URC Devotions

URC Daily Devotion Saturday 25th July 2020 Basis of Union 12

Sat, 25/07/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 25th July 2020 Basis of Union 12  

Basis

The United Reformed Church confesses the faith of the Church catholic in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It acknowledges that the life of faith to which it is called is a gift of the Holy Spirit continually received in Word and Sacrament and in the common life of God's people. It acknowledges the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments, discerned under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as the supreme authority for the faith and conduct of all God's people. (12)

Reflection

This clause of the Basis contains three statements which emphasize three mantras of Reformed ecclesiology: the proclamation of the Triune God; the fellowship of Word and Sacrament; and the centrality of Scripture. It would do a great disservice to them – and to your devotional activity – to attempt to unpack them here. However, reflection can be made on the one aspect named in all three statements: The Holy Spirit. 

Although the coming of the Spirit is associated with the feast of Pentecost, we recognise the work of the Spirit to be associated with more than a historic event. While the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth was confined to a specific point in history, the Spirit’s action works through all time, where She is forever involved in history, from the beginning of creation through to the coming of God’s Kingdom. Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas reminds us that in this way ’to be involved in history is not the same as to become history’, and that while the historic Jesus remains to us a person who has long died, and the Bible a book written long ago, the Spirit makes Christ alive to us, and speaks through the Scriptures and the Sacraments, uniting us in Holy communion with one another – those before and those yet to come. 

The Spirit frees us up not to think of a God that has been confined to the past – to the acts of a Jewish Carpenter in occupied territory, or glory days of revivals or enormous Sunday Schools – but rather to a God that shines new light and truth and is still speaking anew. It is the Spirit which continually innovates and inspires, illuminates and improves all that we know and experience of God. That Spirit breaks down barriers, breaks open the Word, and breaks into our lives bringing history to life as we seek the eternal journey with God. 

Prayer

Spirit of the ever-present God
whose presence turns history into our story,
break into our lives with new light and truth,
that we may appreciate all the ways you speak to us
and that we may experience your story anew. Amen
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, Chaplaincy Coordinator at Newcastle University 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 24th July 2020 Basis of Union 11

Fri, 24/07/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 24th July 2020  Basis of Union 11 

Acts 2: 42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Basis

Within the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church the United Reformed Church acknowledges its responsibility under God:- to make its life a continual offering of itself and the world to God in adoration and worship through Jesus Christ;- to receive and express the renewing life of the Holy Spirit in each place and in its total fellowship, and there to declare the reconciling and saving power of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ;- to live out, in joyful and sacrificial service to all in their various physical and spiritual needs, that ministry of caring, forgiving and healing love which Jesus Christ brought to all whom he met;- and to bear witness to Christ's rule over the nations in all the variety of their organised life.  (11)

Reflection

The Basis of Union offers an interesting list of the church’s many characteristics and responsibilities.  Our ancestors were keen to draw it all together.  However, doing all that is listed at once could exhaust a congregation!

The early Church, as described in the passage from Acts, was a visible sign of all that the Holy Spirit made possible.  People were no longer individuals, struggling on their own. There was a strong sense of social sharing and concern.

Eventually, as the Church grew, people gathered in different places, spread across the middle east. Yet the same signs and wonders held each place together with one another. There was the same impetus to hold all things in common, and to give priority to those in need.

The Basis of Union points to the way in which the United Reformed Church shares her life as part of the wider ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’ church. The URC came into being through responding to God’s call to be united as Christians. This call flows out of the life of the triune God and is responded to in worship and self offering to the world.

Each URC congregation is encouraged to live out that life as the Holy Spirit leads in each local place. But each congregation, and the URC as a whole, are not alone. That fullness of God’s life which was given to the early church is given to the whole church today, to be embodied in many different ways, depending on the context and needs of the local community.

Prayer

Loving God,
in gratitude we receive the life of Christ and the signs of the Spirit.
We are not on our own.
We give thanks for the many others who participate in what Christ makes possible.
Help us to offer ourselves again to you.
May we generously share what we have with those in need,
and live out your life of caring, forgiving and healing love for all the nations.
Amen. -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Welch, retired from pastoral charge, active ecumenically and theologically, member of St Andrew’s Church, 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 Thursday 23rd July 2020 Basis of Union 10

Thu, 23/07/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 23rd July 2020 Basis of Union 10 

St Matthew 18.15-20 
 
‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
 
Basis
 
The United Reformed Church, believing that it is through the freedom of the Spirit that Jesus Christ holds his people in the fellowship of the one Body, shall uphold the rights of personal conviction. It shall be for the church, in safeguarding the substance of the faith and maintaining the unity of the fellowship, to determine when these rights are asserted to the injury of its unity and peace.  (10)
 
Reflection
 
‘It leaves it up to you to decide what you want to believe… it doesn’t impose anything on you.’ This was a view expressed on the video entitled ‘What is the United Reformed Church?’ produced in the 1990s and presented by the BBC’s Political Editor John Cole. The URC is described as somewhere that allows the individual believer to take steps to grow into faith rather than sign up to everything straight away. No need to pass an exam to join, but rather learn together as a community of faith. 
 
However, one of the stumbling blocks of this so-called ‘Conscience Clause’ in the Basis is that it has led sometimes too easily to the idea that the individual can believe exactly what they want to the detriment of the Church. Amid the post-modern idea of the centrality of the individual, it’s easy to think that the Basis points towards believing whatever you want and such belief becoming a legitimate part of the Church’s doctrine. 
 
The importance of both Matthew’s reprimand of sin and the Basis is grounded in the idea of reliance upon an other. Where ‘two or three are gathered’ in the name of Christ – as The Church – in councils and congregations, we are dependent upon our neighbours in Christ to help us understand what it is that God is calling the Church into. PT Forsyth recognised that we needed something ‘outside our personal opinion, will, vision, inclination, or taste’ to form the community of the Church, while John Oman knew that the fallible Church nevertheless craves a ‘hungering and thirsting after a fuller discernment.’ Our quest is wider than ourselves. 
 
We may find ourselves out of step with the Church’s discernment and direction, or we can find our convictions are the very grit needed to form a pearl within the Church. As long as we are conscious of each other, in our diversity and freedom, we can discern how God is leading us today. 
 
Prayer
 
God in community, three-in-one, 
your Spirit guides and mediates 
through the complexities of life. 
Help us to be attuned to your Spirit’s call upon us and upon the Church, 
and give us the words to speak your truth 
as we hunger and thirst to know and reflect you more fully, 
in unity and in peace. Amen. 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, Chaplaincy Coordinator at Newcastle University 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, 22/07/2020 - 12:30
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

On Sunday the Rev'd Ruth Whitehead, moderator of our South Western Synod, leads us in worship and reflects on prayer.  To help us as we worship we have a range of lovely hymns and music.  We start the service with Alison Kraus's Down by the River to Pray, we sing
Edwin Hatch's Breathe on me Breath of God and are grateful to the Nevard family for recording George Caird's Not Far Beyond for us to sing along to.  The extremely moving version of the American Shaker Hymn, How Can I Keep From Singing, was recorded by the New York City Virtual Choir and we end the service with William William's Guide Me O Though Great Redeemer.  

We hope you can join us on Sunday morning - the email will go out, as usual, in time for a 10am start but join us whenever you can.  We hope Ruth's words and the music will lift our spirits.

with every good wish


Andy


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


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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 22nd July 2020 Basis of Union 9

Wed, 22/07/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 22nd July 2020 Basis of Union 9 
Basis

The United Reformed Church testifies to its faith, and orders its life, according to this Basis of Union, believing it to embody the essential notes of the Church catholic and reformed. The United Reformed Church nevertheless reserves its right and declares its readiness at any time to alter, add to, modify or supersede this Basis so that its life may accord more nearly with the mind of Christ. (9)

Reflection

The phrase “catholic and reformed” is very important because it asserts the truth that we are a part of the Church universal.  Here catholic, with a small c, means universal.  We are not asserting that we are a part of the Roman Catholic Church, but that alongside them and other churches, we are all parts of the one universal Church.

If you think of a stream flowing down a mountain, it may break up into different streams as the water makes its way down the side of the mountain.  It may do this more than once, so that by the bottom of the mountain there might be a large number of different streams.  If any one of those streams claimed that it alone contained the original water it would be preposterous.  It would also be preposterous for any of the branches to forget the original from which they come, and of which they are a part with other branches.  We share fifteen centuries of Church history together with other Western churches before the Reformation.

When we speak of "catholic and reformed" we’re confessing our connectedness and indebtedness to the Church of past ages, to believers in previous generations.  This has always been central to the instincts of Reformed theologians from the 16th century to today, not a deviation from them.

The Reformed tradition does not claim to restore a Church that had been eclipsed but to reform the historic catholic (universal) Church.  If we miss this, we risk misunderstanding that Reformed actually means continuity.  A tree which is reformed is not cut down; it is pruned.  It would be a serious mistake to attempt to jump over 1500 years of Church history to recover the faith as though no one had ever written or spoken about Jesus since shortly before AD70.
May God speak to us through the voices of the saints, down the years.

Prayer

Loving Father, though you have cast us all from the one mould that is your love, we are a wealth of different shapes; a vast pilgrim people you cherish your own.  Unite us as one family, one humanity.  May we never stand alone when we could stand together; and never isolate, when we could include.  That all may recognise in all your image and your likeness, revealed most fully in Jesus Christ, our Saviour.  Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins, Minister of a group of Methodist and United Reformed Churches based around Farnham, Surrey, and Clerk of the URC General Assembly. 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 21st July 2020 Basis of Union 8

Tue, 21/07/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 21st July 2020  Basis of Union 8               

Ephesians 4: 14-16

We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Basis

The United Reformed Church has been formed in obedience to the call to repent of what has been amiss in the past and to be reconciled. It sees its formation and growth as a part of what God is doing to make his people one, and as a united church will take, wherever possible and with all speed, further steps towards the unity of all God's people. (8)

Reflection

John, a cheerful Methodist Local Preacher, told me “We’re all going to be living and praising together in heaven – we might as well start now!”  But it is not easy to be people seeking unity. 
 
I still remember, as a very new church member, the crushing blow of the failure of the Churches’ Council for Covenanting in 1981, (which would have brought together Methodist and Anglican churches and the United Reformed Church). I confess that even now there are times when I wonder whether we are achieving anything as we sit through yet another Churches Together meeting. 

But the Basis of Union reminds us that we don’t pursue ecumenism because it’s easy, or because of how we feel, or because of what we gain. As people who rightly repent past division, we seek reconciliation because we are obedient to God’s call. We seek unity because we want to be faithful to God’s mission to make his people one.
 
The reading from Ephesians describes this as ‘growing up into Christ’. As we continue to work for unity, this metaphor of growing into one body may be more useful to us than a more mechanistic imagining of bolting together the different parts of our denominations to form a single church. Instead of holding onto our childlike desire to please ourselves, we need to grow more like Christ. Then we will see better how we belong together and how we can be one church, built up in love, by Christ.
 
 
Prayer

God who is the Father of all
help us, your children, to grow up into Christ.
Through the power of your Spirit
make us faithful to the gospel
and a people who seek reconciliation,
Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead has conducted most of her ministry in LEPs and is currently Moderator of the South Western Synod of the 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 Monday 20th July 2020 Basis of Union 7

Mon, 20/07/2020 - 06:00
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Monday 20th July 2020 Basis of Union 7 

Ephesians 4: 4-7

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Basis

The United Reformed Church humbly recognises that the failure and weakness of the Church have in particular been manifested in division which has made it impossible for Christians fully to know, experience and communicate the life of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church. (7)

Reflection
There are many places where we come across the phrase “the strain of holding together a broad church” …whether it is a reference to the Church of England, the United Reformed Church or even the Labour party.  We might think that diversity makes it more difficult to be united, that it would be much easier to be ‘one’ if we all thought, acted or believed the same. 
 
The writer of the letter to the Ephesians does not agree. “Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift” – we know we are not given the same gifts of grace, or in the same measure. We are gloriously different…but this very individuality is built together by God in the church, pulled together by Christ, made one in the Spirit so that the whole church may be one and may be blessed.
 
The Basis of Union pulls no punches – division among Christians is not just a natural expression of our individuality and difference, like “different brands of beer” as someone once said to me. Our division is a sign of failure and weakness and we need to recognise this and repent.

As those coming from a non-conformist heritage we might rejoice in difference and abhor uniformity, but this can never be at the expense of recognising our unity and repenting of our division.
 
Prayer

Father of all,
we pray that your church may be one body,
declaring one faith in one Lord
through the power of the one Spirit.
Give grace to us so that we may recognise our failure and weakness.
Re-make us in true unity,
so that we may bear the name of Christ,
as your church in your world. Amen.
 
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Today's writer

The Rev’d Ruth Whitehead has conducted most of her ministry in LEPs and is currently Moderator of the South Western Synod of the 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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Worship for Sunday 19th July 2020

Sun, 19/07/2020 - 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 URC’s Daily Devotions
Sunday 19th July 2020

 
 
Francis Brienen
 
Introduction
 
Good morning and welcome to worship. My name is Francis Brienen and I am Deputy General Secretary (Mission) for the United Reformed Church. I am speaking to you from my home in North London, where at the time of recording we are still in lockdown. Yet I know that as I do so, I am connected with God’s people all across the UK. Wherever we are, we meet together in God’s presence. We may be scattered and dispersed, but we are still God’s church, called to be a light to the world. So 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       Bless the Lord O My Soul
Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin based upon Psalms 103: 1-5
 
Bless the Lord,
O my soul,
O my soul!
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before,
O my soul.
I'll worship Your holy name
 
The sun comes up,
it's a new day dawning.
It's time to sing
Your song again.
Whatever may pass
and whatever lies before me,
let me be singing
when the evening comes.
 
2: You're rich in love
and You're slow to anger
Your name is great
and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness,
I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons
for my heart to find
 
3: And on that day
when my strength is failing,
the end draws near
and my time has come;
still, my soul will sing
Your praise unending
Ten thousand years
and then forevermore.
 
Prayers of Approach
 
Living God, Lord of heaven and earth, you are the promise of eternal life:
you love us for ever, treasuring each of us in our uniqueness from the moment of our creation until we join the whole company of heaven.
Living God, through life you journey with us: our companion in the questioning, the spur to our search for truth, the passion in our indignation, always gently, tenderly, holding us in love.
 
We come to you, God of love,  for with you there is room for everyone,
and for all our broken promises, our fears and our pain.
 
Prayer of Confession
 
Loving God, we confess that we have failed, we have not been what you intend us to be, we have not been what we want to be:
 
We would touch the world with goodness,
but we chase after our own salvation.
We would care for your creation,
but we squander it with little thought for those still to come.
We would meet the needs of others,
  but we find ourselves reluctant to share.
We would stand for truth, but we remain silent in the face of evil.
We would live with love and compassion,
  but we take on the values of this world.
We would share our faith joyfully, but we lack courage to trust in you.
 
We need you, God, if we are to become who you want us to be.
Transform us by the power of your Spirit.
Renew our faith day by day and make it as big as a mustard seed,
full of promise and possibility,
so that we may live with courage and purpose
and see the signs and parables you have for us in the world today.       
                                    
Assurance of pardon
 
God’s love for us and for the world is faithful and steadfast.
God is slow to anger  and full of mercy and grace.
God breathes new life into us, so that we can start afresh,
thinking new thoughts and making new choices.
Thanks be to God!                                                                                   
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
We thank you, God, that we are never left alone.
We live confident that you will lead us on the journey of faith.
So we ask that you speak to us now:
Holy Spirit, open our minds and our souls to the truth.
Move us with your word -
that we may listen with ears of hope,
learn with hearts of faith
and live in your world with love. Amen
 
Reading:           St Matthew 13: 24-30 & 36-43
 
Jesus put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.  So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.   And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?”   He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?”  But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.  Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’
 
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’  He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man;  the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one,  and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.  Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers,  and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears  listen!
 
Hymn:      Everyday God
                Bernadette Farrell 2016 © OCP Publications
 
Earth's creator, Everyday God,
Loving Maker, O Jesus,
You who shaped us, O Spirit,
recreate us, Come, be with us.
 
2: In your presence, Everyday God,
we are gathered, O Jesus,
You have called us, O Spirit,
to restore us, Come, be with us.
 
3: Life of all lives, Everyday God,
Love of all loves, O Jesus,
Hope of all hopes, O Spirit,
Light of all lights, Come, be with us.
 
4: In our resting, Everyday God,
in our rising, O Jesus,
in our hoping, O Spirit,
in our waiting, come, be with us.
 
5: In our dreaming, Everyday God,
in our daring, O Jesus,
in our searching, O Spirit,
in our sharing, come, be with us.

6: God of laughter, Everyday God,
God of sorrow, O Jesus,
home and shelter, O Spirit,
strong & patient, come, be with us.
 
7: Way of freedom, Everyday God,
Star of morning, O Jesus,
timeless healer, O Spirit,
flame eternal, Come, be with us.
 
8: Word of gladness, Everyday God,
Word of mercy, O Jesus,
Word of friendship, O Spirit,
Word of challenge, Come, be with us.
 
9: Gentle father, Everyday God,
faithful brother, O Jesus,
tender sister, O Spirit.
Loving mother, come, be with us.
 
10: Our beginning, Everyday God,
our unfolding, O Jesus,
our enduring, O Spirit,
journey's ending, come, be with us.
 
11: Alleluia, Everyday God,
now and always, O Jesus,
alleluia, O Spirit, through all ages,
come, be with us.
 
Sermon 
 
Just as the country was about to go into lockdown and when panic buying was rife, I was waiting at the bus stop near the supermarket. I was soon joined by an elderly woman, carrying shopping. She was clearly keen to talk. She could not believe how people were behaving in the supermarket. As she was about to take a packet of biscuits to put into her basket, someone had pushed in front of her and in one fell swoop emptied the entire contents of the biscuits shelf straight into their trolley. They then marched off without so much as a by your leave. My bus stop companion was outraged and after venting about it for quite a while, she concluded with the rather memorable comment: Well, I hope that by the time this lockdown is over they will be really fat!
 
This is a rather trivial story to illustrate something very difficult and troubling, which is that good and bad co-exist, that the good don’t always get their reward and those who need justice are sometimes denied it. What goes around doesn’t always come around. Our world is messy and it is hard to understand why things are the way they are. As people of faith what do we say? Where is God in all this? Why can the children of the evil one roam freely and even seem to flourish?
 
These are the theological questions that Matthew’s parable seems to raise too. They are difficult questions, and they are uncomfortable.
 
Matthew addresses them through a parable that Jesus tells his disciples. It is unique to Matthew, though there are some parallels with the parable of the dragnet we find in Mark.  Matthew places it right at the heart of his gospel, as part of a set of parables about God’s kingdom, the reign of God - the essence of Jesus’ good news to the world. It is a complex parable, but told in imagery everyone could relate to: wheat and weeds.  It deals with difficult issues, and it is perhaps really told to warn of premature judgement, and to tell the disciples who is really in charge.
 
Jesus tells the disciples that the world is not pure and perfect. It may have started out that way, but some time during the night, while everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then went away. So, when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well.
 
You may be a keen gardener, or you may have taken it up during lockdown. If so, you will know how annoying weeds can be. They grow rather well; they don’t need any help from anyone. This particular weed was a very tricky one: darnel or rye grass according to the commentaries. A weed that looks just like wheat. I looked it up and it is described as wheat’s evil twin. That says it all really. It looks just like wheat especially in the early stages.
 
The slaves of the householder want to spring into action immediately. Let’s pull them up before they take over everything. But the master stops them. If you gather the weeds, you will uproot the wheat with them, he says. Let both of them grow until the harvest; and at the harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.
 
That is a rather surprising and puzzling statement. Is the suggestion that we should be passive in the face of evil, that we should do nothing when we can see that things are going wrong? Even stronger, are we told that doing nothing is actually less harmful than doing good?
 
What this really is, I think, is a warning against premature judgement. I don’t really like weeding much and that is not just because it is back breaking. It’s because I just don’t know enough about plants. In my eagerness to tidy up I have weeded out many a good, and dare I say it, expensive plant. I have destroyed the good with the bad. And that is what is at stake here too: the weed and the wheat look too similar. It is all too easy to exterminate something that is good. It is all too easy to wade into a situation thinking you are doing good and finding out you are doing the opposite.
 
Many years ago I was part of the leadership team of a youth in mission camp, as it was called, here in the UK, where an international group of young people came to work in and with a community on a practical project. At the end of the project we organised an open-air concert and invited a rock band to come and play. Their fee was a bit expensive, or so we thought, and being church we had some debate over having a collection. We decided against it, as it was our gift to the community. People turned out in great numbers and the concert was a huge success, but towards the end of it I noticed a woman from the community going round and asking people for money. She was known for begging by the local shop to buy alcohol. Indignant and over zealous I rushed to the local minister. How dare she use this occasion to beg for money, what would people think? Shouldn’t we stop her? The minister was relaxed about it, he knew his people well. Just leave it, he said, it’ll be fine. And he was right. Shortly afterwards she came over to him, gave him a hug, handed him her bag of money and said: This is for the church. Thank you for the concert.
 
I wish I could say that that was the last time I ever waded in, eager and over zealous, but that is not the case. And I am quite sure I am not the only one. And that is why this parable stands as a warning. Against reading situations wrongly and wading in. Against being so sure that we know what is good and what is bad.
 
Matthew’s parable is in a sense a warning, against thinking that we have it all figured out how to judge good from evil, right from wrong, moral from immoral. The main characters in this very parable should remind us of that. It is not all that long ago that Christians thought it okay that a master should have slaves and used the Bible to justify it.
 
Best to wait, best to let the weeds and wheat grow together until it is time to harvest, when it is easier to tell the good from the bad.
 
And here’s another thing. Weeds may turn out to be useful in the end. There is a hint of that in the parable. In first-century Palestine either manure or dried weeds would be used for cooking fuel. By letting the weeds grow too, the farmer would not only have wheat to make the bread, but also the fuel to fire the oven. All they needed was to wait, to tolerate the mess for a while, because it would come good in the end. 
 
Our current situation seems to be full of weeds, in fact in the face of the Covid 19 pandemic the field seems to be full of that. We have seen behaviour in people that has been discouraging and sometimes shocking. Including in those we expect to govern and lead us. And yet, we have also seen incredible acts of dedication, kindness, care and love. We have seen a coming together of community and society in a way that we no longer thought possible, and it has been heartening. We have seen a rediscovery of what it is to be church. Not the building, but the people, people who have been finding ingenuous ways to continue to worship and to serve their communities. It is as if the weeds have woken up the wheat and urged it to grow stronger.
 
And perhaps that is the message of this parable. Our world is a mixed and messy field of wheat and weeds, where the children of the kingdom and the children of the evil one live side by side. But it is still God’s world. And in this mixed and messy field God calls us to be wheat. In fact, to be the best wheat we can be: to live the gospel, to be the light, to be the salt. To be the good in the world with the full awareness of what the resistance will be. To be light when darkness will surely try to snuff it out. To be salt when blandness and conformity are always the easier paths.
 
To be all that. And to trust that God will take care of the rest.
 
Barbara Brown Taylor recounts a story she once read about Pope John XXIII, who ended his lengthy prayers each night by saying to himself, “But who governs the Church? You or the Holy Spirit? Very well, then, go to sleep, Angelo.”
 
We may not like or understand some of the things that happen in our lives or in our mixed and messy world. But we can trust that ultimately our lives and the world we live in are in God’s hand.  All we need to do is just be: being true to our roots, stretching out to the light so that we will shine like the sun and trusting that in the end the harvest is God’s. Amen.
 
Hymn       Amazing Grace
                 John Newton
 
Amazing grace
(how sweet the sound)
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost,
but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.
 
2 'Twas grace that taught
my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did
that grace appear
the hour I first believed!
 
3 Through many dangers,
toils and snares
we have already come:
'twas grace has brought us
safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.
 
4: When we’ve been there
ten thousand years
bright shining as the Sun,
we’ve no less days
to sing God’s praise,
than when we’ve first begun.
 
Affirmation of Faith
 
We believe in God.
Despite His silence and His secrets we believe that He lives.
Despite evil and suffering we believe that He made the world
so that all would be happy in life.
Despite the limitations of our reason and the revolts of our hearts,
we believe in God.
 
We believe in Jesus Christ.
Despite the centuries which separate us
from the time when he came to earth, we believe in His word.
Despite our incomprehension and our doubt,
we believe in His resurrection.
Despite his weakness and poverty, we believe in His reign.
 
We believe in the Holy Spirit.
Despite appearances we believe He guides the Church;
despite death we believe in eternal life;
despite ignorance and disbelief,
we believe that the Kingdom of God is promised to all. Amen.
 
Offertory
 
Our giving is an essential part of our discipleship and of our worship. Reflect for a moment on the gifts you have been able to give in the past week. Perhaps you have volunteered, helped a friend or neighbour, given to your local food bank, or made a donation to a charity of your choice. Think also for a moment on how you give to your local church: perhaps you are filling and keeping your envelope for each week for when you gather again in your church building. Perhaps you give by standing order or bank transfer. However we give and whatever we give, all our gifts are a response to the overwhelming generosity of God. So let us pray:
 
Generous God,
we offer you our gifts - of love, of service, and of money.
Use these gifts, we pray, that they may sow seeds of hope
and bring closer your dream of justice and peace. Amen.
 
Prayers of Intercession
 
We join now in prayer as the people of God. Where there are silences, please use them to offer your personal prayers…
 
Gracious God, you have created us, you have set us free and loved us into life, You have spoken your word and shown us your way. Trusting that you hold this world in your loving care,  we bring to you our prayers for this day.
 
For your world in need, where poverty, conflict, political chaos,  and destruction of the earth are overwhelming: hear our prayers, gracious God….
 
For the leaders of all nations and for all in positions of power and responsibility, that they may act in such a way that the earth and all its people can flourish:  hear our prayers, gracious God…
 
For the church of Jesus Christ around the world,  for the United Reformed Church and for our sister churches here in the UK,    that we may be faithful to our calling hear our prayers, gracious God….
 
For those we know and name now – for family members, friends, people in our congregation, neighbours who need our prayers:  hear our prayers, gracious God….
 
And for ourselves we pray. Guard us against all that distracts us from your kingdom.  Bless us with wisdom and patience and keep us rooted and grounded in you.
 
This we pray, as we say:
 
The Lord’s Prayer
 
Hymn:               It is the Cry of My Heart
Terry Butler ©  1991 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing
 
It is the cry of my heart to follow You!
It is the cry of my heart to be close to You!
It is the cry of my heart to follow all of the days of my Life!
 
 
1: Teach me Your holy ways O Lord
so I can walk in Your truth.
Teach me Your holy ways O Lord
& make me wholly devoted to You.

2: Open my eyes so I can see
the wonderful things that You do.
Open my heart up more and more
and make it wholly devoted to You

 
Benediction  
                          
This is still God’s world. May we live in it with faith.
This is still God’s world. May we live in it with hope.
This is still God’s world. May we live in it with love.
 
May we be good.
May we be light.
May we be salt.
And trust that God will take care of the rest.
 
And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. 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 by Francis Brienen.
Prayer of Confession first published in ‘A Restless Hope’, Prayer Handbook 1995
Assurance of Pardon based on Psalm 86, 11-17
 
Organ Pieces  Opening: Fugue in G Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
(organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)  Closing:   Nun Danket Alle Gott – Marche Triomphale (“Now thank we all our God”) by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (organ of All Saints’, Odiham – 2020)  Both played by Brian Cotterill.  http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to…
 
The choir of Barrhead URC, Jonnie Hill, Carol Tubbs, Marion Thomas, Ray Fraser, John Young, and Leslie Bailey for recording various parts of the service.
 
Bless The Lord (10,000 Reasons) by Tim Hughes and Jonas Myrin © 2011 Thankyou Music, Said And Done Music, sixsteps Music, SHOUT! Music Publishing performed by the author.
Everyday God by Bernadette Farrell © OCP Publications performed by the author from the Restless Heart album.
Amazing Grace by John Newton performed by Judy Collins and the Global Virtual Choir.
It is the Cry of My Heart Terry Butler ©  1991 Mercy / Vineyard Publishing performed by Terry Butler.
 
--> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762

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URC Daily Devotion Sunday 19th July 2020 Psalm 6

Sun, 19/07/2020 - 06:00
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Sunday 19th July 2020 Psalm 6 

Lord chasten not in anger, 
nor in your wrath rebuke me.
Give me your healing word.
My soul and body languish;
I wait for you in anguish.
How long, how long, O Lord?

Turn to me now, uphold mel;
for your love’s sake restore me.
O save me by your grace.
For death ends all remembrance;
it wraps the tongue in silence.
How can the dead sing praise?

Pain and distress o’erwhelm me,
I cry all night for mercy,
my bed is wet with tears.
My eyes can weep no longer;
my enemies seem stronger,
my awful foes and fears.

All who love evil, leave me,
for God has heard my weeping:
my foes are put to shame.
Turned back, no more to grieve me,
they suddenly shall leave me.
All glory to God’s name.


You can hear a verse of the hymn here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyLxDoI_Oos

Reflection

If ever there was a Psalm for a time of pandemic, this is it!  Here we have a person who is sick, suffering in body and soul.  He prays in anguish for healing, begs God not to be angry with him for being so importunate, but he has to know - how long will all this last? 
 
His sickness leaves him exhausted, suffering from insomnia, close to death. He feels deserted by God.  In spiritual anguish he prays for deliverance.  It may be hard for him in his sickness to praise God but if he dies it would be impossible.  The darkest point for him is in the loneliness of night, when he suspects that his enemies and his fears were correct all along, perhaps God had deserted him.  He is overwhelmed by grief.
 
And then when he is completely exhausted, in the depths of despair, his confidence returns, he knows that God has heard him, his enemies are discredited, they fade away.  Whether or not there is any change in his physical condition, his faith and his hope are restored and he gives God the glory.
 
It is central to our Christian faith that, in rising from the dead, Christ has conquered death for ever.   But does this focus on resurrection sometimes lead us to be too casual about our own mortality?  Does the Bible not emphasis that the awefulness of the Passion preceded the Resurrection?  Psalm 6 reminds us that we need a full appreciation of this life before we can look beyond it.  We may well have to undergo the anguish of pain and the sense of separation from God before we emerge with that strong faith that rests confidently on God, on God’s love, on God’s grace, on God’s resurrection power.
 
 
Prayer
 
God of compassion,
give to all whose lives are full of sorrow
the firm assurance that you are with them,
looking to that glorious day when sorrow and tears are wiped away and death is swallowed up in life,
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
Amen -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Fleur Houston, retired minister and member of Macclesfield and Bollington 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 Saturday 18th July 2020 Basis of Union 6

Sat, 18/07/2020 - 06:00
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Saturday 18th July 2020  Basis of Union 6 

2 Corinthians 5: 16-21

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Basis

Christ's mercy in continuing his call to the Church in all its failure and weakness has taught the Church that its life must ever be renewed and reformed according to the Scriptures, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (6)

Reflection

If we are honest, some of us find ourselves on the edge of the Church not knowing if we should be in or out. Trying to equate the pain and injury caused to some, with the endless hope and joy of Christ’s Church at its best, is a real struggle for many of us.

I cannot believe that God would wish us to suffer at the hands of the Church in its weakness, so I cannot blame those who run-to-the-hills in self-protection. It feels brave, if deeply sad.

The most theological conversations I have tend to be with my barber, dentist or postman.  Each of them has shared something like this over the years: “I left years ago with all the abuse scandals”,  “the Church is so rich and does nothing for the poor”, “the Church is full of hypocrites who talk about love, but show none”. These may be old or inaccurate stereotypes of the Church, but they are certainly signs of the failure and weakness that are part of our history and our present – if we are honest.

It does us good to be humbled and our Basis of Union does not shirk from this task, nor does it leave us in the place of shame.
Thank God, that Christ’s mercy is not dependent on our flawlessness!

God is always renewing and re-forming the Church, especially when we turn to Scripture to guide us and as we allow the Spirit to lead us in ever-new, creative ways.

Perhaps the Basis of Union reminds us that Christ continues to call his Church to be a sign of hope and resurrection to the world, even through its vulnerabilities and failings.

So, this is why I stay.
Because, at its best, the Church is a place of forgiveness, joy and hope.
At its best, the Church is happy to be reformed to the way of Christ, which is community, love and grace.
I stay, because Christ continues to call us, as we are, to be salt and light in our communities and ambassadors of love to the world.
Why do you stay in the Church?
 
Prayer

Ever-Creating God,
we pray that your global Church will constantly be reformed in your image and always be a force of active hope.
We pray for those on the edge of the Church, those who have left and those who have heard nothing but our failings. May the light of your love shine to them through us.
As we go about our day, may we be a sign of what the Church is, when we let you lead.
With you is mercy and in you, we are a new creation.
Thanks be to God
Amen
 
-->

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 © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 17th July 2020 Basis of Union 5

Fri, 17/07/2020 - 06:00
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Friday 17th July 2020 - Basis of Union 5  

Romans 7: 4 - 20

For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin.  I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

Basis

The unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the Church have been obscured by the failure and weakness which mar the life of the Church.  (5)

Reflection

We dare to believe that the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It is often said that if ever you find the perfect church (as in perfect congregation) you shouldn’t join it, because you’ll spoil it. There is a sense in which this is true at an obviously human level, but within the ways of God it is not true that you can spoil the Church. The holiness of the Church cannot be spoiled by my sin, weakness or human frailty, because, in the end, the Church is more than a human society, but is God’s divine creation. 

Most of us can identify with Paul’s sense that, however hard we try, and however much we want to, we just can’t always manage to do the right thing. Sometimes that’s just because we are weak and frail human beings. And sometimes it’s just because, well, life is complicated and you can find yourself in some situations where you can only do the least bad thing. I sense that these verses in Romans are the ones that most of us really do understand well. 

Our Basis of Union recognises that our failures and weaknesses mar the life of the Church and that sometimes the holiness of the Church is obscured by them. We cannot deny this as we see the impact of scandals and abuses on our reputation and reality. But we also say, with the whole Church, that the holiness of the Church is not a product of our moral rightness, but is a gift, a miraculous gift, from God. This means that, however weak and flawed we are, however bad things get, God is present still within the Church, renewing and reforming and recreating. Where God is present, there is something holy. Even the most flawed among us can hold on to that promise. Take that hope into the weak places of your own life today.

Prayer

Holy God,
 forgive us all for the times
When
 we ‘bring your church into disrepute’

through our failure and our sin.

And, through our belonging to your Church,

bless us with your holy love,

that we may grow in goodness,

to the glory of your holy name, Amen.

 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is the Minister of Taunton United Reformed Church Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 16th July 2020 Basis of Union 4

Thu, 16/07/2020 - 06:00
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Thursday 16th July 2020 Basis of Union 4 

St Matthew 28: 16 - 20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Basis

The Church is apostolic because Christ continues to entrust it with the Gospel and the commission first given to the apostles to proclaim that Gospel to all peoples. (4)

Reflection

Not long ago, I bought a box of apostle spoons from a car boot sale (I was actually rather excited to find them, somewhat to the surprise of the stall holder!). Such spoons were a familiar part of my childhood, though we never had the kind that were different for each ‘apostle’; Peter with his keys, Andrew with his cross… I realise now, looking back, that the spoons taught me to elide the ‘apostles’ with ‘the Twelve’. I’ve learned since that, even in the early Church, there were others who were called apostles; from Paul to Mary Magdalene. And I’ve begun to take in what it means to think of the Church (today’s church too) as apostolic. The apostles were simply (simply!) those entrusted with the message of the Gospel and this means that any of us who have heard and believed the Gospel might be apostles too. 

What’s vital is that we neither confine apostleship to the first century not forget that today’s apostles need to have a strong connection to those first apostles if we are to be confident that we proclaim the same Gospel. It’s liberating, challenging and exciting to discover that you can be an apostle too. It’s also vital and strengthening to know that we are connected to the apostles who carried the Gospel through the ages. ‘The Twelve’, plus Paul and Mary and countless others, are not just interesting historical figures – but co-workers with us in a common project. 

The Church is founded upon those first apostles, but in its present earthly community, is formed of apostles too. Not everyone is a natural evangelist, but any of us can live as those who bring good news. As you live your life today take a moment to wonder how you can carry good news. Think about it every time you stir your cuppa…

Prayer

Loving Jesus,
who called forth apostles

by revealing to them the good news
of God’s saving love,

call forth in me 
a voice, a life, and a heart

that brings good news to your world

and love to all the people,

in this day and all my days, Amen.
 
-->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Dr Susan Durber is the Minister of Taunton United Reformed Church  Copyright
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Copyright © 2020 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's Coming

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

Dear Friends,

On Sunday Francis Brienen, our Deputy General Secretary for Mission leads us in worship as we consider the parable of the wheat and the weeds.  We will sing Tim Hughes and Jonas Myrin's Bless The Lord (10,000 Reasons), Bernadette Farrell's Everyday God, John Newton's ever popular Amazing Grace  - this version is performed by Judy Collins and the Global Virtual Choir.  We will finish with the rousing It is the Cry of My Heart  by Terry Butler.

As always the service will be sent out in time for a 10am start but you can listen at any point after that.

with every good wish


Andy


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


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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 15th July 2020 Basis of Union 3

Wed, 15/07/2020 - 06:00
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Wednesday 15th July 2020  Basis of Union 3 - Anne Hewling

St Matthew 11: 28-30

‘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.’

Basis

The Church is catholic or universal because Christ calls into it all peoples and because it proclaims the fullness of Christ's Gospel to the whole world. (3)

Reflection

I spent my first six years on the little island of Rarotonga, part of the Cook Islands.  My parents had ventured to these specks of land amidst thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean turquoise in 1952 as missionaries with the London Missionary Society (LMS). They served 18 years amidst various island groups of the South Pacific. It sounds like paradise and, in many ways, it was.  But my dad wrote a book about it carefully entitled Not Quite Paradise to tell the world truths that, even on palm-fringed beaches of gleaming white coral sand, people are still people and life is still burdened with plenty of cares. Indeed, some of the places we called home are already being destroyed as climate change, increasingly violent hurricanes, sea level rise, ocean warming and ocean acidification work their lethal consequences to humanity’s greed and apathy.

The Gospel reached places like this because women and men, young and old, left our congregations and set sail. Many died on the way, or became martyrs for the faith.  I cannot say these glorious words of ours with their universal vision without picturing such little islands thousands of miles away. And, of course, the churches that once sent missionaries only exist themselves because missionaries once came to where we now live, and first converts discovered a yoke that was easier than sin and death, and a burden of discipleship lightened by the constant presence of the Holy Spirit and held in the prayers of the risen and ascended Christ.  We now live an interconnected life; the world made ordinary in the palm of our hands.  This part of the Basis testifies to the abiding truth that there is, rather, something utterly extraordinary about naming ourselves sisters and brothers in Christ across all bounds of time and geography.  

Prayer

Lord, you have made a marvellous world,
rich in diversity, peopled with different cultures;
fragile and wonderful.
Thank you for loving it all so much 
that you have come to call all creation home.
Give us deep trust
to lay down our burdens too
and follow you.
Amen.  -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Neil Thorogood is Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge, until he returns to local URC pastoral ministry at Trinity-Henleaze (Bristol) and Thornbury in summer 2020. 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 14th July 2020 Basis of Union 2

Tue, 14/07/2020 - 06:00
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Tuesday 14th July Basis of Union 2 

Scripture  Ephesians 5: 25 - 30

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church —  for we are members of his body.

Basis

The one Church of the one God is holy, because he has redeemed and consecrated it through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and because there Christ dwells with his people. (2)

Reflection

The Church likes to describe itself as holy - in the Creeds we say we are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic but even a cursory glance at Church history calls most, if not all, of these descriptors into question - not least our holiness.  Despite many of God’s people having lived lives of heroic sanctity, there are those in every age whose love of wealth, power, and status have led to persecution, hatred, and murder.  In our own age we’ve seen the horror of clerical abuse unfold across the Church which, again, makes the claim that we are holy a difficult one.

Our Basis of Union situates our holiness in Christ.  We are holy as Christ, our head, is holy and He dwells in our midst calling us to sanctity.  Paul wrote that the Church would be presented to God radiant, without stain, wrinkle, or blemish - that is a vision of the future when the sanctifying work of Christ is complete.  We are holy because Christ our head is holy and because He calls us to holiness.  Our faltering, often pitiful, steps towards sanctity are made complete by Christ and are seen in the lives of the saints - past and present - who responded to His call to be holy just as our Father in Heaven is holy.  Of course we get it wrong, we fail, and we can be spectacularly unholy  yet Christ continues to call, sanctify, and perfect us until we, with the rest of the Church, are presented to God with Christ in our midst.  

Prayer

God of the Church,
help us to be holy,
to face up to the times when we’re not,
when we love power and prestige more than you,
give us time to repent,
that we may be formed into the image 
of Jesus Christ,
your son, our Lord,
Amen.  
  -->

Today's writer

The Rev’d Andy Braunston works with four churches in and around 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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URC Daily Devotion Monday 13th July 2020 Basis of Union 1

Mon, 13/07/2020 - 06:00
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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
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th July 2020 View this email in your browser

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
96 URC Daily Devotion Saturday 11th 2020 July Jonah 10 View this email in your browser

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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