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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 9th July 2020 Jonah 8

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

Jonah 3:10 – 4:3

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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

Today's writer

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


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Sunday's Coming

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

best wishes

Andy

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

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

Jonah 3:6-9

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 7th July 2020

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

Jonah 3:1-5

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion 6th July 2020

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

Jonah 1:17 – 2:10

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

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

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

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

Today's writer

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


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Worship for Sunday 5th July 2020

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

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Order of Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

URC Devotions - Sun, 05/07/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday 5th July   Psalm 4

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Reflection

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

URC Devotions - Sat, 04/07/2020 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 4th July 2020 View this email in your browser

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

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

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

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


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URC Daily Devotion 3rd July 2020

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


Jonah 1:7-10

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

Today's writer

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


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URC Daily Devotion 2nd July 2020

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

Jonah 1:4-6

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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


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Sunday's Coming

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

Daily Devotions from the URC

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Sunday's Coming

Dear Friends,

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

with every good wish


Andy

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


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URC Daily Devotion 1st July 2020

URC Devotions - Wed, 01/07/2020 - 06:00
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Daily Devotions from the URC

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