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URC Daily Devotion 18th January 2022

URC Devotion - 2 hours 4 min ago
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  St Luke 6: 12 - 16
Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Reflection
In his book My First Summer in the Sierra, [1] the naturalist John Muir writes “Oh, these vast, calm, mea­sureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light every­thing seems equally divine, opening a thou­sand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.”

Perhaps it was a sense of needing to peer through, to open one of those thousand windows which disclose God that took Jesus up a mountain or into the wilderness when he wanted to or had to make a major decision: to spend time in prayer in solitude.

The decision for Jesus in this passage as he faced the hostility of the Pharisees, was whether or not he should symbolically reveal to them the new Israel. The answer was yes, and he does this by selecting twelve of his disciples, who, according to Luke, he called apostles, corresponding to the twelve tribes of the old Israel.

Although Jesus often withdrew from the everyday it was always to return and act. Muir postulates that the wilderness experience provides the riches to face the tribulations of the world, enabling the action.

Over the past couple of years most of us have been in a wilderness to a greater or lesser degree. We are now returning to the everyday and the fundamental question is how to manage that return. Maybe part of the returning is to wait until we see God through a window. For as T.S. Eliot wrote “The faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: so the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”[2]

Prayer
God of the infinite, grant us patience to wait
God of the mountains, incite us to work and rest
God of the wilderness, inspire us to act
God of the world, grant us the capacity to be.  Amen


1.          Muir, J. (2003). My First Summer in the Sierra. New York: Random House Inc.
2.          Eliot, T S. (1940) East Coker, https://www.best-poems.net/t_s_eliot/four_quartets_2_east_coker.html   --> 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.  Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 17th January 2022

URC Devotion - Mon, 17/01/2022 - 06:00
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  St Luke 6: 6 - 11
On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him.  Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Come and stand here.’ He got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?’  After looking around at all of them, he said to him, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He did so, and his hand was restored.  But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Reflection
A woman comes into the church service for help.  She has fallen over in the street. Surely we wouldn’t say: “Sorry, but we are too busy worshipping God. You have to go away.  Now if it had been a Monday...”

The scribes and Pharisees were in the synagogue, not for worship but in vengeful pursuit of Jesus who had infuriated them when his hungry disciples gathered grain to eat on the holy day.  How dare he flout their Sabbath ban and claim that the “Son of Man” is master of the Sabbath!

In the synagogue to learn from the scriptures was a man with a withered hand.  He did not ask for help but caught the eye of the teacher.  Jesus directly confronted the law as viewed by the Pharisees, asking: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?”  There was no answer forthcoming, so he performed a miracle of healing.

The Pharisees were left frothing at the mouth and determined to bring down this upstart.  They couldn’t care less about the man’s deformity, the discomforts he had suffered or his delight in being “whole” again.  They could not admit that healing was more important than restrictive rules.

Of course we would come to the aid of the injured woman coming into church.  But are we always so forthcoming, and in all circumstances, whether as a church community or as Christian individuals?

Some regulations and duties are necessary for the smooth running of a healthy society, but there are times when action in situations of need overrides our other priorities. Compassion comes first.  And, if in doubt, just think of the joy of the man in the synagogue when Jesus, whose very life was on the line, broke the law to help him.

Prayer
Dear God, grant us the humility to recognize our need for rules,
the wisdom to know when life calls us to move beyond the ordinary rules,
and the courage to break them when such occasions arise.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.   --> Today's writer Pat Stannard, Elder, Muswell Hill URC  Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for 16th January 2022 - John Ellis

URC Devotion - Sun, 16/01/2022 - 09:45
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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service
16th January 2022

 
John Ellis
  Introduction
 
Welcome to this online worship, whoever you are and wherever you are accessing it. Using a Lectionary reading for Sunday 16th January, this material aims to help you feel in the presence of God today even if you are not able to be physically in the presence of God’s people.  I am John Ellis and have prepared much of this material but you will hear other voices too. I have had the privilege of serving the United Reformed Church as Moderator of General Assembly and now lead the West Kent and East Sussex Synod Area within the Southern Synod.
 
Call to Worship
 
Come, let us ring out our joy to the Lord; hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come into God’s presence, giving thanks; let us hail the Eternal One with a song of praise. A mighty God is the Lord, a great king above all gods. 
In God’s hands are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains belong to God.
To the Eternal One belongs the sea,  for God made it and shaped the dry land. O come; let us bow and bend low. Let us kneel before the One who made us,
for the Eternal One is our God and we the people who belong to the royal pasture, the flock that is led by hand.
 
Hymn       O God of Bethel, by whose hand 
Scottish Paraphrases 1781  (alt.) from Genesis 28: 20-22   O God of Bethel! by whose hand
thy people still are fed,
who through this earthly pilgrimage
hast all our forebears led:
 
2 Our vows, our prayers,
we now present
before thy throne of grace:
God of our fathers! be the God
of their succeeding race.
 
3 Through each
perplexing path of life
our wandering footsteps guide;
give us each day our daily bread,
and raiment fit provide.
 
4 O spread thy covering
wings around,
till all our wanderings cease,
and at our Father's loved abode
our souls arrive in peace.   5 Such blessings from thy gracious hand
our humble prayers implore;
and thou shalt be our chosen God,
and portion evermore.
 
Prayer of Approach and Confession
 
Father God, we come to you not to parade our goodness  or asking you to reward our service. We come that we might know ourselves forgiven
and come with heads held high as children with a loving Father. 
 
We are not as confident as we might be because our love is imperfect and our faith is assaulted by evil; and yet we come like children who have been frightened by the dark to the security of our Father’s embrace.
 
Forgive us the narrowness of vision that makes us misers of the Gospel,
hugging its gifts to ourselves. Forgive us for resisting your Spirit’s grand purposes; for not following where she leads; for keeping love in a box. Forgive us, and help us to see the richness and wholeness of your purpose for everyone made in your image.
 
Show us your Spirit moving on ahead of us and give us the courage to join the dance. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.   
 
Prayer of Illumination
 
Break open your word to us, O God, that in hearing ancient words
and modern sermon you may speak to us and we may truly hear.  Amen        
 
Reading   1 Corinthians 12.1-11
 
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters,  I do not want you to be uninformed.  You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak.   Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
 
Hymn       Come down, O Love Divine 
Bianco da Siena (d.1434) tr. Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890) (alt.)   Come down, O Love Divine,
seek out this soul of mine,
and visit it with
thine own ardour glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it,
your holy flame bestowing.
 
2  O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes,
in its heat consuming;
and let thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round,
the while my path illuming.   3   And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass
the power of human telling;
we cannot guess its grace,
till we become the place
wherein the Holy Spirit
makes a dwelling.
 
Sermon:           Being Spiritual
 
In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he is answering several of their burning questions. At the start of our Chapter 12, the question is how does the Holy Spirit work.
 
The question seems to have arisen because of non-Christian “spiritual” practices, hinted at in verses 2-4.  Venerating dumb heathen gods or calling down curses on Jesus may not sound like our issues.    But the word Paul uses in verse 1 really refers to spiritual matters generally rather than the Holy Spirit’s gifts specifically, about which he will be talking in detail later. We might reframe the question around the popular idea in our culture that sensible, sophisticated people seek to be spiritual but not religious. What should a Christian think about that?
 
People who seek to be spiritual sense, like the pagans of Corinth, that there is something more than the material about our lives. There are powers beyond ourselves at work. There is peace to be found from connecting with the Other. But none of that needs to suffer the suffocating influence of religion, with its structures and rules and arguments and wars, and general love of being out of date. A peaceful country church in a beautiful setting on a sunny afternoon might be spiritual but let’s keep clear of the rows about who is allowed to put what where in the churchyard. And if your last Church Meeting was a bad one, perhaps you felt a slightly guilty, sneaking sympathy with the “let’s avoid religion” brigade.
 
Paul won’t have this. He had brought individuals to a living faith in Jesus and might agree that a sense of the spiritual might be an important step on that journey. However, he is clear we have to distinguish between popular spiritual practices and living Christian faith. The test is can you say “Jesus is Lord” and mean it? Without that the supposedly spiritual exercises are ultimately empty and unsatisfying; with that you are a Christian. The contrast that matters is not between being spiritual and being religious but between being merely spiritual and being Christian.
 
Another contrast matters too. Those who seek to be “spiritual” hope for a calming influence to give them their peace and personal comfort. Withdrawing to an inspiring place away from the pressures of life is an ideal. Paul’s Christian may enjoy that too but his or her eye is on something quite different.
 
Remember Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth, a key city in the Roman Empire. To say “Jesus is Lord” is not just a way of clarifying your personal beliefs. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not. If in Corinth you want to call someone the Son of God, you better make sure it is the Emperor: he has the same idea himself. If your ambition is an untroubled life marked by a warm glow of spirituality, calling Jesus Lord is stupid and dangerous.
Paul is fully aware of the risk and the dilemma. He explains that the Holy Spirit is able to equip us with a whole catalogue of different gifts to equip us for the challenges of following Jesus. Unlike the people who think “being spiritual” is a solitary quest, he assumes Christians will work on this together because not all the gifts are given to everyone. He offers no hierarchy of gifts but stresses several times in the passage their variety. In verses 4-6, gifts, service and activity are all interwoven like the three Persons of the Trinity. We are equipped “for some useful purpose” (v7). Engaging with Caesar is one such.
 
The Holy Spirit is also the answer to the problem with “religion”. Church structures are created by imperfect human beings and run by equally imperfect human beings. If the framework and expression of religion are not to be embarrassing, the Church crucially needs these gifts of the Spirit to be recognised and allowed to work.
 
In short, it turns out that being spiritual, in Paul’s eyes, is remarkably practical. Far from being a retreat from the world and its woes, the Holy Spirit is the energy and guidance for living with Jesus as Lord.
Paul invites us, as much as the believers in Corinth, to get on with being spiritual.
 
Hymn       Spirit Divine, Attend Our Prayers
Andrew Reed (1787-1862)  
Spirit divine, attend our prayers,
and make this house your home;
descend with all
your gracious power,
O come, great Spirit, come!

2: Come as the light; to us reveal
our emptiness and woe,
and lead us in those paths of life
whereon the righteous go.
 
3: Come as the fire
and purge our hearts
like sacrificial flame;
let our whole soul an offering be
to our Redeemer's Name.
 
4: Come as the dew & sweetly bless
this consecrated hour;
may barrenness rejoice to own
thy fertilizing power.
 
5: Come as the dove,
and spread your wings,
the wings of peaceful love;
& let your Church on earth become
blest as the Church above.
 
6: Come as the wind
with rushing sound,
and Pentecostal grace,
that all of woman born may see
the glory of thy face.   7: Spirit divine, attend our prayers,
make a lost world your home;
descend with all your gracious powers;
O come, great Spirit, come!

Affirmation of Faith   As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world –
which some seek to control,
and others view with despair –
we declare with joy and trust;
our world belongs to God!
 
From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until the Kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever
our world belongs to God!
 
We rejoice in the goodness of God,
renounce the works of darkness, and dedicate ourselves to holy living, for:
our world belongs to God!
As committed disciples, 
called to faithful obedience
and set free for joyful praise,
we offer our hearts and lives
to do God’s work in His world,
for our world belongs to God!
 
With tempered impatience,
eager to see injustice ended,
we expect the Day of the Lord
and we are confident that the light  that shines in the present darkness  will fill the earth 
when Christ appears,
for Our world belongs to God!   Prayers of Intercession  
 
Lord God,
I pray for your Spirit’s gifts to flow extravagantly around the Church
bringing wisdom and discernment, healing and faith.
Especially guide the thoughts of those who lead in the church that feels like home to me.
 
I pray for your Spirit to flow outside the Church,
where it may not be recognised,
so people are surprised by unexpected generosity
and unnatural kindness.
Especially guide the thoughts of those who shape my local community.
 
Remembering today’s news bulletins, I pray for
  • The troublespots
  • The politicians
  • The criminals
  • The victims of crime
  • The sports stars
I pray for those who never make the headlines but on whose faithful, unglamorous work I know I depend.
 
I pray for myself
whatever limitations or opportunities will shape my week
whoever will cross my path
whatever emotions I find in myself
whoever your Holy Spirit wants to create from me.
And I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.   

Offertory Prayer
 
In times of enforced separation, we can still find ways of expressing our gratitude to God by the giving of money. You may wish at this point to set aside some money or you may have already done so. You may like to use this prayer.     
 
Generous God, who gives us many gifts even in the hard times, give us one more gift: hearts that are always grateful. Amen.
 
Hymn       There’s A Spirit In The Air
                  The Rev’d Brian Wren
  There's a spirit in the air,
telling Christians everywhere:
"Praise the love
that Christ revealed,
living, working in our world!"
 
2: Lose your shyness,
find your tongue,
tell the world what God has done:
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow's life today!
 
3: When believers break the bread,
when a hungry child is fed,
praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working in our world.

4: Still the Spirit gives us light,
seeing wrong and setting right:
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow's life today!
 
5: When a stranger's not alone,
where the homeless find a home,
praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working in our world.
 
6: May the Spirit fill our praise,
guide our thoughts
and change our ways.
God in Christ has come to stay.
Live tomorrow's life today!
7: There's a Spirit in the air,
calling people everywhere:
Praise the love that Christ revealed,
living, working in our world.
 
Blessing
 
May the love of the Lord Jesus draw you to Himself
May the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen you in His service
May the joy of the Lord Jesus fill your heart.
 
And the blessing of God,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be with you
and those whom you love
and those whom you ought to love
today and always. Amen.  
 
Sources and Thanks
 
Call to Worship adapted from the Revised Grail Version of Psalm 95 by Andy Braunston.    Affirmation of Faith  adapted by Andy Braunston from the Christian Reformed Church’s affirmation Our World Belongs To God.  Prayer of Illumination by Andy Braunston.   All other liturgical material by John Ellis.
 
O God of Bethel, by whose hand - Scottish Paraphrases 1781 (alt.) from Genesis 28: 20-22. Sung by the Troon Old Parish Virtual Choir
Come down, O love divine - Bianco da Siena (d.1434) translated Richard Frederick Littledale (1833-1890) (alt.)
Sung on BBC Songs of Praise
Spirit Divine, Attend Our Prayers - Andrew Reed (1787-1862) sung by the Melharmonic Virtual Choir
There’s A Spirit In The Air - The Rev’d Brian Wren  © 1979 Hope Publishing Company. Played and sung by Gareth Moore, Isle of Man Methodist Church
 
Organ Pieces
Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland (“Now the Gentile saviour comes”) by Johann Sebastian Bach (organ of The Spire Church, Farnham – 2020)
Songs of Praise Toccata by Robert Prizeman (organ of St Andrew’s, Farnham – 2019)
 
Both pieces played by and received, with thanks, from Brian Cotterill http://briancotterill.webs.com
 
Thanks to Mairi Macdonald, Anne Hewling, Pam Carpenter, Christopher Whitehead and Alison Jiggins for reading the other spoken parts of the service.
 
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762
  Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 16th January 2022

URC Devotion - Sun, 16/01/2022 - 06:00
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line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Sunday 16th January 2022
  Psalm 75

O God, your deeds are unsurpassed;
no richer grace can earth impart.
Your Name is near; you hold us fast.
Your love enfolds each yearning heart,
your love enfolds each yearning heart.

Remove our pride lest we must taste
the judgment cup of bitter gall.
Let not our bold ambitions take
the praise from you, who gives us all,
the praise from you, who gives us all.

Help us to know humility,
to follow you in all your ways.
From self-conceit, Lord, set us free
to know ourselves and sing your praise,
to know ourselves and sing your praise.

Michael Morgan, William R. Bradbury
© 2011 Faith Alive Christian Resources
You can hear a verse of this Psalm sung here
https://hymnary.org/media/fetch/152442


Reflection

When I lead worship I tend to begin with a prayer of approach and adoration, before moving into a contemplative period of confession. As we do this, I encourage the congregation to consider that ‘we have come before the bright throne of God, and in His light our shadows fall all the more darkly behind us’.  There is, I think, something of this in today’s Psalm.

The Psalmist begins by magnifying God’s deeds: they are ‘unsurpassed’ and abounding in grace, far beyond the things of earth; then s/he moves on to consider the pride and ambitions which risk ‘tak[ing] the praise from You [God], who gives us all’. How often have we been so caught up in our own abilities or achievements that we have failed to notice God’s far greater deeds? Only the other week I was talking to a friend about an impressive piece of driving I had recently performed and, mid-sentence, realised I was rather forgetting the even greater achievement on God’s part of creating the landscape through which I drove! So often considering our own achievements risks making us unaware of God’s.

The Psalmist naturally then leads on to humility, praying that we may be helped to ‘follow You [God] in all Your ways’. Barely a day goes by where I don’t wish I was able to ‘see Thee [God] more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly, day by day’. It is a prayer that I suspect I will be praying for the rest of my life but, like the Psalmist, I trust and pray that the ending will bring me to a place where we can ‘know ourselves and sing Your [God’s] praise.’

Prayer

Holy God,
On this day of rest and praise, help me to embrace Your love so that I can know You better than I know myself.
Give me the grace to see You in all things, and to worship You for Your great love and grace, in the power of Jesus’ Name. Amen     --> Today's writer Michael RJ Topple is an ordinand at the Scottish College, Glasgow  Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 15th January 2022

URC Devotion - Sat, 15/01/2022 - 06:00
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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  St Luke 6: 1 - 5

One sabbath while Jesus was going through the cornfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them.  But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’  Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?’  Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’

Reflection

What do you do on the Sabbath?  Drive or cycle somewhere?  Walk your dog?  Phone a friend?  Skype family? Cook dinner? Watch or play sport?  Knit?  Play Minecraft?  Some people would say that these activities violate the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy.  “Six days you shall labour and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.”  (Exodus 20:9-10a NIV)  In an effort to keep this commandment, a lot of thought has been put into describing what exactly is “work.”  For some, anything that requires physical effort on your part or use of electricity violates this commandment.  But Jesus challenged this view.

The story about David and the bread comes from 1 Samuel 21.  Every Sabbath, the priests baked 12 loaves and placed them on a table.  The old loaves would then be for the priests to eat.  This Torah law was about ensuring the priests had food.  So when the priest gives this bread to David and his men, he is sharing his own food with someone in need.  The heart of the Law allowed the priest to do that.  The bread was part of the priestly duties on the Sabbath.

Similarly, Jesus calls people back to the heart of the Sabbath.  There was nothing illegal about Jesus plucking grain, separating the chaff and wheat in his hands, and eating it as they walked along.  The only issue was that threshing and winnowing wheat on the sabbath wasn’t allowed.  So surely winnowing wheat in your hands was also not allowed?  Like the priests in the Temple baking bread, Jesus and his disciples were doing God’s work and serving God’s people.  Like priests, they needed to be able to eat to continue to serve God and God’s people.

As part of the “priesthood of all believers”, how would you apply this teaching in your life?

Prayer

God, in this world that demands our attention, help us to develop a sustaining Sabbath rest rhythm that refreshes and energises us.  Amen     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Angela Rigby, minister at St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks and Christ Church URC Tonbridge  Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 14thJanuary 2022

URC Devotion - Fri, 14/01/2022 - 06:00
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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  St Luke 5: 33 - 39

Then they said to him, ‘John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.’ Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make wedding-guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’ He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, “The old is good.”’

Reflection

This passage talks about the question of identity. In the first few lines Jesus describes who he is; the bridegroom. He knows with certainty his role, what that means for now and the future. He is not afraid to voice who he is and in speaking his identity, he silences his critics.

He then tells a parable to teach us about our identity. We are made new in Christ. We have new natures of righteousness and holiness through the death of Christ on the Cross. He died and took all our sin and our old ways with Him and now we live new lives. 

Christ is our new garment of righteousness and the wineskin is our new life. We shouldn’t just try to patch up the old using the new life we have been given. Being saved is about having a whole new identity instead of taking pieces of new life and placing it over the holes in the old life. As Christians we move forwards completely. The Spirit (the new wine) fills our new life in Christ and everything is  good, new and fresh.

The mystery of life with Christ is that we are constantly renewed and His mercies are new every morning. So when we fail and we try to patch up mistakes with new ways, it doesn’t work well. We cannot make ourselves righteous, only Christ can do that. We are continually working out our salvation and learning our new identity in Jesus. Instead of constantly looking back and saying the old ways are better we have to stop, taste, drink, have our thirst quenched and our lives filled by the fresh and new life that Jesus has given us every day. Then we can move forward, full of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer

Lord, help me to live in the newness of life that you give.
May my days be lived renewed, not patched with the old.
May my ways be alive and strengthened by the Spirit I hold. 
May what I say be a reflection of your life in me, fresh and bold.
May I always know who I am in you and live in your joy everyday.
Amen     --> Today's writer Jo Patel, Local Church Leader, Wattisfield URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 13th January 2022

URC Devotion - Thu, 13/01/2022 - 06:00
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  St Luke 5: 27 - 32

After this he went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up, left everything, and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax-collectors and others sitting at the table with them.  The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?’  Jesus answered, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;  I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.’

Reflection

In Luke’s Gospel we hear about barriers being broken down, about the humanity of Jesus and His love for everyone. Jew, gentile, men, women, rich, poor, elders and children, religious leaders and tax-collectors. Jesus came for all and He is the Saviour of us all. Luke shares about our obligation to demonstrate compassion, mercy and grace towards everybody. To the Pharisees and Scribes in this passage Jesus is teaching that every person is to be treated the same, no matter their job, their background or their religion. He is turning the tables of the religious law upside down and showing them the Kingdom way, where everyone eats and drinks together and  homes are open to all. 

Jesus deliberately chose His disciples because they were the most unlikely, unreligious band of followers, who represented all of society in their number. When He called Levi (the Greek for Matthew) Jesus didn’t say ‘Come and I will convert you and you will change your ways and become exactly like me and each other’. His words were always gentle, calm and wise. What He was actually saying to Matthew, through the words ‘follow me’, was ‘come, take my hand and together we will get to know God’. Jesus wasn’t and still isn’t wanting to change our personality. He loves us as we were created but He knows that through relationship with Him we will be changed, as we meet with God and grow in His ways, Kingdom ways, to become saved and restored but still recognisable as ourselves. 
  
The same is true of our churches. Inviting people who are different from us, who don’t know how to do ‘church’, doesn’t change us as the Body. We are still the Church but our calendars may look different. We mustn’t back away but embrace those who are not yet christians, and gently ask them to hold our hand and together we will look for God, because He is all around and present in everything. 

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you look for each one of us and you take us by the hand, gently leading us through difficulties and joys, to teach us and guide us. 
Thank you for your never ending patience
Thank you for your everlasting love
Thank you for your unexplainable peace 
Thank you that you don’t change who I am but you continue the creation work you started until I am perfectly restored in you.
Amen     --> Today's writer Jo Patel, Local Church Leader, Wattisfield URC  read by Karen Smith Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's coming

URC Devotion - Wed, 12/01/2022 - 14:45
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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Dear Friends,

Sunday's service will be led by John Ellis. John is a Former Moderator of General Assembly and URC Treasurer (we'll let you decide which of those was the most glamorous). John's tireless service to God and the United Reformed Church continues through his role as Synod Area Leader for West Kent and East Sussex Area of the Southern Synod. John's service will pick up themes of Spirituality. Hymns include O God of Bethel, by whose hand and Brian Wren's There's a spirit in the air.

The service will be sent out, as normal, at 9.45 on Sunday morning for a 10am start.  If you have any problems receiving it please read on for advice.

with every blessing,


Dan


Dan Morrell
Technical Assistant, Daily Devotion Sunday Services from the URC --> If you have a problem...   Sometimes the Daily Devotions emails go astray.  As we send out over 4,000 a day some internet service providers label them as Spam or Junk.  If an email doesn't arrive check your Spam/Junk Folder in the first instance.  If the email is there then add this email address to your contacts and, if you have one, a Safe Senders' List.  If you google your email programme and the words "safe senders list" you should find out how to do it. 

If, however, the email isn't in your Spam/Junk folder please go to devotions.urc.org.uk and read it there.  

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URC Daily Devotion 12th January 2022

URC Devotion - Wed, 12/01/2022 - 06:00
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Wednesday 12 January 2022
  St Luke 5: 17 - 26

One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting nearby (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal.  Just then some men came, carrying a paralysed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus;  but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus.  When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’  Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, ‘Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’  When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the one who was paralysed—‘I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.’ Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God.  Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’

Reflection

This is such a wonderful story from Luke’s gospel, a firm favourite to act out with children and young people (who doesn’t like lifting the roof?).  I am struck by the contrast between the Pharisees and teachers of the law on the one hand, and the men bringing the paralysed man on the other.  One group is in the way, the other group finds a way.  One group is sitting down, blocking access to Jesus for others, looking for problems and reasons not to be convinced.  The other group are moving, looking for solutions and already have faith.

Somehow, they know that if they can only enable their friend (who we only know as the paralysed man) to encounter Jesus his life will be transformed.  Their belief leads to drastic action: removing the roof tiles to make an entrance, lowering the bed into the midst of everything and right in front of Jesus.  The remarkable thing is that Jesus looks at them and their faith and that seems to be the catalyst for his intervention ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven’.  It is the disbelief of the scribes and Pharisees that prompts the physical healing so Jesus can prove his authority.  None of this happens in a ‘sacred’ space or place of worship – the whole scene takes place in an ordinary house on an ordinary street.

Mission at its simplest is finding a way to enable someone to encounter Jesus so that their life may be transformed.  The good news is that if we faithfully find crazy, innovative, determined ways to bring people we know of all ages, stages and dispositions into the presence of Jesus, he will respond in gracious love and call them ‘Friend’.  Our faith should inspire us to be way-makers.  The rest is up to Jesus.  Then one day we can all go to our ultimate home glorifying God and filled with awe at the life-transforming things we have seen.

Prayer

Jesus – help us put faith into action.
Show us the companions who, together with us,
can make a way to you for people who have none.
Give us determination, vision, courage and faith.
Call us onwards as pioneers and pathfinders,
trusting your love to sustain and embrace us,
until we can celebrate all the strange and wonderful things we see you do. Amen.   --> Today's writer Dr Sam Richards, serving as Head of Children’s and Youth Work, member of mayBe community, Oxford. Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 11th January 2022

URC Devotion - Tue, 11/01/2022 - 06:00
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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  St Luke 5: 12 - 16

Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy.  When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’  Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy left him.  And he ordered him to tell no one. ‘Go’, he said, ‘and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.’  But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.  But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.

Reflection

A desperate man presents Jesus with a choice, ‘Lord if you choose, you can make me clean.’  He clearly believes Jesus has the power to do so and he hopes desperately that Jesus has the desire too.  But it is a choice.  Jesus can risk contamination in the eyes of his society, can risk failure, or he can stretch out his healing hands to this man covered in wounds and sores.  It is  a choice, not without cost, but Jesus does not hesitate.  ‘I do choose’ are wondrous words, full of grace and compassion.

 Jesus has so many choices to make in his journeys, as he meets crowds of people with all their different needs.  The expectations placed on him are enormous and to begin with he tells those healed not to tell others.  But word gets out and the crowds come.  The excitement that this might be the longed-for Messiah begins to bubble up. 

 Jesus chooses not to be manipulated by the crowd, moulded by his people’s picture of what God’s Messiah should look like.  He chooses to withdraw to the wilderness to pray to the One who sent him, the One who calls him beloved child.  He chooses to journey to Jerusalem, to face rejection.  In the garden he chooses to accept the cup of suffering and allows himself to be arrested and taken away.  ‘I do choose’ are such powerful words – Jesus’ choice to give his life, to reach out and touch the untouchable ones and love the unlovable ones.  His choice includes you and me – his choice to make us clean, forgiven, new, able to live again and live life, abundantly and generously.

Prayer

Here is grace, compassion, love beyond words,
Jesus, in your choice, not ours:
your choice to heal our hearts;
your choice to give your life;
your choice to meet us now;
your choice to call us
to share your work and your ways.
Here is grace, compassion, love beyond words,
in your choice for the life of this world.  Amen.     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Terry Hinks, minister of Trinity, High Wycombe and Cores End URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 10th January 2022

URC Devotion - Mon, 10/01/2022 - 06:00
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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  St Luke 5: 1 - 11

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,  he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.  When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’  Simon answered, ‘Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’  When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.  So they signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.  But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!’  For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;  and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.’  When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

Reflection

Leaving everything to follow Jesus remains, it might seem, the preserve of a very few who manage to scale the loftiest heights of holiness. Some make their holy vows and offer themselves entirely into the hands of God to serve and live as God directs, abandoning all else. Thank God for such calling heard and accepted, and for the religious communities they sustain.

What of the rest of us? Do we simply stand upon the shore and watch it happen for Simon and his fishing partners James and John? As they head off with Jesus into lives changed for ever, do we just quietly walk away? I think not. The details here matter because they are the unique story of how Simon, James and John became disciples. But, behind their story, might we not find our own? I think we can. Perhaps it goes a little like this…

Knowing something about Jesus can be interesting, but not yet truly life-changing. Luke’s narrative is suggestive that Simon and Jesus already know each other well enough for Jesus to visit Simon’s home and for Simon to willingly lend his boat as offshore pulpit. Many become fascinated by the story of Jesus and, perhaps, admire him as a great moral leader. But Jesus, always, wants more.

Jesus wants to demonstrate, through and beyond the teaching, that he brings the very power of God into the complicated contexts of the everyday world. Jesus wants to lay open to the world the way of salvation; the way back to the heart of God. He does so, supremely, upon the cross. But he does so in countless other ways depending upon what each of us might need as he nudges us towards trust. Simon is nudged by an incredible catch; a fisherman’s world rewritten by a fishing tale. It sends Simon to his knees. Salvation has broken in and he knows that he isn’t worthy. We never are. And then it comes, that word of grace and mercy that lifts us up and enfolds us within the saving, calling, transforming love of God: “Do not be afraid…” 

Prayer

Jesus Christ, Son of God,
have mercy on me, a sinner.
Then, in your mercy,
lift me up 
that I might sing and serve,
pray and praise,
follow and forgive,
challenge and care,
in your name.
Let Simon’s meeting with you
find echo in my meeting with you
as today unfolds.
Amen.     --> Today's writer The Rev’d Neil Thorogood, Minister, Thornbury URC and Trinity-Henleaze URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for Epiphany, 9th January 2021 - The Revd. Neil Riches

URC Devotion - Sun, 09/01/2022 - 09:45
96 URC Daily Devotions Sunday Service for Epiphany, 9th January 2021 - The Revd. 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Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 9TH January 2022 – Epiphany
 
Photo Credit Inbal Malca - Unsplash
The Rev’d Neil Riches  
Opening Music:       Unto Us Is Born A Son (traditional)
Worcester Cathedral Choir

Introduction
 
Welcome to worship.  I’m Neil Riches, URC minister in Weymouth on Dorset’s beautiful Jurassic Coast.  Epiphany – the visit of the magi to the young Jesus – is the theme at the heart of our worship this morning.  We pray that the Spirit of God will help us to discern fresh truths in a familiar story.  Towards the end of our worship, we will be sharing in communion; you may like to make sure that you have something to eat and drink to hand.
 
Call to Worship   
 
Hark, hark, the wise eternal word, like a weak infant cries! In form of servant is the Lord, and God in cradle lies, come let us adore Him!
 
Hymn       Brightest and Best of the sons of the morning
Reginald Heber (1811)
  Brightest and best
of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness
and lend us Thine aid,
star of the east,
the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant
Redeemer is laid.
 
2: Cold on His cradle
the dew-drops are shining,
low lies His head
with the beasts of the stall;
angels adore Him
in slumber reclining,
maker and monarch
and saviour of all.
 
3: Say, shall we yield Him
in costly devotion,
odours of Edom
and offerings divine,
gems of the mountain
and pearls of the ocean,
myrrh from the forest,
or gold from the mine?
 
4: Vainly we offer
each ample oblation,
vainly with gifts
would His favour secure;
richer by far is
the heart's adoration,
dearer to God
are the prayers of the poor.
 
5: Brightest and best
of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness
and lend us Thine aid,
star of the east,
the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant
Redeemer is laid.   Prayers of Approach, Confession, & Forgiveness
 
Loving God, we delight to be in your presence.  Though this is a scattered congregation, help each of us to feel close to you; grant us some sense of our togetherness in Christ.
 
Help us to respond to the challenges of today’s great themes – an extraordinary journey, extraordinary gifts, an extraordinary child. Deception and jealousy.  Courage and trust.
 
There is much good and much evil in the passage.  We acknowledge that there are times when there is something of Herod in the way that we live.  We are more concerned about our own security than the needs of others.  We mislead others deliberately.  There are times when we say and do things which are clearly wrong – and there are times when we procrastinate and leave good things undone.
 
We are sorry for this.  We know that you grant forgiveness and we accept this gladly.  At the same time, we pray that you will help us to be stronger – more focussed – more dependent on you in the coming week.
 
In Jesus’ Name.  Amen
 
Hymn       Gaudete
Samuel Smith © Bob Hurd
 
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus, ex Maria Virgine, Gaudete.
Gaudete, gaudete, Christus est natus, ex Maria Virgine, Guadete.
(Translation: Rejoice, rejoice, Christ is born of the Virgin Mary)
  Nature marvels at the sight,
angels sing the glory,
God becomes a little child,
shepherds tell the story
 
2: Hail Mary, ever blest,
Mother of the promise.
By your word
the word the Word made flesh
came to dwell among us.

3: With the wise men from the East,
with the stars of Heaven,
with the shepherds and the sheep,
come, let us adore Him.
 
4: Now is born Emmanuel,
now is come salvation.
Sing we all noel, noel! 
Sing in exultation!   Prayer – illumination
 
Loving God, as we listen to the Scriptures, help us to listen actively, to engage afresh with the words and the story, even though it may be very familiar to us.  We know that you have yet more ‘life and truth’ to break forth from your Word – and that you will not disappoint us.
 
In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.
 
Reading – Matthew 2.1 – 12
 
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.’  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
 
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who is to shepherd my people, Israel.”’
 
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
 
Hymn       The First Noel
                  Anonymous 1833
  The first Noel
the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds
in fields as they lay;
in fields where they lay
keeping their sheep,
on a cold winter's night
that was so deep.
 
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
born is the King of Israel.
 
2 They looked up
and saw a star
shining in the east,
beyond them far;
and to the earth
it gave great light,
and so it continued
both day and night.
 
3 And by the light
of that same star
three Wise Men came
from country far;
to seek for a king
was their intent,
and to follow the star
wherever it went.
 
4 This star drew nigh
to the northwest,
o'er Bethlehem
it took its rest;
and there it did
both stop and stay,
right over the place
where Jesus lay.

5 Then let us all with one accord
sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
who hath made heaven and earth of naught
and with His blood our kind hath brought   Sermon
 
For me, a part of the appeal of the story of the Magi is the spirit of adventure which lies at its heart…potentially costly adventure; the presents are expensive – but what of the cost if the journey itself had gone wrong?    Indeed, what of the cost of the journey which worked out right?  It is significant that there is a very sharp contrast between the Gentile wise men, travelling uncharted distances to the child king, and the chief priests and scribes, who didn’t journey the six miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to find him.  You could argue that so-called ‘wise men’ were actually foolish in setting off on such an apparently crazy journey, but God has always used effectively that which the world has deemed foolish.  The Magi point us to something in the ministry of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus which we encounter again and again.
 
Wherein do you discern your adventures in faith during the coming year?   It may be that you have felt confident enough to plan some adventurous holidays for the year ahead, whilst understanding that they may not happen.  Yet faith… well, sometimes it seems so tried, tested, bland, established, lacking in challenge, that we would hesitate to use the word ‘adventure’ at all?  I know that the physical pilgrimage itself constituted a part of the adventure for the Magi – and there is still much to be said for physical faith journeys with evident meaning.  There is more to it than this, however: faith is a process involving both outer and inner journeys – how are we going to sustain a sense of adventure, excitement, the pump of adrenalin in our inner journey?  By something that we read?  By sharing in discussion?  By exposure to worship and teaching which takes us outside of our comfort zone?  By discerning something which could be offered to the whole of the faith community by way of a shared inner journey?  New years have a habit of going stale very quickly indeed: how can freshness – a sense of vitality – be sustained in faith?  The Magi embarked on an adventure.
 
In a sense, a second point grows from this.  Any journey into the apparently unknown brings with it the risk of wrong turnings – and worse.  The Magi were extricated from their encounter with Herod…but his fury at apparent deception was to have dire consequences.  By definition, we cannot have a risk-free adventure; at least, I don’t think so.  I suspect that there are some who would argue that the most graphic and engaging of computer games represent a kind of adventure…but this is a virtual reality, not actual life.  Faith is not about synthetic experiences – two-dimensional encounters – it is about life itself. It is not about temporary occupation of the imagined challenges faced by another person.  The light signalling the birth of Christ led the Magi into faithful movement, costly adoration and overwhelming joy.  By contrast, Herod stayed in the darkness with a fearful inertia, selfish scheming and lonely anger.  This is a passage of quite stark contrasts, but it is clear where fulfilment is to be found.
 
It may be because of the uncertain times in which we live; it may be because of a century of sustained decline in many well-established churches; it may be because many Christians are careful and cautious people…but so often, churches are risk-averse communities.  And yet… some of the ways in which we have sustained worship and study and fellowship during the last 20 months and more have more than a little of the ‘spirit of adventure’ about them. Now, God’s apparent love of worldly folly doesn’t always fly in the face of common sense…but an adventurous people cannot be risk averse.  The whole business of faith is about turning the world on its head, and that cannot be done easily or tidily.
 
The reality of their journey’s end for the Magi is spelt out quite clearly.  Joy – indeed, (over)joy – worship – the offering of presents – an epiphany.  Something essential about the nature of God revealed in a new and startling way.  To worship is to acknowledge the worth of something.  The journey made sense – ‘God-sense’.  The Magi arrived at an ordinary little house, and met an unimportant woman, and a child seemingly too young to matter.  They pay homage, acknowledging the kingship of this little boy; we must not let familiarity blunt the sheer incongruous unexpectedness of this picture.  The God of surprises wreaks yet another surprise in turning perceived wisdom on its head; the epiphany is about the kingdom order, not the world order.
 
There are worse ways to start a new year of faith than by speaking of adventure, risk and surprise.  I wish you all these three…and much more besides.
 
Hymn       As With Gladness, Men Of Old
William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898)
  As with gladness men of old
did the guiding star behold,
as with joy they hailed its light,
leading onwards, beaming bright;
so, most gracious Lord, may we
evermore be led to thee.
 
2 As with joyful steps they sped,
Saviour, to thy lowly bed,
there to bend the knee before
thee, whom heaven & earth adore;
so may we with willing feet
ever seek thy mercy-seat.

3 As they offered gifts most rare
at thy homely cradle bare;
so may we with holy joy,
pure, and free from sin's alloy,
all our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to thee, our heavenly King.
 
4 Holy Jesus, every day
keep us in the narrow way;
and, when earthly things are past,
bring our ransomed souls at last
where they need no star to guide,
where no clouds thy glory hide.  
5 In the heavenly country bright, need they no created light;
thou its light, its joy, its crown, thou its sun which goes not down;
there for ever may we sing alleluias to our King.

Prayers of Intercession
 
We bring our prayers of concern and commitment to the Living God.
 
We pray for all those making journeys at the moment – particularly the journeys of the refugee and the asylum seeker.  We remember that Jesus and his family sought refuge in Egypt as the aftermath to today’s reading.  We pray that all those travelling will find a genuinely warm welcome at journey’s end.
 
We pray for those who seek to profit from those undertaking perilous journeys – and those whose violence has led to the journeys being made in the first place.  We struggle to understand why people sometimes behave as they do; we pray that your Spirit will soften hearts hardened by addiction to power, money, a conviction that there is only one correct way of doing things
 
We pray that you will continue to teach us what generosity of giving feels like.
Help us to reflect carefully on the ways in which we ‘give’ as a response to our Christian faith at the beginning of a new calendar year.  We pray for congregations struggling financially as a part of the legacy of recent times.  We pray too for small charities which have experienced a dramatic reduction in income.
 
We pray for all those who resort quickly to lying and deception; we acknowledge that this can be a ‘default position’ for some, it happens so often.  Help them somehow to see that openness and truthfulness represent a far more fulfilling way of living.
 
We pray for individuals known to us who are in particular need of our prayers this morning; in the quietness of this moment, we name them in our hearts…  Grant them a sense of the closeness of your love and the depth of our concern.
 
We pray too for a sense of your blessing on the monetary gifts which have been offered to our various churches this morning.  We have learned to give in different ways; may our generosity reflect something of your unconditional generosity, however faintly.
 
We bring our prayers together as we say the Lord’s Prayer, using the traditional form of wording…
 
Our Father…
 
Communion
 
There is an opportunity now to share in the Lord’s Supper as a part of our time together today.  We celebrate our strong conviction that the Lord’s Table is an ‘open table’.  All are welcome in this place.
 
We listen to Luke’s account of the Supper:
 
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.  And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfilment in the kingdom of God’.
 
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, ‘Take this and divide it among you.  For I tell you that I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes’.
 
And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
 
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’.
 
A prayer of thanksgiving before we eat and drink together.
 
Loving God, we are always moved by these words.  Familiarity does nothing to lessen the sense of love – of sacrifice – of utter commitment which they convey.  We thank you for the privilege of being able to share in this simple meal.  We celebrate the presence of a God who is concerned that we fed both physically and spiritually.  Paul reminds us that we should examine ourselves before we eat the bread and drink the wine.  We do so now, praying that there will be nothing in our hearts which threatens to spoil the meal in any way…  In our differing ways, may we know Christ present with us at this time.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.
 
The Body of Christ – broken for us – we eat together
 
The Blood of Christ – poured out for us – we drink together
 
Your death, O Lord, we remember. Your resurrection we confess. Our continuing part in your as-yet-unfinished plans we acknowledge with a sense of awe. Help us to be strong in the strength which your Spirit alone can provide, so that we may live lives worthy of the faith which we profess.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.
 
Hymn:      We Three Kings   
John Henry Hopkins Jr. (1857)
  We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field & fountain, moor & mountain,
following yonder star.
 
O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.

2: Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign.
 
3: Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high.

4: Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
 
5: Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
sounds through the earth and skies.
Blessing    
 
May we find joy in our faith – hope in our faith – purpose and love in our faith as we move into another week.  May we be sustained by a sense of God’s presence and the knowledge that Christian friends are concerned for us.  Bless us all.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.
 
Closing Music Sarabande by Handel performed by the Hale Orchestra
Sources and Thanks
 
Call to worship adapted by Andy Braunston from a poem by Thomas Pestal.  All other liturgical material by the Rev’d Neil Riches.
 
Thanks to John Wilcox, Anne Hewling, Sylvia Nutt and Kathleen Haynes for reading the various spoken parts of the service.
 
Brightest and Best of the sons of the morning - Reginald Heber (1811) sung by the choir and people of the Chet Valley Churches
Gaudete - © Bob Hurd  OCP Publications 1996 Reprinted with permission of Calamus, Oak House, 70 High Street, Brandon, Suffolk, IP27 0AU Sung by OCP Session Choir
The First Noel - Anonymous 1833 Sung by the Choir and people of King’s College Cambridge
As With Gladness, Men Of Old - William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) (alt.) Sung by the choirs and people of the Chet Valley Churches
We Three Kings - John Henry Hopkins Jr. in 1857 sung by the Robert Shaw Chorale
  --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762
  Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 9th January 2022

URC Devotion - Sun, 09/01/2022 - 06:00
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  Psalm  74
  O God, why dost Thou cast us off for aye?
Why does Thy anger smoke in indignation
Against Thy sheep? O come with Thy salvation!
Bestow Thy grace on them and be their stay.

Remember Thou Thy people in Thy love,
Thy heritage, of old by Thee selected,
The congregation which Thou hast elected
In Thy good pleasure, shown from heaven above.

Remember Zion’s mount, where Thou hast dwelt,
And see Thou its perpetual desolations.
See the destruction which the hostile nations
Brought to the place where once Thy children knelt.

W. W. J. VanOene, 1972
You can hear this sung to the Genevan tune here
https://bit.ly/2TvjhP6

Reflection

The puzzlement, pain and desperation that exudes from this Psalm is palpable.  The writer (attributed to Asaph) just cannot believe that his God would allow this to happen to His people. This is a desperate Psalm, but not the song of someone who does not believe in God, but the wail of a believer.

Historically, this Psalm seems to describe the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by an unknown enemy.  The writer beseeches God for an explanation.  He reminds God of all the great things He had done for them.  They had come to rely and depend upon God to protect them.
  
He asks how God can be angry with his own people forever. He does not question the correctness of his judgment but uses the question and the lament as the basis for an appeal to God’s fatherly heart.  He points out that their enemy has completely destroyed Mount Zion for all time– God’s house on earth, where His people came to kneel.  The people who He himself had chosen.

It wasn’t just that Asaph felt that God had stopped caring for Israel, he sensed that God was angry at them, and in some sense working against them.

I think we can all remember times in our own lives when we have felt that God has abandoned us but even in our own sorrow and desperation, we know that Christ is with us, walking every step – and I am reminded of the poem entitled the ‘The Footprints in the Sand’ where Christ carries all whose burden is too heavy for them to carry alone.

Prayer

Lord, when we feel abandoned and alone, and we can no longer hear you speaking to us, guiding us and comforting us, help us to know that even though we walk ‘through the valley of the shadow of death’, you are there with us in the midst of our sorrow and will bring us out into the sunshine again, re-made and rededicated to you, as a child of Christ our Saviour.  Amen     --> Today's writer Ann Barton, Lay Leader at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod   Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Saturday 8 January 2022

URC Devotion - Sat, 08/01/2022 - 06:15
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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  St Luke 4: 42 - 44

At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.’  So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.

Reflection

There are many demands on our time. Demands from family, from friends, from neighbours, from bosses and from colleagues. It’s just the way life is. There are even demands from church. Most of these demands are reasonable and perhaps even do-able. We could easily fit them if we tried, couldn’t we?
 
But are these demands actually for us? And are they what God is calling us to do, right here and right now? Could it even be that it would be better for us to pass by on the request and to empower someone else to do it?
 
In this passage, Jesus is facing lots of demands on his time. He’d tried to escape and get away for some alone time, but the crowds kept following him and presenting their demands to him. All their requests were reasonable. He could easily have stayed to help them and continue the good work He’d started in their area. It would have been the obvious thing to do.
 
But the plans of Jesus were different to the plans of the crowd. He knew what His purpose under God was and He stuck to it. May God be praised for that.
  
Prayer
 
Dear God, thank You that You have a purpose for each one of us right here and right now. You even have a purpose for us in the day ahead. Give us grace to see what You are graciously calling us to do and to respond with joy to Your call.
Amen.
  --> Today's writer Anne Brooke, regular worshipper at Elstead URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Friday 7 January 2022

URC Devotion - Fri, 07/01/2022 - 06:15
96 URC Daily Devotion Friday 7 January 2022 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; text-decoration:none !important; font-size:inherit !important; 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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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  St Luke 4: 38 - 41

After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her.  Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them. As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.  Demons also came out of many, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah.

Reflection

As we are, hopefully, emerging from the pandemic we are used to hearing reports of people with a high fever.  We read of people spending weeks seriously ill in hospital and then taking months to fully recover.  What a contrast to this report of Jesus healing Simon’s mother-in-law.  As soon as Jesus spoke the fever left her and she was immediately fit and well able to serve food to Jesus and the disciples. 

This did not go unnoticed and later it seems that crowds came, and Jesus healed them all.  He showed His power over demons by not allowing them to speak.

Today we rely upon the NHS and the skills of doctors, nurses and others to heal us but we still need the touch of Jesus in our lives.  While we can have medical experts deal with our physical and mental ailments, we need Jesus to touch us for inner healing and strength.  We may be feeling overwhelmed with all the suffering that we see around us, and we need the touch of Jesus to calm us and lead us to do what we should.  We may be feeling helpless in light of some situation, but we must remember that Jesus still cares about us and that the Holy Spirit is with us today.  If we feel alone and helpless, we need to remember accounts of the miracles and healings that Jesus performed and ask for changes in our lives to make us feel secure and complete.  What are the demons that mess with your life?  No matter what they are, Jesus can, and will, deal with them.
 
Prayer
 
Loving God thank you that Jesus healed Simon’s mother-in-law and restored her strength so she could serve the disciples.

I ask that you take away all my worries and weaknesses and restore me so I can live my life fully for you. 

Just as the disciples followed Jesus, help me to live a life of discipleship leaning on your strength and relying on your Holy Spirit to guide me.
Amen    --> Today's writer John Collings is a Lay Preacher and a member of Rutherglen URC Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion Thursday 6 January 2022

URC Devotion - Thu, 06/01/2022 - 06:15
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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  St Luke 4:  31 - 37

He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority.  In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 3 ‘Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, ‘What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!’ And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.

Reflection

It happens every now and again. A prominent cleric overtly criticises the government and the story briefly makes the news. A junior government minister then appears to trot out the line, ‘The Rev’d so-and-so should stick to religion and leave politics to the politicians’. 
 
When God’s truth speaks to power, an immediate push back is inevitable. When God’s truth speaks to power, if that voice is not silenced - the powerful are in trouble!
 
We see this of course in the overarching story of the Gospels.  Jesus’ whole ministry challenged and subverted the powers of religion and state to the point where it was inevitable they would join forces to silence him once and for all, or so they thought!
 
Here in this story, and in many others, we see an example of one small interchange in this growing confrontation, which contributes to Jesus’ increasing reputation. 
 
The demon plays the role of the one in control of the life of another, and Jesus’ very presence challenges that oppression - that God’s truth is that all should have life in all its fullness. 
 
The demon cries out, and reveals the fear of being treated as it would treat those it seeks to overcome, saying ‘have you come to destroy us?’ Jesus responds, ‘shut up, and leave them alone’. He need say no more for both know the truth of God sees right through this demon who now no longer has any hold here. It has no moral authority here! 
 
There is no demonisation of this demon! It departs, and no one comes to any further harm. 
 
A church unable to speak God’s truth to power, by their mere reputation and presence, for fear of being seen to be aggressive, or rude. Unwilling to risk disrupting the status quo, or embarrassing the elite, or meddling in things which don’t concern it; is a church which would never have known the demon was there, as it would have had no need to cry out.
 
 
Prayer
 
God of love,
in your truth we have the power to change the world.
Not by argument or coercion, 
nor by force or violence. 
 
But by confronting the powers with your truth and love for all people. 
 
Amen.
  --> Today's writer The Rev’d Mike Walsh, Pioneer Minister, Chorlton, Manchester Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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Sunday's coming

URC Devotion - Wed, 05/01/2022 - 14:30
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Dear Friends,

Sunday's service is Epiphany. Where we traditionally mark the Magi's arrival into Bethlehem to visit the newborn King. Sunday's service will be led by the Revd. Neil Riches. Neil is a minister in Weymouth. Hymns include As with gladness, We three kings and The First Nowell.

The service will be sent out, as normal, at 9.45 on Sunday morning for a 10am start.  If you have any problems receiving it please read on for advice.

with every blessing,


Dan


Dan Morrell
Technical Editor, Daily Devotion Sunday Services from the URC --> Sunday Service from the URC --> worship for challenging times --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Order of Service
Below you will find the Order of Service, prayers, hymns and sermon for today's service.   You can either simply read this or you can
  click here
to listen to the service and sing along with the hymns.  This will open up a new screen, at the bottom of the screen you will see a play symbol.  Press that, then come back to this window so you can follow along with the service. Sunday Worship from the United Reformed Church
for Sunday 22nd March  
Today’s service comes from the Spire Church, a Methodist and United Reformed Church local ecumenical partnership at Farnham in Surrey.  The service is led by the Rev’d Michael Hopkins.
 
Call to Worship
 
Come to the God who loves you.
Come to the God in whose presence you are welcome.
Come, for God is inviting you to worship.
Come, rejoicing, for God is faithful and just.
 
Let us worship God.
 
Hymn Now Thank We All Our God
Martin Rinkart (1586 – 1649)
 
Now thank we all our God
with heart, and hands, and voices,
who wondrous things hath done,
in whom His world rejoices;
who, from our mother's arms
hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.
 
O may this gracious God
through all our life be near us!
With ever joyful hearts
and blessed peace to cheer us;
preserve us in His grace,
and guide us in distress,
and free us from all sin,
till heaven we possess.
 
All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son, and Spirit blest,
who reigns in highest heaven,
Eternal, Triune God,
whom earth and heav’n adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be, evermore.
 
Prayers and the Lord’s Prayer
 
Let us pray
 
God our Parent,
we gather to open our hearts to you,
trusting that you will welcome us with open arms. 
We come to worship you.
 
You are the one who leads us through times of trial;
the one who supports us in sorrow and struggle;
the one who is beside us when all is bleak.
Holy One, we praise You.
 
God our Shepherd, we confess that we often lose our way.
Sometimes we follow like sheep
and end up in places that we should not be.
At other times we choose our own paths
and end up hitting a dead end.
 
In a moment of quiet,
we bring before you
those things we have done in our straying
and ask that, in your mercy,
you will bring us back on track.
 
Silence
 
Thank you, God, that you have forgiven us and set us free. 
May we come to walk your path once again.
We accept your loving forgiveness,
and we pray together as Jesus taught us:
Our Father..
 
Scripture Reading  St Luke 15:11-32 (NIV)
 
Jesus continued: 

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine

in that whole country, and he began to be in need.   So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.   ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
 
Hymn Who Would True Valour See
John Bunyan 1628 - 1688
 
Who would true valour see,
let him come hither;
one here will constant be,
come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
shall make him once relent
his first avowed intent
to be a pilgrim.
 
Whoso beset him round
with dismal stories
do but themselves confound;
his strength the more is.
No lion can him fright,
he’ll with a giant fight,
he will have a right
to be a pilgrim.
 
Hobgoblin nor foul fiend
can daunt his spirit,
he knows he at the end
shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away,
he’ll fear not what men say,
he’ll labour night and day
to be a pilgrim.
 
Sermon
 
If the truth is told, I’ve always struggled with this story.  We often call it the prodigal son, and that choice of title sets off the problems for me.  So often, I’ve heard and read, we’re to rejoice at the younger son coming home.  My problem is that the younger son is such a nasty piece of work that human nature makes it almost impossible for me to feel much sympathy for him.
 
And then we move on to the older son, who displays loyalty, hard work, and sheer graft, and I think many of us feel some considerable sympathy for him.  After all, the kinds of people who work hard in churches are loyal and hard working.  However, the older brother is a bit too judgy and moralistic for me to have much sympathy for him either.
 
So, I find myself not really liking either of the main characters, which is why I’ve always struggled with this story, and found it hard to made much sense of it, until I thought about it a bit more.  In the book Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey listens to a number of different policemen all give their own theory of how a crime was committed in turn, and then he says, “You are all wrong, but one of you is less wrong than the rest.  Still none of you has got the right murderer, and none of you has got the whole of the method right, though some of you have got bits of it.”
 
That’s roughly how I feel about much of what I’ve read that tries to make sense of today’s story.  I dug a bit deeper, and now think the two sons are there to represent two different kinds of people, and I now think the idea is that they’re both wrong, for very different reasons. 
 
These two brothers each represent a different way to be alienated from God, and a different way to seek acceptance into the kingdom of heaven.  I think that what Jesus is doing here is trying to shatter our categories.  As well as the destructive self-centeredness of the younger brother, we also have the judgy older brother wanting to claim the moral high ground.  I think that Jesus is saying that both the irreligious and the religious can be spiritually lost, both life-paths can be dead ends, and that we humans need to think more carefully about how we connect with God. 
 
When Jesus was preaching to crowds of people, it’s important to remember that in general, religiously observant people of the time were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him.  But church isn’t quite like that now. 
 
The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones.  The licentious and liberated, or the broken and marginal, avoid church, which makes me fear that churches might be more like the older brother than most of find comfortable.
 
Jesus offered us two brothers, I think to demonstrate two different ways of missing the mark: one overly irreligious, and one overly religious.  Our Western society is so deeply divided between these two approaches that we can barely see any other way to live now.  If we criticize or distance ourselves from one, everyone assumes that we have chosen to follow the other, because each of these approaches tends to divide the whole world into two basic groups.  The moral conformists say: “the immoral people — the people who ‘do their own thing’ — are the problem with the world, and moral people are the solution.”  The advocates of self-discovery say: “the bigoted people — the people who say, ‘We have the Truth’ — are the problem with the world, and progressive people are the solution.”  Each side says: “our way is the way the world will be put to rights, and if you are not with us, you are against us.”  If we allow that kind of division to creep into our thinking then we’re falling into the two sons that Jesus showed us.
 
Jesus the storyteller deliberately leaves the elder brother in his alienated state.  The younger son enters his father’s feast, but the older son does not.  The lover of prostitutes is saved, but the man of moral rectitude is still lost.  Wow!  We can almost hear the Pharisees gasp as the story ends.  It was the complete reversal of everything they had ever been taught.
 
Did the older son want the same thing as his brother?  Was he just as resentful of his father as the younger son was?  Did either son love their father for himself, or for his goods and money?  Is not Jesus using these two sons to remind us that we can rebel against God by keeping all the rules diligently as much as by breaking them?
 
I think one of the points of this passage is about making it clear that sin isn’t about breaking a list of rules.  Jesus shows us that a man who has violated virtually nothing on the list of moral misbehaviours can be every bit as spiritually lost as the most profligate, immoral person, because sin isn’t just breaking the rules, isn’t really about breaking the rules, it’s about putting yourself in the place of God, just as both brothers sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.
 
Both were wrong, but both were loved.  The good news is not religion or irreligion, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservatism or liberalism.  Nor is it something halfway along a spectrum between two poles, it’s something else altogether: everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognise this and change.
 
The danger for the older brother is that he will be trapped by his own bitterness, anger eventually becoming a prison of his own making.  When we see the attitude of the older brother in the story, is it perhaps a sign of why the younger brother wanted to leave in the first place?  Everybody knows that the Christian gospel calls us away from the recklessness of the younger brother, but do we realise that it also condemns the judgy moralistic older brother?
 
So what might this parable be saying to us?  Don’t try to put ourselves in the place of God!  Forgiveness is free and unconditional to the perpetrator, but it’s costly to the forgiver.  Forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer, if the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.
 
This story that Jesus tells is about the story of the whole human race, and Jesus was reminding us that God promises nothing less than hope for the world.  Our human race is a band of exiles trying to come home, and so this story is about every one of us.
 
Jesus holds out hope for ordinary human life, for each person.  Our future is not an ethereal, impersonal form of consciousness. 
 
We can come to God, and our loving heavenly Father will meet us and embrace us, and we will be brought into the feast.
 
The feast is the end of Jesus’s story, and I think this has four things to tell us about God’s love:
 
1. God’s love is an experience – Jesus came to bring joy and celebration, a festival.
2. God’s love is material - this material world matters.  God hates the suffering and oppression of this material world so much, that he was willing to get involved in it and to fight against it.  Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opium of the people - it’s more like the smelling salts!
3. God’s love is Individual.  God doesn’t love us because we are beautiful; we become beautiful through God’s love.  Through God’s love our stinginess can become a reorientation to generosity.
4. God’s love is communal.  No reunion, no family gathering, no wedding, no other significant social event is complete without a meal.
 
If we get trapped in the sensual way of the younger brother or the ethical way of the older brother, both only lead to spiritual dead ends.  Throughout life, most of us fall into these traps from time to time, but God’s love is bigger than that, calling us, challenging us, to recognise that at a deeper level we need to acknowledge God at the heart of our lives, calling us to take our part in a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus, a place where we can try to grow ever more into his likeness.  This is God’s love which is broad like beach and meadow, wide as the wind.  This is God’s love enfolds the world in one embrace, which grasps every child of every race.  This is god’s love which gains final triumph, which reigns over all the universe.  
 
And a little shadow of this limitless love of God is what can see reflected in the very best of our human love, those from whom we have known the love of a mother.
 
Prayers
 
God, you are father and mother to us, an ever-loving parent, more faithful than we can even imagine.  Thank you for life and living, even when we are weary and worn-out.  Thank you for challenge and change, even when we seek safety and security. 
 
Thank you for playfulness and pain, even when we seek moderation and mild-living.  Thank you for companionship when we are lonely. 
 
Thank you for calling when we are settled.  Thank you for creativity when we are uninspired.
 
Bring us to newness of life as your people.  Bring us to wholeness of life from out of its fragments.
Bring us to fullness of life from your communion in and with us.
 
We lift to you our families, God:
our nearby ones with whom we share our homes and our lives, our loved ones whom we see rarely because they live away, and our disaffected ones whom we see rarely because they have disagreed with us.
 
Be with them when we cannot be there: give them wise guidance when they will not heed us, keep them safe when they are beyond our protection, and mend our attitudes if we become obstacles to your good plans.
We lift to you our church, God:
 
Each of us who seek to make sure we do everything we can to be welcoming and helpful,
those who support us and are encouraged by us,
and our building that serves as a witness to your presence among us.
 
Pour your Spirit of unity and peace on us:
help us discern your guidance and show us new ways of bringing your love and healing to our community.
 
We lift to you our nation, God:
the politicians who represent us,
those who maintain justice,
those who provide us with many services,
and all who work to keep us supplied
with all the good things we have.
 
Help us to express proper care and concern for everyone, that people of all sorts and conditions may have their fair share of the good things you give us.
 
We offer you these, and all our prayers, God, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.
 
 
Hymn  And Can It Be?
Charles Wesley 1707 - 1788
 
And can it be that I should gain
an int’rest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
 
He left His Father’s throne above,
so free, so infinite His grace;
emptied Himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’tis mercy all, immense and free;
for, O my God, it found out me.
’tis mercy all, immense and free;
for, O my God, it found out me.
 
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
 
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness Divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
 
Dismissal and Blessing
 
The service has ended. 
Go in peace and joy,
and the blessing of God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
is upon you and all God’s people,
near and far,
today, tonight and forever,
Amen. 
 
Thanks to Michael for devising the service and to Jonnie Hill and Fay Rowland for recording some of the spoken parts.  Hymn lyrics are public domain, the music in the podcast is delivered subject to the terms of the URC's licence. --> Where words are copyright reproduced under the terms of Barrhead URC’s CCLI licence number 1064776,
Some material reprinted, and streamed, with permission under ONE LICENSE A-734713 All rights reserved.
PRS Limited Online Music Licence LE-0019762
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URC Daily Devotion Wednesday 5 January 2022

URC Devotion - Wed, 05/01/2022 - 06:15
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ #templatePreheader{ display:block !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent,.preheaderContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .headerContainer .mcnTextContent,.headerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .bodyContainer .mcnTextContent,.bodyContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .footerContainer .mcnTextContent,.footerContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:14px !important; line-height:115% !important; } } View this email in your browser Daily Devotions from the URC --> inspiration in your inbox --> Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Podcast Share This on Facebook Tweet this Forward to a Friend Wednesday 5 January 2022
  St Luke 4: 14 - 30
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read,  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’  All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’  He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.”’  And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.  But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land;  yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon.  There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’  When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage.  They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.  But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

Reflection

It was the 25th anniversary year of my ordination before I returned to my childhood church to preach.  I suppose it never occurred to them to ask, or for me to offer to lead worship. 600 miles is a long way to travel to fill the pulpit and when I returned I was usually ready for a rest and a break.

There was of course the issue of what to preach.  Do you just ‘tickle ears’ so they heard what they want to hear or do you pose a challenge?  I usually try to preach ‘to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’ - in a positive way of course! It seemed to go well since they asked me if I would consider becoming their minister because they were in vacancy.  So at least I wasn’t run out of town and I have returned to preach a number of times.

It was important for me to preach there because it was in that church, and through the work of Scripture Union, that I came to faith.  It was also in that church as a teenager that I first spoke, taking on the responsibility of doing the children’s address when the Youth Fellowship led the service.  Just as Jesus was handed the scroll I felt that as a youngster I had been handed the gift of faith, not to be kept rolled up but to be opened and proclaimed in my words and actions.

When Jesus had finished he rolled the scroll back up again and handed it over.  Symbolically it reminds us that the Word of God isn’t just to be kept for ourselves but to be passed on to others and future generations.  I wonder who was the next person in the Synagogue in Nazareth to unroll that scroll and how under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they interpreted the words they read.  How is God speaking to us through his Word today?

Prayer

Dear God,
as we receive your Word
may we hear the words of challenge
as well as those of comfort.
May we be faithful as we live it,
speak it out and pass it on to others. Amen
  --> Today's writer The Rev’d George Watt, Moderator of Thames North Synod Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion 4 January 2022

URC Devotion - Tue, 04/01/2022 - 06:00
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} } @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; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h3{ font-size:18px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ h4{ font-size:16px !important; line-height:125% !important; } } @media only screen and (max-width: 480px){ .mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent,.mcnBoxedTextContentContainer .mcnTextContent p{ font-size:18px !important; 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  St Luke 4: 1 - 13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,  where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.  The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”’

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’  Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”’

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”,and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’

Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’  When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Reflection

I’ve always found this passage interesting because we hear how Jesus had well formed and quick responses to the Devil, but I have always wondered if it really was that clear cut? I don’t want to debate whether the Devil is real or not, or where people might stand in regard to spiritual attacks because I suspect that they would be debates that would surpass the length of this reflection.  What I want to focus on, is temptation. 
 
Let’s be honest, even those with the most iron wills, have faced temptation in life.  As children, teenagers, young adults and older adults we have been tempted to do things that we shouldn’t; to take short-cuts that if discovered, cause us more problems than they have solved; to eat, drink, imbibe things that we know are not good for us, or even do us harm; yet we still fall for temptation. 
 
Jesus didn’t fall for the temptations, but if it were really as easy as it is sometimes made to sound, would it really have been much of a tempting? I suspect that all of these temptations would have been things that Jesus would have wrestled with, they may have been things that Jesus had to go back and forth on before giving his final answers and overcoming the temptations. 
 
That’s the crux of it, if the things that tempt us were easy to ignore, they wouldn’t be the things that tempt us, but the reason we are tempted is because we have a weakness for those things. I doubt that any of us will ever face temptation to the level of Jesus, which is a good thing, but struggling and wrestling with temptation is part of the faith journey, what we should aim for is leaning on God when we are tempted and following the example of Jesus, but also remember that we are not Jesus and we are not always going overcome temptation and that is also part of life and that is why we continue to strive to follow Jesus.
 
Prayer

God of life and living,
We face temptations in life more often than we would be prepared to admit.
Help us as we try to live as Jesus’ followers on the Way to stand firm against temptation.
Enable us to become stronger day by day to overcome the tests and trials that enter our lives.
Create in us compassionate hearts towards ourselves and others when we and they are tempted and fail to resist.
Amen.   -->

Today's writer Kirsty-Ann Mabbott, Church Related Community Worker, Coventry, West Midlands   Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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URC Daily Devotion  3 January 2022

URC Devotion - Mon, 03/01/2022 - 06:00
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  St Luke 3: 23 - 38
Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work. He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph son of Heli, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Melchi, son of Jannai, son of Joseph, son of Mattathias, son of Amos, son of Nahum, son of Esli, son of Naggai,  son of Maath, son of Mattathias, son of Semein, son of Josech, son of Joda, son of Joanan, son of Rhesa, son of Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of Neri,  son of Melchi, son of Addi, son of Cosam, son of Elmadam, son of Er,  son of Joshua, son of Eliezer, son of Jorim, son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Simeon, son of Judah, son of Joseph, son of Jonam, son of Eliakim,  son of Melea, son of Menna, son of Mattatha, son of Nathan, son of David,  son of Jesse, son of Obed, son of Boaz, son of Sala, son of Nahshon, son of Amminadab, son of Admin, son of Arni, son of Hezron, son of Perez, son of Judah,  son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, son of Terah, son of Nahor,  son of Serug, son of Reu, son of Peleg, son of Eber, son of Shelah,  son of Cainan, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah, son of Lamech,  son of Methuselah, son of Enoch, son of Jared, son of Mahalaleel, son of Cainan,  son of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God.

Reflection

Just imagine the makers of television’s Who Do You Think You Are trying to put together a programme about Jesus, based on the genealogy Luke provides. It seems full of possibilities. Lots of material to explore – seventy-plus names, some of them famous, though sadly information on female ancestors is lacking.

It wouldn’t be long before other problems arose either. Researchers would point out that this list and Matthew’s don’t tally. What about those names on Luke’s list that nobody else mentions? Where did they come from? Then there’s the lack of written records for the time of Noah and Methuselah, to say nothing of Adam.

When they get to the  end of the list the wheels really come off: Adam, son of God? What are they to do with that? It’s time to give up, and hand over the material to their colleagues at Songs of Praise. In fact, that’s the better way to read this list; primarily as praise.

Jesus, about thirty years of age, ready to start out on his work, is thought to be the son of Joseph. Look back further, however, and you discover he is child of Adam who is child of God.  Jesus is a human child of humankind, who right from the start are created by God to be in God’s image.

Jesus is just like you and me, living life as a fellow family member of the human race; a child of Adam. Luke’s good news, though, is that this child of Adam is setting out on his public work as Son of God. He’ll do that in a way we fellow children of Adam, and God, have never matched. This will have such a positive effect on our family relationship with God that it’s worthy of our songs of praise.

Prayer

O God, thank you for allowing me to be your child. Thank you that you have included me within the human family. Thank you for the work of your Son, Jesus; child of Adam, child of yours. For all of this, I sing your praise. Amen.
  --> Today's writer The Rev’d Trevor Jamison, Saint Columba’s United Reformed Church, North Shields   Copyright New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright © 2022 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.


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