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URC Daily Devotin 22nd June

URC Devotion - 11 hours 22 min ago
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And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured. Reflection How many times I have preached on this text the wrong way round – in such a way that it must have left congregations feeling rubbish that their church life is nothing like that in Acts, no communal sharing, no dramatic miracles, not even a healing of a cold! This can’t be what God wants us to feel. But maybe there is a real challenge to us today in this reading. Do we risk our life in the body of Christ, its power, and its health by attempting things without the power of the Holy Spirit?

As we read through Acts, it is a testimony of Christians being discipled by the Holy Spirit – indeed it is “Walking the Way,” but – more like hop, skip and jumping the Way, or as one man did, “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). That was the disciples healing one man, but in today’s reading they are healing many. They begin their church life spending time together, but soon are sharing their possessions as the mission needs. They speak of Jesus to anyone who will listen, but it isn’t long before they are witnessing to those in authority, and persecution begins, until by Chapter 8 we read of a scattered Church. They needed to be prepared for that – and through the power of the Holy Spirit, miracles and wonders were happening - summed up in the reading, that “yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord” and when people brought “the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, they were all cured”.
    
This is not a church boasting of the wonderful things it is doing, but one humbled by the immense task of the mission before them, ever-increasing persecution and the eventual breaking up of their fellowship to the four corners of the world. Notice that people were bringing loved ones from the towns of Judaea – already, ready or not, we are taken into phase two of God’s mission, firstly Jerusalem, but then Judaea! Keep up! Keep following! Soon, it would be the strange folk of Samaria, and then the Pagan world itself! They could not have survived in their own strength, let alone been effective witnesses for Jesus. The miracles and wonders were great to convince the crowds, but I am sure they also built up the confidence of the believers themselves. The lesson for our discipleship I hear, is simply to know more and more how much God has given us in Jesus Christ, and how totally dependent we are on the Holy Spirit to empower us with the same love that raised Jesus from the dead, for our discipleship today.   Prayer Holy Spirit:
When God’s Mission is just too awesome,
give to us just one person to share the good news.
When God’s Mission loses its excitement,
give to us the unexpected answer to prayer.
When God’s Mission is overwhelmed by problems,
give to us renewal of Faith in Jesus.
When God’s Healing is no longer believed,
give to us reassurance of answered prayer.
When God’s Healing seems impossible,
give to us vision to see the Healing in every day of our life.
When God’s Healing does not come,
give to us Faith to believe the Healing in Eternity.   
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Kevin Watson is Moderator 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 21st June

URC Devotion - Wed, 21/06/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 5: 1-11 But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things. Reflection The story of Ananias and Sapphira can often catch us off guard. Following the resurrection of Jesus, his ascension and then the descending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Luke has been painting a positive picture as the seeds of early Church activity are planted. The apostles take the lead and set out the shape of how this community of Jesus followers should operate. They seem united and committed about how they should live and worship and they do so with confidence. All is well. That is until we encounter the disturbing events in Acts 5: 1-11.

To transfer all private ownership to common ownership seems a big ask from the apostles. However, it was a way to ensure an even distribution of resources that meant “there was not a needy person among them” (4:34) and it was a policy that appeared to work. But does that mean everything? Clearly for those with little or nothing this would be a popular community to be part of but for those with assets, this was a bigger test of faith. Ananias and Sapphira fell into the latter category so perhaps as an insurance policy just in the case this Jesus movement did not work out, they retain some of the proceeds from their sale.

However, this is a decision that backfires when they are both found out. The problem here though is not that they have decided to keep some funds to themselves, it is they have tried to do so in a way that gave the impression they had not. The Acts description of the perfect church has been shattered by the actions of Ananias and Sapphira. Luke could of course have left this story out but that would have given a false impression of the early Church. It consisted of real people with real weakness so in this sense was no different to the church we are part of today. This story contains a warning for us when we are tempted to present ourselves through our words and actions as better than we are. At the end of the day it is only ourselves that we are fooling but it is God that we are letting down. For Ananias and Sapphira the realisation of this was just too much when directly challenged by someone with the authority of Peter.   Prayer God of wisdom and love,
You know me better than I know myself.
You know my weaknesses.
You know the times when I have given way to temptation.
You know my strengths.
And you know my heart.
Forgive me for the times I have failed you.
Enable me to serve you as you desire
and be the person you want me to be.
Amen Today's Writer David Scott is an ordinand at the Scottish United Reformed & Congregational College. 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 20th June

URC Devotion - Tue, 20/06/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 4: 32-37 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Reflection For some readers, the first thing they notice about this text is the part about the holding of everything in common and the end of private ownership. Perhaps Marx comes to mind and the maxim that ‘property is theft’. They will light on the parts about the lands and houses being sold so that no one was hungry or in need. Barnabas from Cyprus sells a field, gets a new name and a firm place in the history of early Christianity.

For other readers this passage is not so much about the end of private property, but about the impressive authority of the apostles. There are no less than four references to ‘the apostles’ in these short verses and they add up to a kind of insistence that the apostles had a huge amount of power and authority. They gave their testimony to the resurrection with great power. The money from the sales of possessions were laid at their feet. And the apostles gave people new names –they who turned Joseph into Barnabas, a ‘son of encouragement.’ They have the power to preach the Gospel, they have power over the money and even over the identity and naming of new members of the community. For some readers, this passage is about the apostles and their significance and belongs not in the political category (where we are inclined to put ideas about property and redistribution), but in the ecclesiological box (where we put the things that make the Church what it is, including ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’).

I find some things difficult about both readings (and no doubt there are other readings that might trouble me too). I am rather attached to the relatively small (or should that be large?) amount of private property that I have. I dread ending my days in a place where I might wear a nightie that someone else chose. The things I treasure are freighted with memory that no one else would see in them. I am content to give generously and to change the world for good, but I am reluctant to live in a community where everything is owned in common. Similarly, I am wary of a model of Church where some have the kind of authority described here, to claim a privileged witness to the Gospel, to control the money and to name others.

So, this reading challenges me. I am challenged to let my own life be shaped by the witness of the apostles as much as people were in the first century. My possessions and my possessing, my politics and my giving, should be shaped by their authoritative witness. I have been ruthlessly shaped by a culture that values privacy and individuality, and that rejects external authority. But my life is given to Christ, whose Gospel and challenge I have heard through the witness of the apostles. May this text, and their witness, speak to me still, and let me hear it.     Prayer O Christ who calls me into your Church,
let me discover again that the Church is One,
rejoicing in its unity and diversity,
reaching out to meet my brothers and sisters.

O Christ who calls me into your Church,
teach me what it means for the Church to be Holy,
and to be touched by that promise,
that my life may be holy too.

O Christ who calls me into your Church,
show me how Catholic is your community,
the broadness of its tent
and the wonder of its peoples.

O Christ who calls me into your Church,
let me hear again and again
the witness of the apostles
and find those who faithfully echo their testimony today.

Shape me into your body
and give me grace to be conformed to you,
nonconformist though I am.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber is the minister of Taunton 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 19th June

URC Devotion - Mon, 19/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 19th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 4: 23-31 After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’ For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. Reflection I’m reminded of the testimony of a retired vicar when I read this. He and a mission team overseas were praying fervently when their building began to shake. They remembered this passage where the fledgling church in Jerusalem prayed for boldness after Peter and John were released by the Sanhedrin. The group continued their task with fresh expectation and their mission proved fruitful.

Peter and John were ordered not to preach any further about the resurrection in Jesus. They had no intention of obeying: ‘We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20). Their community didn’t dwell on the threats. They didn’t keep quiet for safety’s sake.

These early believers were realistic about the opposition they would face. Their prayer for boldness shows they acknowledged their fear. But they were convinced that God’s mission would be fulfilled even if they drew back from the task before them. They focussed on God’s creative and redemptive power in Jesus.

We’re well-aware that any opposition to our expression of faith in the U.K. is minimal compared to persecution of Christians elsewhere. We value the privilege of freedom of worship too lightly, and practise our faith superficially. The early Church knew their dependence on God as they encountered opposition and persecution; many of our persecuted friends in Christ know this dependence in a way we do not. As we thank God for our freedom to worship, and pray for persecuted believers, let’s also pray for boldness to believe that God continues to act in mighty ways despite the feebleness and frailty born of comfortable complacency.   Prayer Creator God, strengthen the suffering and persecuted;
Redeeming God, shake the comfortable and complacent;
Sustaining God, embolden us all.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Dr Gillian Poucher is  Minister of Gainsborough 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 18th June

URC Devotion - Sun, 18/06/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Psalm 2
  Why do the heathen nations rage?
Why do the peoples plot in vain?
Earth’s kings combine in enmity;
Her rulers join against God’s reign.

They take their stand against the LORD
And challenge his anointed one:
“Let us break off their chains from us;
With their restraints let us be done.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
The Lord on high derides them all.
Then he rebukes them in his wrath;
His rage and terror on them fall.

The LORD has made it known to them:
“My chosen king I have installed
On Zion, my own holy hill.
He is the one whom I have called.”

The king then solemnly declares:
“I will proclaim the LORD’s decree.
‘Today your father I’ve become;
You are my son,’ he said to me.

“ ‘Ask me, and for your heritage
I’ll give you nations near and far.
You’ll break them with an iron rod,
And smash them like a potter’s jar.’ ”

Now therefore, kings, true wisdom find;
You judges of the earth, give ear.
With rev’rence come and serve the LORD;
Bow down with joy and trembling fear.

Pay homage to the royal son
Lest you in wrath aside are thrust,
For swiftly can his anger blaze.
Blessèd are all who in him trust.
This can be sung to the tune Mainzer (best known to the hymn Jesus shall reign.)  Here you can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the tune Crassellius (from v 5). Reflection Psalm 2 has been widely regarded as one of the messianic psalms and so for Christians it points to Jesus. There has been much written about it and discerning the meaning of it makes an interesting study. However, one of the wonders of the Bible is that it can certainly be read and studied with depth and academic rigor but also God can speak to us in far simpler but profound ways. So, I would encourage you to spend a little time meditating on the line in the penultimate paragraph which says:

With rev’rence come and serve the LORD Bow down with joy and trembling fear.

In these two lines, we are led to contemplate how we approach the Lord, in these few words there is a rich content and a seeming contradiction with having ‘joy and trembling fear’. Perhaps though it is when we approach God with a godly fear and reverence that we can know true joy. Prayer Dear Lord,
help me to meditate upon these words from scripture,
I invite your Holy Spirit to speak into my heart and mind as I do so.
With rev’rence come and serve the LORD
Bow down with joy and trembling fear.
Thank you Lord,
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Andrew Willett is an Evangelism and Renewal Advocate for GEAR and a local church minister. Bible Version   Sing Psalms (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 17th June

URC Devotion - Sat, 17/06/2017 - 06:00
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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 4: 1- 22 While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.

The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’  There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”  Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.  When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.  So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another.  They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it.  But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.”  So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.  For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old. Reflection This is a tale of three powers.  We had the earthly power of the Romans and of the Jewish hierarchy, embodied in their supreme court, the Sanhedrin.  The power exercised by the Sanhedrin was only possible because the Romans were very tolerant of local ways in most things unless they incited public disorder, when they were totally merciless.  And finally we have the power of God as demonstrated through Peter and John.  So, the Sanhedrin were exercised by two things; firstly, that they did not agree with resurrection in general, or for Jesus in particular, and secondly, they were trying to avoid public disorder.  If they did anything to Peter and John, the people could create a disturbance which would cause the Romans to respond ruthlessly and then to be less tolerant towards the ongoing governance of the Jews.

Here we see the Sanhedrin trying to curtail the actions of Peter and John through threats and intimidation.  The Sanhedrin must have been a very intimidating body, combining as it did the rich and priestly Sadducees, the well-educated and fanatical Pharisees and the respected Elders of the community – basically the Who’s Who of the Jewish community.  Peter definitely displayed his rock-like qualities when he withstood all the threats and would not be silenced.  Like John Knox, Peter feared God so much that he didn’t fear mortals.

I’m pleased I haven’t been tested in the way that Peter and John were, but many in our history have been.  I remember reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship with its vivid comparison of cheap and costly grace.  Dietrich knew all about costly grace as he was martyred by the Nazis in one of their final acts in 1945.   Prayer Lord, we thank you
for all the women and men who had held steadfastly onto their faith
in the face of intimidation, violence and death.   
We see your power at work
as much in their confidence and calmness as we do in miraculous healings.  
We pray for all who today are persecuted and suffer violence and personal hardship on your behalf; be with them, keep them safe and let them be a beacon for us all.  
Amen Today's Writer Alan Yates is the Moderator of General Assembly 2016 to 2018 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions 16th June

URC Devotion - Fri, 16/06/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 3: 11-26 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?  The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you,  and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer.  Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people.’ And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days.  You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’  When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” Reflection In the 1980’s I was given the responsibility of coordinating the translation of the New Testament into ‘Mend Angal’, the language of the Mendi people of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.  The Regional Synod had heard a plea for ‘God’s Word in our own language’, and a local minister, the Rev’d Wasun Koka, was set aside to do the primary translation.  We worked under the guidance of the Papua New Guinea Bible Society.  Where to start?  Wasun had been the first of his people to come to Christian faith, in 1960.  This was a first generation church.  He wanted to start with Acts.  “We know the Gospel stories quite well”, he said.  “What we now need to know is how a brand new church responds to the Gospel, and lives it out”.

Omolpi Kuling was a young mother involved in teaching literacy.  She turned up one day with chapters of Acts that she had translated by the light of a hurricane lamp in her village home.  She joined our translation team. I recall the thrills, the laughter and the mind-stretching effort that Wasun, Omolpi and I shared through those years of translation; with others too.  And the heartache to return from leave in the UK to hear that the completed text had got lost on its way to publication.  Omolpi typed the whole thing again.  This time it was OK.

As I write this reflection I have with me that first edition of the Book of Acts, published in 1990.

In today’s passage Peter is giving the theology behind the miracle of the lame man walking and praising God.  It centres on Jesus, and the hearers’ response to Jesus, as does his sermon in Acts 2.  I think of the faith of the Mendi people, who understand themselves to have been given power through new life in Jesus Christ.  Power ‘to walk and leap and praise God’ (v.9).  I think of their ongoing struggle to live out their faith through turbulent times.  I am, like the people in the temple, ‘utterly astonished’ (v.11) at the energy and transformation that is released by faith in Christ’s name.

You and I are not part of a first generation church, with all the freshness, wonder and challenge that that brings.  Even if you, reader, are a first generation Christian in terms of your own family history, you are aware of the hundreds of years of history of the Church in this country.  Yet we too have, thank God, myriad opportunities to place our faith in Jesus Christ, to turn to God for cleansing, refreshment and renewal, and to interpret for our place and our day what being a disciple means.   Prayer God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob;
God of the Mendi people, and our God;
God who glorified your servant Jesus,
raising him from the dead;
in your loving mercy refresh and restore our faith in his name, today.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Dr Gwen Collins is a retired minister and member of  Avenue St Andrews URC in Southampton. 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 15th June

URC Devotion - Thu, 15/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 3:1- 10 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Reflection How I love my routine. It gives me a great sense of comfort and familiarity which makes it much easier for me to function in today’s very confusing world. It makes me feel safe. The last thing I ever want is for anything to be different and for something unfamiliar to come my way. I’m really not good with change. Which is probably why I always feel such sympathy for the lame man in this passage. He likes his routine too, and the last thing either he or the people who know and help him want is for that routine to be shattered.

But shattered is exactly what that routine is going to be. Because Peter and John aren’t interested in responding to the lame man in the way he expects them to. Much like Jesus’ responses to the people He met during His earthly life, the two disciples answer a question which hasn’t even been thought of, let alone asked. They command him to walk. How ridiculous! The lame man has never walked – he doesn’t even know how. What kind of demand is this? They must be insane. There is absolutely no way that the lame man can do this, or even try. Is there?

Still, he does. In the middle of the busy temple with all its comings and goings and constant distractions, the lame man just for that moment focuses all his attention on the stranger who is asking the impossible, casts aside his expectations, accepts the help he’s offered and not only stands up, but actually jumps. I think it must be the bravest act the lame man has ever done – and it changes him forever.   Prayer God of surprises,
help us not to be so caught up in our own routines and expectations
that we do not recognise or respond to You.
Help us to fix our attention on You
and to jump with enthusiasm and joy into Your constant goodness.
Amen. Today's Writer Anne Brooke is a worshipper at Elstead 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 14th June Remembering Richard Baxter

URC Devotion - Wed, 14/06/2017 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Richard Baxter
  Richard Baxter was born at Rowton in Shropshire in 1615. In 1633 he was at the court of King James 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 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. 1 Corinthians 2. 1–10 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’—  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.   Reflection Richard Baxter is perhaps best known to the average Christian today as a hymn writer.  He was Puritan minister in the town of Kidderminster for seventeen years in the 1640s and 1650s.  During that long ministry many people were converted, and our church in Kidderminster is still proudly named in his memory today.  He wrote the book The Reformed Pastor in 1656, which sets out his model of ministry, which was a highly successful model in his lifetime.  Although deeply unfashionable today, no better book has yet been written.

One reason that Baxter’s ministry has much from which we can learn today is that he described his work as “a dying man to dying men”, which is where today’s reading comes in.  Paul writes of knowing nothing apart from Jesus Christ and Christ crucified, which is surely what Baxter was meaning.  Paul writes of the importance of God’s wisdom, rather than the wisdom of the world, which is surely what Baxter was putting into practice.  Paul’s concentration upon all being focussed upon Christ is surely reflected in Baxter’ striving for unity among different traditions at a tumultuous time in English religious life.  

Paul was a tireless teacher of the faith, and Baxter was a tireless pastor, who cared deeply for the lost and for his sheep.  Reflecting upon the themes that Paul offers us in today’s reading, let the last word be from Baxter: “In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.” Prayer We give you thanks, most gracious God,
for the devoted witness of Richard Baxter,
who out of love for you followed his conscience at cost to himself,
and at all times rejoiced to sing your praises in word and deed;
and we pray that our lives, like his,
may be well-tuned to sing the songs of love,
and all our days be filled with praise of Jesus Christ our Lord.  
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Michael Hopkins, Minister of Farnham and Elstead URCs, and Clerk of the General Assembly Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion

URC Devotion - Tue, 13/06/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 2: 42-47  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. Reflection Most Biblical commentators describe this passage as “idealised” – in other words, this is Luke’s picture of what the early Christian community should ideally have been like, rather than how it actually operated. The letters of Paul suggest that if things ever were like this, they soon degenerated – and 1 Corinthians 11 describes a church in which people would not share their food equally even at communion, never mind selling all that they had.

Whatever our views on Biblical authority, most of us are comfortable with this idea that the passage is idealised – because, after all, we haven’t sold all our possessions either.

But what if this is how Christian life is meant to be? My family and I had the immense privilege for seven years of being wardens of Coleg Trefeca in Breconshire, home of Howell Harris, the first Methodist (converted before Whitefield and the Wesleys, in 1735). He took this passage utterly seriously, and in 1752 established in Trefeca a community, all of whose members did sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all (well, they actually gave their possessions to Harris – he was a bit of a control freak – so that he could distribute them). It continued in that form long after Harris’s death in 1773, becoming a more conventional college in 1811.

Most of the members were ordinary tenant farmers – they had very few possessions to sell in the first place. At times the community was in debt and in the 1760s it was ravaged by smallpox. But by the 1770s it was noted for having over 70 different trades practised – the members shared their talents as well as their wealth. More than a century before universal education, all the children of the community and the surrounding village were educated and could read and write in both the English and Welsh languages. A sanatorium was established which offered health care, free of charge, to the local community – 170 years before the NHS. The community’s farms were models for introducing the new techniques of the agrarian revolution into Wales. The security of shared wealth meant that individual tenants could afford to experiment with new techniques without facing starvation if things went wrong.

They did all this because they had read Acts 2.42-47 and decided that, in the name of the Risen Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, they could live it too. Like those early Christians, their lives were surrounded by prayer – three times a day – and by weekly attendance at the parish church, where they provided the music.

I wonder what we could achieve as a church and a society if we took this passage seriously?   Prayer Loving God,
help me to read this passage
and imagine what life would be like if we lived it,
as Howell Harris and the Trefeca Family once did.
And after the imagining, Lord,
give us the faith to act.
Amen. Today's Writer The Revd Gethin Rhys is National Assembly Policy Officer for Cytun (Churches Together in Wales) and a member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff. 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 12th June

URC Devotion - Mon, 12/06/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 2: 37 - 41 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”  Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.   For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”   And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”  So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. Reflection How many times have you been “cut to the heart” by a sermon? In my late teens I started going to a local URC and the minister’s words, Sunday by Sunday, spoke to me. It was like he was speaking directly to me. This was no dry, theoretical preaching, but preaching with the Spirit’s fire and relevance. It opened my spiritual eyes to the saving love of Jesus and drew me into a relationship with God that I would never have thought possible, even a few months before.

Preaching has had a bad press recently. This is because it is often seen as either dry and boring or condemning. Even outside the Church people are heard to say “don’t you preach at me!”, which usually means that they are being told something that they disagree with. Peter’s preaching in Acts was challenging but certainly not boring, it demanded a response. The people gathered around had witnessed a move of the Holy Spirit and wanted to know what it was all about. Peter, inspired by the same Spirit, helped them to understand, using the Bible in ways that they would relate to. His preaching always pointed to Jesus and his saving grace. This cut them to the heart.

That power, the Spirit’s power, is still available to us today. When people ask about our faith, either at work, at home, or over a coffee, we can draw on the same source as Peter did to help our friends and family understand the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is about being open to the Spirit’s prompting and living life in close relationship with God, through prayer. It is also about expecting the unexpected! We are often scared to share our faith, even when someone has genuinely enquired. Take courage that the Spirit is with you and will give you the right words for the person in front of you because God knows what they need to hear.  If you are a preacher, and trusted by the Church to preach the Good News, then again, allow the Holy Spirit to inspire your words and preach expecting a response, even being “cut to the heart”. Prayer Come, Holy Spirit, come
fill us with the joy of your presence.
Come, Holy Spirit, come
draw us closer to our Saviour, Jesus
Come, Holy Spirit, come
give us the words we need to tell others.
Come, Holy Spirit, come
strengthen us to share your love.
Come, Holy Spirit, come
Amen. Today's Writer The Revd Stuart Nixon Pioneer Minister, MediaCItyUk Church, Salford. 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th June

URC Devotion - Sun, 11/06/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Psalm 1
from Sing Psalms (Free Church of Scotland)  Blessed is the one who turns away
from where the wicked walk,
Who does not stand in sinners’ paths
or sit with those who mock.

Instead he finds God’s holy law
his joy and great delight;
He makes the precepts of the LORD
his study day and night.

He prospers ever like a tree
that’s planted by a stream,
And in due season yields its fruit;
its leaves are always green.

Not so the wicked! They are like
the chaff that’s blown away.
They will not stand when judgment comes
or with the righteous stay.

It is the LORD who sees and knows
the way the righteous go,
But those who live an evil life
the LORD will overthrow
Each Sunday we are going to look at a Psalm using the excellent metrical version, Sing Psalms,  published by the Free Church of Scotland.

Various tunes are suggested for this.  Click on each one to hear it.   Creator  this recording has the congregation singing whilst this recording of the tune Tallis only has the organ playing the tune.  This recording of the use of the tune St Peter's has an older translation of the Psalm. Reflection A few years ago I went on a hot air balloon ride in Egypt. As we rose higher and higher, I was struck by the life giving power of water. All around us, for as far as the eye could see, was barren desert – except for one place: along the River Nile. Here, in the middle of the wilderness, was a true oasis of life that ran hundreds of miles into the distance. It reminded me of Ezekiel’s vision of God’s living water flowing from the Temple and giving life wherever it went (Ezekiel 47). There too, as well as in Revelation 22, we read of fruitfulness and abundance – a fruitfulness that brings healing and hope.

Jesus says, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit…” (John 15:8). God wants us to be fruitful Christians. We have a calling, as individuals and as the church, to be that lush oasis of life in the wilderness. In a dry and weary land, in a land of faithlessness and injustice, each one of us is called to be like a tree planted by a stream that yields its fruit in season.

What might this fruit look like? LICC (licc.org.uk) suggest 6 fruit as part of their Fruitfulness on the Frontline material: modelling godly character, making good work, ministering grace and love, moulding culture, being a mouthpiece for truth and justice, and being a messenger of the Gospel.

I wonder: How might you bear fruit on your frontline today? Where might you bring life, healing and hope? Prayer Father, help me to…
               model godly character,
               make good work,
               minister grace and love,
               mould culture,
               be a mouthpiece for truth and justice,
               and a messenger of the gospel.
And to your glory may it be. Amen.

Prayer taken from LICC’s Fruitfulness on the Frontline material. Today's Writer The Rev’d Matt Stone is the Minister of Herringthorpe URC, Rotherham Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 10th June

URC Devotion - Sat, 10/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 2: 22-36  ‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.  But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.  For David says concerning him,

“I saw the Lord always before me,
   for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
   moreover, my flesh will live in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
   or let your Holy One experience corruption.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
   you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”

‘Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne.  Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying,

“He was not abandoned to Hades,
   nor did his flesh experience corruption.”

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.  Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.  For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
 until I make your enemies your footstool.’”
Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Reflection This is the speech that cut its hearers to the heart and, according to Luke’s telling of the story, led onto three thousand people accepting Christ and being baptised.  Like many of the sermons in Acts it focuses on the essential elements of the gospel and above all the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.   Peter ends by proclaiming the crucified Jesus as Lord and Messiah, through the work of God. He challenges his hearers to look at a man hanging on a brutal cross and see God at work.

Death is part of our lives.  People may try to distance themselves from it, living as if they were immortal and the deaths of others were unfortunate distractions from the business of living, but to try to live life that way is neither real nor healthy.  We may want to say ‘death is nothing at all’ but it feels all too real, as we look at the seas of the Mediterranean, the towns of Syria, the A and E departments of our major hospitals or among those now dead who have touched our lives down the years.

Death is real enough, but the reality of God is bigger than death and bigger than the death-dealing work of humanity.  It was impossible, Peter proclaims, for Jesus to be held in death’s power.  Here is our hope – in the One God has raised and presented to us as Lord and Messiah and the One who pours out God’s Holy Spirit into the lives of his followers.  The Spirit the crowd sees at work in the disciples is none other than the Spirit of Jesus, now set free to work through all who are open to his way.

Two days after the UK’s General Election it is good to reflect on the different kind of power we see in the One stretched out on a Roman cross, the One who could not be held in death’s power, the One who pours out God’s Spirit into our lives.   Prayer Come Lord Jesus,
touch our hearts
with your power
shown in your death on a cross
and by your rising to new life.
Come Lord Jesus,
pour out your Spirit of grace and peace
on our churches and our communities,
our politicians and our people.
Challenge the powers of death and destruction,
by your liberating love and shattering truth. Today's Writer The Rev’d Terry Hinks is the Minister of Trinity URC, High Wycombe and Cores End 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 9th June

URC Devotion - Fri, 09/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 9th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Columba, Abbot of Iona, Missionary, died 597
Today we start an occasional series looking at saints, Catholic and Reformed. Born in Ireland in about the year 521, Columba was trained as a monk by St Finnian and then founded several monasteries himself, including probably that of Kells, before leaving Ireland to settle on Iona, off the coast of Scotland. He was accompanied by twelve companions and the number grew as the monastic life became more established and well-known. Columba seems to have been an austere and, at times, harsh man who reputedly mellowed with age. He was concerned with building up both the monastery and its life and of enabling them to be instruments of mission in a heathen land. He converted kings and built churches, Iona becoming a starting point for the expansion of Christianity throughout Scotland. In the last four years of his life, when his health had failed, he spent the time transcribing books of the gospels for them to be taken out and used. He died on this day in the year 597. Isaiah 61. 1-3  The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
  because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
  to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
  and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour,
  and the day of vengeance of our God;
  to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
  to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
  the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
  the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.     Reflection A poet explains the meaning of vocation to a faith community that is divided and anxious.

The contemporary culture in which this Hebrew wordsmith searches for meaning is still reeling from economic collapse, political misjudgement and broken relationships. The poem is an expression of reality that is to be entered and experienced rather than to be analysed and systematically applied. This poem will come to life when the listener makes it her own and allows its timbre to find expression in ways that excite and motivate.

Those who listen to the poem are invited to become part of it. The faith community is to be ‘called oaks of righteousness’ not because of piety but for the commitment to re-shaping the world order. It is no random opening of the scroll of Isaiah in a Nazareth synagogue that begins the public ministry of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t simply read the poem; he embodies it. That is what outrages his listeners. The promise to restore economic justice and to establish joy instead of despair is the manifesto for the initiative in which Jesus becomes the divine agent of intervention in the affairs of the world.

Perhaps Columba, whose name means ‘dove’, heard the rhythm of the Hebrew poet as he explored his own vocation as a missionary, diplomat, educator and the bringer of good news.  Columba would surely have been in sympathy with the conviction of Isaiah and Jesus that God calls human beings to engage in a divine initiative that stretches beyond the walls of the synagogue, monastery or church.

Anxiety can be a crippling disease that dulls the mind and deadens the human spirit. Left unchallenged it breeds prejudice and distrust and finds refuge in fundamentalism. Agendas become dominated by internal concerns. When the rhythm of the poet is lost the community of faith is impoverished. As we, the people of faith in 2017, continue to wrestle our own vocation it is vital that we taste the freedom that Isaiah breaths into the despondence of post exilic Jerusalem. The freedom to look further than the prison of the present, to break the chains that bind us and to live the dream of a world restored. Our vocation is not to save the church but to plant seeds of hope in a world where economic imbalance, political instability and broken trust between individuals and nations is endemic. We do these things when we allow the poet to stir our hearts and our imaginations as well as our diaries and our credit cards! When the church becomes less concerned about orthodoxy and more excited by poetry then we too may become ‘the planting of the Lord, to display God’s glory’. Prayer Gracious God you call us and empower us:
to bring good news
to bind wounds
to proclaim liberty
to call for jubilee
to comfort
and restore.

Forgive us when we have allowed anxiety to dull our imagination,
open our eyes to the possibilities that surround us,
stir our hearts that we are excited again at being called people of God,
help us to catch the rhythm of your life and let it live in us.
We are yours and we will be steadfast and sure.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d David Grosch-Miller is a member of St. George’s, Morpeth and an Immediate Past Moderator of General Assembly. Bible Version   New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 8th June

URC Devotion - Thu, 08/06/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 2: 14-21 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ ” Reflection Speeches, chiefly of Peter and Paul, comprise (approximately) one third of the Book of Acts, Luke’s sequel to his gospel. Our passage is part one of Peter’s Pentecost address to Jews who have come to Jerusalem for the great feast of Pentecost (Shavout), the concluding festival of the grain harvest.

The extraordinary event which ‘the believers’ have just experienced as wind and fire, has resulted in a loosening of their tongues. This enthusiasm has caused a wider commotion. To any who will listen, Peter, no longer the broken man who fled from the scene of his Lord’s crucifixion, now interprets the event in the light of Easter. It is nothing less than the coming of God’s Spirit long promised  in the scriptures in ‘the last days’ . He turns to prophet Joel for confirmation and finds there the vision of God’s Spirit set loose amongst God’s people. What was promised is now happening. The gift of prophecy is being distributed regardless of class or gender.

To speak the prophetic word, regardless of ridicule or disbelief (‘not drunk as you suppose’) is now part of the Christian’s duty. God’s Spirit is no less active now, as it was then. If that makes us and our hearers uncomfortable, it is both a wake up call to us, and a call for change in how we live. Since God’s Spirit is active throughout the world (‘upon all flesh’) we should expect to find kindred spirits both within and outwith the church. To work with others requires a generosity of spirit from all who share the vision of a changed world, and we in the church should not be found lacking.   Prayer Generous God
Your Spirit is ever active amongst us
prompting us to speak your truth.
May we have the courage of our convictions
to speak out at the right time,
and in the right manner,
so that all who share your vision
may be gathered together
into one commonwealth. Amen. Today's Writer The  Rev’d John Young is a retired minister of the Synod of Scotland and member of Giffnock 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 7th June

URC Devotion - Wed, 07/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 7th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 2: 1 - 12 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.  Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” Reflection Imagine the scene: roughly one hundred and twenty folk assembled in a room, feeling rather lost, despondent and unsure about what to do without Jesus. Then suddenly they experience an extraordinary storm. A violent wind. Sparks. Flames. And the folk both in this room as well as in the growing crowd outside, break out in wild chatter. Chatter in dozens of languages from across the globe.

The oral transformation within this community has sometimes overshadowed the auditory transformation. Notice how Luke uses the verb “hear” three times in his narrative. Except that the Greek word extends beyond “hearing”. A better translation would be ‘to listen’. It is important to capture the active, purposeful nature of the verb. To listen.

When we acknowledge this shift away from speaking and towards listening, we can recognise that the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the gift of listening to one another in order to discern the will of God.

The United Reformed Church embodies a ‘conciliar’ way of working. Conciliarity affirms that the Church listens to the Holy Spirit through the Councils of the Church including Church Meeting, Synods and General Assembly. Conciliarity encourages us to take the time to truly listen to each and every voice that speaks. In so doing, we embody God’s affirmation that everyone is a channel through which the Holy Spirit is heard. Everyone is valuable. And conciliarity means, just like the first community at Pentecost, there is a openness to listening to diverse voices.

The theologian Walter Brueggemann argues : ‘The capacity to listen in ways which transform depends upon trust in the speaker, readiness to be impacted, and willingness to have newness come into one’s life.’ (Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, pp. 103–104)  What ‘newness’ could come into our churches, if we listen to the voices which are not often heard - including those with a mental illness or disability or in poverty? Indeed, what transformations would we see in our society and our world?   Prayer Spirit of the living God,
Open our ears that we may listen
in ways that transform
our churches,
our communities,
our world.
In Jesus’ name, we pray.
Amen. Today's Writer Dr Nicola Robinson is a member and elder at Augustine United Church, 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 6th June 

URC Devotion - Tue, 06/06/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Acts 1: 12-26  Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred and twenty people) and said, ‘Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.’ (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. This became known to all the residents of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) ‘For it is written in the book of Psalms,

“Let his homestead become desolate,
 and let there be no one to live in it”; and
“Let another take his position of overseer.”

So one of the men who have accompanied us throughout the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.’ So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Reflection I once heard a very striking sermon about Judas, the memory of which has never left me. It was preached by a deeply wise and pastoral Methodist minister who was once a close colleague. ‘What if’, he said, ‘Judas, instead of killing himself, had repented and asked for forgiveness? What then?’ I can remember that he paused while we all took this in and thought about it. Would others have killed him, so that he still died, but not at his own hand? Would he have been punished as he deserved? What would have followed? But it didn’t take long for us to work out what one hymnwriter calls ‘the table of forgiveness’ and to recognise that if Judas had repented he would surely have been forgiven. And, even more, he would likely have become one of the leaders of the early church. After all, his betrayal was not so very far from Peter’s, the one who betrayed Jesus three times before the cock crowed. The ‘what if?’ question helped us to see something more clearly about the radical quality of Gospel forgiveness. What’s odd is that we have forgotten how astonishing it is that Peter could have come back from where he did, could have risen from the place of the betrayer to be the rock on which the Church was founded. And Judas, if his story had taken another route, could have been forgiven too. We would then have a world in which there were many churches named for St Judas, a world in which ‘Judas!’ was not an insult or an accusation, but a name people would choose for their firstborn. We might have had St Judas’ basilica in Rome and we might have had a Christian story that said that even someone who could ‘sell’ Jesus for thirty pieces of silver could come back and be forgiven and redeemed. Judas’ tragedy is not so much that he betrayed Jesus, but that he could not believe that forgiveness was possible or that he did not have the time to discover it or to hear Jesus speak the kind of words that Jesus spoke to Peter.  

This passage from Acts 1 about the appointment of Judas’ replacement is full of notes of blood and revenge. The need to look for someone else to make up the number to twelve is backed up with scriptural argument from the Psalms. We might wonder whether Peter, who makes the argument in this passage, reflected on how, so easily, it might have been him who was to be replaced, as well as Judas. Did no one among them think they should do the practical thing of replacing Judas but that they should also mourn him, and weep for one who had not been able to bear the burden of being forgiven or who had not heard how profound is God’s love? Perhaps they should have prayed that even on the other side of death, Judas might yet be saved from the hell he had made for himself. For Jesus harrowed every hell, didn’t he, even for those tormented, like Judas, for the terrible things they had done.   Prayer Thank you, merciful God,
for the depth and strength of your forgiveness.
Give me humility to receive it,
courage to believe in it
and a voice to speak of it,
so that everyone I meet may truly know
that there is always a way forward,
everyday a new beginning
and eternally forgiveness
from your loving heart.
In the name of Jesus
who died to save us all,
every last one,
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev'd Dr Susan Durber is the minister of Taunton 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 5th June

URC Devotion - Mon, 05/06/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 5th June table.mcnFollowContent{width:100%;} table.mcnShareContent{width:100%;} td.columnsContainer{width:30%;} p{ margin:10px 0; padding:0; } table{ border-collapse:collapse; } h1,h2,h3,h4,h5,h6{ display:block; margin:0; padding:0; } img,a img{ border:0; height:auto; outline:none; text-decoration:none; } body,#bodyTable,#bodyCell{ height:100%; margin:0; padding:0; width:100%; } #outlook a{ padding:0; } img{ -ms-interpolation-mode:bicubic; } table{ mso-table-lspace:0pt; mso-table-rspace:0pt; } .ReadMsgBody{ width:100%; } .ExternalClass{ width:100%; } p,a,li,td,blockquote{ mso-line-height-rule:exactly; } a[href^=tel],a[href^=sms]{ color:inherit; cursor:default; text-decoration:none; } p,a,li,td,body,table,blockquote{ -ms-text-size-adjust:100%; -webkit-text-size-adjust:100%; } .ExternalClass,.ExternalClass p,.ExternalClass td,.ExternalClass div,.ExternalClass span,.ExternalClass font{ line-height:100%; } a[x-apple-data-detectors]{ color:inherit !important; text-decoration:none !important; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Today, following on from Pentecost, we start to work our way through the Book of Acts as we think of the earliest Church and what it can teach us now.  We will continue, on Sundays, to work our way through the Psalms. Acts 1: 1-11 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’  So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ Reflection Few of us, I guess, relish the thought of bidding farewell - unless, of course, we’re glad to see the back of the person concerned!  Saying “goodbye” can be tough.  And, come the “ultimate farewell”, we can struggle with the reality of it so much that we say nothing rather than embrace the vulnerability of letting go.   We collude in pretending that there is nothing to prevent things remaining just as they are.  It is, perhaps, for this reason that the Ascension is not observed with anything like the prominence given to Christmas or Easter. Life, however, entails bidding farewell – endings as well as beginnings.   For others’ flourishing we often have to let them move on.   Parents know that one day their children are likely to leave home – for university, for work or to share their life and love with another.   In his thoughtful book, Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense, W.H. Vanstone suggests that “authentic love” can be recognised as and when we are willing to relinquish control of the other for their sake.   No one could claim doing so is easy, though!   Such is “love’s expense”.

The Ascension reminds us that the disciples had to bid farewell to Jesus and to accept that life from then on was to be lived without the physical presence of their friend and Lord.  Luke suggests that they were “gazing up towards heaven” – focusing on the reminder of departure.  It was tempting to dwell on reminders of where they had last seen him.  Their attention, however, is redirected to the future – reoriented back to the city, back to life’s duties and encounters.  In Matthew’s account of the Ascension Jesus tells them to “Go!” and adds the Great Commission as the work to keep them - and us - occupied (Matt. 28: 19).  He also assures them, Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  (Matt. 28: 20).   

Without the Ascension only those close enough – in time and place – could rejoice in the presence of God-in-Christ.   Like the rest of us he could only be in one place at any one time.  Because of the Ascension, as Brian Wren puts it, Christ is alive!  No longer bound to distant years in Palestine, but saving, healing, here and now, and touching every place and time.  (© 1968, 1995 Stainer & Bell Ltd.)   We dare to believe that he is with us, “always, the end of the age”.   In letting him go, we are invited to continue his “love’s endeavour”.   What once was committed to Jesus has now been committed to us.  We may gaze upward, in hope of inspiration, but it is in the here and now that we can and must serve God. Prayer God, enable us, we pray, to believe that you never leave nor forsake us.  
Bless, this day, any and all known to us
who know the pain and heartache of having to say farewell
to those whose company they yearn to keep.
Trusting in your abiding presence
increase in us our willingness to love and serve you without counting the cost.
In the name of the Ascended yet ever-present One.  
Amen. Today's Writer The Revd Geoffrey Clarke, is the minister, of The Crossing Church (Methodist/United Reformed Church), Worksop 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion for Pentecost

URC Devotion - Sun, 04/06/2017 - 06:00
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser Come Holy Ghost Our Souls Inspire Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
and lighten with celestial fire.
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.

Thy blessed unction from above
is comfort, life, and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light
the dullness of our blinded sight.

Anoint and cheer our soiled face
with the abundance of thy grace.
Keep far from foes, give peace at home:
where thou art guide, no ill can come.

Teach us to know the Father, Son,
and thee, of both, to be but One,
that through the ages all along,
this may be our endless song:

Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Listen to the hymn here.
  (Rabanus Maurus ninth century; trans. John Cosin, 1627) Reflection This hymn, from the 9th Century, is attributed to the German monk Rabanus Maurus who was a Biblical commentator and became Abbot at the monastery at Fulda in Germany.  John Cosin, the translator, was an Anglican priest who was deposed under the Commonwealth but became Bishop of Durham after the restoration of the monarchy.  

This hymn is often sung at ordinations - and is included in Rejoice and Sing - but isn’t well known in the URC despite the haunting plainsong tune which is easy to learn and well worth knowing.

The hymn is a beautiful prayer to the Holy Spirit - who is often neglected in churches.  The Spirit’s blessing is, to us, “comfort, life and fire of love.”  The evocative second verse reminds us of the precariousness of life which, thankfully, we don’t experience in Western Europe now the way many in our world do and in the way that Maurus would have done in a much more dangerous age.  The Spirit is urged to teach us about the Father that we may sing for ever in praise of the Three-in-One.  

The song is one I love not just because of its antiquity and haunting Plainsong tune (best sung a cappella), nor because of its resonance with ordination (and papal elections) but because it reminds us of the power of the Spirit sustaining the Church and believers through the ages that we may better know God and better sing the praises of the Divine.  

The hymn unites us with our past and reminds us of our vocation - to live and sing the praises of Almighty God.   Prayer Holy Spirit,
fire of Divine love,
anoint and cheer us,
that we may sing God’s praise,
with our lips, heart and action,
now and forever,
Amen. Today's Writer Andy Braunston is a minister-elect of the Glasgow Southside Cluster and co-ordinator of the URC Daily Devotions project. 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 © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotional: 3rd June

URC Devotion - Sat, 03/06/2017 - 06:00
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padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardLeftImageContent,.mcnImageCardRightImageContent{ padding-right:18px !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; padding-left:18px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcpreview-image-uploader{ display:none !important; width:100% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h1{ font-size:24px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h2{ font-size:20px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.leftColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.centerColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent,.rightColumnContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } Today's Daily Devotion from the United Reformed Church View this email in your browser St John 20: 19-23 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”   And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Reflection I love Indian food in general and in particular those served in the “curry-mile” on Wilmslow Road in south Manchester.  I used to go there with other ministerial students from Luther King House at the end of very busy days.  At times, we were so hungry that we struggled to wait for meals to be served.  Luckily, they always serve some poppadoms and delicious dips once we arrived - that helped a little while the ‘real’ meals are prepared.

This embodies perhaps the mini-Pentecost, when Jesus breathed the Spirit on his friends to give them enough strength, as they waited for Pentecost. That waiting for Pentecost was very long and demanding for confused, fragile, vulnerable, ill-equipped, backsliding, persecuted and ostracised disciples.  I suspect that Jesus foreknew the challenging waiting for Pentecost and decided to give them a glimpse/flavour of the Pentecostal anointing.  Yet, the disciples were not to be satisfied with this mini-Pentecost.

The Lord did not give them the full measure of the Spirit so that they remain hungry for more and weak enough to need one another’s fellowship. Moreover, Jesus gave them just enough power so that they were not tempted to attempt changing the world right away.

Perhaps we do not always feel that we have all it takes to enact God’s promises in our lives and in the Church. Today, God may be exhorting us to keep dreaming His impossible-looking visions until we are fully equipped and anointed. Jesus might be telling us that we have all it takes in us, to help us wait faithfully for more. Maybe Jesus wants to encourage us to forget about changing the world for now. Maybe we are merely expected to dwell in his peace, as he gives us strength and mercy, just about enough for each and every day.

How hopeful are we today? How joyfully expecting are we for God’s great things to come?   Prayer Anointing God
may your breath, reassure us
that you are closer than our next heart-beat,
help our unbelief,
still our restlessness,
cease all our narcissistic strivings
and sustain our faithful waiting.
May you always find us grateful, thankful, joyful
and in fellowship with one another.
May you always find us on our knees:  
hungry and dreaming for more.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Bachelard Kaze  is the Minister of Marlpool, Eastwood and Langley URCs in Derbyshire. Bible Version   THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® NIV® © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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