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URC Daily Devotion 20th September

URC Devotion - Wed, 20/09/2017 - 07:09
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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 26: 2 - 32 ‘I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defence today against all the accusations of the Jews, because you are especially familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews; therefore I beg of you to listen to me patiently.

‘All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, a life spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. They have known for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that I have belonged to the strictest sect of our religion and lived as a Pharisee. And now I stand here on trial on account of my hope in the promise made by God to our ancestors, a promise that our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship day and night. It is for this hope, your Excellency, that I am accused by Jews! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?


‘Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.  ‘With this in mind, I was travelling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.” I asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The Lord answered, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

‘After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout the countryside of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and do deeds consistent with repentance.For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.’

While he was making this defence, Festus exclaimed, ‘You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!’ But Paul said, ‘I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.’ Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.’

Then the king got up, and with him the governor and Bernice and those who had been seated with them; and as they were leaving, they said to one another, ‘This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.’ Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.’ Reflection The Paul we encounter in the narrative woven by Luke is markedly different to the Paul we hear in the Epistles. The priority for the Paul of the Epistles is the tension between Judaism and the followers of the Rabbi of Nazareth. In the intervening period, before Luke constructs the appearance of Paul on trial before Agrippa and Festus, the priorities have shifted. The threat to the survival and growth of the Christian Church is no longer a conservative Jewish faith but the Roman Empire with all its power and control. The Paul we hear on trial in Caesarea has shifted the discussion to one of relationship with the secular power of the day and his chosen technique is one of engagement not confrontation.

The dark and sinister stain of anti-Semitism has been present in much of Christian history in part because we have not taken notice of the shifts which are evident in the writings of the Christian scriptures. The Paul of Acts is able to argue that his differences with the faith of Judaism are not a threat to the stability of the secular world nor ones that require state interference. Paul is building bridges not identifying enemies. In this last major discourse Paul offers a pattern of evangelism that is personal yet one that pulses with integrity. He doesn’t need to accuse or point fingers; he talks about how his experience of the Risen Christ motivates and empowers him. It is hope for the future that is a recurring theme. No threat of insurrection but complete witness to the resurrection. The saccharine coated personal witness statements that emerge in today’s Christianity are eclipsed by a hard wrestled and resilient faith able to withstand everything that is thrown against it.

Lest we should imagine that Luke portrays Paul as an appeaser we should take note that the carefully crafted address points out that the state is not competent to rule on theological matters. Engagement is the way forward but one that respects and does not ignore the limits that honest dialogue requires. The story of the Christian Church might have been very different if we had been more robust in respecting the boundaries between state and church. It will be a healthy church that stops looking for divisions and is empowered by hope.   Prayer Forgive us Lord when we claim to have found you
and then try to mould you into our comfort zones.
Grant us the confidence to know that it is you who has found us
and in that belonging we can find the courage to speak of you.
We welcome engagement with the world we live in
and will witness to our experience of you with integrity and humility.
Keep us focussed on the future that is yours with hope and joy.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d David Grosch-Miller is a member of St. George’s Morpeth and Immediate Past 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 19th September

URC Devotion - Tue, 19/09/2017 - 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 25: 13 - 26:1 After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. Since they were staying there several days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying,

“There is a man here who was left in prison by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him and asked for a sentence against him.  I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met the accusers face to face and had been given an opportunity to make a defence against the charge. So when they met here, I lost no time, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought.   When the accusers stood up, they did not charge him with any of the crimes that I was expecting. Instead they had certain points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of his Imperial Majesty, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to the emperor.”  

Agrippa said to Festus,

“I would like to hear the man myself.”

“Tomorrow,” he said, “you will hear him.”

So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then Festus gave the order and Paul was brought in. And Festus said,

“King Agrippa and all here present with us, you see this man about whom the whole Jewish community petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had done nothing deserving death; and when he appealed to his Imperial Majesty, I decided to send him. But I have nothing definite to write to our sovereign about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you, King Agrippa, so that, after we have examined him, I may have something to write— for it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”

Agrippa said to Paul,

“You have permission to speak for yourself.”

Then Paul stretched out his hand and began to defend himself: Reflection Paul stretched out his hand and began….

As I read, reread and contemplated this passage my focus was repeatedly drawn to this clause and as I interrogated that internal response I wondered;
  • Why focus on the very end of the passage that we are exploring today?
  • Why indeed are we considering this sentence with today’s passage and not tomorrow?
  • Is there a liminality dynamic at work here?
  • Is this a formula pointing readers towards a deeper interpretation?
Indeed stretching out the hand was symbolic, it was a marker before a formal speech much like the town crier’s bell and “hear ye”, the MC’s gavel and “ladies and gentlemen” or even the fairy story’s “once upon a time”.

Paul’s use of the gesture here discloses him as an educated man one who is apparently at ease addressing the company gathered in the Caesarea audience hall. He does not seem to be daunted by the grandeur of the place or the collection of this most Roman of Judean town’s great and good alongside Agrippa and his entourage.

Festus we can see appears to be an honourable and responsible Governor neither washing his hands of his inherited prisoner nor failing to respect his predecessor’s approach and seems to be more than happy to consult Agrippa with his inherent knowledge of all things Jewish and of their interfacing with those following Christ. Perhaps he could tap into Agrippa’s insights in order to formulate an appropriate charge to be forwarded to Rome.

Paul clearly had the wit to navigate the legal system (his use of his right of appeal, as a Roman citizen, to the Emperor discloses this) and the ability to speak up for himself and so, I wondered, why had he allowed matters to escalate over a period of two years to risk this hand-stretching moment?

Might it be that it best suited his purpose, that playing the long game was of greater benefit to his goal than a quicker fix?

Paul was being held within the Governor’s palace and was privileged to receive visitors (including his companion Luke who was probably making use of the time afforded to write his accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry and of the acts of the apostles) this does not exactly equate to doing hard time. He therefore had had abundant opportunities to share the good news of the Christ and now after two years preparation time Paul stretched out his hand to preach the sermon of his life!   Prayer Proactive God
God of all imagination
Help us not to be an only reactive people
but rather to see the value of looking ahead
and choosing our moments for your mission.
Give us Paul’s wit and ability to speak up,
his patience to bide his time,
recognising the pause as a gift from you,
in order to make the moments count for you.
AMEN Today's Writer The Rev’d Helen M Mee is minister of Granton United Church in Edinburgh and Convenor of the Assembly Equalities Committee. 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 September

URC Devotion - Mon, 18/09/2017 - 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 Hildegard, Abbess of Bingen
Visionary, 1179   Hildegard was born in 1098 at Böckelheim in Germany. From her earliest years she had a powerful, visionary life, becoming a nun at the age of eighteen, much influenced by her foster-mother, Jutta, who had set up the community and whom she succeeded as Abbess in 1136. Her visions of light, which she described as "the reflection of the Living Light", deepened her understanding of God and creation, sin and redemption. They were, however, accompanied by repeated illness and physical weakness. About twenty years later, she moved her sisters to a new Abbey at Bingen. She travelled much in the Rhineland, founding a daughter house and influencing many, including the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. She was a pastor and teacher, seeing herself as a "feather on the breath of God". She wrote three visionary works, a natural history and a medical compendium. She died in September 1179. 1 Corinthians 2. 9-13  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. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.     Reflection Hildegard’s spirituality was rooted in the everyday, the earthly and the body. She described the Holy Spirit as ‘flowing like sap through our souls’.

God was revealed to Hildegard in vivid ways: in visions that were in images, music, words and the natural world. And she saw evil in the world, the injustice, the corruption of Church and State and the violation of the natural world. The ‘Word of God burnt in her heart and bones’ but for the first half of her life she kept silent, for how could she, a woman, make her voice heard when her superiors told her it was not her place to speak out? Then, during her 43rd year she was taken up in a radiant vision in which she was told to ‘tell and write what you see and hear.’ She describes the words flowing from her in a torrent, a great overflowing of God’s Spirit.  Her timidity overcome, Hildegard became the inspirational leader of a small community of women which learned to believe in their own gifts and strengths and found new ways to worship God through their music, poetry and drama. In the strength of the Spirit, Hildegard preached God’s justice, spoke against the corruption that was rife in the Church and State and wrote extensively about social justice and freeing the oppressed.

She always doubted her own capabilities but trusted God to carry her as a feather, which, without strength of its own, is carried on the breath of the wind.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God,  so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit…

Hildegard had kept silent for half her life and spoken out for half. Perhaps she had found the right balance: taking in, receiving and giving out. In and out – like breathing – like the breath of God. Prayer Imagine a feather….

Feel the strength of the central quill and see how the filaments are attached to it and grow from it.
Without that central strength, the feather would bend and break.

Give thanks for your faith and all that nurtures it.

See the individual filaments and how they cling together with interlocking hooks or barbs.
Individually they are useless but together they form a versatile and useful body covering.

Give thanks for your individuality and for the communities to which you belong.

Feel the downy fluffiness of the feather, which provides warmth and insulation.

Thank God for your clothes and homes and remember those who have neither.
Give thanks that you are carried on the breath of God. Today's Writer The Rev’d Lis Mullen is a retired minister and member of Kendal URC. 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 17th September

URC Devotion - Sun, 17/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 17th September 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%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #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; 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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 Psalm 15
  LORD, who may stay within your tent,
your sacred dwelling-place?
And who upon your holy hill
may live before your face?

Whoever walks a blameless path,
who acts in righteousness,
And who will always from the heart
sincerely truth express.

He casts no slur on anyone
nor does his neighbour wrong;
He has no spite within his heart
or slander on his tongue.

He honours those who fear the LORD;
the worthless he’ll despise.
He keeps the oath which he has sworn,
however high the price.

He lends his money at no charge;
no bribe can he endure.
Those who behave in life like this
will always stand secure.
You can hear a Free Church congregation sing this to the tune Graefenerg here. Reflection We perhaps expect Psalms to be emotional, praising and lamenting and expressing our human feelings. Psalm 15 is more practical, offering us wisdom and talking to us today about our walk with God, that ever-present theme of discipleship.

Who can live in God’s tent, on his holy hill? For us today, this isn’t a question about a geographical place, but a way of life, of discipleship and nearness to God. A way of life lived with integrity, a journey walked in the way.

Our psalm gives us some pointers on discipleship:
  • Speaking the truth, keeping our promises.
  • Loving our neighbour, avoiding gossip.
  • Spending wisely, not allowing money to cloud our decisions

But this isn’t a list of things we need to tick off to get our names on the list for that holy hill. It is God who creates these qualities in us. We have been made into disciples through God’s grace, and he invites us to walk the way on his holy hill.

This is a pretty wonderful assurance, in that last line, that if we walk with God in discipleship, if we let God create those qualities in us, we can be confident that we will stand secure in our relationship with God. Prayer Lord,
We give thanks for the invitation to walk the way with you.
Help us to step out with integrity,
so that those that witness our walking will want to walk with us.
Help us to treat those we meet with respect,
o be trustworthy travellers of the way,
attracting others to closer relationship with you.
Amen. Today's Writer Jo Clare-Young is an ordinand at Westminster College and member of Cuxton URC in Kent. 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 16th September

URC Devotion - Sat, 16/09/2017 - 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 25: 1-12 Three days after Festus had arrived in the province, he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem where the chief priests and the leaders of the Jews gave him a report against Paul. They appealed to him and requested, as a favor to them against Paul, to have him transferred to Jerusalem. They were, in fact, planning an ambush to kill him along the way. Festus replied that Paul was being kept at Caesarea, and that he himself intended to go there shortly. "So," he said, "let those of you who have the authority come down with me, and if there is anything wrong about the man, let them accuse him." After he had stayed among them not more than eight or ten days, he went down to Caesarea; the next day he took his seat on the tribunal and ordered Paul to be brought. When he arrived, the Jews who had gone down from Jerusalem surrounded him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they could not prove. Paul said in his defense, "I have in no way committed an offense against the law of the Jews, or against the temple, or against the emperor." But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, asked Paul, "Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and be tried there before me on these charges?" Paul said, "I am appealing to the emperor's tribunal; this is where I should be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you very well know. Now if I am in the wrong and have committed something for which I deserve to die, I am not trying to escape death; but if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can turn me over to them. I appeal to the emperor." Then Festus, after he had conferred with his council, replied, "You have appealed to the emperor; to the emperor you will go." Reflection So  . . . . after two years in prison (though with a good bit of freedom) a new governor. Will Festus be more just? The Jews have another go at Paul! The plot to kill him reappears. The Jews want Paul brought to their seat of power, Jerusalem, rather than the Roman HQ, Caesarea. At least there, they will have ‘home advantage’, even if the plot fails again.
 
Amazingly, the governor gives Paul the choice of where he wishes to be tried. And Paul isn’t daft! He has spent all this time in prison at the hands of a governor who is no better than he ought to be. He still protests his innocence. Despite all that has happened to him, Paul still knows that Roman justice is best.
 
Paul’s adventures are not yet over, as we shall see in the final chapters of Acts. He will tell his story before this Roman governor, and his puppet king, Agrippa. I wonder if Paul has another motive in appealing to the Emperor. He knows that this is the way he can get his message onto the world stage.   Prayer God, all the universe is yours.
Help us to be like Paul -
looking to share the message of your love as widely as we possibly can -
even to the ends of the earth. Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Peter Rand is a retired minister and member of Trinity Church, Bedlington. 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 September

URC Devotion - Fri, 15/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 15th September 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%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #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; 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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 24: 22-27 But Felix, who was rather well informed about the Way, adjourned the hearing with the comment, "When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case." Then he ordered the centurion to keep him in custody, but to let him have some liberty and not to prevent any of his friends from taking care of his needs. Some days later when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak concerning faith in Christ Jesus. And as he discussed justice, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present; when I have an opportunity, I will send for you." At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him. After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and since he wanted to grant the Jews a favour, Felix left Paul in prison. Reflection Hmmm! Governor Felix is in a quandary! In his gut he knows that there’s nothing in these charges against Paul. But politics rears its ugly head! And personal guilt. And marital relations. And bribery (or the hope of it). There’s everything here!
 
How did the author of Acts get all this inside information? Is this the author’s imagination at work? Once again, we can only guess.
 
What we do know, in our own day, as in every age, is that politics, guilt, personal interest all influence even the wisest of people, and when people have power, those influences can affect the lives of many.
 
I remember the owner of an engineering business being personally upset that he had to make some of his workers redundant. When I took the ‘side’ of the workers, he said that if he kept them on, the business would not survive, and everyone would be redundant. Was he honest about the effect of his own personal stake in the business?

We cannot help such factors influencing us, but we need to practise being aware of them so that we can be as fair as possible.   Prayer God, you have no ‘motive’ except creative love.
Help us, when our motives become tangled,
to find your Way of Love. Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Peter Rand is a retired minister and member of Trinity Church, Bedlington. 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 September

URC Devotion - Thu, 14/09/2017 - 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 24: 10-21 When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied: "I cheerfully make my defense, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation. As you can find out, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city. Neither can they prove to you the charge that they now bring against me. But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. I have a hope in God--a hope that they themselves also accept--that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people. Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices. While I was doing this, they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance. But there were some Jews from Asia--they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. Or let these men here tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council, unless it was this one sentence that I called out while standing before them, 'It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.'" Reflection So what is the ‘beef’ the Jews have with Paul? It seems it’s personal. In this last part of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, although the author often uses ‘we’, he is really telling Paul’s story.
 
Paul insists to Festus that he has done nothing wrong, either towards his Jewish heritage or towards Rome. He has simply, and peacefully, gone about his (Jewish) religious duties. He wonders himself, in this odd sentence, whether it is because he shouted out ‘It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’ When was this? Who did he shout it to? We don’t know. It’s not clear. Is this the author putting his own ideas in? Scholars may guess.
 
For myself, I wonder if it is because Paul is enthusiastic about telling people about Jesus. Paul is fearlessly joyful about insisting that Jesus is alive. Maybe this is not just about the general theory of resurrection, which lots of Jews believe anyway. Maybe it is the particular resurrection of one man - Jesus - that people are upset about. That and Paul’s enthusiasm about it.   Prayer God of Joy,
when we are in danger
of reducing our faith to a mere set of beliefs,
reinvigorate us with the Joy of New Life
that Jesus brings.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Peter Rand is a retired minister and member of Trinity Church, Bedlington. 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 13th September

URC Devotion - Wed, 13/09/2017 - 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 24: 1 -10 Five days later the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney, a certain Tertullus, and they reported their case against Paul to the governor. When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: "Your Excellency, because of you we have long enjoyed peace, and reforms have been made for this people because of your foresight. We welcome this in every way and everywhere with utmost gratitude. But, to detain you no further, I beg you to hear us briefly with your customary graciousness. We have, in fact, found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and so we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to learn from him concerning everything of which we accuse him." The Jews also joined in the charge by asserting that all this was true. Reflection The lawyer, Tertullus, brought by the Jewish leaders to Caesarea is so OTT, so lawyerly, so oily in his buttering up of the Roman Governor, this could almost be a pantomime! Or is this the author of Acts being ironic? The plot has failed, so now these Jews must resort to the law!

After the buttering-up of the Governor, they try a two-pronged attack on Paul. First, Tertullus appeals to the Governor’s wish for order and peace, trying to set Felix against Paul as an ‘agitator’. Then he appeals to the Roman uniformity, trying to marginalise Paul as a ‘ringleader of the sect of the Nazarene’.
 
Perhaps this is the time to ask what this group of Jews had against Paul and the Christians. In the words of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ - “Why do the nations so furiously rage together? And why do the people imagine a vain thing?”
 
For me, the ‘vain thing’ is when one group is so sure they are ‘right’ that anyone who doesn’t agree is not only ‘wrong’ but ‘subhuman’ and therefore worthy to be eliminated. They need to ‘purify’ the human race from everything outside their definition of ‘rightness’.
 
So this group of Jews was so sure of their interpretation of the Torah, they believed the ‘Nazarene’ and his followers must be purged.
 
Now, I know some people would say I am a wet liberal, but I don’t think I could ever be so sure of anything in my faith that I could purge another human being for believing differently. What about you?   Prayer Discerning God,
you know what is right,
and you show us your Way in Jesus.
Forgive us when we make mistakes and misunderstand.
Keep us from being so certain
that we make others bear the burden of our certainty.
Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Peter Rand is a retired minister and member of Trinity Church, Bedlington. 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 September

URC Devotion - Tue, 12/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 12th September 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%; } .mcnPreviewText{ display:none !important; } #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; 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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageCardBottomImageContent{ padding-bottom:9px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageGroupBlockInner{ padding-top:0 !important; padding-bottom:0 !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnImageGroupBlockOuter{ padding-top:9px !important; padding-bottom:9px !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentColumn{ padding-right:18px !important; 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; 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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 23: 23 - 35 Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, "Get ready to leave by nine o'clock tonight for Caesarea with two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride, and take him safely to Felix the governor." He wrote a letter to this effect: "Claudius Lysias to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, but when I had learned that he was a Roman citizen, I came with the guard and rescued him. Since I wanted to know the charge for which they accused him, I had him brought to their council. I found that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but was charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. When I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him." So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him during the night to Antipatris. The next day they let the horsemen go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province he belonged to, and when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, "I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive." Then he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod's headquarters. Reflection Wow! Serious protection! 470 soldiers to protect one man! The plotters outnumbered 10 to 1! And a letter of safe passage from the Tribune to the Governor. Paul was certainly seeing the benefit of his Roman citizenship. And no doubt he was grateful for the Roman respect for the rules of evidence and due process. Roman rule respected minorities. It could look uniform, but there was a place for (almost) everyone. However, perhaps Tribune Lysias knew a religious fanatic when he saw one, and he was going to have no shenanigans on his watch!

Often times God gives us protection through human agency. And not always through God-fearing, or even God-believing agency.
 
Paul was a citizen three times over. He was a citizen of Rome, under Rome’s law, but also due Rome’s protection. He was a Jew, subject to the Torah - but also entitled to a fair hearing from the Jewish lawyers. Finally Paul was a citizen of the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus - the Kingdom ‘whose armies we may not see’. Paul was glad of Rome, he was faithful to his Jewish heritage, but his final, total loyalty was to Jesus. What about us?   Prayer Faithful God,
when our faithfulness and loyalty are challenged,
help us to keep in mind where we truly belong,
and give us the courage to stay faithful. Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Peter Rand is a retired minister and member of Trinity Church, Bedlington. 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 September

URC Devotion - Mon, 11/09/2017 - 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 For the next 6 days the Rev’d Peter Rand is going to help us explore the passage between Acts 23 and 25 where a conspiracy against Paul is played out.

Acts 23: 12 - 22  In the morning the Jews joined in a conspiracy and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who joined in this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, "We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the council must notify the tribune to bring him down to you, on the pretext that you want to make a more thorough examination of his case. And we are ready to do away with him before he arrives." Now the son of Paul's sister heard about the ambush; so he went and gained entrance to the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, "Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to report to him." So he took him, brought him to the tribune, and said, "The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you; he has something to tell you." The tribune took him by the hand, drew him aside privately, and asked, "What is it that you have to report to me?" He answered, "The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more thoroughly into his case. But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him. They have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they kill him. They are ready now and are waiting for your consent." So the tribune dismissed the young man, ordering him, "Tell no one that you have informed me of this."   Reflection Just because I’m paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me! A plot! A plot by righteous men! So righteous they could take an oath to deny themselves food and drink till it was carried out, to prove they had God on their side.
 
Three times the author reminds us of this oath. Does he want us to be quite sure that these were righteous, religious me, led by their faith, or is he telling us, ironically, that these were fanatics? It’s a fine line between fervour and fanaticism.
 
These Jews truly believed that Paul was perverting the pure jewish faith. He was leading people astray. He was putting people’s eternal souls at risk. He needed to be stopped. It was just as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, 30 years earlier, had believed about Jesus.
 
Is it ever right to act against what we believe to be evil? How far can we go?   Prayer Wise and righteous God,
teach us, day by day,
to follow Jesus on the Way of your Wisdom
- your Way of Righteousness. Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Peter Rand is a retired minister and member of Trinity Church, Bedlington. 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 10th September

URC Devotion - Sun, 10/09/2017 - 06:00
96 URC Daily Devotion 10th September 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 Psalm 14
  The fool speaks in his heart;
“There is no God,” he says.
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
none walk in godly ways.

The LORD looks down from heaven
upon the human race,
To see if any understand,
if any seek God’s face.

They all have turned aside;
corrupt they have become.
Not one of them does any good—
no, not a single one.

Will sinners never learn?
My people they’ve devoured
As if they were consuming bread;
they never seek the LORD.

Struck down they are with dread,
for God is with the just.
You evildoers shame the poor,
but in the LORD they trust.

May help from Zion come,
the LORD his captives bring!
And then let Jacob’s tribes rejoice;
let Isr’el gladly sing
The editors of Sing Psalms suggest this is sung to either Southwell or the tune Selma which you can hear sung here. Reflection This psalm is not for the faint hearted. It has resonances for me with the start of the story of Noah and the 40 day flood which violently birthed a new world. Genesis 6:11 “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence…”

Like God in the story of Noah, the Psalmist is frustrated with the magnitude of humanity’s corruption and ignorance to not do good, to not act wisely seeking God. Yet at the same time the Psalmist has hope, seated in a deep trust that God is the refuge for the most vulnerable to humanity’s corruption (the poor) and that God is with those still trying to do good in the midst of the corruption. The psalmist wants God to send help, deliverance.

These feelings and perceptions are real for us today. Frustration at the magnitude of humanity’s corruption as we see communities in Bangladesh flood due to global warming, or patterns of violence or prejudice passed on from parent to child. Frustration that we passively and actively collude with humanity’s corruption often in wilful ignorance, living as part of the wealthy western world.

But the Psalmist shows that alongside frustration, hope can also exist. Hope in the trust that God is with the most vulnerable and with those who work for good / justice even in situations where they seem to be working against the prevailing current. Hope that God will bring deliverance, even if that means the flooding and washing away of what are familiar but corrupt systems, practices and perceptions, in order to birth a new world.

Not for the faint hearted but deeply hopeful for all who struggle. Prayer God of Justice and Hope
We give thanks for your Wisdom;
  Wisdom which shows us the Way of Abundant Life for all.
We bring to you the tears of people and of the planet
  oppressed by the corruption of foolish greed
  and prejudice which denies your Way.
Forgive us for the active and passive ways which we have colluded with this corruption.
Strengthen the hands of all who oppose its’ current and work for good.
May all oppressed know you as their refuge and hope.
Wash away the shackles of ignorance and corruption
in our minds and world,
that we may be reborn
into the freedom of Abundant Life for all.
Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Fiona Bennett is minister of Augustine United Church in Edinburgh. 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 9th September

URC Devotion - Sat, 09/09/2017 - 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 23: 1-11 While Paul was looking intently at the council he said,

‘Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.’

Then the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth. At this Paul said to him,

‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting there to judge me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law you order me to be struck?’

Those standing nearby said,

‘Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?’

And Paul said,

‘I did not realise, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, “You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.”

When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council,

‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.’

When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamour arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended,

‘We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’

When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks.

That night the Lord stood near him and said,

‘Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.’ Reflection The back story:

There's a lot going on in this passage, and little of it is actually about Paul!

The Pharisees and Sadducees are political and religious rivals locked in a perpetual power struggle for control of what is orthodox.

The Sadducees are the traditionalists, the elites, the ruling class. Historically they control the Sanhedrin and the temple. Politically, (for expedience sake), they are often in collusion with Rome. Religiously, they reject newer traditions (the Prophets) and therefore they are not only against the idea of angels, the spirit, and resurrection - but what they regard as Scripture does not contain the traditions of restorative justice for the oppressed.

On this analysis it would seem the Sadducees (and not so much the Pharisees) are diametrically opposed to Jesus, the Gospel, and the ministry of Paul.

Paul:

Paul will of course know all of this. He is on trial at the hands of vested interests and powerful people.

So Paul does what Paul, and the Gospel he proclaims, does best - holds a mirror to those in power, and declares them a 'whitewashed wall’, implying to the high priest that he does not follow his own laws and hides behind a thin veil of respectability.

At such a cutting remark I doubt it is simply Paul’s insolence which prompts the high priest to lash out. Paul has spoken the truth to power, which always provokes a response, usually a violent one.

Paul speaks this truth in the name of Jesus Christ, who could not be silenced, and if Paul is correct about the Resurrection, this truth could not be silenced even by death! If Jesus is raised from the dead the Sadducees have a lot to lose, indeed for Paul, they have already lost. Resurrection is the beginning of the end of the status quo, God is setting the world to rights, it has already begun.

Us:

So what began in Jesus, (or as Paul uses elsewhere in his defence, began with the Prophets) is proclaimed in word and deed by Paul, has been passed on to us. Not only to worship the God of Jesus and Paul in song, prayer, and preaching. Not simply to build a Church with open doors, hearts, and minds. But to hold a mirror to those in power, and proclaim justice not as punishment of transgressors, but as an equal sharing of the good things of the earth.

Not easy, so ‘keep up your courage’.     Prayer God who stands with us and speaks through us whenever we speak truth to power,
we commit ourselves to standing with the weak, the powerless, the poor,
the abandoned, the sick, the old, the young,
and those who, by victim of circumstance and oppression of the elite,
bear the heaviest burdens.

We commit ourselves to work and pray for the time
where everything will be reversed,
where the first will be last
and the last will be first,
and all will be well.

In the name of Jesus Christ
and the power of the resurrection.

Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Mike Walsh is a pioneer minister in Chorlton, South Manchester. 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 8th September

URC Devotion - Fri, 08/09/2017 - 06:00
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For he should not be allowed to live.’ And while they were shouting, throwing off their cloaks, and tossing dust into the air, the tribune directed that he was to be brought into the barracks, and ordered him to be examined by flogging, to find out the reason for this outcry against him. But when they had tied him up with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who is uncondemned?’ When the centurion heard that, he went to the tribune and said to him, ‘What are you about to do? This man is a Roman citizen.’ The tribune came and asked Paul, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ The tribune answered, ‘It cost me a large sum of money to get my citizenship.’ Paul said, ‘But I was born a citizen.’ Immediately those who were about to examine him drew back from him; and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.  Since he wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them. Reflection The story of Paul continues. Arrested in the Temple and taken bound in chains to the Roman citadel, Paul was allowed by the Tribune to address the Hebrew crowd. At first, they listened to him, but they become inflamed and demand his life. Not understanding what all the fuss was about, and getting no sense from the crowd, the Tribune decided that Paul should be interrogated. Thinking that Paul was a mere Jew (v.13) this would include flogging – strictly lawful only in the case of slaves and the low-born. When he has been strung up, Paul decides to play his ace: he is a Roman citizen! Everyone is aghast since they had already done enough to ensure that should Paul choose to complain, they would be punished severely. The sensible thing for the Tribune to do at this point is to send Paul to stand in front of the Jewish authorities, which is what he does.

In this passage, the author parallels the predicament that Paul finds himself in with the trial of Jesus, but with one crucial difference. Jesus does nothing to save himself: Paul claims privilege to short circuit the proceedings.

Many of us have privileges of one sort or another, ranging from the trivial to the important. Maybe a Frequent Flier card allows us to jump the queue at the airport, saving our precious time. Maybe we have a passport allowing us to cross borders without being interrogated as to our motives or financial status; or a bank card giving access to money.

Privilege is not in itself necessarily a bad thing. Like so much else, it is how we use privilege that is important. If we use privilege to open doors to justice and peace; or to liberate resources to help someone in need; then privilege is well used. If we use privilege to feather our own nests, privilege is abused.

Perhaps Paul in exercising the privilege of Roman citizenship sought to avoid the pain of laceration of the flesh of his back. Perhaps he sought more time to preach the Gospel of Christ Jesus.   Prayer Liberating God,
Help us to realise how privileged we are:
how our lifestyle is so much better than many whose opportunity is limited
and whose lives are constrained
by rules imposed by others.
When we run up against difficult situations guide us so that we use the resources we command for the benefit of all and not just ourselves.  Amen Today's Writer The Rev’d Ron Reid is a retired minister in the Mersey Synod serving as Link Minister at Rock Chapel, Farndon.  He is a member at Upton-by-Chester 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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Some, hopefully, useful information

URC Devotion - Fri, 08/09/2017 - 05:00
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Dear Friends,

It's been encouraging to see so many people who have Facebook Like and Follow the Daily Devotions Facebook page.  We've seen a small jump in the number of people signing up to receive the Devotions from this.  Some of you have asked if we will continue to send these via email - yes, of course we will.  Please don't worry if you are not a Facebook user as you will continue to receive the Devotions.

Second, from time to time people email to say they are not receiving the Daily Devotions.  Most of the time this is because they have ended up in the Spam/Junk folder.  Internet Service Providers can set their Spam settings rather high.  The fact that these emails go out to over 1,600 people mean they can be seen as Spam. It helps if you add the DailyDevotions@urc.org.uk to your contact list.  It also helps if you add it to an approved senders list.  In Yahoo you can do that by following the instructions here. In Gmail the Devotions tend to appear in the Promotions tab.  If they appear in the Spam Folder mark them as "not Spam."  It is also possible to set up a filter in Gmail to ensure they are not put into Spam.  Details are here.  If you have another service provider and, from time to time, find your Devotions are going into Spam simply google them with the words "approved sender" or "white list" and you should find bespoke instructions.

Finally, Rebecca Gudgeon, who manages the iChurch project for the URC has produced some simple instructions for those who use the iChurch platform for their Church's website (or any church website that uses Wordpress) to get the Daily Devotions onto your church's website each day.  Details are here and, if you get stuck and use iChurch/Wordpress Rebecca should be able to help.  You may wish to forward this email to your church's website manager.  If you want to see what they look like you can look at Shawlands' website here

With every good wish

Andy

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URC Daily Devotion 7th September

URC Devotion - Thu, 07/09/2017 - 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 22:  1 - 21 Paul said:

“My fellow Jews, listen to me as I make my defence before you!”

When they heard him speaking to them in Hebrew, they became even quieter; and Paul went on:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here in Jerusalem as a student of Gamaliel. I received strict instruction in the Law of our ancestors and was just as dedicated to God as are all of you who are here today.  I persecuted to the death the people who followed this Way. I arrested men and women and threw them into prison. The High Priest and the whole Council can prove that I am telling the truth. I received from them letters written to fellow Jews in Damascus, so I went there to arrest these people and bring them back in chains to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was traveling and coming near Damascus, about midday a bright light from the sky flashed suddenly around me.  I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?’  ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute,’ he said to me. 9The men with me saw the light, but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.  I asked, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ and the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that God has determined for you to do.’ I was blind because of the bright light, and so my companions took me by the hand and led me into Damascus.

“In that city was a man named Ananias, a religious man who obeyed our Law and was highly respected by all the Jews living there.  He came to me, stood by me, and said, ‘Brother Saul, see again!’ At that very moment I saw again and looked at him. He said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see his righteous Servant, and to hear him speaking with his own voice.  For you will be a witness for him to tell everyone what you have seen and heard.  And now, why wait any longer? Get up and be baptized and have your sins washed away by praying to him.’

“I went back to Jerusalem, and while I was praying in the Temple, I had a vision,  in which I saw the Lord, as he said to me, ‘Hurry and leave Jerusalem quickly, because the people here will not accept your witness about me.’  ‘Lord,’ I answered, ‘they know very well that I went to the synagogues and arrested and beat those who believe in you.  And when your witness Stephen was put to death, I myself was there, approving of his murder and taking care of the cloaks of his murderers.’  ‘Go,’ the Lord said to me, ‘for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” Reflection A persecutor is sent out to preach to the persecuted.

As Paul makes his defence, we might wonder at his calling: Who is this man, that God has called him? Saul, by his own admission, was a persecutor; an oppressor. He sought out Christians - because their beliefs and ways of life were different than his own - and arrested, assaulted and murdered them. In an ironic twist God, having opened Paul's eyes to the genuine and beautiful diversity of those around him, sends him out to those who are persecuted and excluded by Christians, the gentiles. Paul is converted from a religiously conservative persecutor to a religiously liberal (for his time!) liberator.

Where is the message in this for us today? This reflection will be published at the start of September, when I will be helping tutors and students to prepare for a new academic year at Westminster College as we prepare for, and share in, the ministry of the Church. We are all like Paul, to an extent. We are not the obvious choice. We are those who have not accessed higher/further education before, those who have previously been excluded from public positions on grounds of race, gender or sexuality, those who have been asked to leave churches because we were just a little different.

Like Paul, some of us have had vast theological shifts during our training: from conservative to liberal. From oppressor to liberator. From liberal to moderate. Or from labelled to firmly denying that these theological labels can exist or make sense. Like Paul, we find ourselves in a place and time where community matters more than labels and sharing the Gospel message, today, means speaking our truths. We might wonder at our calling. You might wonder at our calling. But, we are called, as we are. Are you called? Will you live your truth? Will you allow your eyes to be opened to diversity?

That diversity leads us to the second message for us today. Paul is sent out to speak to those who early Christians persecuted: the gentiles. In fact, he frequently has to chastise his siblings in Christ for their mistreatment of those who are different: pointing out that the law was given for some; whilst this new experience... Christ... Grace... has been given for all. Paul does not believe that the gentiles should be oppressed, forced to live under Israelite law. Instead, he believes that God's grace frees them from legal obligation and inspires them to new life.

Who do Christians persecute today? Who do I persecute? Who do you persecute? Can we stop?   Prayer God, Creator, Liberator and Sustainer,

You create, re-create and call each one of us every day. Help us to hear your call and put down our weapons. Help us to hear your call and tear up our labels. Help us to hear your call and unlock the prisons of ideology which hold us captive. Help us to hear your call.

You liberate the oppressed and open the eyes of the oppressor. Help us to open our eyes and to see the truth. Help us to open our eyes and to notice those we oppress or shut out. Help us to open our eyes and to witness the diversity of your creation. Help us to open our eyes.

You sustain each and every one of us. Help us to open our mouths and taste the joy of your creation. Help us to open our mouths and speak our truths. Help us to open our mouths and speak up for those who have been silenced. Help us to open our mouths.

We commit today to creative ideas, liberative practices and sustaining stories,

Amen.
  Today's Writer Alex Clare-Young - training for ministry at Westminster College, Cambridge 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 September

URC Devotion - Wed, 06/09/2017 - 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 21: 27-40 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, shouting,

‘Fellow-Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’

For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut.  While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.  Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.  Then the tribune came, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; he inquired who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting,

‘Away with him!’

Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune,

‘May I say something to you?’

The tribune replied,

‘Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?’

Paul replied,

‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.’
When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language. Reflection Paul’s conversion, on his way to Damascus, possibly the most iconic testimony of all time, was certainly dramatic and had a significant impact on both early church growth and the development of Christianity.  Pauls’ story has encouraged and inspired faith in Jesus ever since.
 
As an evangelism and renewal advocate for GEAR, I have visited a number of URCs to teach on the subject of evangelism. I have on occasions used Paul’s testimony as an illustration, that anybody can be saved, even the self-confessed ‘worst of sinners’. As we consider our conversion, our beginnings with God, whether it’s dramatic like Paul’s, or more gradual, like most of us. It is important to share our story. Sometimes we may be reluctant to tell our story, particularly if we feel it’s unremarkable. But all testimony has real potential to encourage and ignite the gift of faith in others.
 
Take a moment to reflect on your story, pray that God will help you to begin to share your story with others.   Prayer Lord thank you for the many ways in which you have touched my life and blessed me.
Please give me courage, through your Holy Spirit,
to share my story with others,
so it in turn may be an encouragement, blessing and inspiration to them,
Amen. Today's Writer The Revd Sally Willett, Evangelism and Renewal Advocate for GEAR and minister of West Thamesmead Community Church. 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 September

URC Devotion - Tue, 05/09/2017 - 06:00
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Some of the disciples from Caesarea also came along and brought us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to stay.

When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went  with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law. But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them. Reflection Luke’s telling moves from travelogue to negotiation weighed down with unease as Paul reaches Jerusalem and James and the other leaders of the early Church respond to news of his Gentile missionary successes. Whilst there surely was rejoicing at the stories of conversion there is also deep alarm at the potential backlash amongst Jewish converts to the way of Jesus. Probably it is Pentecost again in Jerusalem and the city, crowded with pilgrims and the nervous soldiers of the empire, is a fertile place of faith and fear.

Stories swirl around Paul’s activities. There are those who speak against him amongst the Jews within and beyond the Christian communities, accusing him of denying the Laws of Moses symbolised especially in his denial of circumcision and ritual cleanliness. These are the undercurrents of opposition we hear Paul responding to in letters like Corinthians, Philippians and Romans. In preaching salvation as God’s gift of grace embraced through faith in Christ Paul opens himself to allegations of negating Jewish faithfulness. In highlighting one vital thread of faith, Paul can be caricatured as opposing others.

Time for something of a public relations exercise! It seems four Jewish members of the church have taken vows, perhaps like the Nazirite one Paul himself took (Acts 18:18). According to Jewish law accidental defilement after taking such a vow can be addressed by a week of purification, shaving the head and offering sacrifice (Numbers 6:1-21). Paul is to cover their costs and join them publically in the process. He is to underline his Jewish credentials. So he does.

Looking outwards, this text speaks of avoiding a fight in public that might damage the Christian community. The credibility and unity of the believing community is at stake here. Looking inwards, this text speaks of demonstrating to other believers the authenticity of faithfulness when it might be open to question. That has a very contemporary resonance.Think of the debates that strain and divide denominations and traditions and local congregations. Whether it’s over our sexuality and relationships, our attitudes to war, our understandings of scripture or ordination or a host of other fundamentals we have to navigate the tumult as did James, Paul and the others. If we are to bear witness to the light of the glorious Gospel then that same light needs to shine in how we deal with one another. What might this mean for us in our context today? What does God demand of us as we live alongside others? What does humility invite us to let go of or accept? When might being right trap us in self-righteousness whilst God asks of us something bigger?   Prayer Living God,
in the midst of the choices we must make
come alive through your Spirit amongst us.
In the name of Jesus Christ open our hearts and imaginations
to the promptings of your Word and the wisdom of others.
Hold us accountable.
Help us to hear your voice
so we know and do the truth.
Amen. Today's Writer The Revd Neil Thorogood is Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge and member of Bar Hill LEP. 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 4th September

URC Devotion - Mon, 04/09/2017 - 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 21: 1-14   When we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. When we found a ship bound for Phoenicia, we went on board and set sail. We came in sight of Cyprus; and leaving it on our left, we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, because the ship was to unload its cargo there. We looked up the disciples and stayed there for seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When our days there were ended, we left and proceeded on our journey; and all of them, with wives and children, escorted us outside the city. There we knelt down on the beach and prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.

When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we greeted the believers and stayed with them for one day. The next day we left and came to Caesarea; and we went into the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy. While we were staying there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He came to us and took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Since he would not be persuaded, we remained silent except to say, “The Lord’s will be done.” Reflection We continue our journey with Paul as he and his companions wend their way across a corner of the ancient world. There are ships to find, cargoes to unload, winds to wait for, greetings and farewells. In all the journeys described here cover something like 500 miles. The places mentioned are a mixture of the significant and the less important; a glimpse of the ancient map of power and economics, learning and empires. Cos had a famous medical school and was the centre of Jewish life in the Aegean. Tyre was a gateway trading port into the Roman province of Syria. Caesarea was the centre for Roman administration of Judea.

It seems Paul is revisiting communities of Christians he knows. At least twice earlier in Acts Paul is in Caesarea (9:30; 18:22) and he would probably have used Ptolemais as a stop-over (11:30; 12:25; 15:3). We glimpse something of the fledgling churches that are emerging in these places so that the party are welcomed into believers’ homes, prayer and worship are offered, news and teaching shared. It seems, if we have the chronology and names right, that the Philip mentioned in our passage is the one who settles in Caesarea some twenty years earlier (8:4).

What can we, so long after, discover in these snippets of a travel journal?

We see the gentle outworking of the reality of the kingdom of God that Jesus alerts us to in parables of a mustard seed and yeast growing; a small beginning that, invisibly at first, transforms with abundance (Luke 13:18 – 21). Here are the first fruits of the followers of Jesus; Easter and Pentecost becoming communities of hopefulness. Here is witness happening. The beginnings are small, practically invisible and often unnoticed amidst the hubbub of the surrounding society. But God is changing the world as these women and men, largely nameless now, meet and pray and become the Church. This is our task too. We, now, are weaving together our networks of Christian relationship and care; mutual prayerfulness and hospitality flowing from each of our lives and every one of our congregations. Never doubt how much God does as even one or two faithfully gather and learn to be disciples.

Never doubt, as well, the risk and cost. The partings are bitter and filled with foreboding. Paul is heading into the storm. Agabus echoes Jesus’ predictions of the cross as he confronts Paul. God calls us to faith in a world of risk. Sisters and brothers across the world and throughout history give up their all in obedience to the call. We need to hold them in our prayers. More. We need faith profound and vibrant enough to drive us to take up whatever cross comes our way for God’s sake.   Prayer God of wanderers and wonderers,
of dreamers and schemers,
of ancient travellers and tomorrow’s companions,
guide our journeys today.
Bless us with grace and gentleness,
with foresight and fortitude.
Carry us onwards with you,
into your future,
as the friends of Jesus
and the company of your Spirit.
Amen. Today's Writer The Revd Neil Thorogood is Principal of Westminster College, Cambridge and member of Bar Hill LEP. 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

URC Devotion - Sun, 03/09/2017 - 20:04
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} } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader .mcnTextContent,#templatePreheader .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:150% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templateHeader .mcnTextContent,#templateHeader .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:150% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templateBody .mcnTextContent,#templateBody .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:150% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templateFooter .mcnTextContent,#templateFooter .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:150% !important; } } View this email in your browser Dedicated Facebook Page

Dear <<First Name>>

Since the DailyDevotions project started I have put a link to each day's devotion on my own Facebook feed.  Many people share link and it's been suggested that we create a dedicated Facebook Page for the Daily Devotions.  So, now, I have!

If you have a Facebook Account you can go to 

https://www.facebook.com/URCDailyDevotions/

and "like" the page.  After that, if you want to share a particular devotion that has touched you with your own Facebook feed you can "share" that yourself.

with every good wish

Andy

--> Copyright © 2017 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 3rd September

URC Devotion - Sun, 03/09/2017 - 06:00
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  How long will you forget me, LORD?
Will you forget always?
How long, LORD, will you hide your face
and turn from me your gaze?

How long must I be sad each day
in deep perplexity?
How long will my opponent stand
in triumph over me?

O LORD my God, consider me
and give me your reply.
Light up my eyes or I will sleep
the sleep of those who die.

Then would my enemy declare,
“At last I’ve laid him low!”
And so my foes would sing for joy
to see my overthrow.

But still I trust your constant love;
you save and set me free.
With joy I will extol the LORD
who has been good to me.
You can hear a congregation sing this to the hauntingly beautiful tune Bay of Harris here.  The editors of Sing Psalms also suggests the tune Cheshire which you can hear here. Reflection If we have lost a job, a home, a child, if a medical verdict has zapped our careful plans for the future, if we have been hurt or betrayed by some-one close, this psalm is for us.  In the sharpness of despair, when the heartache and anguish seem unendurable, we call out to God in torment: ”how long”?   This psalm is very old but it still speaks to our human condition today.  The anguished cry is repeated four times – has God forgotten the sufferer?  The fear that this might be the case only makes the pain and grief worse.  But she does not give up.  She redoubles her efforts, implores God to look, to “consider” her, earnestly prays for deliverance from all that oppresses her.  And in the final verse, the torment of mind and emotion gives way to a new sense of confidence.  There is no indication that the current situation has changed in any material sense, but there is a change of attitude.  The knowledge of God’s loving-kindness in the past is the basis for the transformation of the present into a future hope.  In this framework of calmness and assurance, the present can be accepted and the future anticipated with joy. Prayer Gracious God,
I rely on your constant love;
You have been good to me.
Give me grace to put my trust in you,
That I may see your purposes of love unfolding in the world,
And rejoice in in your victory over disease and death.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,  Amen. Today's Writer The Rev’d Fleur Houston is a retired minister and member of Macclesfield & Bollington URC. 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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