He issues a decree that retrospectively confirms the action of the populace but makes the fast total; and extends it to the animals.  Have you ever tried preventing sheep and goats from eating the pasture on which they stand?!  It suggests a farcical scenario.

He instructs everyone – and the animals – to cry out to God; and we should note that the Ninevites do not call on God by name.  How could they?  Jonah hasn’t uttered God’s name yet, or told them anything about God’s nature and purposes.  The king also commands repentance from evil and violence.  If only it was possible to order people to be good!  Transforming human hearts is a much more complex and costly process, which is why Jesus came into the world.

However the king displays one profound insight (akin to that of the ship’s captain in 1:6), as he acknowledges that human repentance doesn’t automatically result in divine mercy.  God has the freedom and power to enact the divine will irrespective of our prayers.

The way Jonah and Nineveh have been contrasted in yesterday’s and today’s texts prompts me to wonder whether I am actually rather more like Jonah than I would care to admit.  Do I really acknowledge God’s supreme authority over all things?  Have I really turned towards God in total commitment and done so publicly, like Nineveh’s king?  

I hope I’m more ready than Jonah to say sorry to God when I get things wrong but I pray that I will never presume on God’s forgiveness being granted to me as though it is mine by right.

Prayer

Holy God, we rejoice that you reveal yourself in ways beyond our comprehension.
We rejoice that you can touch the hearts of people even when the good news has not yet been proclaimed to them.
We pray for those who still live in ignorance of your loving purposes across the world today and we recommit ourselves to ‘walking the way’ of Jesus in joyful obedience to your call.  
In the name of Christ, Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev'd Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge. Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 7th July 2020

Tue, 07/07/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 7th July 2020 Jonah 7

Jonah 3:1-5

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying,  ‘Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.’  So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’  And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

Reflection

So, with Jonah, we’re back where the story began – almost.  The narrator tells us that God makes a second attempt at commissioning Jonah but there are subtle differences in God’s words.  In both 1:2 and 3:2 the Hebrew reads, ‘Get up, go…’, so the urgency of the mission conveyed in 1:2 was introduced by the translator, who omits it here.  That decision emphasises the contrary nature of Jonah who, of course, complies immediately this time!  Here, though, the text indicates that God is giving Jonah an actual message to convey to Nineveh; but we are not told what it is.

Off goes Jonah obediently; or does he?  Nineveh’s size is greatly exaggerated but Jonah only begins to enter it.  When he’s less than half way to its centre, he proclaims the impending destruction of the city.  But where is he speaking out?  Who is his audience?  Why doesn’t he announce himself as a prophet of God?  Are his words the message he received from God? - or his personal opinion of what should happen to this wicked city?  Jonah says nothing about God, nor gives any indication why, or how, this destruction will come.

Irrationally the Ninevites believe God, who hasn’t been mentioned; and the population at large proclaim a fast - a traditional response to a national emergency - and embark on a public show of mourning.

It’s easy to miss all the unexpected or unexplained aspects of this short narrative; but then we miss its powerful message for us. First, God’s call on our lives will be repeated until we respond appropriately, so we may as well stop prevaricating and say ‘yes’. Secondly, God has ways of communicating with humanity that don’t depend on us being faithful messengers; but chooses us to be witnesses to the gospel in Christ’s name.

Prayer

Gracious God, thank you for continuing to love me and to trust me as your spokesperson in the world, especially when I’ve failed to fulfil your expectations.

Forgive me when I’m half-hearted in my service, or if I distort your message of love for the world, preferring to condemn what offends me.

Work your miracle of grace in me and wherever hearts are hardened, that your kingdom may come.  Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 6th July 2020

Mon, 06/07/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 6th July

Jonah 1:17 – 2:10

But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish,  saying,

‘I called to the Lord out of my distress,
    and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
    and you heard my voice.
You cast me into the deep,
    into the heart of the seas,
    and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
    passed over me.
 Then I said, “I am driven away
    from your sight;
how shall I look again
    upon your holy temple?”
The waters closed in over me;
    the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped around my head
    at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
    whose bars closed upon me for ever;
yet you brought up my life from the Pit,
    O Lord my God.
 As my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered the Lord;
and my prayer came to you,
    into your holy temple.
 Those who worship vain idols
    forsake their true loyalty.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
    will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
    Deliverance belongs to the Lord!’

Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.

Reflection

Now the comedy really begins.  Jonah is drowning in the waters of Chaos and God appoints one of the monsters of the deep to eat him.  Three days elapse (in Hebrew thought meaning Jonah’s on the point of death: 1 Sam.30:12, cf. John 11:39); and then for the first time Jonah prays to God.  But his prayer is unexpectedly one of thanksgiving, not a prayer for help!

In the narrative context, Jonah has gone down as far as humanly possible from the presence of God; but his prayer is full of phrases reflecting a close dependence on God, an acceptance of God’s will and gratitude to God for listening to him and rescuing him.  None of these phrases correspond to anything Jonah has said or done in the text; and they are strangely confusing when read carefully.  They imply that Jonah is in the water, not a creature’s belly; and at one moment suggest he is at the surface (waves), then near the shore (reeds), then at the bottom of the sea (roots of mountains, the Pit).  He accuses God of driving him away (v.4) but Jonah was fleeing; he claims to have prayed for help (v.2) when he hasn’t; and concludes with a declaration of faith and a promise about future sacrifices (v.9) which sound ludicrous in his current situation.

The story ends as God instructs the sea-creature to vomit (the meaning of the Hebrew) Jonah back onto dry land, without specifying a location.

Most of the phrases in Jonah’s prayer are drawn from the Psalms and would have been recognised by the first hearers of this story.  Perhaps the author is conveying a universal human truth, that anyone in a desperate situation tends to cry out for divine help, often incoherently, drawing on any remembered traditions.  Praise God that the Spirit intercedes on our behalf to turn groaning into prayer.

Prayer

Sovereign God, we rejoice that you never abandon us but watch over us, even in what we might consider the darkest, most god-forsaken, places.
We rejoice that you hear our prayers and discern our heartfelt need of you, even if we pretend otherwise.
We rejoice that your love is stronger than the powers of death; and that in Christ you lift us up from seemingly hopeless situations and set us back on the pathway to life.  Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge
 
Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Worship for Sunday 5th July 2020

Sun, 05/07/2020 - 09:45
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Sunday Service from the URC

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Order of Service

Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
 
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service.
Sunday Worship from the
United Reformed Church’s Daily Devotions
5th July 2020

                 
 
 
 The Rev’d Ruth Browning
 
Introduction
 
Good morning, welcome to our worship this morning.   My name is Ruth Browning and I am speaking to you from our home  in South Gloucestershire.   At the time of recording I have no idea if when you hear this we will still be in an eased form of lockdown or a tighter one and we, the Church, haven’t had any notices for weeks.  So here are the notices: 
 
·     Conversations will not be cancelled.
·     Relationships will not be cancelled.
·     Love will not be cancelled.
·     Songs will not be cancelled.
·     Reading will not be cancelled.
·     Self-care will not be cancelled.
·     Hope will not be cancelled.
 
Call to Worship
 
We meet in the name of God, the Holy Trinity of Love who knows our needs, hears our cries, feels our pain,  and heals our wounds.
 
God is our light and our salvation. In God’s name we light this candle and are reminded of Jesus, the Light of the World, God’s own Voice who came to live with us. May our hearts be open to you, O God, now and always. Amen
 
Hymn       Let Us Build A House   (Marty Haugen)
 
Let us build a house
where love can dwell
and all can safely live,
a place where saints
and children tell
how hearts learn to forgive;
built of hopes
and dreams and visions,
rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ
shall end divisions:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

2 Let us build a house
where prophets speak,
and words are strong and true,
where all God's children
dare to seek
to dream God's reign anew.
Here the Cross
shall stand as witness
and as symbol of God's grace;
here as one we claim
the faith of Jesus:

3: Let us build a house
where all are named,
their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured,
taught and claimed
as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter,
prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
 
Prayer of Approach
 
Loving God, we come, to be still before you: to rejoice in the glories of your supreme holiness, to seek the mind of Christ and the wisdom of the Spirit.  Within the wonders of your unconditional love: we gather to delight in the miracle of your presence.
 
We come, to be still before you: but you welcome us to this act of worship and call us to praise and movement, singing and prayer. 
 
We praise you that the world dances before you - in summer sun and flowing sea; in blowing wind and running wave; in birds and insect flight; in petal fall and growing fruit.  All things dance - Lord, may we.
 
We give you thanks that though we were burdened and wearied by sin, and unable to dance to your song, in gentleness and humility your Son Jesus has lifted our burdens and shows us the way of wisdom.   Within the majesty of your gracious generosity: we honour and revere for all that is good, we praise you.  For all that is mysterious, we trust you. 
For all that is wonderful, we stand in awe.  Amen
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
As the burden of social distancing and separation becomes increasingly stressful may the light of your word lift this yoke from us.   May the light of your word be in our greetings with all whose paths we cross so that their burden is eased and lightened.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.
 
St Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
 
“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
 
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
 
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;  the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
 
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;  yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
 
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
 
Hymn:      I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
                Horatius N Bonar (1808-1889)
 
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Come unto me and rest;
lay down, O weary one, lay down
your head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.
 
2 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one,
stoop down and drink, and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched,
my soul revived,
and now I live in him.
 
3 I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's Light;
look unto me, your morn shall rise,
and all your days be bright."
I looked to Jesus and I found
in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I'll walk,
'til trav'ling days are done.
 
Sermon
 
It’s always a “can’t win” situation or if you prefer it’s “lose-lose.”  For Jesus and John it must have felt “whatever I do I’ll never win” - so very different in their behaviour but neither of them could win.    John’s invitation to repent and mourn the past might have been overridden by Jesus invitation to joy and yet both where criticized.   At times it must have felt to both that they’d have done better to have copied the behaviour of the the other.  Yet, if you are not made like that it’s a heavy burden to behave that way.  
 
How rapidly things have changed this year.  Until, about, April, we were told “the churches are shrinking and closing; no one wants religion any more” yet at the same time it seemed people were saying they are spiritual - they didn’t want religion but they wanted spirituality.   I have heard of  those who shouldered any number of rites and rituals thinking this would somehow make them more spiritual or better people.  Anything.  From this or that kind of diet or morning or evening routines, to the point where it becomes onerous to keep it up - but they still do and wonder why they are stressed and their lives are unravelling around them.  
 
In January I listened goggle-eyed at someone’s description of helping people get out of the wrong way of sticking to the 5  /  2 diet.  They had been eating everything in sight for 5 days then nothing at all for 2.  We talked about the spirituality of fasting - which can be a heavy burden, if you try to go for a lengthy period without knowing how to build up to it.  My friend didn’t think the group she had met with would be prepared to listen to advice about dieting in terms of spirituality and couldn’t think how to put it in other terms.
 
But now?   Since April we are told about the numbers, around the world, who tune into broadcast or streamed worship, those who listen or read daily prayers are increasing.  There is a need and we have moved from being the children playing in the market place calling out “what do you want?” to scrambling to give people what they now ask for. 
 
These days of course it’s not fashionable to talk about being heavy laden or burdened with something.  I don’t even know if a yoke is known or the idea of being yoked is understood in an urban context.  I have noticed that modern translations have a footnote explaining what a yoke is.  
 
Now, you say you are stressed - same thing.  A year ago we were stressed by the speed of modern life and the many demands it makes on us, living in a 24hr society not supposed to sleep for long enough to rest from burdens and the stress of carrying them. This year many are stressed by having too much time, separated, distanced from the ones we most want to be with.   In contrast with frontline workers, nurses and carers, doctors and researchers, continually stressed by having no answers and human wisdom has so far failed to provide them.
 
Jesus says “my yoke is easy and my burden light” … notice that as Matthew has recorded the conversation this comment closely follows the statement “Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”  This is Jesus’ reassurance that if we are wise enough to stop being contrary children then we will find the peace he promises.  The contrariness of human nature isn’t overcome by this or that diet or morning or evening routine.  No matter how much we know it is always inadequate.  What are we going to do?  Oddly and unexpectedly, in the way no one wanted anymore, the old fashioned way, there is less stress.   
 
As Jesus says “Wisdom (the one with the capital W) is vindicated by her deeds”.  God never speaks about this or that diet as the way our of all your problems or this and other routines as being helpful to relieve stress.  The way for those who love God vindicated, or if you prefer, confirmed by her deeds, can’t be taught by human wisdom as it is given by God’s Spirit to those who walk his way.   If we would be like Christ then we rest in the will of the Father and learn the lighter burden of loving God and seeking the mind of Christ.  May it be so. 
 
Hymn:      Will you come and follow me / The Summons
John L. Bell and Graham Maule
 
Will you come and follow me
 if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?
 
2: Will you leave yourself behind
if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind
and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare
should your life attract or scare,
will you let me answer prayer
in you and you in me?

3: Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around
through my sight & touch & sound
in you and you in me?
 
4: Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love & footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
 
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in His reign.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
 
Offering
 
As we affirm our faith so we bring our thank offerings to God:  Creator God, we have no gifts to give you except the things you have given us.  Accept these gifts and with them take our love and our lives, for your work. Amen
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
Creator God, it is not a heavy burden to bring to you all out thoughts and cares and worries.  You lift all burdens and replace them with the lighter burden of knowing we can leave them with you.  O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
 
We pray for our families, friends, and this congregation, the church. 
 
We pray for all throughout the world carrying heavy burdens of grief and who are weary and stressed.  O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
 
We pray for those whose jobs have disappeared never to return and are worried what will the future bring.  For those who unexpected find a way forward, maybe off the streets or out of gangs.  Lord, these are strange times.  O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
 
We pray for those caught in storms or drought as our never quiet world changes, thinking too, of those we are still growing crops and wondering how harvesting will take place.  We pray for those packing our food; for those who transport it.   O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
 
In this month which includes Sea Sunday we think of the crews of bulk carriers and container ships, of tankers and cruise liners.  O Lord, hear our humble prayer.
 
May we bear one another’s burdens so that all may share in the liberty of God’s loving kindness and live with one another in peace. Amen.
 
The Lord’s Prayer

Hymn:      Lord You have Come to the Sea Shore
                  Fr Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991)
 
Lord, You have come
to the seashore,
neither searching for
the rich nor the wise,
desiring only that I should follow.
 
O, Lord,
with Your eyes set upon me,
gently smiling,
You have spoken my name;
all I longed for
I have found by the water,
at Your side,
I will seek other shores.
 
2: Lord,
see my goods, my possessions;
in my boat You find
no power, no wealth.
Will You accept, then,
my nets and labour?
 
3: Lord,
take my hands and direct them.
Help me spend myself
in seeking the lost,
returning love for
the love You gave me.
 
4: Lord, as I drift on the waters,
be the resting place
of my restless heart,
my life’s companion,
my friend and refuge.

Blessing
 
Our service has ended. 
Now may grace, courage, and a quiet mind
and all such blessings as are fitting for the children of God
be with us all, today and forever. 
Amen.
 
Sources and Copyright
 
Call to Worship from the Church of England’s New Patterns of Worship.
Affirmation of Faith from the Reformed Church of France (translated by Andy Braunston) all other liturgical material by Ruth Browning.  Opening “notices” from a 3/15/2020 blog post written by Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the non-profit “To Write Love on Her Arms,” twloha.com
 
Organ Pieces  Opening:  Liturgical Prelude by George Oldroyd (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)  Closing:   Komm Gott Schӧpfer Heiliger Geist (“Come God, creator Holy Ghost”) by Johann Sebastian Bach  (organ of Basilica Santa Maria Dei Assunta, Montecatini Terme, Italy – 2016) Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to…
 
 Let us Build A House by Marty Haugen (b1950), I heard the voice of Jesus Say (Horatio Bonar Law) and Will You Come and Follow Me? by John L Bell and Graham Maule all recorded by the BBC’s Songs of Praise.
Lord You have Come to the Sea Shore written by Fr Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991) translated by Robert Trupia performed by Orchard Enterprises.  
 
 
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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 5th July

Sun, 05/07/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 5th July   Psalm 4

1 O God, defender of the poor,
have mercy when I pray:
you listened to my prayer before
Lord, hear my prayer today!

2 How long will people choose vain things,
love empty words and wrong?
They scorn to serve the King of kings
O living God, how long?

3 The saints, O Lord, you set apart
by grace to be your own:
let sinners tremble, search their hearts,
and bow before your throne.

4 While many pray that you will bless
and bring them all they need,
unless they long for holiness
their prayers are vain indeed.

5 Your light, O Lord, let us receive,
your face within us shine:
for richer is the joy you give
than all their corn and wine.

6 And even when I turn to sleep
your blessings still increase,
for you alone, O Lord, will keep
your child in perfect peace.


You can hear the tune suggested for this Psalm,  Brother James’ Air, here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUlt3Iauxu0

Reflection

I doubt I will ever have an audience with the Queen. I am not anyone of any consequence and haven’t achieved any great accolade.  Although I did once have lunch with Prince Charles when I was 15…..along with 20 or 30 others!  What a privilege then to be able to come into the presence of King of kings, or as other translations put it “the one who deserves all the glory”, and converse with God!  The Psalmist is under no illusion that they or we deserve to do so.  We are able to come to God because we are poor and God looks to defend us in our poverty (which is as much about lack of power as it is about wealth).  We come because we know we are sinners and God is merciful.

The Psalmist has learnt that they need to seek God and His truth rather than false gods, delusions and making wrong choices.  Over recent months we have come to see what is important and valuable is not possessions but relationships and that important commodity - love.  As we emerge from this crisis there are important decisions to be made as to whether we should return to striving after material things or rather seek spiritual riches, expressed here as holiness.  And it is not just our own personal decisions that are important it is also about what our national and world leaders invest in.  God’s light and glory which we are called to reflect brings joy and is more important than building bigger barns and larger wine presses.

As we rest in God we can know peace and protection. In whom or what will we trust?

Prayer

Dear Lord,  as we look at our world, your world, help us to see beyond what it has been and look instead to see what it might be.  Open our eyes and ears to hear you speaking and leading as we offer you ourselves and our prayers for the world and its leaders.  May your glory shine even in the darkest corners through your faithful servants.
 
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d George Watt, Minister, Reigate Park URC  Copyright
Christopher Idle from Psalm 4 © Christopher Idle/Jubilate Hymns Ltd
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URC Daily Devotion 4th July 2020

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

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

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

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 3rd July 2020

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


Jonah 1:7-10

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 2nd July 2020

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

Jonah 1:4-6

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

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

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

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

with every good wish


Andy

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


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URC Daily Devotion 1st July 2020

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

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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The Book of Jonah

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

Dear <<First Name>>

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

with every good wish


Andy


 
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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 30th June 2020

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

Exodus 7: 8 - 13

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

Reflection

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

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


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