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Daily Devotion 25th July

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

The Apostles Creed
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord…  

John 3: 16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Reflection When we say the words ‘and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord’, we are using titles for Jesus rich in association and importance.  The world ‘Christ’ means ‘anointed’, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah. To be anointed, that is, to have oil put on your skin in a special ceremony, was the sign, among the Israelites as among other people, of appointment to a position of  importance in the community, such as that of king or priest. The word came to refer to a high calling, a particular vocation, a divine designation for a purpose of significance. However, the anointed one came as one who served.

‘His only son’ is a challenge, when the whole people of Israel had been described as the son of God (Hosea 11:1), but it comes with the personal devotion of Son to Father.  Jesus, of course, was son of God in a way different from the way in which we are sons and daughters of our parents.

When we speak of Jesus as ‘our Lord’, we run some fairly important risks.  One is the danger of possessiveness in ‘our’, for the remaking of Christ in our particular image is a constant temptation.  Another risk is the removal from our devotion of the details the Gospels give us about Jesus, with the result that Jesus is nothing more or less than an alternative word for God, defined not by his life but by some vague notion of what a God should be like.  

So, may Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord show us the closest that we can see of God, and remind us of how God spires to see the best of humanity.
 

Prayer

Jesus Christ, barrier-breaker,
lead us from our comfort zones.
We often want to surround ourselves with like-minded people;
help us to be open to those who are different.
   
Jesus Christ, risk-taker,
free us from our fear of all that is strange.
We are often afraid of what we don’t know and understand;
help us to see everyone’s in your plan.

Jesus Christ, hope-giver,
show us how to be like you.
We don’t always willingly embrace change,
or always welcome the stranger;
Help us to open our hearts and minds,
so that your kingdom may grow.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Michael Hopkins is Minister of Farnham and Elstead United Reformed Churches, and Clerk of the General Assembly

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Gwen Collins

URC Devotions - Mon, 25/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Gwen Collins Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ruth 2: 1-7

Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a prominent rich man, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.  And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone in whose sight I may find favour.’ She said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’  So she went. She came and gleaned in the field behind the reapers. As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech.  Just then Boaz came from Bethlehem. He said to the reapers, ‘The Lord be with you.’ They answered, ‘The Lord bless you.’  Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, ‘To whom does this young woman belong?’  The servant who was in charge of the reapers answered, ‘She is the Moabite who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.  She said, “Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.” So she came, and she has been on her feet from early this morning until now, without resting even for a moment.’ Reflection The story of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz is a jewel of a story.  It is dramatic and romantic.  In a few short vignettes the key characters are conveyed to us with a depth of understanding that is timeless and transcends culture.

Today’s passage is a hinge point in the story.  Ruth has cast her lot in with Naomi and they have arrived in Bethlehem.  What next?  How will they live?  Will life take a turn for the better after the desperate heartache of chapter 1?  What resources can they draw upon to make a new life for themselves?

Kinship was the social security system of their society, as it is for many societies around the world still today.  I experienced this when I lived in Papua New Guinea.  The benefits and obligations of kinship are paramount.  How might Naomi re-connect into this network?  Would she and her foreign daughter-in-law meet with acceptance or rejection?

Ruth goes gleaning, and the story presents us with a timely God-incidence.  “As it happened, she came to the part of the field belonging to Boaz …”  Ruth’s character and behaviour opens the way for this God-incidence to bear fruit.  When Boaz comes to see how the harvesting is going, his servant gives an excellent report of Ruth’s hard work.

What encouragement and challenge is there here for us?
  • There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Whether in our personal lives, or in our life as a church community, times of loss, struggle, want and hard decisions will, under God, begin to change for the better.
  • God-incidences happen.
  • Returnees and refugees need recognition and space to make a new life.
 

Prayer

Thank you Lord God,
for the depth,
drama and dynamism of human life.
If our current situation is tough,
help us to trust in your brighter future.
If we are able to give recognition and space to foreigners today
help us to do so,
as we walk in the Way of Jesus,
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Dr Gwen Collins is a member of  Avenue St Andrews URC, a retired minister and chaplain to the Moderators of General Assembly

Bible Version

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


 
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Welcome

URC Devotions - Mon, 25/06/2018 - 00:30
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Welcome

Dear <<First Name>>

Welcome to the United Reformed Church's Daily Devotions.  We have been delighted to welcome you, and around 300 other people, to this email list over the last week.  Many of you have joined after seeing us on Songs of Praise today.

Each morning, at 6am, we send out an email containing a reading, reflection and short prayer to around 3,000 people.  These are written by a team of around 120 writers reflecting different places and perspectives - mainly from within the United Reformed Church.  At the moment we are reading the book of Ruth together. 

Sometimes Spam Filters are a little over zealous.  You can avoid our emails going into Spam by adding dailydevotions@urc.org.uk to your contact list and, if your email programme has one, your Safe Senders list.  If you don't get an email one morning, do check your Junk folder!  You can unsubscribe at any point by clicking on the link at the bottom of each email, you can update your email address or change to seeing the Devotions in HTML format (rather like a webpage) or in Plain Text (rather like an old fashioned typed page) format by clicking on the "update mailing preferences" link too.  

You can catch up with earlier Devotions by clicking here to see our archive site. Here it is also possible to download a pdf version of the Devotions formatted as a Booklet.  Some people prefer to read them on paper and others make them available in their churches to people without access to the internet.  Please let me know if you'd like to be added to the distribution list for this electronic booklet version.

If you saw us on Songs of Praise today you may be interested to know that the Rev'd Dr Susan Durber who was on the programme with me is one of our writers too.  

Please do let me know how you find the Devotions - it's always useful to get feedback.  If you think they are useful in your Discipleship why not tell a friend and refer them to our website here so they can have a look and sign up too!

with every good wish

Andy

The Rev'd Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Daily Devotion by Helen Mee

URC Devotions - Sun, 24/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Helen Mee Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 52

1 Why do you boast of wickedness,
you man of power and might?
Why boast all day, O you who are
disgraceful in God’s sight?

2 You plot destruction with your tongue,
so razor-sharp and keen.
You always work deceitfully;
3 you love things vile and mean.

You do not take delight in truth,
but in what’s false and wrong.
4 You love all harmful, evil words,
O you deceitful tongue!

5 But God will surely bring you down
to ruin and disgrace;
He will uproot you from your tent
and from your dwelling-place.

He’ll snatch you from the land of life
and carry you away.
6 The righteous, seeing this, will fear;
then they will laugh and say:

7 “This is the man who for his strength
on God did not rely;
He trusted in his wealth and power
to raise himself on high.”

8 But I am like an olive plant
in God’s house growing free;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
to all eternity.

9 I’ll praise you ever for your deeds;
my hope is in your name,
And in the presence of your saints
I will extol your fame.

The editors of Sing Psalms suggest this is sung to the tune Cheshire or St Flavian Reflection Psalm 52 is one of a short run of psalms which bring the Psalmist’s call for godliness into sharp relief.  In particular it challenges those who both rely on, and flaunt, wealth and, potentially, the less than ethical source of that affluence.

Only those who trust in, and rely on, God will have reason to celebrate whilst those who build their confidence and power base on ill-gotten gains, hiding behind a torrent of sharp tongued and false rhetoric will find themselves deposed from their self-appointed position.

The Psalmist ‘paints’ a triptych of human experience for us; the interaction of futile wickedness and righteousness followed by the rejoicing of those who put their trust in God and God’s steadfast or unfailing love.

In verse 5 we see the actions of God responding to the ungodly described at the beginning of the Psalm.  I have been left wondering how this might have been portrayed within a Marvel Comic or character as the description seems to be not unlike the actions of, for instance Wolverine, Iron Man or Luke Cage.

But God will surely bring you down….uproot you from your tent…..snatch you…..and carry you away. (I would be among the first to admit that this perhaps says more about me than discloses many insights about our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.)

Thereafter we see the Psalmist’s turn to the third section (verses 8 & 9) with images of trust, unfailing love, praise and hope.  The godly are likened to an olive plant growing freely in God’s house. This is a powerful simile not only because the olive tree is known to live, flourishing and fruitful, for, at least, hundreds of years – long enough to seem like eternity, but also because in ancient Hebrew culture it is described as the first among all trees and thought of as a symbol of beauty and blessing.  The comparison of the godly to an olive plant underlines that God is the source their blessing.
 

Prayer

Loving God,
help us take a moment
to envision ourselves as an olive tree;
steady and reliable,
in for the long haul,
sporting beauty in our gnarled trunks
and the fresh shoots springing from as-if-dead wood,
flourishing and fruitful,
without need to make ourselves out
to be different from who we are
or cruelly critical of others.

May we always be content
with the growth and fruitfulness
that discipleship can bring.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev Helen M Mee is minister both in Granton United Church, Edinburgh and Carluke URC & South Link and is the Convenor of the URC Equalities Committee

Bible Version

 
Sing Psalms  © Psalmody and Praise Committee
Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS
Copyright © 2018 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


 
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Daily Devotion by Martha McInnes

URC Devotions - Sat, 23/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Martha McInnes Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ruth 1: 19 - 22

So the two of them [Naomi and Ruth] went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them; and the women said, ‘Is this Naomi?’  She said to them,

‘Call me no longer Naomi,
   call me Mara,
   for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me.
I went away full,
   but the Lord has brought me back empty;
why call me Naomi
   when the Lord has dealt harshly with me,
   and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?’

So Naomi returned together with Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, who came back with her from the country of Moab. They came to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.
Reflection As a bedraggled pair of women wander through the streets, the townspeople pause.  Someone catches a glimpse of a familiar turn of the head, a phrase that sounds familiar.   They wonder,  “Could that be Naomi?”  

Naomi left home with her husband and her two sons years ago. They left for a better life in Moab.  Has Naomi now come back?  With this young women?  Where are the others?  Her husband, her sons, her fortune?  “Could that be Naomi?”  Whispers run through the town.   People stare at the “strangers.”  

The whispers reach Naomi. Her response:  “Do not call me ‘Naomi.’  Call me ‘Marra.’”  “Naomi" means “pleasant,” but Naomi has changed.  Having lost her husband, her sons, her home, she is now “Marra”—bitter.  Naomi has travelled through the pain of grief to return home, and she carries nothing but bitterness, shame, and pain.  Her new name indicates the change within her.

We have all experienced some kind of pain and loss.  We, like Naomi, may struggle to name goodness and hope.  Maybe grief has broken us. Or is it a recent diagnosis of illness, or a redundancy, or a fear, or a childhood trauma or . . . ?  Our pain is so overwhelming that it has changed us.  Instead, we carry the burden of it.  Eventually we may feel like the burden—grief, illness, joblessness, hatred—is who we are. We have forgotten who we really are—a  beloved child of God.  

Brother David Stendl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, writes, “Gratitude emerges as an attitude we can freely choose in order to create a better life for ourselves and for others.” Brother David suggests that  practice of giving thanks for the simplest of things will begin to transform our pain.  

Perhaps, if we can practice gratitude, bitterness will not overwhelm us or rename us.
 

Prayer

Loving God,
We pause.
We listen.
We hear our pain.
But we also hear the sound of our breathe.
We hear the whisper
of your love and faithfulness.
Help us say, “yes” and “thank you.”
Help us let go of “bitterness”
and return to a place of gratitude.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Martha McInnes is Minister of Wellingborough URC

Bible Version

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


 
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Poster

URC Devotions - Fri, 22/06/2018 - 12:42
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Poster

Dear Friends

Earlier this week I sent some words which could be used to advertise the Daily Devotions on a Church Newsletter or Flyer.  Many of you have asked for a poster which could be printed off and used in your churches.

Please click on this link here to download the poster.  Simply print it off and put it up!
with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Daily Devotion by Gordon Woods

URC Devotions - Fri, 22/06/2018 - 06:00
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Ruth 1: 15 - 18

So she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said,

‘Do not press me to leave you
   or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
   where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
   and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
   there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
   and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!’

When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
Reflection Ruth’s story is one of the the most familiar of the stories in the Hebrew Scriptures, and one that has special significance for me, as my late mother read it at the blessing service for our Civil Partnership back in 2007.  I think I probably first heard it while I was at primary school in the early 80s, when stories of people having to leave their homes seemed remote to me - or were perhaps untold - how unlike today when we see the war in Syria, Afghanistan and so many other places, driving people away from home and family.

In our reading today we hear Ruth’s moving words of commitment to Naomi: ‘your people shall be my people, and your God my God’; I’m almost tempted to suggest that when we next receive new members at St. Columba’s we should ask them to say these words!  There is no caveat, no half-heartedness, just a simple commitment to Naomi, her people, and her God.

What would it take for us to inspire people to want to speak those words to us? I sometimes feel that some of us have more in common with Naomi, and allow ourselves to believe that people finding faith would be better off pursuing their Christian journey elsewhere rather than with in our churches with the imperfections we know so well.

Perhaps we need to start as Ruth does, with companionship - to go with the stranger, to invite the stranger to lodge with us, and to declare that their people are our people - and that we are all God’s people?
 

Prayer

When we feel we have nothing to offer,
when we see our disappointments
rather than opportunities,
when we feel that other people, 
and other churches, would offer more,
give us confidence: 
that we can make a difference;
that our gesture of welcome
can begin a friendship;
that our encouragement
can unlock talents;
that together we can build
your Kingdom on earth.
Amen

Today's Writer

Gordon Woods is an Elder at St. Columba’s, Oxford

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by John Durell

URC Devotions - Thu, 21/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by John Durell Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Ruth 1: 6 - 14

Then she started to return with her daughters-in-law from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had had consideration for his people and given them food.  So she set out from the place where she had been living, she and her two daughters-in-law, and they went on their way to go back to the land of Judah.  But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, ‘Go back each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me.  The Lord grant that you may find security, each of you in the house of your husband.’ Then she kissed them, and they wept aloud.  They said to her, ‘No, we will return with you to your people.’  But Naomi said, ‘Turn back, my daughters, why will you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb that they may become your husbands?  Turn back, my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons,  would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.’  Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. Reflection The Dutch writer Ellen van Wolde once described the Book of Ruth as a story of headscarves. These are migrant women, largely invisible – the kind of women who today might take the night bus into the city centre for their cleaning jobs, or might appear at the back of the corner shop as the nameless relations of the shopkeeper. They all have their stories, but we’re largely oblivious to them.

If these three women do make it all the way to Judah, at the best they are going meet with indifference. Naomi (meaning “Pleasant” – there’s irony) has such a chip on her shoulder that no one would want to go near her. What kind of woman tells her bereaved daughter-in-law that her own sense of loss is the greater? Orpah (spell that one right!) now sees sense and realises that she will never make a home in a new country: better to go back and make a new life in Moab. But her sister-in-law Ruth clings to this difficult and demanding woman.

In many families the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law turns out to be the most contentious.  And it looks as if this will be no exception. Ruth is by no means the quiet submissive creature we may have thought her to be. Instead, she shows she has a mind of her own, and is ready to go directly against Naomi’s wishes.  She is not afraid to take a risk. Life is going to be hard as a migrant and a widow in a strange land, especially as the one person who might have protected her now seems to want to be rid of her. But still she journeys on, all the way to Bethlehem. She may be as good as invisible: but there will be a story to tell!
 

Prayer

God of all our journeyings –
Your eyes are upon us all
and you know the stories  
of the people we ignore and overlook.
Broaden our vision
and deepen our compassion
that your love may support and encourage
all who today travel on to new beginnings.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d John Durell is a retired minister and member of Waddington Street URC, Durham

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion 20th June 2018

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

Ruth 1: 1 - 5

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land, and a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion; they were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there.  But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons.  These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. When they had lived there for about ten years,  both Mahlon and Chilion also died, so that the woman was left without her two sons or her husband. Reflection According to the United Nations, more than 65.6 million people are now living under forced displacement.  A number that is larger than the population of the United Kingdom. A number that is increasing year on year.  A number so huge that it means we can often forget there are individuals and families with their own stories, motivations and intentions behind it.

The Book of Ruth opens with one such story - a flashback about forced displacement and immigration.  Naomi and her husband Elimelech leave their home, their family and community in Bethlehem and cross the border into Moab.  A family fleeing their country to escape famine. A family fleeing with deep, gnawing hunger in their bellies. A family fleeing with fear about how they will be received and treated in their new country.

The best-selling author, Khaled Hosseini reminds us: “Refugees are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, with the same hopes and ambitions as us—except that a twist of fate has bound their lives to a global refugee crisis on an unprecedented scale. Together, in solidarity with refugees, we must demand that world leaders take collective responsibility for finding fair, lasting solutions to this crisis. Together we must ensure humanity and compassion triumph over fear and intolerance.”

Many individuals and families today flee their homes and communities.  Just like Naomi and her family, there is great fear but also hope in their heart that they will find safety and compassion.  For me, walking the Way of Jesus means standing in solidarity with refugees so we can offer that safety and compassion. Walking the Way by petitioning the government over unfair or unjust policies.  Walking the Way by providing money, food and clothing to aid agencies. Walking the Way by raising awareness in our churches or communities.  Walking the Way by offering safety and compassion?
 

Prayer

Hospitable God,
who teaches us to welcome the stranger;
we pray for all refugees and immigrants:
those who have been displaced
through famine,
those who have been displaced
through climate change,
those who have been displaced
through war and oppression.
Enable us to offer practical assistance
in terms of shelter, food and clothing.
May we demonstrate compassion
so that refugees and immigrants
can be welcomed as treasured guests.
In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Today's Writer

Dr Nicola Robinson is an Elder at  Augustine United Church in Edinburgh

Bible Version

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


 
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The Book of Ruth

URC Devotions - Tue, 19/06/2018 - 18:45
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The Book of Ruth

Dear <<First Name>>

I hope you have found our journey through the Epistle to the Galatians useful in your spiritual journey of everyday discipleship.  If you have any particular story about how these Devotions have helped you please do let us know - we love to publicise good news!

Our next series is on the Book of Ruth.  This book is much loved and the famous line from Ruth accepting Naomi's God and people has her own was often used as part of the marriage liturgy.  

The story of the Moabite, Ruth, David’s great grandmother is surprisingly racy  It shows the difficulty in Levirate marriage where a close relation was to marry a widow to ensure the dead husband’s line continued. (An obscure practice that came to prominence in 16th Century England with Henry VIII's desire to end his first marriage.)   Ruth catches the eye of her relative, Boaz, and Naomi ensures that Ruth offers herself to Moab who then wishes to marry her - a slight complication of a closer relative, is swiftly dealt with.  

The book has layers of meaning - is it a political parable of welcoming the outsider to counter the policies of Ezra and Nehemiah in post exilic Israel?  It it about the dignity of labour?  Powerful love between women?  Or, perhaps, is it about the evils of patriarchy?   Perhaps there are as many layers of meaning as there are people and communities of readers.  We hope you find the series useful.

If you enjoy receiving the Devotions could I ask that you tell your friends about them or ask for them to be publicised in your local church?  I've taken the liberty of giving a little promotional flyer that could be used.  

Every morning the United Reformed Church sends out a Daily Devotion consisting of a reading, short reflection and prayer to around 2,000 people.  The reflections are written by a range of people from different places and perspectives - mainly from the URC.  If you'd like to read old Devotions or sign up to receive them each morning please go to devotions.urc.org.uk

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Daily Devotion by Angela Rigby

URC Devotions - Tue, 19/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Angela Rigby Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 6: 11 - 18

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!  It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  Even the circumcised do not themselves obey the law, but they want you to be circumcised so that they may boast about your flesh.  May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!  As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen. Reflection For us Jesus followers, circumcision isn’t as much of an issue now as it was ‘back in the day.’  Our fleshy showings look different. Is your church the right brand? Stunning worship band playing the ‘new sound from heaven’ pitch perfect?  Serve the best coffee and cakes? Saved souls this week? How many healings? Number of people helped? Inclusive? How many justice campaigns are you fighting for?  Give much to charity? How big is your building? How young is your congregation?

In the right spirit – these are valid concerns.  In the wrong spirit – these concerns are fleshy shows that weigh us down.        

In his BC life, Paul (then Saul) knew all about what it meant to be seen doing the righteous thing.  If anyone was qualified to write in big letters about the perils of making “a good showing in the flesh”, Paul was.  Instead of pointing to himself, Paul points to Jesus Christ crucified - the only one who truly made a righteously good showing in the flesh.

When you are renewed by Christ’s spirit - when made into a “new creation” – everything changes.  I don’t know what that looks like for you. But for me, there’s a desperation in knowing that all my hopes, dreams and aspirations rely on a man who hangs bleeding on a cross.  There’s a humility in knowing that the same man is God’s son – raised from the dead – who prays for us right now in Heaven. There’s a longing in my spirit for the Holy Spirit of God, and a prayer that His hopes and dreams become reality – “on earth as it is in heaven”.

“A new creation is everything” – it’s what Jesus lived, taught, died and was reborn for.  Renewed, our motivations are brought into alignment with God’s life-saving mission.

We’ve nothing without Christ renewing us.
 

Prayer

Holy God,
We simply pray as the Psalmist prayed,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and steadfast spirit
within me.”  (Psalm 51:10 NRSV)
For your glory, God.  
In Jesus’ name we pray
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Angela Rigby is Minister of Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks.

Bible Version

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


 
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Songs of Praise on Sunday

URC Devotions - Mon, 18/06/2018 - 10:15
96 Songs of Praise on Sunday View this email in your browser

Songs of Praise on Sunday

Dear <<First Name>>

As you know Songs of Praise is featuring the Daily Devotions on Sunday.  Various football matches are being screened on BBC1 which means the Songs of Praise episode will be shown on BBC2 - times vary but it seems to be starting between 1pm and 2pm - check the schedule for your TV region!

The programme looks at the Power of Prayer and features the Devotions as an example of how technology is helping people develop a discipline of daily prayer.  It features the Rev'd Dr Susan Durber who both uses and writes for the Devotions and myself.  

If you have friends who you think might like the Devotions you can now refer them to the URC's main website where there is now a direct link to the Devotions archive page where folk can read previous issues and sign up to receive them.

with every good wish

Andy

Andy Braunston
Coordinator, Daily Devotions from the URC Project

 

  

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Daily Devotion by Julian Macro

URC Devotions - Mon, 18/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Julian Macro Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 6: 7 - 10  

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. Reflection Faith, hope, patience – qualities needed by every farmer. In so many areas of life people look for instant results but such are not available, not only when sowing in garden or field but also in human character and behaviour. We receive many warnings about what bad diets and bad habits could do to our health in years to come, but it is so tempting and so easy to put off the evil day and continue to indulge ourselves.

The apostle knew that all this also applies on our spiritual journey as Christians where we also experience comparable temptations. It is so easy to slip into bad habits and then accept them as normal.

In some ways trying to unpack these words of Paul reduces their impact rather than reinforcing it but my eye fell on verse nine, “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right” and I called to mind Cowper’s line in his hymn at R&S 551, “Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord?” Those of us whose faith journey is already quite long may remember our initial exhilaration when faith came alive, and now find that such feelings have grown weak. I write not long after the death of Billy Graham who led so many people to make a commitment to Jesus, but they later found that worldly pressures, and Church life, dulled that initial response so that weariness and worse took over and they lost the sense of blessedness.

The seeds we sow, the habits and practices that we develop may take a long time to show fruit, be it good or bad, but that harvest will come. God is not mocked: but God is also faithful, loving and just. May God give us grace and strength to stand firm and persevere.
 

Prayer

A Prayer of Thomas Aquinas

Give us, Lord, a steadfast heart,
which no unworthy affection
may drag downwards;
give us an unconquered heart,
which no tribulation can wear out;
give us an upright heart,
which no unworthy purpose
may tempt aside.
Bestow on us also, Lord God,
understanding to know you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
and a faithfulness
that may finally embrace you;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Julian Macro, Retired Minister, member of Verwood URC

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Peter Moth

URC Devotions - Sun, 17/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Peter Moth Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Psalm 51

1 O my God, have mercy on me
in your steadfast love, I pray;
In your infinite compassion
my transgressions wipe away.
2 Cleanse me from iniquity;
wash my sin away from me.

3 For I know my own transgressions;
I can see my sinful plight.
4 You, you only, I’ve offended,
and done evil in your sight;
So your words are verified,
and your verdict justified.

5 From my birth I have been sinful—
such the nature I received—
Sinful from my first beginning
in my mother’s womb conceived.
6 Truth you look for in my heart;
wisdom to me you impart.

7 Cleanse with hyssop, purify me;
I’ll be whiter than the snow.
8 Let the bones you crushed be joyful;
may I joy and gladness know.
9 From my failure hide your face;
blot out all my wickedness.

10 Lord, create a pure heart in me,
and a steadfast mind renew.
11 Do not take your Spirit from me;
cast me not away from you.
12 Give me back the joy I had;
keep my willing spirit glad.

13 Then I’ll teach your ways to sinners;
rebels will turn back to you.
14 Free me from blood-guilt, my Saviour,
God most merciful and true.
Then I’ll praise your righteousness;
15 teach my lips your name to bless.

16 Sacrifice does not delight you,
else my tribute I would bring;
Nor do you take any pleasure
in a whole burnt offering.
17 Contrite heart as sacrifice
you, O God, will not despise.

18 Let your blessing rest on Zion;
build Jerus’lem’s walls again.
19 Sacrifices then will please you—
bulls upon your altar slain,
Off’rings made for your delight,
truly righteous in your sight.


You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this, from v7, to the tune Ottawa here.
Reflection This penitential Psalm is the source of  one of the most terrifying responses in the Book of Common Prayer:

“O God make clean our hearts within us
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from us”

It is a Psalm full of contrition, self-blame, and remorse verging on despair. Its poetic language and rhythm is both seductive and masochistic. We get lost in the language and become deaf to its incoherence. Having dismissed burnt offerings and Temple ritual, it finishes up with exactly that. Having faced up to our sins and iniquities, it blames God for having conceived us this way in the womb. It can make us so full of our sins that we forget the beauty of the creator who has bestowed on us the gift of the Spirit in the first place. It can make us lose balance and forget love. It needs Jesus to restore the balance. “Whose fault is it that this man was born blind?” the disciples ask in John’s Gospel, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”” You could be forgiven for thinking that the Psalm says: ”Both – we are all conceived in sin.”  Jesus says that it is neither. The man’s blindness is something to be put right so that we might all see the love of God. Our guilty hearts interpret the Psalm to say we are all blind, always. Jesus says that our shame must not blind our eyes to the beauty of our own creation, nor make us hide in a corner, consumed by shame. It is sometimes easy to be overwhelmed by our failings and forget that the light of the world shines in the darkest corners. As the blind man affirms “Whereas I was blind, now I can see”.
 

Prayer

In moments of near despair the doxology calls us back to the beauty of our creation. This is a prayer for the forgiven:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise God all creatures here below;
Praise God above, you heavenly Host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost….
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Amen

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister and member of St Andrew’s URC Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Ed Strachan

URC Devotions - Sat, 16/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Ed Strachan Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 6: 1-6

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.  For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves.  All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride.  For all must carry their own loads. Those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. Reflection Paul’s admonition does not here come out of the blue. It is the implication of the life of the Spirit, as he describes it, in its power and beauty.

That’s the setting. Away with all pettiness! All self-serving! All censoriousness! What room is there for self-righteousness in the life in Christ?

We’re all on a journey. If someone strays, beckon her/him back gently. Who knows? You or I, we may need a similar service some time. You never know. Our own sense of direction can be a bit rocky from time to time.

Not that that’s an excuse for leaning on others when we should be doing the hard work ourselves. Laziness is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. Politicians are keen on giving us stark choices – it’s either individualism or the corporate state. Paul is telling us different here. The choice is actually between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Everything then falls into place.

It doesn’t work in today’s society? We’d have a better idea if it had been tried more often. It is sad but true that many people will not now darken the door of a church because they have seen how the lives of Christians have been at variance with their profession. How they have experienced censoriousness and unwelcome at the hands of people who should have known better and lived better.

What a beautiful picture is being painted here. Can we all find a place on the canvas?
 

Prayer

Loving Father,
Grant us a place on the canvas,
and face us with the challenge
of being like the portrayal.
Grant us the humility
of being among the hesitant and nervous;
and the confidence of being among
the assertive and confident.
Prop us up as we shoulder
our own burdens,
and give us the patience to tolerate
those struggling with their own.
Give us the forbearance
not to chide those who stray,
and the meekness to accept the guidance
of those who seek to rescue us.
Grant us the happiness of the journey
and the joyous anticipation of its goal.

Today's Writer

Ed Strachan, Heald Green URC, Elder and Lay Preacher

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Lesley Bailey

URC Devotions - Fri, 15/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Lesley Bailey Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 5: 6-26

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.  Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,  envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. Reflection This is the easiest of passages and the hardest of passages: it seems so obvious, doesn’t it? It’s all a bit Ronseal really – it does what is says on the tin! As Paul says, the works of the flesh are pretty obvious and so are the fruit of the Spirit – and we all know which should be on full display in our lives and in the lives of our churches (bearing in mind that Paul writes to churches and not to individuals) Except, are they really?

Paul is no fool – re-read that last sentence again – have we ever really desired someone else’s gift? I would love to be able to bake. It must be wonderful to be able to contribute to fetes and fairs, and even to after-church coffee. I have tried, and I watch cooking programmes, but I’m too ashamed of my offerings to contribute them– leave alone compete. I could say the same thing about flower arranging: I’m up to “stick them in a vase and hope” standard – whereas my daughter has real flair.

More seriously, do congregations “mark” preachers? As someone with an itinerant ministry, I’ve often wondered…. I do know that there can be fierce competition within a preaching team. If that drives up standards of preparation and commitment to a congregation, then done in the right Spirit then that is no bad thing, but it is all too easy for that to become corrupted. I also know that within Worship Groups, there is a serious danger of a similar dynamic developing.

Churches are composed of human beings, and being human, we all fail. It may look simple, but it’s not easy.
 

Prayer

Living Lord,
Help us to truly live by the Spirit
Not only to display the fruits of the Spirit
But grow them in our hearts
That our whole being may glorify you
Alone and together
Amen

Today's Writer

Dr Lesley Bailey, lay preacher and member of St George’s URC, Maghull, Liverpool

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by John Ellis

URC Devotions - Thu, 14/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by John Ellis Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Information 

Richard Baxter was born at Rowton in Shropshire in 1615. In 1633 he was at the court of King James VI & I but was so disgusted with the low moral standards there that he returned home in order to study divinity. He was ordained but, after the promulgation of an infamous Oath, in 1640, which required obedience to a string of persons ending in the trite phrase 'et cetera', he rejected belief in episcopacy in its current English form and went as a curate to a poor area of the west Midlands. He opposed the Civil War and played a prominent part in the recall of Charles II, but his continuing dissatisfaction with the way episcopacy was practised led him to decline the See of Hereford. This refusal led him to be debarred from further office in the Church of England, though he continued to contribute to its life as a prolific hymn writer. He died in the year 1691.

St Mark 4: 1-9 

Jesus began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ Reflection Richard Baxter had a long and busy life, allowing mini-biographies to be highly selective. He is commemorated today in the Anglican calendar with justifications such as that printed here. However, he is probably the only Englishman in that calendar who also has a United Reformed Church named after him, which is in Kidderminster where many saw him as a Presbyterian champion. His exasperation with the priorities and narrowness of the Church of England meant the second half of his life was a model of what today might be called pioneering ecumenism.

Whatever the ways in which his legacy has been adopted by different churches, Baxter himself was not a party man. That does not mean he favoured woolly compromise: he would not have been put in prison several times if that were the case. He did believe that those who named Jesus as Lord had a fundamental unity as Christians and the institutional Church should not make that hard to see. He worked tirelessly to establish forums where Christians of different traditions could meet to discover that unity. As the Church Secretary of a united URC-CofE congregation, I would gladly have Baxter as our patron saint.

The parable of the sower reminds us that the legacy of our work is unpredictable. Sometimes seeds stay dormant in the ground for a long period before new life appears. It took the Anglican and Nonconformist churches of Kidderminster two centuries before they were ready to unite in raising funds for a statue of Baxter. If you are one of those members of the United Reformed Church who still believe that when Jesus prayed that his people should be one he meant it, don’t despair. As Baxter’s hymn Ye holy angels bright reminds us, the Church on earth is not on its own in facilitating God’s purposes.  

It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.
 

Prayer

Lord Jesus
who prayed
that your people should be one,
prick us with the pain of division;
remind us of the saints
who have lived for a better vision;
refresh our commitment
to the unity of the Church on earth;
prepare us
for the unity of the Church in heaven.
Amen.

Today's Writer

John Ellis, Immediate Past Moderator of the General Assembly and Secretary of Capel United Church in Kent

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Peter Meek

URC Devotions - Wed, 13/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by Peter Meek Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 5: 7 - 15  

You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth?  Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.  A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty.  But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed.  I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves! For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’  If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. Reflection My goodness, there’s some loaded and strong language here!   Sensitive ears are offended by verse 12 but with such open and bold speech Paul would have been at home in my Lancashire mill town where broad and bold speech is the order of the day.   Paul clearly feels very strongly and he does so because he loves. The clue is in verse 14. The language is loaded too. “A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.” Does that remind you of anything?  These are words quoted from Jesus, which is interesting, since the smart money says that Galatians was written about the early 50s before the final version of Mark’s gospel had been written. Jesus was talking about legalism; “the yeast of the Pharisees” and here we have a one time Pharisee now speaking out against the same thing.  Paul is desperately saddened that, so early on in their life as a church, they had turned away from the Gospel. They had, seemingly, forgotten that all that is needed to reconcile us to God is the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross which in turn leads to a life of obedience to God fulfilling the Law of Love. Can you imagine, being Paul, freed from legalism, gloriously free, preaching this Gospel only to find some of the Christian communities you’ve birthed by God’s grace falling astray?  Those churches had been persuaded by those who teach that God’s grace is not what reconciles you to God, but in fact the old understanding of the Law of Moses is necessary too. “The Apostle of the Free Spirit” ( as F.F. Bruce named him) was distressed and with the Galatians we too are reminded not to make our rules “the thing” but God’s love in Jesus. You are loved; now live it! ( As Paul might have said!)
 

Prayer

God of vigorous life and love,
we praise you!
You have set us free
along with the Galatian Christians
to live and love strongly
in the Way of Jesus of Nazareth.
May passion for the Gospel of your Son,
gentleness and determination
to stay the course,
mark us out in the eyes of all,
so that we may bless others
with what we ourselves
have been blessed with.
Amen
 

Today's Writer

The Rev’d Peter Meek, Moderator, URC East Midlands Synod

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by David Jenkins

URC Devotions - Tue, 12/06/2018 - 06:00
96 Daily Devotion by David Jenkins Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

 Galatians 5: 2 - 6

Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law.  You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. Reflection Ouch! Paul is getting pretty would up by this point. His own journey from being enslaved by the Mosaic Law (Torah) to breathing the fresh air of the Spirit of Christ, was such a momentous experience that the last thing he want is for the fledgling friends of Jesus in Galatia URC to go backwards way. Clearly someone in the congregation was wanting them to revert to life in confinement. Paul says….”No No No. Don’t go back to those dark places where observing the intricacies of the Law ruled your actions and words. Keep calm and trust the Spirit of Christ.”  Circumcision was the big debating point. But Paul says : “Move on. Insisting on circumcision will “cut you off” from Christ. (This is a “cutting” remark!) But Paul is in full flow. “Choose the Spirit’s path. There is only one way to enjoy being a friend of Jesus: ‘faith working through love’. “

Paul believes that faith is “made effective” by love.  Paul had made discoveries about the Christian life which we can all embrace even though we may not have shared his dramatic journey slavery to freedom, from Saul to Paul, from Law to Love..   Yes… the greatest of these is Love. Trust it. When it hard to love, trust it.  When the world prefers violence, trust it. When pain is all around, trust it. When you have runout of all options, trust it. 

Prayer

We thank you God,
for the power of love
which melts bitterness and hatred;
for the patience of love
which outlasts prejudice and dogmatism;
for the courage to love
which transforms impossible situations;
for the freedom to love
which opens doors in decision-making;
for the persona of Love
who is Jesus Christ
source, guide and goal of our journey.
Amen.

Today's Writer

The Rev’d David Jenkins is a retired minister at Marple, Cheshire.

Bible Version

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


 
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Daily Devotion by Paul Simon

URC Devotions - Mon, 11/06/2018 - 06:30
96 Daily Devotion by Paul Simon Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Share Tweet Forward

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Reflection Working in journalism, I always admire a well-crafted headline – especially when it is paired with an arresting first paragraph. You just want to read on and find out more. Today’s passage does just that.

Paul warns readers not to return to submission to the Mosaic Law and the various beliefs and practices they’d bolted onto it.

For contemporary Christians, these words may relate to any number of issues – but they all boil down to the fundamentally right relationship between God and humanity.  Whilst such freedom is an act of grace, unearned by us – we are called upon to do something.

Because of God’s love of freedom from sin, S/He has liberated us from all that had us in its thrall. Christ’s death and resurrection has sealed that deal.

At an individual level, it might have been an addiction, an unpleasant personality trait that upset others or something which resulted in direct and serious harm.

At a corporate level, it might be the conquering of what William Beveridge called the five "giant evils" in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness, and disease or it might be national liberation movements that defy a foreign, imperialist power.

We are called to ‘stand firm’. We have a role to play in securing those gains of liberation as individually, and collectively, by showing the commitment required to maintain freedom as well as to resist sliding back into slavery.

As Paul says in Romans 6: 1-2 “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?”
We know how hard this is to achieve, whether as an individual desperate not to reoffend, or a society which is witnessing unparalleled levels of poverty and social despair and seems to be sliding back into the nineteenth century.

But Christ is on our side throughout. And that is the best news around.
 

Prayer

Dear God you are a God
of liberation and salvation!
Your love is shown in freeing us from sin,
through the utter negation of death.
Help us be resolute and confident
in everything we do
and ensure that all humankind
is free from every slavery forever.
Amen!

Today's Writer

Paul Simon is an Elder at Hadleigh URC in Suffolk

Bible Version

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


 
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